We’re now two years removed from the quarterback class that changed the way fantasy owners view rookies at the position. Last year, with E.J. Manual the only first-rounder and Geno Smith the lone rookie quarterback to crack the fantasy top twenty at his position, it was more like what we’ve become accustomed to: little to no first-year fantasy contributions at the position.
The 2014 NFL Draft saw three first-round signal-callers, including the über-productive Johnny Football; should fantasy owners be salivating or yawning? Here’s an overview of the fantasy prospects for this year’s rookie crop of quarterbacks.
Blake Bortles, Jaguars
No less an authority on the situation than Jaguars GM David Caldwell said Blake Bortles isn’t a fantasy option for 2014. He wasn’t necessarily bashing Jacksonville’s lack of weapons, especially with Justin Blackmon suspended; rather, the Jags’ long-range plan is for Chad Henne to start this season while Bortles acclimates to the NFL.
Obviously, then, Bortles isn’t on your redraft radar. However, with the possibility of Blackmon returning in 2015 to join Cecil Shorts and Bortles’ 2014 Draft classmates Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, he’s worth a stash on larger dynasty rosters
Johnny Manziel, Browns
After a longer-than-anticipated wait in the Radio City Music Hall green room, Johnny Manziel will bring his dual fantasy threat talents to Cleveland. Adding the handful of rushing scores he’ll likely swipe from Ben Tate (or Terrance West, or Isaiah Crowell) to even a modest passing total and Johnny Football was poised to be the top fantasy quarterback in this rookie class.
And then the bombshell of a potential year-long suspension for the NFL’s leading receiver, Josh Gordon, took all the wind out of those sails. When you consider Cleveland traded out of Sammy Watkins and went the entire draft without adding another receiver to their current crop of Greg Little, Nate Burleson, Andrew Hawkins, et. al., there’s just not much left for Johnny Football to throw to. Sure, Jordan Cameron is still around, but he tailed off last season and is hardly a sure thing.
On the bright side, at least as far as fantasy owners are concerned, maybe that puts even more offensive onus on Manziel and he’ll reach double-digit rushing scores. Bottom-line, Johnny Football’s immediate future in Cleveland is not as bright as it was prior to Gordon’s suspension, but it’s still likely the brightest 2014 outlook among rookie quarterbacks.
Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings
Re-signing Matt Cassel this offseason provided the Vikings with a little flexibility at the quarterback position, but when the opportunity presented itself to trade back into the first round to grab Teddy Bridgewater, Rick Spielman couldn’t pass it up.
Bridgewater gives the Vikings the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft class, and the team has already indicated that if he wins the job in training camp Bridgewater will start over Cassel. With Adrian Peterson as the focal point of the Minnesota attack, there’s less immediate pressure on Bridgewater to carry the offense—and yet, with Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, and Kyle Rudolph he has plenty of weapons at his disposal.
Bridgewater also provides the opposite of what the Vikings had with their previous first-round quarterback. Whereas Christian Ponder struggled in the face of pressure, too frequently scrambling or making poor decisions downfield, Bridgewater enters the league with a reputation for calm under fire—and a 70 percent completion rate when blitzed.
Long-term, Bridgewater has the tools and the weapons to make defenses pay for stacking the box against Peterson. And while playing two seasons outdoors while the Vikings build their new stadium isn’t ideal, Bridgewater’s short-term fantasy prospects are at least as good—and likely better—than any other quarterback in the 2014 draft class this side of Johnny Football.
Derek Carr, Raiders
The Raiders are still looking at a slow build, all the more reason to support their current plan of playing Matt Schaub this season while Derek Carr gets adjusted to the NFL game. After all, it was the toll of an NFL-record 76 sacks his rookie season that doomed Carr’s brother, David, to bust status as the first overall pick of the Houston Texans back in 2002.
So it’s best that Schaub takes the beating while Oakland rebuilds its offensive line. Once Carr does hit the field, however, he’ll have an intriguing combination of downfield weapons at his disposal, including Denarius Moore, James Jones, Rod Streater and Andre Holmes. If Carr is forced into action this year he’ll also have a pair of decent pass-catching running backs in Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew; however, by the time Carr becomes Oakland’s full-time starter, one or both will likely no longer be wearing silver and black.
Carr brings some intriguing skills to the Oakland attack, and if he’s able to be brought along slowly—with the supporting cast upgraded along the way—he has a bright dynasty future. In redraft leagues, however, he’ll be a desperation play this season.
Tom Savage, Texans
Draft rumors whispered about Tom Savage sneaking into the first round. Didn’t happen—actually, Savage lasted until Day 3—but Savage did end up in an intriguing situation in Houston. The Texans have no real solution at quarterback, with Case Keenum and Ryan Fitzpatrick the current placeholders, so Bill O’Brien will get to test his QB development skills with the raw materials Savage offers—maybe sooner rather than later.
Zach Mettenberger, Titans
Tennessee didn’t pick up the fifth-year option on Jake Locker, meaning Mettenberger could be “The Guy” as early as 2015. That should allow time for him to fully recover from the knee injury that scuttled his final season at LSU; it also buys the Titans a year to see if Mettenberger can keep his nose clean off the field. Tennessee is built to be a run-heavy team for the foreseeable future, another factor that could come into play if the Titans choose to ease Mettenberger into the starting role over the next couple of seasons.
DEEPER DYNASTY CONSIDERATIONS
Jimmy Garoppolo replaces Ryan Mallett as the heir to Tom Brady in New England. Garoppolo should have time to transition from FCS Eastern Illinois to the NFL and develop behind one of the better quarterbacks of our generation, but you may be waiting a while for him to see the field…Andy Dalton hasn’t been bad, but some question whether he’s the quarterback to get the Bengals to the next level. If he’s not, fifth-round pick A.J. McCarron would be the next man up…A pair of Day Three quarterbacks landed with notable QB whisperers. Early in his college career Logan Thomas was considered a potential first overall selection, but his tenure at Virginia Tech was marred by wildly inconsistent play. Nonetheless, he gives Cardinals coach Bruce Arians all the physical tools of an NFL quarterback, and Carson Palmer gives Arians a bit of time to mold. In Chicago, David Fales gets to study under Jay Cutler at Marc Trestman University. It worked for Josh McCown, and at some point down the road it could also pay dividends for Fales.