The vice president is just a heartbeat away from assuming the duties
of the President at all times. In fantasy, the equivalent is having
a plan if one of your players can’t perform for any reason.
In today’s piece, we are going to discuss the likelihood that
you may need a backup quarterback who is more than just a warm body
on your roster.
That likelihood is based on three factors; 1) whether they show
up ready to play in Week 1; 2) their ability to stay on the field
and healthy enough to play at a fantasy-worthy level; 3) the risk
that subpar play could get them replaced.
Rodgers, Green Bay – We’ve all been
watching the Packers’ off-season soap opera starring “ARod” and
GM Brian Gutekunst. Gutekunst doesn’t want to trade Rodgers, the
2020 NFL MVP, despite having drafted Jordan
Love with a No.1 draft choice a year ago. Rodgers sees other
quarterbacks having input in draft/free agent decisions and as
a 16-year veteran, three-time MVP and Super Bowl winner feels
slighted by not having management at least listen to him. I do
believe Rodgers will end up as the Packers starter in Week 1.
Watson, Houston – Watson’s legal
issues are most likely going to end up with him on the Commissioner's
Exempt List, which is why I have Tyrod
Taylor listed as the starter for the Texans. Even if Watson
somehow is allowed to play this year, he’s demanded a trade out
of Houston. This situation isn’t going to end anytime soon and
fantasy owners shouldn’t waste anything but a late-round selection
unless his numerous problems magically come to a conclusion.
The most important ability is availability. You can’t score
fantasy points watching from the owner’s box in street clothes.
The health risk chart below is a little bit deceiving. A number
of players played every game in most seasons, but had one year
in which they were severely injured and it ruined their start
percentage. Dak Prescott is a prime example. He played 53 consecutive
games beginning in 2017 until his compound ankle fracture in game
No. 5 last year. Matthew Stafford is another.
But, you can also see a few quarterbacks who consistently miss
a few games every season and those are the guys for which you
need an emergency plan. Examples of this are; Jimmy Garoppolo,
Sam Darnold, Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton and Daniel Jones. Additionally,
two of those guys (Garoppolo and Dalton) will be found again in
the third portion of this piece.
The head coach has repeatedly stated that Dalton is the Chicago
Bears starter. I think he believes it … at least for now. Once
they are on the practice fields (no pun intended), it very possible
that Fields will outshine the journeyman. It reminds me of when
Wilson arrived in Seattle after the Seahawks had just signed
former Packers backup Matt Flynn to a giant three-year deal. The
rookie beat him out in training camp and Flynn never saw the field.
If it’s not game No.1, the pressure will be on Dalton to perform
and win or face being replaced. With the Rams and Browns among
their first three opponents, the Bears could be 1-2 after three
games and look to make a quarterback change. Insert Fields here,
for game No.4 versus Detroit.
The bearded wonder was signed to be an improvement over the 2019
trio of Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen, who threw a
total of 16 touchdowns in 16 games and equaled that number in
interceptions. Fitzpatrick threw 13 touchdowns in seven starts
(nine games) last season in Miami before the team made the decision
to start No.1 draft choice Tua Tagovailoa. And while “Fitzmagic”
has a flair to his game, he too has flaws in a losing career record
of 59-86-1 as a starter. So if he struggles, or becomes too conservative,
the WFT could try Heinicke. The little-used Heinicke threw for
306 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 46 yards and a score
in a hard-fought playoff loss to eventual SB Champion Tampa Bay
31-23 when forced into action due to injuries. I don’t expect
that to happen, but Fitzpatrick isn’t the long-term answer
to a Washington team that seemingly has a defense ready to win
led by Chase Young, so a mid-season trade for a quarterback is
also a possibility.
Garoppolo got the 49ers to a Super Bowl in 2019 where they lost
Mahomes and the Chiefs 31-20. The game also dramatically exposed
Jimmy G’s flaws and when added to his inability to stay on the
field due to injuries forced San Francisco to spend big-time draft
capital to move up in 2021 and select Lance. Could Garoppolo suddenly
become a 35 TD guy throwing for 4500 yards to receivers like Brandon
Kittle and Deebo
Samuel? Unlikely. First, this is a run-first Kyle Shanahan
offense. Second, I don’t think Shanahan has enough faith in Garoppolo
to call those plays. The 49ers could be 2-3 as they head to their
Week 6 bye and it would be a perfect time for Shanahan to change
his signal-caller. Lance had a monster year at North Dakota State
(2019 – 2786 yards, 28 TD passes, 0 INTs, 1100 yards rushing,
14 TDs), but the “small school” tag means fantasy owners can’t
be sure what he might do in his first season under center. Barring
a Jimmy G miracle, however, Lance should get a chance in 2021.
Most likely when Garoppolo gets hurt (just a 56.6% availability
rating in four seasons).
Newton was put in a horrible situation in 2020 that no man could
survive. He was replacing a living, still-playing legend with
no preseason games, little live practice and mostly “Zoom
meetings.” That’s no way to restart a career. He should
be better this season, but Newton isn’t the “Superman”
who led his 2015 team to an appearance in the Super Bowl (3837
passing yards, 35 TDs, 10 INTs, 636 rushing yards, 10 TDs). His
body has taken a beating over the years and his arm isn’t
anywhere close to what it once was. If Bill Belichick can’t
“unlock” the old Newton, he’s not scared to
pull the plug and start his first-round draft choice out of Alabama.
Jones had stunning statistics in his final year at Bama (4500
passing yards, 41 TDs, 4 INTs). Take those numbers with a grain
of salt as his receiving corps outclassed every defense they faced
(led by first-rounders Devonta Smith, Jalen Waddle and sophomore
John Metchie). But he avoided mistakes and that’s huge in
Belichicks list of “must haves” from his quarterback.
It’s also a Newton weakness. Newton should get the first
shot, but Jones will be the starter at some point this season.
The Broncos tried as hard as possible to find a replacement for
Lock. They still have hopes for an Aaron Rodgers or Deshaun Watson
trade … at least their fans do. John Elway ended up with
a “backup” plan in Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater
is a solid “game manager” and you can have a winning
record if your defense is good enough. But to truly compete in
a division with Kansas City, Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas
you will need more. Lock came in with so much promise, leading
Denver to a 4-1 record down the stretch in 2019, but he failed
to capitalize on his chance to lead them in 2020. Despite a solid
receiving corps in Jerry Jeudy, Noah Font, Tim Patrick and KJ
Hamler, Lock struggled to a 4-9 record with 16 TD passes and 15
INTs. Neither quarterback appears to be the long-term answer in
this true 50-50 split of training camp and preseason workload,
so again if a star quarterback enters the open market this team
should, and will be, interested.
Tagovailoa was dealing with a lot of issues last season. Like
every other rookie, he had “Zoom meetings” instead
of OTAs, training camps and preseason games. He was also dealing
with a severe hip injury that many thought would keep him sidelined
for all of 2020. So it was no surprise that Fitzpatrick started
the Dolphins 2020 season at quarterback. And also no surprise
that Tua was rusty when he got in there. I don’t think he
has to worry about not getting a full chance in 2021, but we also
saw that Brian Flores has no problem replacing a struggling quarterback.
Still, Tua should be the long-term answer in Miami and Brissett
should be the quality backup. I like the additional receiving
weapons brought in by management (free agent Will Fuller and first-round
choice Waddle), but was a little disappointed they didn’t
bring in a bigger running back threat. Tua probably still isn’t
an everyday fantasy starter, but he should be a solid bye week
and injured-starter option.
I’m sorry but Hill is not an NFL starter. Yes, he was 3-1
but he lost to Philadelphia, and played horrible in Denver only
getting the “W” because Covid-19 in the QB room forced
them to start a wide receiver at quarterback. And when he was
in there, the team’s No.1 threat, Alvin Kamara, was underused.
Winston is the better thrower. If Sean Payton can keep his turnovers
in check, he’s the better option for the Saints. Perhaps
he really couldn’t see downfield due to poor eyesight. I
don’t know for sure. While Payton will give both guys a
fair chance in training camp and preseason I think Winston wins
the opening day job. Then the only thing which could keep him
from locking it in for 16 games is bad decision-making. Oh, Winston
isn’t a perfect fit. He loves to throw the long ball and
his best receiver, Michael Thomas, likes the quick-slant pattern.
But Winston had a year to watch Drew Brees and Payton at work
and I believe he learned how it’s done. He won’t the
mad bomber he was in Tampa. He’s not going to throw for
5000 yards. Winston can be a backup fantasy option and Hill should
continue in his part-time “weapon” role.