When looking at rookie quarterbacks, redraft league players can pretty much forget the class and even dynasty league managers with 1QB don’t need to stick their neck out for a rookie. However, with the growing popularity of superflex and 2QB leagues, selecting a rookie signal caller has become more important. These types of leagues are often starved for starting QBs and the only way to obtain one is a difficult trade or drafting an incoming prospect. For managers in these types of leagues, this could be the most important article you read this summer!
Two metrics that I value in quarterbacks are completion percentage and yards per attempt. If a prospect can deliver the ball to his receiver as well as challenge the defense downfield, that’s likely a recipe for success. For more information on my process, check out last year’s rookie quarterback rankings.
1. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars
He’s been the next great quarterback since he was in high school. He was wire to wire the QB1 from recruit to NFL draft, a feat rarely accomplished. I am not going to go against the grain with Lawrence. His numbers are exceptional, meeting all thresholds I would be interested in. He even has some legs to his game, rushing for nearly 1000 yards in his three year career. He can make any throw, protects the football, and challenges all parts of the field. Simply put, Lawrence is the premier QB prospect since Andrew Luck. This isn’t one to overthink – draft him with confidence.
2. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears
Lawrence was a slam dunk, but QB2 is where many opinions start to form. I think Fields offers a history that ensures a safe floor with tremendous upside fitting for the QB2 in any class. He had a wonderful 68% career completion percentage, topping 70% in his junior season. That is paired with a tremendous yards per attempt of over 9 in both seasons at Ohio State. He can also win on the ground, rushing for over 800 yards and 15 touchdowns in two years for the Buckeyes.
I genuinely don’t understand how his stock has fallen both in real life and fantasy circles. He did everything one could possibly ask of him on and off the field. He performed at an elite level, won tons of games, beat Lawrence head to head and has a fantasy friendly game with the rushing upside. He has a safer floor than Zach Wilson and as much upside as anyone including Trey Lance. It simply does not make any sense to have Fields lower than QB2 in terms of fantasy outlook. I look forward to watching him revitalize a long suffering Chicago franchise. The NFL is better when it’s foundational programs are competitive.
3. Trey Lance, San Francisco 49ers
If Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were safe plays, we’re swinging for the fences on this one. Lance has exactly one collegiate season under his belt, in the lower championship subdivision of the college ranks. He was sensational in that redshirt freshman season, though. Compiling 2,786 passing yards, 1100 rushing yards and 42 total touchdowns against zero interceptions, Lance put himself on the map in 2019.
Of course, 2020 was a lost campaign but Lance was still selected with the 3rd overall pick in the NFL draft. Despite a mere 318 collegiate pass attempts to his name, Lance became the second North Dakota State quarterback taken in the top 3 in the last 5 years. He completed 66% of his passes and had a magical 9.7 yards per attempt. He is probably more of a Cam Newton style rusher than Lamar Jackson, but make no mistake Lance can be a major difference maker for fantasy teams. Landing in San Francisco under the tutelage of Kyle Shanahan is a great place for Lance to develop. I don’t think a team trades up to the 3rd overall pick to NOT play their quarterback but Jimmy Garoppolo may enter the season as the starter. Stay strong friends, Lance will be the man in the bay soon.
4. Zach Wilson, New York Jets
After a tremendous junior year at BYU, Wilson headed to the NFL and upset expectations being taken as the second player in the draft. While he played in his first two years, like Lance he only has one elite season to his name. He torched opponents completing 73% of his passes with an outrageous 11 yards per attempt. One look at his tape and it’s clear to see his daring throws can stress a defense at every blade of grass. He has a little rushing to his game too, although I wouldn’t mistake him for a dual threat.
The major unknown revolves around the fact that his competition was not a murderers row of defenses. The Cougars did not play one Power Five team in 2020 and his film shows that some mistakes were covered by defenders simply not executing plays that could have been made. The book on Wilson is that he often chooses the hero throw over the smart one. While that may have worked against BYU’s opponents in 2020, I am skeptical he can thrive against NFL defenses. For fantasy, he also doesn’t have the rushing upside in his pocket. He is quite easily the QB4 for me, but I don’t work for the Jets.
5. Mac Jones, New England Patriots
While it feels like Jones is another one year wonder in this class, he actually was excellent as a redshirt sophomore in 2019. Called upon to carry the team after Tua Tagovailoa’s injury, Jones completed 68% of his passes and registered a 14-3 touchdown to interception ratio. Given the keys full time in 2020, he exceeded all possible expectations, leading one of the most explosive Alabama passing attacks of all time. Jones was Burrow-esque completing an ungodly 77.4% of his passes with a yards per attempt of 11.2.
He was truly ridiculous and helped number one target DeVonta Smith become the first wide receiver to win the Heisman trophy in nearly 30 years. He very well may become a good NFL starter, but specifically for fantasy purposes I am bearish on Jones. Without any semblance of a rushing component to his game, the ceiling is limited. I think if Jones becomes Kirk Cousins we can all be pretty satisfied in that outcome. That means he’s a strong QB2 for fantasy, which leaves him at QB5 in the class for me.
6. Kyle Trask, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After all the first round choices are taken, Trask should be in consideration. Granted, there is a massive tier break between Jones and Trask. However, I think that he is somewhat of a discount Mac Jones. His numbers were good if not as gaudy as Jones, but Trask is also a pocket passer who can deliver an accurate ball. He will not give you anything on the ground, but should be able to flourish in an offense where he can distribute on-time to playmakers.
He would need a nearly perfect environment to flourish, the way Drew Brees took off in New Orleans. Perhaps the post-Brady era in Tampa Bay is exactly what he needs. Certainly the supporting cast is there now, but how many of them will stick around once Brady finally hangs it up? After the “big 5” in this draft there is no sure thing at quarterback. Trask is a worthwhile taxi squad stash if your league is deep enough. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
7. Davis Mills, Houston Texans
The final spot here goes to Mills out of Stanford University. A difficult college career wrought with injuries limited us from seeing him reach the potential that had him ranked as the number one pro style quarterback in the country coming out of high school. He displayed accuracy for the Cardinal but never had an eye opening yards per attempt. In 13 career games he totaled an 18-8 touchdown to interception ratio, which is nothing to write home about either.
Mills does appear to have some pro tools and ability to be a competent pocket passer. Hopefully he can put multiple knee injuries behind him and become the quarterback he was thought to be as a recruit. Given the Texans’ murky quarterback situation I don’t mind drafting Mills in deep formats and hoping for the best. He may be a sneaky add in leagues that start multiple quarterbacks each week.