Late Bloomers: Quarterbacks
The Fantasy Football playoffs are often the period where decent players become viewed as ‘High-Tier’ in the following offseason. These late bloomers can be fake, or the last few weeks can be a true reflection of time to come. This short series of articles is going to dive into these players and provide some insight into their future as a fantasy player. Today, we’re talking about the Quarterbacks who saw the largest difference in average points from weeks 1-12 to weeks 13-16.
Jalen Hurts (.72 PPG to 21.99 PPG)
Bill Streicher - USA TODAY Sports
The obvious late boomer at the QB position is now the clear leader of the Philadelphia offense. Hurts was merely a round 2 draft pick who hadn’t seen the field until he blew up. With two difficult matchups and two easier matchups in weeks 13-16, Hurts averaged the 7th most points among Quarterbacks. As the starter in Philly entering 2021, his upcoming season will look more like weeks 13-16 than weeks 1-12. With Hurts, it’s obvious why he broke out, and with his style of play, he doesn’t need to develop into an incredible passer to be good for fantasy.
The short-term outlook for Hurts is grand. We’ve seen QBs who don’t throw for a lot of yards run for enough to be a top 10 option at the position. Hurts will be good for fantasy even if he’s a bad NFL QB in 2021. The long-term outlook is yet to be seen. While he’s a great athlete, his passing prowess is yet to be established. I’m not saying he can’t develop into a good passer; we’ve seen QBs do it. I’m letting you know that if he doesn’t improve as a passer in year 2, he quickly becomes a sell in Dynasty formats. Philadelphia needs to start winning games, and if Hurts isn’t doing that he’ll be on a short leash after starting his career just 1-3. We recently heard Nick Sirianni decline to name Hurts the starter, but this feels to be a bit of a smokescreen.
Baker Mayfield (13.72 PPG to 22.12 PPG)
Baker Mayfield’s end of the season is by far the most intriguing from my point of view. Mayfield was extremely pedestrian all year, then the final stretch of the season he lit it up. What we saw was a change in gameplay from the Browns offense. They went from averaging under 27 attempts to averaging 42 attempts! With that, Baker saw an increase of 10 completions per game and about 120 yards. So why did the Browns see this fluctuation in playstyle? Well, it’s partially due to brutal weather. Of their five games from week 6 to week 11, three were played in WILD weather with high winds, heavy rain, or snowfall. Another piece is that Stefanski’s offense finally hit its stride in year one. Mayfield had a lower TD rate in his final four games compared to the rest of the season. He still saw this spike in points despite that.
The reality is Stefanski’s offense in Cleveland will be somewhere between the 27 attempts and 42 attempts per game. I personally believe it will be on the higher side of that range despite Stefanski’s tendencies in Minnesota. With that in mind, Mayfield becomes a great QB target in redraft, and a great buy-now candidate in SuperFlex Dynasty leagues. In April, we’ve seen Mayfield’s ADP fall into the fourth round of Startup Drafts, behind Tua, Stafford, Fields, and Zach Wilson. I’ll take Baker over each of those players going forward. He’s potentially a high-end QB2 that you’re getting around QB18.
Tua Tagovailoa (9.9 PPG to 18.19 PPG)
Jason Vinlove- USA TODAY Sports
Tua is one of the most controversial Quarterbacks of the offseason. While some managers are ready to move on, others stand by Tua and their top three SuperFlex pick. While it took some time for him to pick up the NFL game, he figured it out towards the end of the season. Tua started 9 games in 2020, and I want to look at them in two different buckets. The first four and the last five. While we don’t include week 17 games for fantasy, it was an important part of Tua’s development as a Quarterback.
In bucket one, we saw a QB who was being held back on a short leash. Tua averaged only 24 pass attempts in bucket one. With that, he completed only 15 passes per game. In bucket two, we saw Tua’s true potential. Averaging 39 attempts and 25 completions is probably more than we can expect going forward, but it’s nice to see him take that leap near the end of the season. What really stands out to me Tua’s Intended Air Yards/attempt. You’re probably expecting me to say they increased in bucket two, but they didn’t. Tua’s IAY/A went down from 8.35 to 7.11. To give some perspective, this is going from a level comparable to Mahomes to a level more similar to Philip Rivers. Instead of throwing downfield, the offense was schemed to allow Tua to throw the ball shorter distances and give his playmakers an opportunity to do something with the ball by hitting them in stride. We’re all expecting the Dolphins to add a big-name playmaker in the 2021 NFL Draft to help Tua keep playing with this scheme. If Tua has a career similar to Rivers, I wouldn’t be shocked or disappointed.