It is far, far too early for fantasy football analysis. We just found out who teams are playing against but with little to no injuries about injuries and contract holdouts or the like, it is hard to come up with cogent arguments.
This series will review the value of specific rookies and as we are far out I will focus on rookies who are the most likely to have a starting role, who will have one from the get go and how I believe that will project outward. At the end, I will indicate where I think the given player SHOULD be drafted. This way, if you miss out on the player because someone pulled the trigger too prematurely, you can smirk and pick someone more valuable when the pick comes around to you. Likewise, if the player no one believes in falls to you, it’s time for a mental fist-pump.
***before we get started each week I will remind everyone that the analysis in this series is based on regular, season-long point per reception scoring. It also assumes you play in a 12 team league***
The first player in our series has to be Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence, is set to start from day one for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was drafted as the first overall pick and his accomplishments, his size, athleticism and throwing ability make him intriguing. His NFL comp is Andrew Luck and is said to be the first slam dunk no-brainer first overall pick since Luck was drafted in 2012.
Quarterbacks are a tricky position to draft. I have to admit, I’ve begun drafting them a little earlier than my overall draft strategy has been and this has been of great personal benefit to me. Recently, I’ve been able to draft quarterbacks such as Pat Mahomes and Lamar Jackson in many of my drafts in the 4th round. Obviously, while there rarely is a massive difference between the top quarterback and a low end top ten quarterback is limited on a points per game basis, if you have the opportunity to draft a stud a round after you think their projected value would indicate, go ahead and snatch ‘em up.
I have had a theory for the last few years that seems to be paying dividends. The theory is that because rookie quarterbacks are no longer sitting on the bench and being groomed for years they are expected to perform and perform well out of the gate. Coaches who realize that their careers are often tied to the trajectory of the young QBs are more likely to put them in situations where they will stand out and play well. This has an interesting impact on my long standing theory that having the best value at quarterback is better than having the best quarterback.
So while ending up with QB1 is a definite benefit, having a quarterback that you drafted in rounds 6-7 who will end the season between QB 4-7 is, in some ways, more valuable. If, in the first 5 rounds you can draft 3 excellent pass catching running backs, and either two stud receivers with a good floor and big play upside (or one of the dominant tight ends) you’re liking outscoring most configurations where someone drafted a quarterback at the end of the second round.
Rookie quarterbacks are great for this strategy since they tend to go later in the draft as there is no sample size to judge their projected performance. Let’s look at how rookie quarterbacks fared in the last few seasons ranked on a points per game basis (minimum 10 games played).
2020: Justin Herbert (LAC): Ranked 7th (22.9 PPG)
2019: Kyler Murray (ARI): Ranked 10th (18.6 PPG)
2018: Pat Mahomes (KC…first year starter): Ranked 1st (26.1 PPG)
In the cases of Herbert and Murray, they went undrafted in many drafts and when they were drafted in their rookie seasons it was done in the closing rounds. Pat Mahomes had a higher average ADP but was often picked up in the 6th-8th round in his first year as a starter.
You’ll also notice that for the past three years only one rookie quarterback has finished in the top 10. So this is a strategy that is a definite gamble. That said, if it misses, you still have the opportunity to stream quarterbacks. You may draft Trevor Lawrence but, if it doesn’t pay dividends, pick up a free agent rookie QB that ends up paying off later in the season. If he performs decently and you feel confident in streaming QBs then you have excellent trade value and an easier time trading away someone for which you invested less draft capitol.
Trevor Lawrence is a phenomenal athlete. So if we imagine him throwing for 200 yards per game, rushing for an additional 60 yards a game (fairly easily attainable), he would need a 3-1 TD to int ratio to end up with about 24 points per game. This would likely land him in the top three for the season. So if this is his absolute upside, figure that 16 points is likely his floor. I have calculated that based on his ability to run, and the fact that I expect that the Jaguars, while improved, will likely be trailing in many games this season. If Lawrence ends up on the positive side of 20 he will likely finish only 4 or 5 points behind the number one QB (provided that QB1 doesn’t have a record setting year)
The team has an interesting pair of running backs. James Robinson is a bruiser and Travis Etienne is a past catching speed demon who is familiar with the rookie quarterback (an overplayed narrative but I think plays well given Etienne’s skill set). Marvin Jones was added as a receiver and he will be important on key downs as he has been his entire career, Laviska Shenault is a player whom game-plan specific plays make his involvement assured, and DJ Chark is a potential game breaking receiver. While there are some question marks I think this will be an improved offense who’s volume will pay off (they will be behind and as such their pace of play and pass/run ratio will be increasingly valuable).
Where should you draft Trevor Lawrence: Between the 8th-to 10th round;.
Quick Analysis: The fantasy stalwarts will go in the first 4 rounds, there will be a mid-round run on quarterbacks and then the pace of picking QBs will slow altogether. Lawrence will start from day one and as such has value. Feel free to pick him as you hear the names Joe Burrow and Ryan Tannehill come off the board.