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2023 NFL Free Agency Preview: QBs

By C. H. Herms | Updated on Sat, 13 Apr 2024 . 10:32 AM EDT


There’s plenty of football left to play in the 2022 season. Even so, it’s never too soon to take a look ahead. This series will preview the 2023 free-agent class, beginning with QBs.

Certain players – such as Jared Goff of the Lions or Ryan Tannehill of the Titans – have potential outs in their contracts and could join this group. But this piece will focus on unrestricted free agents.

Using our dynasty rankings and the latest superflex startup mock data from DLF, we’ve put together our list of the top free-agent QBs ahead of the 2023 NFL season.


Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB6, 6.00 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB7

There was a strong case to be made for Jackson as the QB1 in dynasty following a breakout MVP campaign in 2019. Unfortunately, injuries and a poor supporting cast have made the last few years relatively disappointing.

After a red-hot start to the 2022 season, Jackson ranked as the QB11 in fantasy points per game (16.6) from Week 4 to Week 12 before succumbing to a knee injury. He sustained a season-ending ankle injury last year around the same time, too. But Jackson is still a top-flight dynasty asset despite all of this.

Why?

Since 2020, Jackson ranks 5th in fantasy points per game (20.74), 1st in rushing yards (2,536) by a mile and 11th in passing TD rate (min. 100 attempts). His fantasy scoring floor is tremendously high due to elite-level rushing production and strong TD efficiency. This is a skill set that will translate to any offense willing to build around the dual-threat QB.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: Between his past production, his young age (26 by the start of 2023), and our general optimism surrounding his long-term health outlook, Jackson is a QB1 regardless of where he lands.


Geno Smith, QB, Seahawks

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB18, 57.00 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB19

No one would’ve believed this time last year that Smith would be so high on this list. The long-time journeyman backup looked fine in relief of Russell Wilson last year – but that’s about it. Prior to 2021, Smith hadn’t started more than 3 games since 2014 with the Jets.

Fast Forward to now, and Smith is Pro Football Focus’ 7th-highest graded passer and sports a 70.7% completion percentage. That ranks #1 in the NFL (min. 100 attempts). Moreover, Smith’s 18.2 fantasy points per game ranks 7th at the position.

Translation: He’s played well enough to start somewhere in 2023.

Now, football fans have to go back to the days of Rich Gannon and Elvis Grbac to find an even remotely comparable situation. Still, this type of late-career resurgence, though rare, isn’t wholly unprecedented. It’ll be important to keep tabs on Smith this offseason to see whether he stays with the Seahawks.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: He’s worthy of buying for contending managers in dynasty leagues, despite the uncertainty.


Daniel Jones, QB, Giants

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB17, 52.00 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB15

Something clicked with Jones after Giants HC Brian Daboll’s arrival. The former 1st-round pick had shown flashes of his ability over the first 3 years, but never anything consistent. Thus far in 2022, the 25-year-old is an actual fantasy option.

Jones ranks 15th in fantasy points per game (16.9) despite a limited supporting cast of WRs or any reliable playmaker to lean on besides RB Saquon Barkley.

Jones’ performance in the ground game is perhaps most impressive. His 1,617 rushing yards since 2019 rank 5th among QBs. Justin Fields will soon pass Jones in this category in about half as many games played, but that’s more of a compliment to the Bear than anything else.

The Giants declined Jones’ 5th-year option ahead of 2022, thus opening the door to his possible exit.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: This year’s success may very well earn Jones another contract as an NFL starter. He’s a quality QB2 if nothing else and could be a bridge QB for a franchise in search of a long-term answer. Best case, Jones re-ups with the Giants and the franchise continues to build around their relative rebirth of success. He could be a speculative buy, but it’s probably safest to treat Jones as a hold.


Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB26, 110.67 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB31

There’s not much to say about Brady that hasn’t already been said. He’s the GOAT. The story of professional football in the 21st century cannot be told without him. Even at the advanced age of 45, Brady is PFF’s 9th-highest graded passer with the 3rd-most passing yards (4,178) in 2022.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t meant much for fantasy purposes. Brady’s 15.1 fantasy points per game in 2022 is his lowest average since 2006 (13.7). There’s no Randy Moss coming to the rescue next year to turn things around, either.

At Brady’s current age, the only historical comparison we have is George Blanda (kind of), and it would be a waste of anyone’s time to predict how this story ends given Brady’s unprecedented combination of longevity and success.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: He’s Tom Brady. He’ll play if he wants to. If he does, he’ll probably be a decent QB2. There’s no long-term outlook here. Brady is mostly on this list out of respect and the sheer reality that he is set to become a free agent. Don’t be surprised if he’s playing elsewhere in 2023.


Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB31, 142.67 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB27

The case for Garoppolo is curious. He’s never been particularly dominant in real football nor fantasy football. But he is a remarkably consistent game manager, if nothing else. Garoppolo sits 32nd in fantasy points per game (14.72) with a 99.2 passer rating that ranks 11th in the NFL (min. 100 attempts) since he joined the 49ers in 2017. He’s basically Kirk Cousins, minus the chains.

Garoppolo is nearly the definition of “replacement level” at QB. Through 5 games played, rookie Brock Purdy is only 0.5 points lower in PFF passing grading than Garoppolo, the man he replaced due to a foot injury. Speaking of injury, the 31-year-old doesn’t carry the cleanest bill of health in his career.

But to his credit, Garoppolo was extremely effective for a stretch in 2022. Pre-injury, the veteran signal-caller ranked as the QB7 in fantasy points per game (17.7, Week 5 to Week 12). He’ll produce at a high level with a great supporting cast around him. There are teams with young weapons that could sign him and provide intriguing fantasy upside (we’re looking at you, Jets).

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: Kick the tires on Garoppolo in your leagues to see if you can buy. It’s pretty easy to make moves on a player like him while he’s still hurt. There's a chance for a decent ROI on a trade if you do it soon (for cheap).


Baker Mayfield, QB, Rams

  • DLF December Startup ADP: QB33, 154.00 overall
  • Draft Sharks Dynasty Rank: QB30

What a wild story…

After a carousel of offensive coordinators and head coaches plagued the Browns early in his career, Mayfield’s 2020 campaign saw the former #1 overall pick cut down to a 1.6% INT rate and post a QB17 overall fantasy season on top of being PFF’s 10th-highest graded passer.

Mayfield entered 2021 with fantasy-sleeper status and a bright future. Then he wound up playing hurt nearly all season. His production dipped, and the franchise moved on to Deshaun Watson.

Mayfield was subsequently traded to the Panthers and his time there this year will be remembered as hideous. Then, boom – the man gets waived outright…and a plot twist emerges.

Don’t look now, but Mayfield finished Week 16 as a QB1 vs. the Broncos. Is the strength of this strange jumpstart enough to earn the former Heisman winner another shot as a starter? Who knows. Should we take lessons from the career arcs of Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, the answer is probably yes.

It’s a loose mold to fit these QBs into. Very little connects them beyond a singular college accolade and retrospective draft capital. But there’s something about the allure of a former prospect darling.

Draft Sharks Bottom Line: Mayfield is worth a flier, on deep rosters. Too soon to really say much beyond that.


Honorable Mentions:

Taylor Heinicke, QB, Commanders
Jacoby Brissett, QB, Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, Panthers
Andy Dalton, QB, Saints
Mike White, QB, Jets
Gardner Minshew II, QB, Eagles

Other rankings are stale  before the 2nd round.

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