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Stealing a Top 10 QB

By Kevin English | Updated on Thu, 13 Jul 2023 . 2:28 PM EDT

It happens every year.

Several QBs emerge from value range to return excellent fantasy value.

Consider 2017, when each of the following had an ADP in Round 10 or later: Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson. The first 3 made up 33.3% of the top 9 fantasy QBs. Watson wasn’t even a Week 1 starter but finished #1 in points per game (28.6) across 7 appearances.

While QB depth is now widely recognized, we still need to pinpoint our targets behind early-rounders like Watson, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.

Here are 4 upside passers to consider — most benefiting from projected upgrades in play-calling and presenting extra appeal through rushing.

Andrew Luck, Colts

DS Rank: QB10

ADP: QB12, 10.01

With 3 top-8 fantasy finishes, Luck easily has the best résumé on this list.

He ranks 3rd all-time in yards and TDs through a QB’s first 5 seasons. The top 2 in both categories: Peyton Manning and Dan Marino.

Luck ranks highly despite missing 9 games in 2015. A torn right labrum from that year wasn’t operated on until January of 2017, costing him all of last season.

Fortunately, Luck’s progressed nicely this summer. He’s ready for training camp — Indy opens on July 26 — while GM Chris Ballard also said Luck will get some preseason reps.

But what about his 2018 supporting cast? We’ll start with the coaching staff, which admittedly looks more intriguing than the on-field talent.

Frank Reich arrived this offseason and immediately spilled his love for Luck.

“Obviously, when you look at his skillset, I mean, you have everything,” Reich said, via the Indy Star. “I remember watching him coming out [of college], watching him play his first few years in the league, I mean, you’ve got size, strength, intelligence, [can] extend plays in the pocket, extend plays out of the pocket, having the intelligence to get the offense in the right [position], be a good decision maker, protect the football, leadership, team-first. I mean, he’s exhibited all those characteristics throughout his whole career, not just with the Colts, but in college. It’s just incredibly exciting. It’s exciting because you know he’s not only a talented player, but he’s got the kind of character, the kind of backbone, the kind of toughness that you really want to be part of the leadership of the team.”

Reich, a first-time HC, will call plays. Coming over from the Eagles, he’s already used words like “aggressive,” “up-tempo,” and “multiple" to describe his style.

We certainly saw that in Philly, where the offense excelled -- even without Carson Wentz. The Eagles also ranked 3rd league-wide in total plays.

The Colts can certainly make Reich’s buzzwords come to life. Perhaps most interestingly, they bring a unique 1-2 combo at TE with Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron.

What about the WRs? They’re clearly weak behind T.Y. Hilton. But it’s interesting to note how Luck’s thrived with average to below average #2 targets — even during his top 8 seasons:

2013: Coby Fleener (87-52-608-4)

2014: Reggie Wayne (116-64-779-2)

2016: Jack Doyle (75-59-584-5)

Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are boring #2 candidates. But Luck should benefit from the upgraded staff, a reinforced O-line and the potential that 1 of the league’s shakier defenses causes a boost in volume.

Currently, we project luck with a fantasy ceiling of QB4.

Note: You can get ceiling/floor projections for your fantasy draft by setting up an MVP Board.

Marcus Mariota, Titans

DS Rank: QB12

ADP: QB17, 12.02

Mariota’s just a season removed from ranking 10th in fantasy points per game. So we’ve seen strong play from him before.

Last year, of course, went much worse. He ranked 17th in fantasy scoring — and it took 5 rushing scores to get there. Mariota tossed 13 TDs to 15 INTs and averaged only 215.5 passing yards per game.

But with so much change this offseason, it’d be unwise to look too much into his 2017 performance.

For starters, Mariota enjoyed a healthy 2018 offseason. That wasn’t the case last year when he rehabbed a broken fibula.

Tennessee’s new coaching staff should get you excited. HC Mike Vrabel supplies an energetic, commanding voice. OC Matt LaFleur is another young presence and comes from an impressive coaching tree of Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay. While he didn’t call plays, LaFleur held the title of OC for a 2017 Rams squad that ranked 10th in yards and 1st in points.

He’s expected to inject creativity to the play-calling while better utilizing Mariota’s rushing talent.

At pass catcher, we see the return of reliable veterans Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews. The sizzle comes from 2nd-year WR Corey Davis, whose special talents never appeared because of a rookie-year injury bug. He tallied only 65 targets across 11 games and failed to score -- at least during the regular season. His best game came in the Divisional Round of the playoffs vs. New England (5-63-2).

If Davis can stay healthy, he could quickly develop into Mariota’s #1 target.

Contributions in the red zone would be particularly helpful. And at 6’3, Davis has the size to thrive. In 2017, the Titans ranked behind all but 3 teams in red zone plays. That contributed to Mariota’s RZ attempts (49) and TDs (6) dropping sharply from 2016 (59 and 19).

We anticipate some positive scoring regression -- potentially significant -- if this unit hits its ceiling.

Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs

DS Rank: QB13

ADP: QB16, 11.06

We’ve been enamored with Mahomes since watching him throw lasers at Texas Tech.

While we saw just 1 start in 2017, we remain intrigued by his combo of elite arm strength and Favre-like fearlessness. HC Andy Reid is, too.

“He’s a good person and carries himself the right way,” Reid said of his young QB. “He does that with his teammates. He is a humble guy who loves to play the game and plays it aggressively. Normally you appreciate those guys. I wouldn’t expect that to change. I would encourage him not to change that part.”

The Chiefs surround Mahomes with enticing, big-play talent. Tyreek Hill has 11 catches of 40+ yards over the past 2 seasons. Sammy Watkins — still only 25 — scored 8 times last year on only 39 grabs for the Rams’ spread-it-out pass game. But he added 15.2 yards per catch and, most importantly, avoided missing a game due to injury.

Travis Kelce, of course, returns as a top-tier TE. He leads all TEs in catches since 2014. He ranks 2nd in yards.

A dynamic supporting cast should also help Mahomes’ athleticism shine. He checks in 5th behind Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Marcus Mariota and Deshaun Watson in projected rushing yards.

Mitchell Trubisky, Bears

DS Rank: QB18

ADP: QB23, 14.04

Trubisky took his rookie-year lumps.

Alshon Jeffery’s offseason departure, Cam Meredith’s ACL tear and another injury-filled season from Kevin White left the WR corps bare. Kendall Wright paced the team in targets … by 20.

So, Trubisky mustered only 7 TDs, 183 yards per game and 6.6 yards per attempt. Not shocking — especially for a guy who made only 13 starts at North Carolina.

Now with some pro experience, the 2nd-year passer enters a drastically different situation.

It starts with the coaches, as Chicago took the forward-thinking approach with HC Matt Nagy and OC Mark Helfrich.

Nagy’s a long-time assistant of Andy Reid. The disciple actually handled play-calling duties from Week 13 on last year — and the Chiefs proceeded to average 28.6 points and 414.4 yards.

Known for implementing run-pass options, Nagy brought in a like-minded OC in Helfrich. RPO concepts are also what Trubisky’s familiar with from college.

“I think just hiding the ball with the running back and then quick throws down the field — those are skills that fit what I can do well and I really enjoy the RPO as well," Trubisky said early in camp. “I think it keeps it simple. It allows us to play fast and it’s hard for the defense to cover.”

Now it’s a matter of gelling with an overhauled supporting cast of Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton.

Robinson’s health is a hot topic after an ACL tear surfaced early in 2017. But he dodged the PUP list to open camp.

Miller, Gabriel and Burton all bring field-stretching qualities. Burton’s a mismatch piece at 6’3, 235 pounds and projects as a red zone staple.

Bottom line: Trubisky’s environment went from depressing to highly encouraging in a matter of months. Now, we’ll see how quickly he’s able to digest the new offense.

Kevin English Author Image
Kevin English, Senior Analyst
Kevin brings 15 years of experience as a fantasy analyst and mid-stakes competitor across various formats (redraft, best ball, dynasty, DFS). His work has been featured on The Mercury News, Rotoworld, and FantasyPros.
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