Fantasy Football Sleepers – Quarterbacks – 2020
Kyler Murray – Arizona Cardinals
I was skeptical of the Kyler Murray experiment as the first pick in the 2019 draft. Six-foot quarterbacks are rare these days and certainly not shorter ones. Murray stands at 5’10” but has excellent speed and mobility with an arm that most guys six inches taller envy. As a year one starter without doubt, Murray did surprisingly well and with very little skill position help. He does get balls batted down more than you’d like and needs to work on accuracy (what rookie doesn’t). If you had to pick between Murray, Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold to start a franchise, the answer is obvious.
Murray finished with 3,722 passing yards, 20 TD’s and 12 interceptions. He has the good fortune of working with 16-year veteran Larry Fitzgerald who has seen a quarterback or two in his day. Then came the surprising news, first instinct was that it was just an internet rumor. But no, the Cardinals robbed the Texans of DeAndre Hopkins for an injury riddled running back with only one good season in his career. Murray finished just outside the top ten for fantasy quarterbacks and his running ability was a major assist in that regard. He was the team’s second leading rusher with 544 yards and 4 TD’s. Murray is an under the radar quarterback who will have to try very hard not to be in the top twelve this season.
Don’t forget to check out our other Fantasy Football Sleepers!
Ryan Tannehill – Tennessee Titans
It takes very little film work to recognize the difference Ryan Tannehill made for the Tennessee Titans this season. Mariota sailed passes when he wasn’t one hopping them. His weak arm strength was exposed at the NFL level and unfortunately his mobility wasn’t enough to save him. In comes Tannehill and all he did was lead the team to 7 wins in 10 starts and two playoff wins, including a surprising victory over the heavy favorite Baltimore Ravens. The playoff run earned Tannehill a new contract worth around $29 million a year, not bad for essentially a 13-game stretch. He is calm, consistent and stable and effectively uses misdirection in the backfield to create space for an efficient short passing game. In 9 of his 10 starts, Tannehill tallied double digit TD’s as well as motored for 4 in the rushing department.
The supporting cast for this offense went from bare bones to a stocked cupboard in a short period of time. Rookie A.J. Brown adds to a decent wide receiver room with Corey Davis and Adam Humphries. Tight end Jonnu Smith is coming out from the shadows of Delanie Walker and of course the backbone is the 2019 leading rusher Derrick Henry. Tannehill averaged top ten fantasy points per week last season, better than the likes of Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Wentz. He is the perfect pick if you’re the type of fantasy owner who fills the running back and wide receiver positions first. And frankly, at the quarterback position only Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes are worth the early round selections.
Drew Lock – Denver Broncos
We have a small sample size for Drew Lock’s professional career but after a 4-1 record in five starts at the end of last season, it seems the Broncos have the quarterback of the future. Lock has the arm strength needed to make all the throws and is fearless, or careless depending on how you look at it, to throw the ball into very tight windows. He seemed to have a good handle of the offense early though it was probably the freshman version. You have to like his mobility and the ability to handle the plethora of misdirection involved in this offense.
From a numbers perspective, Lock didn’t exactly blow the roof off the stadium but there are some useful game log insights. In the four wins Lock started, the balance between run and pass was almost 50/50. The only exception was playing catchup to the eventual Super Bowl champs Kansas City. Lock averaged just over 200 passing yards per game, not exactly fantasy gold, but consider the need to protect the rookie and focus on some easy throws. He had a couple multi-touchdown games but more importantly, was able to reasonably protect the ball. Still too many interceptions and more concerning fumbles, something an off-season of work can help with.
Lock developed early chemistry with DaeSean Hamilton, not surprisingly, by utilizing the short passing game. Cortland Sutton averaged 8 targets in the five-game season ending run but converted only 55%, obviously room for improvement. We also can’t forget about Noah Fant who had flashes of brilliance in his first season. This is a very young offense with a lot of high-quality players in the skill positions. Lock is worth the chance to see how well this young team grows together.
Gardner Minshew II – Jacksonville Jaguars
Though we are not ready to label Gardner Minshew II the GOAT, his performance after being launched into the starting role after what, 30 seconds into game one, was quite impressive. Did we mention he was a 6th round rookie quarterback? He had more passing yards, TD’s and fewer interceptions than Tom Brady did in his first full season as the Patriots starter. Minshew II demonstrated a calm pocket presence with the wherewithal to escape pressure in the right direction (as opposed to scrambling into the defensive end). He has a good touch on the deep ball and makes the tough throws against his body. The 26th ranked offensive line didn’t provide much support for the young quarterback, but his running ability, 344 rushing yards worth, and only 33 sacks helped minimize the impact.
Minshew II has earned backup fantasy quarterback discussions for the 2020 season. He ranked 18th in average fantasy points per game (depending on your scoring system of course), but mid to high teens as a rookie is worth noting. Minimizing turnovers don’t add to the fantasy point total but conversely don’t subtract either. Minshew II had five games with multiple TD passes and zero interceptions, another two games with multiple TD passes and one interception and only one multi-interception game. The Jaguars have enough confidence to relieve themselves of the Foles contract and move ahead with Minshew II. He is a strategical starter and a solid bye week replacement given the right matchup.