Rookie quarterbacks dominate the conversation around the actual NFL Draft but take a back seat to running backs and wide receivers when it comes to fantasy football drafts. That’s understandable because dozens of running backs and wide receivers will get various levels of playing time as rookies, while only a small handful of first-year quarterbacks will even have the opportunity to take a snap in a meaningful game.
Does that mean the fantasy football community should ignore the 2020 NFL Draft quarterback class altogether? Absolutely not. However, the level of interest depends on the type of league you play in and how your team is constructed.
For all intents and purposes, there are only three names to discuss: Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert. Jordan Love, Jalen Hurts, and the rest of the class have a much tougher path to playing time in year one.
The only player being drafted in the majority of fantasy leagues right now is Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals’ No. 1 overall pick. His average draft position (ADP) is QB17, just behind the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff and in front of the Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill. While no site is reporting an ADP among the top 12 quarterbacks, Yahoo and My Fantasy League both show him going in the top 15. Is he worthy of that price or is it just post-NFL Draft hype?
Burrow is likely the only rookie that’ll be a Week 1 starting quarterback. That gives him a tremendous advantage over the rest of the field and makes him instantly fantasy relevant. He has a pretty talented arsenal of weapons at his disposal too, headlined by A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and John Ross at wide receiver and Joe Mixon in the backfield.
The offensive line will be an issue, however. The Bengals ranked 30th in PFF’s 2019 offensive line rankings. The good news is that Cincinnati will welcome back 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams at left tackle after he missed his entire rookie season following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. They also added to their interior offensive line depth with the signing of ex-Dallas Cowboy Xavier Su'a-Filo. Still, there’s no reason to believe this won’t be a below-average unit at best again in 2020.
To sum it up, Burrow is going to get hit but he’s also going to sling it. The pass-catching talent around him is only going to expedite his NFL assimilation.
Various sportsbooks are pretty bullish on his statistical output as a rookie, projecting about 3,800 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. It’s also fair to project around 300 rushing yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns based on his college numbers. That sort of fantasy season, assuming he plays all 16 games, will net him a top 15 finish in overall points but slightly outside of QB1 territory. On a per-game basis, he’ll be closer to QB20. He’s a starter in two-quarterback or Superflex leagues but merely a bench player in most 12-team formats.
The Miami Dolphins’ “Tank for Tua” path followed a windy road but ultimately paid off in the end. They got their quarterback of the future with the fifth overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, but the key word there is “future.”
Tagovailoa’s journey to the starting job is unclear and may not even happen in 2020. Between his hip injury, the more-than-adequate play of Ryan Fitzpatrick down the stretch last season, and the Dolphins still being in rebuild mode, Tagovailoa could be redshirted as a rookie. There’s no shame in that and it probably would be to his long-term benefit, but that makes him a very risky fantasy pick.
Miami has a pretty solid group of offensive skill position players with the emergence of pass-catchers DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, and Preston Williams last season and the additions of running backs Matt Breida and Jordan Howard this offseason. It’s not quite Burrow’s cache of weapons but there’s more than enough talent around Tagovailoa for him to be successful once he plays.
If and when he starts, Tagovailoa will be a top 20 fantasy quarterback that should average around 265 passing yards and 1.7 touchdowns per game. That’s about the level of production fantasy managers got from Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, and Jimmy Garoppolo last season on a points-per-game basis. Tagovailoa will be a solid injury fill-in or a bye week waiver wire option in the back-half of the fantasy season.
Tyrod Taylor is expected to be the Los Angeles Chargers’ Week 1 starter, but it’s only a matter of time before Herbert takes over. He can be taken as a third quarterback in two-quarterback leagues but should be left on the waiver wire until he’s named the starter in all other formats.
Like Burrow and Tagovailoa, Herbert is inheriting a pretty solid group of pass-catchers. Keenan Allen is a star, Mike Williams is a big-play threat and an even bigger target, Hunter Henry is one of the best receiving tight ends in football, and Austin Ekeler has proven to be an extremely reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. The Chargers also upgraded their offensive line, one of the worst in football in 2019, with the additions Bryan Bulaga and Trei Turner.
Herbert is set up for success when he does become the starter if team expectations don’t get the better of him. He’s a high-end QB2 once he gets the gig and should average around 280 passing yards and just under two touchdowns per game. That’s about the level of production fantasy managers got from Daniel Jones and Tom Brady on a points-per-game basis last season. Scoop him up if/when he’s named the starter because there’s a chance he may be better than whoever your current starter is at that point.