From left, Deshaun Watson, Anderw Luck and Philip Rivers

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Fantasy Football: QBs That Will Outperform Their Preseason Ranking

Don't Let A Poor 2017 Stop You From Drafting These Quarterbacks

Matt Citak
August 09, 2018 - 2:25 pm
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With the NFL preseason set to kick off Thursday night for the majority of teams, what better time to begin preparing for the upcoming fantasy football season?

Over the next month leading up to Week 1, we will be previewing the 2018 season and helping you prepare for your fantasy drafts.

We begin with some quarterbacks. In this piece, we will break down several QB options that are in a great position to outperform their preseason rankings.

Let’s dive right in.

(NOTE: For consistency throughout the next month, we will be using ESPN’s fantasy rankings)

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

After being selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, Watson took the league by storm during his abbreviated rookie campaign.

In less than seven full games, the rookie out of Clemson threw for 1,699 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While those numbers would be impressive enough for a first-year QB, Watson’s value lies in his rushing abilities -- the 22-year-old carried the ball 36 times for 269 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and two touchdowns.

Granted, it was a small sample size, but Watson simply screams upside. I mean, the guy was averaging nearly 30 fantasy points per game over his last five contests before tearing his ACL last year. And while that injury may cause concern for some, all reports out of Houston indicate he is fully recovered and ready to roll. (Head coach Bill O’Brien said the QB is “more likely” than not to make his preseason debut Thursday night against the Chiefs.)

Add in the fact that Houston transformed its offense over the offseason to revolve around Watson, along with the Texans having one of the easiest schedules for fantasy passing offenses, and all signs are pointing toward another special season from the talented QB.

While currently listed as QB6 in ESPN’s rankings, Watson has the talent and mindset to finish as a top-three fantasy quarterback in 2018.

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

After sitting out the entire 2017 season, Luck’s fantasy value has been a topic of great debate throughout the summer.

There is no denying the skills Luck brings to the field when healthy -- it’s what made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. But after missing so much time, one can’t help but wonder if we will see the same Andrew Luck who made three consecutive Pro Bowls to begin his NFL career.

It was less than two years ago (2016) when Luck completed a career-high 63.5 percent of his passes for 4,240 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions in 15 games. Throw in his 341 rushing yards (on 5.3 ypc) and two touchdowns, and you’ll see one of fantasy’s top quarterbacks.

Even though he told reporters back in June that any and all pain in his shoulder is gone, many fantasy owners will still hesitate on drafting Luck due to the fact that he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since January 2017. Well, any doubts over the health of Luck’s throwing shoulder should be put to rest Thursday night, as the 28-year-old is primed to make his return to the field in Seattle for Indianapolis’ preseason debut.

Luck will undoubtedly have to shake off some rust throughout the preseason, but isn’t that what the preseason is for?

Currently listed as QB9, don’t be surprised to see Luck’s ADP (average draft position) rise over the next few weeks. As long as he can remain on the field, there’s no reason to think Luck can’t finish as a top-five fantasy QB.

Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Regardless of what he does on the field, Rivers may never get the respect he deserves when it comes to fantasy football.

In their first season back in Los Angeles, the Chargers played their home games at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, which can hold a mere 30,000 fans. Despite not having a true home-field advantage in half of his games, Rivers was still able to put together a very respectable season.

The veteran quarterback completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 4,515 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Those numbers alone aren’t going to win you a fantasy championship, but at the end of the day, Rivers finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback. And guess what? This was the second consecutive season that he finished in the top 10 among fantasy QBs.

Yet despite this fact, the 36-year-old currently comes in as ESPN’s QB14. Even with losing promising tight end Hunter Henry for the season (torn ACL), the Chargers still have several talented options in the passing game. Keenan Allen is one of the NFL’s top wide receivers, and if second-year wideout Mike Williams can rebound from his poor rookie season, then this young Chargers receiving corps has the chance to be great in 2018, which obviously bodes well for Rivers.

If you decide to skip on the top QBs, Rivers is an excellent target for the later rounds of your draft.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Everyone around the country expected somewhat of a regression from Ryan last year. After winning MVP in 2016, along with Atlanta’s infamous Super Bowl collapse against the Patriots, who could blame him for going through a slump?

All that said, Ryan completed his eighth consecutive 16-game season in 2017. And if you look at his numbers, you will see that really, he wasn’t that bad. Ryan completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 4,095 yards, but it was his touchdowns that brought frustration to fantasy owners. The 6-foot-4 QB threw for just 20 TDs, his lowest total since his rookie season, to go with 12 interceptions.

Looking at his career numbers, it is clear to see that 2017 was an outlier for the NFL’s highest-paid player. Ryan threw the ball 35 times from inside the 10-yard line and 16 times from inside the 5, good for fifth and seventh, respectively, among the league’s quarterbacks. With the likes of Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and this year’s first-round pick, Calvin Ridley, making up the Falcons’ receveiving group, it should be safe to assume that Ryan will see a big increase in his touchdown total this season.

Similar to Rivers, Ryan is a great quarterback to target late in the draft. Currently ranked as QB16, “Matty Ice” has a good chance at finishing the year as a top 10 fantasy QB.

Other Late-Round QBs To Target

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: With the additions of coach Jon Gruden and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant to the Oakland offense, Carr looks ready for a bounce-back campaign. Gruden is seen as a QB guru and should help Carr break the 4,000-yard plateau for the first time in his NFL career. As long as receiver Amari Cooper can rebound from his disappointing 2017 performance, Carr will almost certainly outperform his current QB22 ranking.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Suspended for the first three games of the season, it’s no surprise that Winston comes into the season tied with Carr as QB22 in ESPN’s rankings. While the suspension hurts his season value, there’s no denying the upside Winston brings. In the 11 full games he played in last year (he missed three games and left with injuries in two others), the young QB reached 20 fantasy points in six of those contests, while averaging 307 yards per game. Over a full season, that average yardage would have led all QBs. Winston is a potential game-changer who can be had toward the very end of your draft.

Matt Citak is a Web Producer for WFAN Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewCitak.