Mike Wallace, Contributor
This article breaks down the biggest Quarterback free agency moves, and evaluates whether the moves will increase or drop their fantasy value.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: Stock Up
Let’s start with what is considered the biggest QB move of this offseason. Since becoming a full season starter 3 years ago, Cousins has been a reliable fantasy option. Even though it has not translated to more than 9 wins in the NFL, he consistently has been a mid-level QB1. Now he is moving to a situation where he will have better weapons at the WR positions and a more talented RB than he has worked with previously, defenses will need to respect the run and play action more than they did during his time in Washington. Cousins has averaged 27 passing TDs and almost 4,400 yards over the last 3 years, in what should be a better offense that seems like his floor in Minnesota to me. Last year the Vikings sustained two top end WRs and Cousins represents an upgrade at QB for them. The only fantasy concern I have is the better rushing game in Minnesota cutting into the added value Cousins gained from rushing TDs. He rushed for at least 4 TDs each of the last 3 seasons, but the passing numbers will more than make up for any dip there.
Case Keenum, Denver Broncos: Stock Down
From Cousins to the man he replaced in Minnesota. Keenum signed as a free agent with Denver, with the hope of solving their recent QB issues. Keenum had a breakout season in his 6th season once he replaced the injured Sam Bradford. Keenum will see a little bit of a downgrade at WR, but Thomas and Sanders are still a reliable duo. The 1 year of success for Keenum is a little worrisome; he looked great last year, but owners should not ignore what he did for the rest of his career. In 2017 Keenum had a completion percentage of 67.6%, before that he never completed 61% in a season. If his 2017 numbers are removed his career completion percentage is only 58.4% through 2016. He is leaving the system that he had his breakout in and that the previous year led Sam Bradford to a career best 71.6% completion percentage. No longer having Pat Shurmur, known for being a QB friendly coach, as his offensive coordinator is another worry. Even if he remains a solid starter I expect there to be regression coming in 2018. Keenum is best looked at as a streaming candidate at QB.
Alex Smith, Washington Redskins: Stock Down
Alex Smith is the most obvious candidate for regression at the QB position headed into 2018. 2017 was a career year for Smith. For the first time in his 12 year career Smith threw for over 4,000 yards. He through for over 500 yards more than his previous career high. He also set career bests in passing TDs and interception percentage. He has always protected the ball well, but an interception percentage of 1% is unlikely to repeat. He is also moving away from Andy Reid who is a head coach known as a QB guru. Unless Josh Doctson takes a big step forward and Jordan Reed manages to stay on the field all season, he is taking a significant step down in the receiving weapons department. He is likely to be around a back end QB1 in 12-team leagues, but based on his performance last year I expect him to be overdrafted in 2018.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: Stock Up
The trade of Alex Smith opens up a great situation for Mahomes. He is stepping into an offense that already had a big WR in Hill, one of the best TEs in the league in Kelce, a dynamic RB in Hunt and they added Sammy Watkins this offseason. The move may not be great for the fantasy value of Watkins, but he gives the Chiefs another weapon and a threat in the red zone. As previously stated Andy Reid is known as a QB guru, and the Chiefs seem to be all in on Mahomes with the moves made since trading up to draft him last year. The Chiefs also trades away their top CB in Marcus Peters this offseason, so it is possible they need to score more points to win this season if their pass defense takes a step back. Mahomes is known to have a stronger arm that Alex Smith and is more likely to take risks downfield. There will be some growing pains for the young QB, but he is going to be a streaming option that wins fantasy games for owners in 2018. He is also someone who should be considered as a potential late round QB breakout, there seems to be one every year and Mahomes is the right situation if he makes the best out of it.
Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland Browns: Stock Slightly Up (For Now)
Taylor is only in Cleveland to serve as a veteran bridge to whichever rookie QB the Browns are expected to draft in the top 5. Unless they surprise everyone and pass on the all the QBs, Taylor’s value is limited to an early season streamer in the right match ups. The Browns added a reliable target in Landry and Taylor’s rushing provides him with a safe floor, but the number of games he will actually play is a mystery.
Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals: Stock Stays Down
The condition of his knee is a huge worry. Arizona’s only other QB option at the moment is Mike Glennon also signed this offseason, so if healthy Bradford should at least play at the beginning of the year. An accurate QB throwing to Fitzgerald should be a solid connection, but Arizona has been linked to targeting a QB of the future in the draft. Bradford could have value has a streamer, but it is risky since he could easily not finish any game.
A.J. McCarron, Buffalo Bills: Stock Stays Down
McCarron was a solid filling in for a few games when Dalton was hurt in 2015, but he is headed to a less than ideal situation. A team that’s only reliable fantasy option will be an aging RB, they traded away an expected starter at OT. Another team likely looking to draft a QB this year, McCarron seems like he will end up an NFL backup with little to no fantasy value.
Teddy Bridgewater , New York Jets: Stock Says Down
Bridgewater likely will not hold much fantasy value this season. After his injury and struggle to comeback hopefully he shows enough to get a chance, but the Jets are looking to the future and are expected to draft a QB after trading up to the 3rd overall pick.