In this piece I’ll examine some of the early risers and fallers at the QB position as we rapidly approach Week 1.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Due to an elbow injury, Ben played under two games last season and the entire Pittsburgh offense stagnated as a result. This season, he’ll return and is throwing pain free for the first time in 13 or 14 years, according to him. Regardless of the validity of that statement, his return is exceptionally good news for fantasy players and the Pittsburgh offense.
When it comes to fantasy production, Roethlisberger is no stranger to QB1 performances although you wouldn’t know it by his current ADP of QB16. Over his last three seasons (2016-2018), Roethlisberger finished as the QB9, QB8 and QB3 on a fantasy points per game basis. Below are some of his passing stats during those years.
|Season||Yards||Passer Rating||AY/A||NY/A||ANY/A||Passing TD||TD %||Fantasy Points per Game|
|2016||3819 (17th)||95.4 (11th)||7.5 (11th)||6.99 (6th)||6.98 (9th)||29 (6th)||5.7 (5th)||18.01 (9th)|
|2017||4251 (5th)||93.4 (13th)||7.5 (11th)||7.07 (7th)||6.95 (9th)||28 (6th)||5.0 (8th)||17.38 (8th)|
|2018||5129 (1st)||96.5 (15th)||7.5 (14th)||7.10 (9th)||7.04 (9th)||34 (5th)||5.0 (17th)||21.30 (3rd)|
Those statistics help illustrate the consistency Roethlisberger brought to fantasy lineups prior to his season-ending elbow injury last year. Should we be expecting a return to Top-12 form this year? Let’s examine some of the other factors essential to his performance.
When it comes to the offensive line, the Steelers will once again trot out a Top 12 unit that contains Pro Bowlers Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro. While there is some competition for right tackle, this group is more positive than negative.
Looking at the skill positions, the Steelers have done a nice job of surrounding Ben with solid weapons at every level. Starting with the receivers, the quartet of Smith-Schuster, Johnson, Washington, and Claypool is a very young but talented group that provides him with a variety of different skill sets to utilize. At tight end, the Steelers return Vance McDonald who sneakily finished as the TE10 during the 2018 season. Of greater importance is free agent acquisition Eric Ebron who has drawn rave reviews in camp and will be an important factor in the Steelers passing game. When it comes to the running backs, the Steelers have a host of capable ball carriers and will be led by Conner to start the year. The last time he and Ben spent close to a full season together Conner finished as the RB6.
Finally, Roethlisberger has received very positive reports out of training camp. As a result, his fantasy stock is on the rise.
Cam Newton, New England Patriots
I don’t know about you, but I am fired up to see Cam Newton return as a starter in the NFL. On top of that, he’ll be a strong fit in a Patriots system that wants to pound the rock, take care of the ball and let their defense dominate. While it seemed like the division was the Bills to lose a few months ago, the Patriots are once again the odds on favorites.
Newton will, of course, face many of the same issues that Brady did last season, most notably a subpar supporting cast. Fortunately, the draft additions of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene at tight end should be considered an upgrade, although it’s fair to wonder how much of one.
Traditionally, the Patriots offense is among the top half of the league in pass attempts and finished 5th overall on a per game basis last year with 38.6. Will they throw as much with Newton under center? I’d say that’s pretty unlikely. As a result, Newton will need to be efficient with his opportunities.
Historically, Newton has been able to do much of his fantasy damage using his legs. With a full year to recover from a lisfranc injury, fantasy players are hoping he can recreate some of that production this year.
A value for those who like to wait on quarterbacks, Newton’s stock has been steadily on the rise since becoming a Patriot.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen was an absolute bargain in fantasy drafts last year however, this year is a much different story. Currently priced as the QB7, Allen offers drafters little to no room margin for error this season.
While his finish as the overall QB6 last season is cause for celebration, Allen’s fantasy points per game paint a slightly different picture. On a FP/G basis, Allen concluded last season as the QB9 if we exclude Week 17 when he barely played against the Jets.
As most fantasy players are aware, Allen’s rushing ability (52.6 Y/G 2018, 31.9 2019) has enabled him to succeed in fantasy despite being a relatively poor passer. Below is a quick look at his passing totals through two NFL seasons.
|Year||Completion %||Y/G||Total QBR||AY/A||ANY/A||FP/G|
|2018||52.8% (33rd)||172.8 (32nd)||49.8 (24th)||5.4 (32nd)||4.37 (32nd)||17.34 (19th)|
|2019||58.8% (32nd)||193.1 (30th)||47.3 (24th)||6.7 (23rd)||5.71 (23rd)||18.60 (11th)|
Unfortunately for Allen’s fantasy prospects, he’s on record this offseason stating that he wants to run less this season and get the ball into his playmakers’ hands. While it’s irrational to think Allen will stop running altogether, any reduction in this area will likely lead to a decline in fantasy production. Additionally, reports out of Buffalo’s camp have suggested that Allen continues to struggle with the inaccuracy and decision making issues that have plagued him as a passer to date.
This year, Allen will have the benefit of playing the Jets, Dolphins, Rams and Raiders in his first four games. During that stretch, it’s reasonable to expect him to perform somewhere in the neighborhood of his ADP. Following that run, Allen’s schedule becomes considerably more difficult and from weeks 9-16 he plays the Pats, Seahawks, Cardinals, Chargers, 49ers, Steelers, Broncos and Patriots in order. Safe to say, I would not want to be relying on Allen for my stretch run.
Nick Foles, Chicago Bears
He couldn’t beat out Mitchell Trubisky.
If you enjoyed this article, you can read my previous one on Risers and Fallers at the WR position here: https://fantasyfuru.com/2020/09/03/risers-and-fallers-wr-edition/