Fantasy Football WR Report: New QB
Justin Vreeland breaks down each team with a new QB and what it means for the wide receivers on each of those teams.
Welcome back to another edition of the WR report! After taking a look at a few changing fantasy stocks last week, we are going to change a course a bit this week and take a look at wide receiving corps that will be catching passes from a new QB this year and what kind of effect it will have on them. Do take note that there are many other factors outside of just the QB, such as offensive scheme/coaching, schedule, etc, but there is no doubting that a QB can affect the wide receivers he is throwing to. Also, keep in mind that while a QB can be an upgrade or downgrade for a group of wide receivers that doesn’t necessarily mean he is a better QB, it just means what he brings to the table can be beneficial (or not) for pass catchers.
New QB: Kyler Murray
Arizona took a quarterback in the first round of the NFL draft for the second straight season. Whether they felt like they had seen enough of Rosen to know he wasn’t going to be the guy or if they just felt that good about Murray to take him first overall, doesn’t really matter, Murray is the guy now. The Cardinals offense was a dumpster fire last season, finishing dead last if offense yards with 3865, which was 773 less yards than the 31st ranked Dolphins had and 2,945 less than the 1st ranked Chiefs had. Yikes. Unsurprisingly, they were also last in passing yards at 2,523 and in points per game at 14.1. Rosen only averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, which ranked 68th among quarterbacks last year. He also had more interceptions than touchdowns and averaged just 28 pass attempts per game. Murray averaged 11.6 yards per attempt in his final season at Oklahoma and his ability to extend plays with his legs should lead to more completions. Even without seeing Murray play a single down in a regular season NFL game, I am positive that there is no way this offense can be worse than last year. Murray taking over the reins will be a boost to both Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk , while not hindering the progress of rookie wide outs Andy Isabella , KeeSean Johnson, and Hakeem Butler.
Fitzgerald had the worst season of his career last year, stats wise, but it really wasn’t his fault. He averaged over THREE less targets per game last season (compared to 2017) and that was in large part due to Cardinals inability to move the chains with Rosen under center. Kirk showed some nice flashes last season, but with fewer than six targets per game it’s hard to do a whole lot. Kirk currently has an ADP of 82 and Fitz comes in at 98. Not too many teams out there that you can take a shot at the number one and number two receivers after pick 75. I am not saying Murray will take the league by storm and throw for over 5,000 passing yards, but it would be pretty difficult to be worse than Rosen last season and Murray should pump some life into this offense. We also need to factor in Kliff Kingsbury taking over as head coach and he runs a high flying offense that should run a lot of plays and lead to higher scoring games on a weekly basis for the Cardinals.
Verdict for pass catchers: Big Upgrade (by default).
New QB: Joe Flacco
The Broncos moved on from Case Keenum and traded for Flacco. They view the 34-year old as an upgrade, but is he? Keenum completed 62.3-percent of his passes last season for Denver and had 18 touchdowns to go along with 15 interceptions. He average 6.6 yards per attempt and an 81.2 quarterback rating. Flacco played nine games for the Ravens last season, completing 61.2-percent of his passes and throwing 12 touchdowns to go along with six interceptions. He averaged 6.5 yards per attempt and had an 84.2 quarterback rating. If we take a look at Flacco’s 2017, it’s even worse as he averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt and had an 80.4 quarterback rating. Flacco had an average of 2.71 seconds to throw in 2018, while Keenum averaged 2.68 with the Broncos. So, very close there. Flacco averaged 273.9 yards per game, despite averaging the second most pass attempts per game in the entire league at 42.1 (Big Ben led the way at 42.2). So what does this QB change mean for Courtland Sutton , Emmanuel Sanders , and DaeSean Hamilton ?
Well, while the Broncos may view this as upgrade, I am going to go the opposite direction and say it’s going to result in a slight downgrade. Flacco is another year older and hasn’t had a good season since 2014. He didn’t do anything better than Keenum did last season. They were very similar in a lot of areas last season and in the ones that weren’t close (passer rating from play action – Keenum 88.9, Flacco 76.5 – and passer rating on throws 20+ yards downfield – Keenum 65.4, Flacco 52.6), they were well on Keenum’s side. Simply put, giving up a 4th round pick for Flacco was a terrible decision by the Broncos and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Drew Lock takes over under center at some point this season. Sutton and Sanders are interesting fantasy picks at their current ADPs of 90 and 121, but it sucks that they have Flacco throwing to them. This offense will likely be a bottom-feeder this season.
Verdict for pass catchers: Slight Downgrade
New QB: Nick Foles
The Jaguars decided it was time to move on from Blake Bortles and in doing so, they signed Nick Foles to a big contract. Bortles showed flashes throughout his time in Jacksonville, but never put it altogether. In fact (being a Jags fan and watching every game), there were weeks that Bortles looked like a top-five talent at the position in the entire NFL. That being said, far too often Bortles played like a guy that didn’t deserve to be a starting QB in the NFL. I don’t think Foles brings the same high-end that Bortles could bring, but what he does bring to the table is consistency and stability. Foles may never look like a top-five quarterback any week, but he will consistently move the chains and play like an above-average quarterback on a weekly basis (something Bortles failed to do in about 80-percent of games). That in itself is a big upgrade for the Jaguars receivers. Bortles was more aggressive and threw more deep balls than Foles will, but he also had way more three-and-outs and turnovers than Foles will have. So what does the QB change mean for Dede Westbrook , Marqise Lee , Keelan Cole , and D.J. Chark ?
I see Foles being pretty neutral for guys like Cole and Chark . However, Foles should be a huge upgrade for the possession/slot type guys that Westbrook and Lee are. As mentioned, Foles will move the chains more often than Bortles and he will use his check-downs and safety nets to do so. Many believe that Westbrook is in for a breakout year and I think that’s a completely reasonable expectation. I would not be at all surprised if Westbrook crosses over the 1,000 yard mark this season and hauls in 80+ receptions. More first downs will result in more time on offense and more plays run. The offense may lack big plays this year in the passing game (both because of Foles and also because of a lack of capable deep play receivers), but it should have far more consistency and the wide receivers should be more productive. Westbrook and Lee make for good picks at their current ADPs of 90 and 270. I wouldn’t bother with any of the other receivers.
Verdict for pass catchers: Upgrade
SImiar to the Jaguars with Bortles, the Dolphins decided it was time to move on from their long tenure with Ryan Tannehill . They signed Fitz to a contract and then also trade for Rosen. Fitz is currently slated to be the starter, but would either one of these guys be an upgrade over what Tannehill provided? Tannehill really wasn’t that bad last year, completing 65.2-percent of his passes and throwing 17 touchdowns while being picked off nine times. He averaged 7.2 yards per attempt across his 11 games played. Fitz played eight games last season for the Bucs, completing 66.7-percent of his passes and tossing 17 touchdowns while being intercepted 12 times. He averaged a very impressive 9.6 yards per attempt. I won’t go any further into Rosen; I already talked about how bad he was in the Cardinals section. Fitz averaged 10.2 intended air yards, which was third highest in the NFL, while Tannehill came in at a very middle-of-the-pack 7.9 average intended air yards. So, Fitz was making deeper passes, which is important to take note of for Dolphins pass catchers. So what does the change mean for DeVante Parker , Kenny Stills , Albert Wilson , Jakeem Grant , and Preston Williams?
I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag. As long as Fitz remains the QB, it should help some of the WRs while hurting some of the others. However, a change to Rosen at any point would hurt all of the WRs, so for this exercise we will assume Fitz wins the job and remains the QB for a good chunk of the year. He is a very aggressive quarterback who will air the ball out and try to make throws into windows that do not exist. He will take a lot more deep shots than Tannehill did, but also throw more interceptions. With that being said, I think Fitz will help the likes of Parker, Stills, and Williams but hurt guys like Wilson and Grant. Fantasy football drafters tend to agree as well because Parker currently has the highest ADP at 143, despite being a non-factor last season. Stills comes in at 182 and Wilson lands at 213. The others are pretty much going undrafted. I don’t view Fitz as a better quarterback than Tannehill in the real game, but for fantasy purposes he should help the Dolphins become a little more relevant.
Verdict for pass catchers: Slight Upgrade/Mixed Bag
San Francisco 49ers
Kind of, sort of new QB: Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo was the 49ers starting QB last season, but a torn ACL in Week 3 ended his season. So, while he isn’t technically a new QB, he does give the offense a different look this season than last, considering he played just three games. Garoppolo wasn’t off to the hottest of starts though, completing just 59.6-percent of his passes and throwing five touchdowns while getting intercepted three times. He did have a solid 8.1 yards per attempt though. Nick Mullins and C.J. Beathard played the other 13 games for the 49ers. Both players posted pretty similar statistics to Garoppolo did during his three games. Mullins (eight starts) completed 64.2-percent of his passes and had 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He averaged 8.3 yards per attempt. Beathard (five starts) completed 60.4-percent of his passes and had eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. He averaged 7.4 yards per attempt. What does the return of Jimmy G mean for Dante Pettis , Marquise Goodwin , Trent Taylor , and Deebo Samuel?
While the numbers last year do not speak to his return being an upgrade for the 49ers offense, I am going to say it will be a positive for their receivers. Keep in mind, in five starts to end 2017, he completed 67.4-percent of his passes and averaged 8.8 yards per attempt. He averaged 308 yards per game in those five starts. Keep in mind that the 49ers averaged 241 passing yards per game in 2018, so even if Garroppolo doesn’t get back to that 308 yard mark, he should have no issue going over 250 a game at the very least. This offense should be a little more pass heavy this season and be more productive overall. Currently the 49ers receivers have some late ADPs outside of Pettis at 73. Samuel comes in next at 180, followed by Goodwin at 214. Samuel is my favorite target of this group with his late ADP and upside. Pettis will likely be the team’s number one receiver, but that ADP is a little high. Samuel could easily be the number option. It is also worth noting that Jimmy G hasn’t shown the tendency to lock in on one receiver and will instead spread the ball around.
Verdict for pass catchers: Upgrade
The Redskins had Alex Smith as their starting QB for the first 10 games of the season last year before he suffered a horrific leg injury. He will not be back playing football any time soon still. They then used three different quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez , Colt McCoy , and Josh Johnson . Smith was playing decent, completing 62.5-percent of his passes and tossing 10 touchdowns to five interceptions. He averaged 6.6 yards per attempt. The other three quarterbacks combined to complete 58.3-percent of their passes while only throwing six touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Gross. With Smith expected to miss all of 2019, the Redskins traded for Keenum and drafted Haskins. Keenum is expected to begin the year as the starter, so what does that mean for Trey Quinn , Terry McLaurin , and Josh Doctson ?
Well, Keenum should be an improvement over all of the Redskins QBs from last season not named Alex Smith , but he is a downgrade from Smith. He will take his shots downfield and in jump ball situations, which is good news for both McLaurin and Doctson. That is something that Smith doesn’t really do, as he is more of a check down/play it safe style quarterback who is big on limiting turnovers. That doesn’t mean that Keenum won’t utilize his slot man in Quinn though, it just means more opportunities for the big outside receivers to make plays (doesn’t mean they will make those plays though). If Haskins were to somehow win the job outright that would change some things even more and likely lead to a more explosive offense, but one with far less consistency. Overall, this offense is a glamorous mess and none of these wide receivers hold much value right now. The fantasy community agrees too, as Quinn is currently the earliest Washington receiver being selected and his ADP is currently 199! McLaurin comes in next at 271 and is followed by Doctson at 280.
Verdict for pass catchers: Downgrade/Mixed Bag
And that wraps up this week’s WR report edition. You can catch me on Twitter @JustinVreeland and I am sure you have talked to me in the chat as well. If you have any ideas or things you would like to see in the final two editions of this report you can shoot me a message and I will do my best to include them!