Finding the diamond in the rough is the goal every fantasy football player has as they prepare for their fantasy football drafts. They have all their fantasy football player rankings set and their fantasy football player projections ready to go as they hone in on those few players they think are poised to break out. 

The quarterback position is one that we've seen really provide some league-winning type years out of guys who were taken in the middle-to-late round of their fantasy football drafts and went on to have breakout seasons. Being able to identify a few factors that could lead to a breakout season is key and that is what we are going to be looking at here today.


Dual threat players are key in fantasy football. It is the reason we love pass catching running backs in PPR. It's the reason we are all still looking for the next breakout Deebo Samuel type season at wide receiver. When it comes to the QB position it's great to have a rocket arm but it's even better if that rocket arm comes with some rushing upside. 

Over the past few years we've been able to identify such break out candidates like Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields because their elite rushing upside was offering a nice fantasy floor while the rest of the fantasy community was down on their passing potential. Of course, we saw how that worked out as the Eagles investment in the team's wide receiver talent led to a monster season from Hurts both on the ground and through the air.

With Fields the team was slow out of the gate when it came to throwing the football but his elite rushing upside went unmatched as he set a new single season rushing yards record for a QB.

There were even more surprises last season when it comes to rushing upside as Giants QB Daniel Jones ran for over 700-yards, entering the tier of Jalen Hurts, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson who also all ran for over 700-yards last season. Jones parlayed his 708 rushing yards into a top 10 fantasy season where he only threw for 3,200 yards and 15 touchdowns. 

Modest passing numbers but elite rushing numbers can still turn out a top 10 fantasy football QB performance. So, who are the mobile QB's to watch this season that could be the next to break out?

Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colt - QB16

The most obvious answer here is Indianapolis Colts rookie QB Anthony Richardson. The Colts have already announced that Richardson is going to be the team's starting QB and projections around the fantasy football industry are seemingly united in the sense that Richardson should conservatively run for anywhere between 600-to-700 yards. 

Fantasy Alarm projections are even a bit more bullish with Richardson being projected to rush for 844 yards but that is a number that should certainly be within a range of outcomes should he start all 17 games for the Colts this season.

Right now Richardson is being drafted as QB16 but thanks to the research done by Ian Hartitz over at Fantasy Life we also know that since 2000 there have only been four QB's to have at least 100 carries that finished outside the top 10 in points per game at the QB position.

What's more likely? That Anthony Richardson becomes the fifth QB to fail to be a top 10 QB in points per game should he reach 100 carries or that he is poised to be a breakout candidate thanks to his elite rushing potential?

I'm willing to bet that Richardson can get it done for fantasy managers this season as long as he meets this threshold. 

Daniel Jones, New York Giants - QB14

Going only a few spots ahead of Anthony Richardson is a QB who was mentioned above in Daniel Jones. The industry is expecting regression from the Giants quarterback this season, finding that his rushing yardage last season was largely due to necessity as the team's offensive line and wide receivers were an issue which forced Jones to use his legs more than he should have to. That said, his head coach is Brian Daboll  who is the same head coach that allowed for Josh Allen to blossom into a QB that rushed for multiple 700-yard seasons.  No, I'm not suggesting Daniel Jones is the same as Josh Allen but I don't see why we think that Jones will take a major step back when it comes to rushing upside and even if there is a slight pull back, say to 500-yards, there is also reason to think he improves upon his 3,200 passing yards and 15 passing touchdowns from last season as well. Jones is coming off the board as QB14 right now despite finishing as QB9 last season and looks to find himself in a better situation heading into the 2023 season.

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns - QB9

Watson is currently coming off the board as QB9 in most league formats but that doesn't mean there isn't room for upside here with the Browns QB.  In his three seasons as a full-time starter with the Houston Texans we saw Watson average over 400-yards rushing per season and while some of that was due to the Texans poor offensive line, he's also a QB that isn't afraid to tuck and run with the football. The Browns have some very good pass catching weapons in Amari Cooper, David Njoku and a mix of both Elijah Moore and Donovan Peoples-Jones for Watson to target. In his last full season with the Texans Watson finished as QB5 in fantasy scoring as he threw for 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns while adding 444 yards and three more scores on the ground. While the passing yards may be a bit high, I don't find it to be too much of a stretch that Watson would throw for 4,000+ yards with 30 touchdowns while rushing for over 400-yards. That type of stat line would for sure put Watson in a place greater than QB9.

Sleeper Pick: Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers - QB19

Talent Around Them

While having rushing upside is a great-to-have trait in your fantasy QB, another part of identifying a possible breakout candidate is the talent around them. If a team has invested in the offensive weapons around the QB then we look to the talent of the player to see if they have the ability to get over the hump. Here are a few players with elite pass catchers that are poised to finish better than their current ADPs.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins - QB11

Umm…did the fantasy community forget just how good Tua Tagovailoa was last season when he wasn't dealing with concussion issues? Tua's per 17 game totals would have seen him finish with 4,640 yards passing with 33 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while adding another 200 yards rushing. Comparable numbers to those totals last year were that of Joe Burrow and Geno Smith who happened to finish as QB4 and QB5. Heck, Kirk Cousins finished last year as QB7, throwing for 4,547 yards with 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. So, why is the fantasy community down on Tua this year? He still has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle as his top receiving options and both of them are being drafted among the top 10 wide receivers in fantasy this season. The head coach is still Mike McDaniel who has proven to be a legitimate NFL head coach with a strong offensive system. Maybe it's the concussion history but I'm not a doctor and if the team is saying Tua is good to go and the league is saying Tua is good to go then I'm going to assume he is ready to roll and this is a guy being drafted outside the top 10 at the position with the ability to challenge for as top five spot.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks - QB15

Absolutely nobody saw Geno Smith being a league winning QB last season and yet it happened. I landed Smith for $1 in a SuperFlex league last season. That's how little was thought of the Seahawks QB and then he went out and shocked the world, finishing as QB5 while leading the league in passing percentage. Now, admittedly I've been somewhat skeptical of Smith this season. His season last year was just too much of a story book given the offseason drama between Russell Wilson and the Seahawks leading to Seattle trading their franchise QB and opening the door for Smith to be the starting QB. That said, it's hard to look at the receivers that Smith has to throw the football too and not think that maybe he can do it again. Both DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are still on the roster and the team then used their first round pick on Jaxon Smith-Njigba whom many had pegged as the top wide receiver in the draft. That trio of wide receivers would likely rival any other trio in the NFL when it came to top end talent and for that reason we could see Smith finish much higher than the QB15 that he is being drafted as.

Derek Carr, New Orleans Saints - QB22

Let's take a minute here and breathe Ok? Carr is the new shiny toy this offseason for the Saints after signing the former Raider to be their starting QB. The Saints offense consists of buddy superstar Chris Olave and a currently healthy Michael Thomas. They also have Juwan Johnson as a pass catching tight end and Alvin Kamara who will only miss a handful of games. Carr has never been a sexy fantasy QB but in a new offensive system there is potential for him to take advantage of his new surroundings to put forth a fantasy season that will help him exceed his current ADP which sees him sitting as QB22 off the board. While expecting Michael Thomas to stay healthy for an entire season feels like a stretch we also can't just assume he will get hurt when doing our analysis. Thomas had three touchdowns in three games last season before getting hurt. We saw the breakout rookie season Chris Olave had and we know Kamara can be an elite factor in the passing offense. While Carr's numbers in 2022 certainly were not great we did see him throw for 4,800 yards in 2021 so he isn't incapable of throwing the football. Those looking for a safe QB2 could do worse than Carr, especially since he has back-end QB1 potential.

Sleeper Pick: Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers QB21, Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos - QB18


It's important to note that these are simply factors that can lead to a breakout season and not the road map to the pot of gold. If you look over time you will tend to see that not all players with elite mobility find success and not all players surrounded by great talent end up being that good either. What we are looking for are players at a great value where they are going in drafts and signs that they could be on the verge of a breakout year.  Draft wisely, use this information as part of your process not as your bible and you shall find success.

Related Links & Articles: