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Fantasy Football: Ranking 2022's best late-round quarterbacks

Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) drops back to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The idea of the late-round quarterback fantasy football draft strategy stems from the utopian ideology of trying to get more from less. Maybe. I don’t know: Either way, it’s really cool when you can use a late-round pick to get a great fantasy asset.

However, the quarterback position has become more predictable as of late. A higher percentage of top-12 quarterbacks in ADP finished inside the position’s final top-12 producers in 2021 than at any point since 2010.

Overall, Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson were the only two quarterbacks with a top-12 ADP to not finish as such in 2021, and both instances were primarily due to injury. Rule changes, a plethora of dual-threat talents and general offensive explosions have helped make our ability to predict the position better than ever in recent years.

However, there have certainly still been some unexpected booms in recent history. Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger in 2018 and Dak Prescott and Jameis Winston in 2019 all posted top-five fantasy finishes despite not carrying a preseason ADP inside the position’s top-12.

An average of four quarterbacks have infiltrated the position’s top-12 after not boasting a QB1 ADP since 2010. What follows is a breakdown of the four best bets for doing so in 2022 based on PFF’s fantasy football rankings and projections. Thanks to Underdog Fantasy for the ADP data.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (ADP QB14, PFF consensus rank QB12)

As Rodgers said himself: “A lot of times down years for me are career years for most quarterbacks.” He’s largely never been anything other than a great real-life quarterback, although the man has been mortal in terms of fantasy production over the years.

    • 2011: QB1 in fantasy points per game
    • 2012: QB2
    • 2013: QB4
    • 2014: QB1
    • 2015: QB9
    • 2016: QB1
    • 2017: QB6
    • 2018: QB10
    • 2019: QB14
    • 2020: QB6
    • 2021: QB8

Only the Bears ranked lower than the Packers in PFF’s receiving corps rankings. It’d make more sense than ever to lean on PFF’s fifth-ranked offensive line in the run game after the front office declined to make any truly meaningful offseason additions at wide receiver or tight end.

And yet: It’s Aaron f*cking Rodgers. Nobody has more passing touchdowns (85) over the past two seasons, and Rodgers only falls to ninth if you remove Davante Adams’s 27 scores from the equation.

The Packers’ group of pass-catchers looks more mortal than ever right about the same time that A-aron looks better than ever. Something will have to give; don’t be surprised if it’s not the latter generational talent.

Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields (ADP QB16, PFF consensus rank QB14)

The 2021 season started off badly enough with head coach Matt Nagy’s insistence on treating Andy Dalton as the team’s undisputed starting quarterback, while an already mediocre group of pass-catchers struggled to make life easy for whoever was under center. On the season the Bears (38.9%) had the NFL’s lowest rate of pass-catchers considered open or wide-open last season. Not great!

The good news: Fields doesn’t need to take a major leap forward as a real-life quarterback in order to work as a solid fantasy option. Things started off rather brutal, but by the end of the season the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 11 overall pick had racked up a handful of more-than-usable fantasy performances:

  • Week 3: QB34
  • Week 4: QB31
  • Week 5: QB30
  • Week 6: QB19
  • Week 7: QB24
  • Week 8: QB3
  • Week 9: QB9
  • Week 14: QB8
  • Week 15: QB10

The obvious boost for Fields was a newfound willingness to run as the season went on. Overall, he averaged just 3.75 rush attempts per game in his first four starts compared to 8.4 during his final five.

It’s unfair to simply take Fields’ most fantasy-friendly stretch and extrapolate that average over the course of a 17-game season. Still, the Ohio State product has never been a stranger to racking up yards on the ground and looked pretty damn good doing so in 2021.

There’s a legit fantasy ceiling here should Fields keep his foot on the gas as a rusher. Overall, 11 of 12 quarterbacks to get at least 125 carries in a season went on to post top-12 fantasy production on a per-game basis, with 2020 Cam Newton (QB17) being the only exception. Seven of the 12 qualifiers finished as a top-five signal-caller on a per-game basis, so the quarterbacks aren’t being overly awarded for simply staying healthy.

PFF currently projects Fields to rack up 140 rush attempts — the fourth-highest mark among all quarterbacks. Even with a potentially horrendous supporting cast, Fields profiles as the sort of signal-caller capable of being far better in fantasy football than in real life.

Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr (ADP QB13, PFF consensus rank QB15)

The hope for a breakout season from Carr comes down to whether or not Davante Adams can elevate this entire passing game to a new level. The offense was absolutely humming during the first seven games of 2021 with 2020 first-round WR Henry Ruggs regularly making defenses pay down the field:

Derek Carr PFF Pass Grade QB Rating BTT % TWP % YPA Adj Cmp % aDOT
Weeks 1-7 89.9 101.2 8.5% 1.9% 8.5 79.7% 9.2
Weeks 9-WC 64.3 86.1 3.9% 3.9% 6.9 75.3% 7.9

Carr didn’t demonstrate the same willingness to throw downfield without a proven field-stretcher talent, and his efficiency accordingly suffered.

While just about nobody in the NFL can replicate Ruggs’ 4.27 speed, Adams should demand even more attention thanks to his status as arguably the game’s single-best wide receiver. This will accordingly make life even easier for Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller inside of a potentially better-schemed McDaniels-led offense.

The problem in fantasy land: Carr’s truly impeccable start to the season only produced the QB11 in total fantasy points. In Weeks 9 through 18, Carr worked as the QB30 in fantasy points per game, finishing behind guys like Teddy Bridgewater, Carson Wentz and Andy Dalton among others.

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