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Fantasy Football: Top breakout quarterbacks, including Kenny Pickett and Sam Howell

2K4PDCE Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. 2nd Oct, 2022. October 2nd, 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) celebrates after scoring his first NFL touchdown during Pittsburgh Steelers vs New York Jets in Pittsburgh, PA at Acrisure Stadium. Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR (Credit Image: © Jake Mysliwczyk/BMR via ZUMA Press Wire)

  • Kenny Pickett and the Pittsburgh Steelers aim to secure more touchdowns: After posting strong passing metrics in the latter half of the season, Pickett will look to add touchdown production to his strong underlying metrics.
  • Sam Howell as a starter should allow for strong fantasy production: Howell has demonstrated the rushing and big-time-throw ability to be a fantasy star, if he can translate to the NFL.
  • Detailed breakdowns for each player and what they need to succeed: If 2023 is going to lead to a breakout for Pickett and Howell, then they could be steals at their current ADP.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Each season, there are players who take their game to another level while greatly improving their fantasy production along the way. This can be a difficult task at quarterback with fewer options across the league that fit the criteria, but for the 2023 season, there are two, specifically, who stand out.

This breakout definition will exclude rookies, but a list of rookies that will make a fantasy impact in Year 1 can be found here


Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

As the only quarterback selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at 20th overall, there weren’t high expectations for Pickett or this rookie class, and for the first several starts of his career, that was beginning to line up. Pickett got his first NFL action in Week 4 of last season and threw three interceptions to go along with zero touchdowns. However, as will be the case for Pickett’s rookie season, the box score doesn’t tell the full story of his day, as two of the interceptions hit his receivers in the hands before being tipped to defenders while the third one was on an end of the game Hail Mary attempt.

Despite the three-interception game to start his career, he posted a 71.6 passing grade, as none of those picks were deemed to be his fault. That passing grade would go on to be the best mark for him over the next seven weeks, as he appeared to struggle a bit acclimating to the NFL, ranking 31st in passing grade (58.7) while allowing a 23.3% pressure-to-sack conversion rate (25th). This did not lead to much fantasy success, as he ranked as just QB23 over that span, throwing just three touchdown passes and rushing for three.

The optimism surrounding a Pickett breakout comes from Week 12 and on, as his decision-making and accuracy greatly improved even though the passing and rushing touchdowns did not follow suit. While the lack of touchdowns and fantasy returns weren’t ideal, even in that time, banking on his stable metrics — PFF passing grade and limiting negative plays — fantasy managers can expect positive regression in those categories which will allow for better fantasy finishes.

Kenny Pickett’s 2022 season splits:
Weeks Passing grade (QB rank) Big-time-throw rate (QB rank) Turnover-worthy play rate
4-11 58.7 (31st) 2.7% (27th) 3.3% (T-25th)
12-18 88.9 (1st) 6.9% (2nd) 1.1% (1st)

Needed to break out in 2023

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