From the moment “legal tampering” began, the 2018 NFL free agency was fast, furious, and entertaining. The Cleveland Browns stampeded their way through trades and signings. The Minnesota Vikings came out on top of the Kirk Cousins-courting. And no one is exactly sure of what the Arizona Cardinals are doing.
Now that some of the free agency dust is settling, we can begin to analyze the impact of all the recent moves, trades, and signings and how they apply to the fantasy football aspect.
In this article, we are going to focus on free-agent quarterback signings.
Fantasy Football Impact: NFL Free Agency – Quarterback Edition
Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
From the start of 2017, we all knew that Cousins would not be a Redskin to start the 2018 season. Cousins has been the most talked about free agent of the season, and frankly, it’s not terrible to no longer have Twitter feeds smattered with speculation about possible landing spots. The Vikings ponied up what “Captain Kirk” was looking for in terms of guaranteed money, possibly setting the bar for other free agent quarterbacks in the future.
Why not? In each of the last three years as a starter, he’s thrown for over 4,000 yards with 29, 25, and 27 touchdowns respectively.
Cousins will fit the scheme in Minnesota nicely. For a team that seems to want to run the ball early and often, he may not be asked to throw the ball 35 times per game, but he can sling it around if need be. Cousins has never been the type of quarterback that hyper-targets a specific player. He spreads the ball around, keeping the value of both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen relevant. In fact, if anything this move takes Thielen out of the value picks category. Expect to have to spend a higher draft pick on him this season. Kyle Rudolph takes a bump up in terms of fantasy value as well. Cousins favored Jordan Reed (when he was on the field) and Rudolph is the same caliber of pass-catching tight end that also represents a huge red-zone target.
Cousins will be a solid quarterback option for fantasy owners in 2018 and should land in QB1 territory with the team he has around him.
Tyrod Taylor – Cleveland Browns
Tyrod Taylor endured a rough 2017 campaign. Questions surrounding whether or not he would remain the Buffalo Bills starter began early in the season. Then, in a mind-boggling move by the coaching staff, he was benched in favor of Nathan Peterman, who promptly threw five interceptions (more than Taylor had all season) in one half.
The Browns have not been a competitive team in the last several years. On paper, they’re looking to change that mindset. They traded for Taylor, signed Jarvis Landry, acquired Carlos Hyde and still have two first-round draft picks to play with.
While Taylor has never been a high-yardage quarterback, he’s been the model of efficiency. Through the last three seasons, he has thrown 51 touchdowns to only 16 interceptions. He provides a safe fantasy floor with his scrambling and designed runs. The Browns also happen to have some intriguing wide receiver options with Landry, Josh Gordon, and Corey Coleman, as well as a couple of good receiving running backs in Hyde and Duke Johnson.
Taylor will probably not end up as a QB1 for fantasy purposes, but he will be a consistent plug-and-play option that will not hurt your team on a week-to-week basis. He represents a roster-construction type of pick that compliments a roster that is stacked at the other positions. Otherwise, Taylor should be best utilized in two-quarterback leagues or as a bench stash for bye-week streaming.
Sam Bradford – Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals fans have been in some state of panic mode since Carson Palmer announced his retirement. That panic did not subside when rumors of Mike Glennon being signed began to circulate. When the Cardinals inked Bradford, well, there’s still some concern for fans and fantasy owners alike.
Bradford is a talented quarterback, posting a 71.6 percent completion percentage in the 2016 season. He followed that up by coming out hot in game one of 2017 against the New Orleans Saints where he threw for 346 yards, three touchdowns, and an 84.4 percent completion percentage. As has happened so many other times, an injury sidelined him for nearly the remainder of the season.
Bradford comes in on a one-year, $20 million deal and Glennon is locked in as the backup plan. Bradford’s talent at the NFL level has always been overshadowed by his inability to stay healthy long-term.
Luckily for Cardinals fans, Bradford didn’t tear his rotator cuff while signing his hefty contract. His real-life and fantasy talent has always been overshadowed by his inability to stay healthy. He’s worth drafting if you’ve got a solid fill-in to count on.
Josh McCown/Teddy Bridgewater – New York Jets
Josh McCown had the best season of his career last year with the New York Jets. For fantasy purposes, he was the definition of a streaming option on a week-to-week basis. He finished with 2,926 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games.
The Jets signed him to a one-year, 10 million dollar contract – which he signed in a Chik-Fil-A drive through. In a move that has many fans and analysts scratching their heads, the Jets also tendered Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal.
McCown is expected to be the starter, with Bridgewater as his backup. It’s also expected that the Jets are looking to the draft for their next quarterback and want McCown, 38, to serve as a mentor.
McCown had surprising success as a fantasy streaming option last season. He should reprise that role and operate in superflex leagues or as a bye-week option. Bridgewater, whose role seems relegated to backup, and hasn’t started in over two seasons, has no redraft value at this time.
Alex Smith – Washington Redskins
Alex Smith enjoyed his last season in Kansas City and put up the best fantasy season of his career. He threw for a career-best 4,042 yards, career-best 26 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. For owners who drafted him as a secondary option, he over impressed. Alas, it was all to pass the reins to Patrick Mahomes.
Statistically, it’s hard to imagine Smith continuing to throw for 4,000 yards. That being said, he will remain the consistent fantasy option he has been throughout most of his career. He’s a solid option that will very rarely cost owners a week, but not necessarily deliver huge fantasy numbers.
A.J. McCarron – Buffalo Bills
A.J. McCarron was a surprise move during NFL free agency. The Bills were one of the teams that seemed to come up related to every free agent quarterback after they traded Taylor to the Browns. Every quarterback except McCarron. He joins Nathan Peterman and the Bills seemed primed to pick a quarterback with the upcoming draft.
McCarron’s playing time has been limited as he’s spent most of his young career behind veteran Andy Dalton. He’s seen 10 NFL appearances, thrown for 920 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions. Now, McCarron has an opportunity to compete for the starting role under center.
Predicting the fantasy outlook for a quarterback with limited playing time is difficult. McCarron could be this year’s Case Keenum, or this year’s Mike Glennon. The best advice is to monitor training camp and preseason. He’s got plenty of confidence. The questions is whether that translates when moving to a new team, new coaches, and the possibility of a starting role.
Case Keenum – Denver Broncos
Keenum was a Cinderella story last season. The 30-year-old journeyman has been mostly a career backup. His starting stint with the Los Angeles Rams left plenty to be desired, but when the Minnesota Vikings called his number last season, he delivered in a big way.
Keenum threw for 3,547 yards on 67 percent completion percentage with 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. He exceeded expectations in both real life and for fantasy owners. Now, he is signing with the Denver Broncos and appears to be the favorite for the starting nod.
With so many viable starting options, Keenum remains a risky redraft option, with moderate upside, outside of two-quarterback leagues.