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As any fantasy football player knows, leagues are often won not with the first or second round picks but instead in the later rounds or even on the waiver wire. Sleepers for positions like running back and wide receiver are studied relentlessly, as well they should be. But often people neglect the quarterback position, figuring that passers, for the most part, are a dime a dozen. Now Patrick Mahomes owners will tell you differently; sometimes, a sleeper quarterback can change a fantasy team’s fortunes.
So here are a few quarterbacks flying a bit under the radar with potential for a big 2019.
Projected Stats: 4200 yards passing, 450 yards rushing, 29 passing touchdowns, 5 rushing touchdowns, 15 interceptions
It might seem a bit odd to have a former league MVP in any sort of “Sleeper’s” list, but Newton often isn’t treated among fantasy’s best quarterbacks. He’ll be picked behind Rodgers, Mahomes, Luck, Watson, and Mayfield for sure, and he could even fall further than that. Part of the reason for Newton’s descent on fantasy big boards are the injuries. Although he only missed two games, Newton is perpetually banged up, and that wear and tear has affected him, especially as a runner. His 101 rushing attempts last season were the second fewest of his career, while he only put up his fifth best passing yards total to accommodate. However, one other number tells a different story: Newton completed 67.9 percent of his passes last year, by the far the best mark of his career. This newfound accuracy, combined with good health, positions Newton to reclaim his place among fantasy football’s best. With Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore, Newton has the weapons to excel in more than just the red zone where he has always been effective. Expect more chunk plays this year from the veteran signal caller. Also, expect him to be a high-level fantasy starter.
Projected Stats: 3700 yards, 25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Although fellow second year quarterback Baker Mayfield gets all of the headlines and the fantasy hype, it’d be wise not to overlook Darnold. Adding Jamison Crowder to a wide receiver corps with Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson gives Darnold plenty of options out wide. Of course, Crowder isn’t the offense’s biggest offseason pickup; that distinction belongs to Le’Veon Bell. Not only will Bell help Darnold through his ability to run the ball and open up play-action throws, but Bell is also arguably the best pass-catching back in the league, with 85 catches in the season prior to the holdout. Very few linebackers can hope to cover Bell out of the backfield, providing Darnold with the opportunity for plenty of short, low-risk, high-reward throws. Darnold closed out the 2018 season strong. If he can carry that momentum into 2019, with his newfound weapons, he could take that proverbial leap.
Projected Stats: 4300 yards, 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Carr has always been a bit shaky as a fantasy option. He’ll go through stretches where he looks like a certified starter in all leagues, and then he’ll look like a guy who shouldn’t even be on most fantasy rosters. However, this year, I’d expect to see more of the former. Carr welcomes a certain Antonio Brown to Oakland this year, arguably the greatest receiver in the post Randy Moss era. Brown’s production in Pittsburgh was always prolific, but his public image has taken a hit recently. The only way to right that ship is to perform on the field, and my guess is that Brown will do so, which of course, only helps Carr. It goes without saying that Brown is the best receiver Carr has ever had, and if he can take advantage of all that Brown has to offer, the Oakland offense could be dangerous. Also joining the receiving corps is Tyrell Williams from the Chargers, another explosive pass catcher. Add in Josh Jacobs to the running back position, and Oakland has a plethora of playmakers, which only makes Carr’s job easier.
Projected Stats: 4000 yards, 25 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
The only people who have had a more difficult time trusting Winston than fantasy owners are the Bucs coaches. Despite all of the obvious talent and the hype that comes with being the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, Winston’s play has been maddeningly inconsistent. He threw at least two interceptions in his first four games last season, including four in the fourth game, before ending the year with a four-touchdown game against Atlanta. His highs are high and his lows are dangerously low, but there’s reason to think that he could even out this year. For one, the talent is clearly there, and, in his fifth season, he is now a veteran and should start to make decisions that reflect that status. Two, his receivers, led by Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, should be excellent again, and they should also be less demanding of Winston. DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries are gone, meaning that Winston has fewer mouths to feed. He will no longer feel compelled to force long balls to Jackson and will hopefully cut down on interceptions as a result. If Winston can regain his early career, 4,000 yard passer form, he’s a viable fantasy option in 2019 with a starter’s ceiling.
Projected Stats: 3000 yards passing, 950 yards rushing, 16 passing touchdowns, 8 rushing touchdowns, 10 interceptions
Jackson had the most prolific quarterback rushing season in NFL history last year, and he did it as a rookie who played significant snaps in only seven games. Three times, he ran for over 90 yards, demonstrating the speed and agility that enthralled scouts during his Heisman-winning college days. His play was so impressive that Joe Flacco was moved out of town, granting to Jackson all of the starting reps this offseason, allowing him to familiarize himself with the offense, and allowing the Ravens to construct an attack built specifically around Jackson’s strengths. To replicate his success from last season and to become a worthy fantasy starter, Jackson will have to improve in the passing game. His 58.2 completion percentage probably won’t cut it, especially because it will further entice teams to load the box to prevent the run. If that percentage can rise a few points and if Jackson can lock in on intermediate targets, he’s in for a huge season. Fantasy owners already have the rushing yards to fall back on. Anything else would just be gravy.
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