Rookie QBs in Dynasty Owner:  

Who Should You Target?

With the 2014 NFL draft in the books and the first few weeks of OTAs underway, we can finally start to speculate about how each rookie will make an impact in the first year with their new teams. And with a handful of contracts already signed, we can also start to predict what that performance will cost you in terms of performance as a function of a contract, a critical element in the Dynasty Owner game.

In this post, we will begin by looking at the 5 quarterbacks drafted in the first 2 rounds. This is not to say you should ignore quarterbacks taken later, as anyone currently enjoying Russell Wilson’s production on a very modest round rookie contract will attest (only $700k/yr for a top 10 QB), but it’s much harder to predict who might emerge from the back of the draft at this point.

So we will focus on the first 5 QBs taken in rounds 1 and 2, and project how they might perform in Dynasty Owner and how you should proceed on draft day. With the present day rookie pay scale structure, it’s good strategy find production out of the most recent draft class each year. Rookie deals are always the lowest price you’ll get on a productive player, and this allows you to spend a premium on other positions and still stay under the salary cap while building a contending dynasty.

QB: Blake Bortles (Rnd 1, Pick 3): Jaguars

A surprising selection on draft day, many pundits thought Bortles would slide on draft day but the Jaguars clearly targeted him as the guy to turn their franchise around for the next decade.

Based on the contract for last year’s 3rd overall pick, and accounting for the premium on the position, Bortles is expected to sign a contract in the 4 years, $24MM dollar range, or an average yearly cost of $6MM/year. Relative to the other starting QBs in the league, that is a friendly number as it would be in the lower 3rd tier of starting QBs in terms of yearly salary.

However, the problem with Bortles is not in the contract but in the amount of playing time he’ll see this year. The Jags have been very vocal about their desire to not rush Bortles into playing time, even making the unlikely claim he’ll sit out all year and ‘learn’ behind incumbent lemon Chad Henne. We find this hard to believe, especially if the Jaguars struggle like they are expected to do. After all, the Jags need to see what they have in Bortles this year to know if they need to draft another QB next year or not.

Even if Bortles becomes the face of that franchise, its just hard to picture the Jaguars offense churning out reliable fantasy production from the QB position, as it’s been one of the most inept offensive units for the better part of the last decade. That could certainly change as they’ve clearly upgraded their WR talent in this draft as well, but we’d be hard pressed to recommend Bortles as a fantasy hold at this point.

Dynasty Owner Recommendation: Undrafted

QB: Johnny Manziel (Rnd 1, Pick 22): Browns

Easily the most high profile pick of the draft and one of the most heralded college prospects in years, Manziel landed on a team desperate to finally find a franchise quarterback that has eluded them since the Bernie Kosar era of the late 1980s.

For fantasy and specifically Dynasty Owner purposes, Manziel couldn’t have landed in a better scenario than getting drafted by the Browns. First, their offense is widely regarded as an up and coming unit with lots of young talent to get excited about. Sure, the impending suspension of Josh Gordon hurts, but there is still much to be excited about. First, they have a potential top 5 offensive line and that’s always the most important factor for a rookie QB to experience success. The game is faster than in college, and a good line is necessary while a rookie signal caller learns to adapt. But the browns also have some nice weapons in TE Jordan Cameron, lightning quick Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin (if healthy) and a Kyle Shanahan scheme that fits perfectly with Manziel’s abilities. Not to mention no team upgraded at the RB position more than the Browns in the offseason, signing Ben Tate and drafting exciting small school prospect Terrance West.

The expected contract Manziel will sign (Approx $2.5MM per year) will make him a very cheap source of production for the next 4 years. And don’t worry about talk out of camp that he’s the backup and has to earn it…short of Brian Hoyer leading the Browns to a 4-0 record out of the gate, that will be Johnny’s team by the bye week (week 4) and he will have every opportunity to score fantasy points in bunches using his arm and mobility.

It might not hurt to handcuff yourself with both Browns QBs on draft days, as both have very friendly contracts and are expected to provide great value this year.

Dynasty Owner Recommendation: Target in the late middle rounds, handcuff with Hoyer

QB: Teddy Bridgewater (Rnd 1, Pick 32): Vikings

The final high profile QB drafted in the 1st round, Bridgewater was the wildcard in the draft. He could have conceivably been picked at any spot in the first round, and that’s a rarity. Despite slipping to the last pick of the first round, he actually landed in an intriguing position from a fantasy perspective.

No rookie QB has an easier track to a starting job, and the Vikings have been very forthright about their desire for Teddy B. to win the job outright in the preseason. And like Manziel, his draft day slide should make his yearly contract number (estimated $1.5MM / yr) very enticing for those who believe he will be a productive starting QB in the NFL for years to come.

All that said, Bridgewater fell for a reason and despite the fact that he has an inside track on the job and some nice weapons on offense (AP, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings) the Vikings had to spend most of their draft and offseason focus on fixing one of the worst defenses in the league last year. While the Vikings offensive line grades out well, especially in the run game, there was some suspect play from the left side of that unit last year. And like the Jaguars, the Vikings have been plagued with such bad Quarterback play in recent years that it’s difficult to envision that changing at the (small) hands of a rookie QB.

For what it’s worth, we think Teddy will struggle mightily in his rookie season, especially if the left side of the line doesn’t show improvement. A rookie QB with a frequently pressured blindside doesn’t sound like a recipe for success to us, especially when that QB has a slight frame like Bridgewater does. That pounding quickly takes a physical and mental toll and can make a QB skiddish which is how most prospects end up with the dreaded bust label.

Dynasty Owner Recommendation: Target late at the end of drafts

QB: Derek Carr (Rnd 2, Pick 4): Raiders

Everyone knew going into the draft that the Raiders needed a quarterback, and they moved up in the 2nd round to grab Carr after missing out on day 1. This move led some to believe that Carr had a decent shot at some meaningful playing time and a shot to prove he can turn this franchise around this year - that is until the quotes started coming in after the draft about how Raiders brass are hailing off-season acquisition Matt Schaub as a top-10 QB in the league whose resurgence is imminent.

While we find this borderline comical, it does hurt the prospect of Derek Carr this year (and possibly next if the Raiders remain delusional about Schaub). If he does get a chance to play, we think he can actually surprise with quality production but that seems unlikely barring injury or a mutiny in the ranks in Raider-land. We also don’t love their complementary offensive weapons, as they had a questionable WR corps coming into the offseason and didn’t address it in the draft or in free agency other than signing a stone handed WR in Greg Little who was released from a WR needy Browns team (which should tell you all you need to know about him).

Dynasty Owner Recommendation: Ignore but track in pre-season

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo (Rnd 2, Pick 30): Patriots

One of the more curious selections after signing Brady to an extended contract and still holding intriguing backup Ryan Mallett, one has to wonder if this selection was made with the assumption that Mallett was going to get deal on draft day. That didn’t happen, and although it’s the Patriots and they often get the benefit of the doubt for draft day shrewdness, on the surface it looks like they have a very expensive third string QB that they burned a 2nd round pick on.

If Mallett gets dealt or Brady happens to go down with an injury, Garappolo becomes an intriguing prospect to monitor but until one of those things happens, it’s hard to see any scenario where Garappolo has any fantasy relevance for the next several years.

Dynasty Owner Recommendation: Ignore and forget

It’s important to remember you are drafting this player with the option to keep him his entire career if his production warrants, so don’t be short sighted if a guy might not start right away in year 1. If he turns into a star and you have him for several years on a rookie deal, you will be in prime position to compete for your league title every year, especially if you are able to find that value at the quarterback position.

Be sure to check back weekly as we will be posting blogs to help prepare you for your draft’s in Dynasty Owner - all the way up to the start of the NFL season.

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