NFL Fantasy-Should You Draft A Rookie Quarterback?

Drafting a rookie quarterback for your fantasy team, even Chicago Bears’ franchise talent, Caleb Williams, can be quite a risk.

Should You Draft A Rookie Quarterback?

While it may be tempting to draft that explosive first-round pick who has the potential to set the NFL ablaze and smash records, history has shown that pinning your fantasy hopes on a rookie may not be the best move.  

The Learning Curve

One of the concerns is that there is a big difference between college ball and the NFL. Even the most talented candidates undergo a learning curve as they familiarize themselves with the playbook and develop a rhythm with their teammates. Everyone learns at a different pace, but some players might need more time.  

In 2021, Trevor Lawrence started all 17 games as a rookie quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He completed 359 of 602 passes for 3,641 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, finishing the year with a passer rating of 59.6. Lawrence’s 2021 fantasy points totaled 199.04 or only 11.70 per game.  

In Lawrence’s successful second season with the Jaguars, he displayed the skill set that landed him in the number one draft position. He finished the 2022 season with 387 of 584 attempts for 4,113 yards with 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His passer rating increased to 66.3%, and Fantasy managers who drafted Lawrence in his second season scored 355.75 points, almost 21 points per game.  

The Physical Toll

Another possible concern for a rookie quarterback is the increased physical toll. The physical and mental demands of a rigorous 18-week NFL season can be brutal. Fatigue sets in and injuries are more likely to occur.  

Rookie inexperience can also lead to an increased risk of injury. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson was off to a strong start in his first few NFL games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He completed 50 / 84 passes for 577 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Richardson added 136 yards on 25 carries with four more touchdowns. But the ground game took its toll, and Richardson suffered a concussion that cost him a week of playing time.  After returning in week four, Richardson played only one and a half games before suffering his season-ending shoulder injury.

The Rewards 

But sometimes the planets align, and everything goes right in a rookie quarterback season. Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud is a perfect example of a fantasy manager’s dream selection. Named the 2023 Offensive Rookie Of The Year, Stroud completed 319 / 499 attempts for 4,108 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. His rushing ability added another 167 yards on 39 carries with three touchdowns.  Stroud appeared in only 15 games, which makes these numbers even more impressive. Stroud scored more than 20 points in six games as a rookie. His fantasy stats for the year were 276 points or a solid 18.3 points per game.

The Depth Chart

Another factor to consider when drafting a player is his position on the team’s depth chart. It’s important to know whether a rookie quarterback is destined to start week one or sit on the bench. Of the six rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round this year, not all will be the designated starting quarterback in week one.  In addition to Williams, who will start for the Bears, expect to see the Commanders start Jayden Daniels and possibly Drake Maye for the New England Patriots.  

Williams enters the NFL as a Week 1 starter. Loaded with a terrific skill set, Williams is blessed with a talented receiving corps comprised of Keenan Allen, D.J. Moore, and highly-rated rookie Rome Odeunze. He also has a solid running back in D’Andre Swift. Draft Sharks projects Williams to score 282.3 Fantasy points this year.

Jayden Daniels is also expected to start Week 1. His arm strength and mobility as a quarterback make him an attractive option to spark the Commanders’ offense. Daniels rushed for more than 3,300 yards in college. Daniels is projected to score 288.3 points this year.   

Although there is no guarantee that Drake Maye will get the nod to start Week 1 over veteran Jacoby Brissett, the odds are favorable. Despite the lack of a strong supporting cast, after the Patriots’ dismal season last year, if 6’4″Mayes does well in training camp, new Head Coach Jerod Mayo may take the gamble. Regarded as strong, durable, and highly mobile, Maye is expected to score 184.7 points this year.  

The remaining rookie quarterbacks Minnesota Vikings J.J. McCarthy, Atlanta Falcons Michael Penix, and Denver Broncos Bo Nix will sit and play only if needed in a backup role while continuing to smooth out the inconsistencies in their game and work on the mechanics of their delivery.  

The Wisdom Of Waiting 

Finally, one more thing to remember when drafting a rookie quarterback is that it takes time to develop chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers. Veteran quarterbacks are more likely to identify the strengths of their receivers quicker. Knowing when a particular receiver will get open downfield to make a difficult play doesn’t develop overnight. It takes time. Puka Nacua was sensational as a rookie but he undoubtedly benefitted from Matthew Stafford’s knowledge and experience as a seasoned quarterback. 

Stroud benefitted from a terrific supporting cast with fellow rookie wide receivers Nico Collins and Tank Dell. Collins was outstanding, making 80/109 receptions for 1,297 yards with eight touchdowns. Dell was also off to a great start with 47/ 75 receptions for 709 yards and seven touchdowns before a season-ending injury.   

If you’re in a dynasty league, it might be tempting to acquire a rookie quarterback now to stash before his value soars. But otherwise, the smarter bet might be to hold off and pick him up off the waiver wire later in the season once he has proven NFL playing ability.     

Main Image: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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