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Biggest Breakouts of 2019: Quarterback


2019 was a very interesting season of fantasy football, to say the least. It's safe to say no one was banking on the season that we saw from Lamar Jackson but he wasn't the only one to stand out.

At the quarterback position, we saw some really exciting players start to shine and some older players fall off a bit. During the pre-season, some popular breakout candidates were guys like Mitch Trubisky and Baker Mayfield, and we saw how they turned out. It was a very strange season all around, but that's really what makes fantasy football so fun.

I'm going to touch on some breakouts that we saw in 2019 at the quarterback position. When you're done, check out some breakout performers at other positions like running back, wide receiver, and tight end.

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Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens - QB1

First up is the second-year quarterback and likely NFL MVP, Lamar Jackson. Jackson was not just a breakout quarterback this year but was an absolute stud and someone that potentially helped you win your fantasy league. With 421.68 fantasy points on the season, he was averaging 28.11 points per game and was consistently winning you weeks if you owned him. Similar to Patrick Mahomes in 2018, Jackson was the steal of fantasy drafts and as someone who had a massive breakout season, many fantasy owners will be looking at drafting him as the first QB off the board next year.

Jackson was very productive through the air with 3,127 passing yards, 36 passing TD, and just six interceptions. The real advantage that Jackson brings is on the ground. Not only is he fast, but he broke Michael Vick's single-season rushing record for a quarterback with 1,206 rushing yards and seven additional TD. Anytime a quarterback puts up rushing numbers like this on top of their passing numbers, you're going to see some excellent fantasy production. Jackson wasn't just a breakout for this 2019 season, but an absolute stud and many fantasy owners are viewing him as the top QB in fantasy football, and maybe even in the NFL. Jackson will be either the first or second quarterback drafted in 2020, and rightfully so. Between him and Mahomes, there's some major upside that comes with those guys, but there's always the risk of drafting a quarterback too early in fantasy football.

 

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys - QB3

I debated whether or not to put Dak Prescott on this list, but after finishing with his best season to date, he did have a breakout season. He's finished as a top-12 QB in each of the last four seasons, depending on your scoring format. Prescott had his best season to date as far as passing yards go, finishing with 4,902 passing yards on the season. His 30 TD were also a career-high. It's worth noting that he also saw the fewest rushing yards of his career with 277 yards and three touchdowns was also a career-low for him.

However you want to decipher his 2019 season, it's hard to ignore how good Prescott was. Prescott has been a bit undervalued for the past few seasons and has been a nice late-round quarterback to target. We'll see just how much hype comes with Prescott heading into 2020, not to mention his contract situation. A change at head coach to offensive-minded Mike McCarthy could also pump up expectations. I'd expect he finally gets the credit he deserves after his 2019 season and is drafted much higher than he has been in the past.

 

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - QB4

Next up is the Turnover King himself, Jameis Winston. Depending on your scoring system, Winston might have finished a bit lower with his whopping 30 interceptions, but in standard scoring QB leagues, he finished as the QB4. It's fun to joke about the turnovers, but as fantasy owners, we just care about fantasy production. With 5,109 passing yards and weapons like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, you're going to get some excellent fantasy production, regardless of interceptions. Winston joins a company of just seven other quarterbacks that have thrown for 5,000+ yards including some of the all-time greats like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning.

Winston finished the season with 626 passing attempts, completing 60.7% of his passes, 33 TDs, and a career-high 8.2 yards per attempt. It will be interesting to see what Tampa Bay does with Winston, but I'm a believer that he will be back one way or another. As a team who has never really had a solid running game with Winston, not to mention a terrible defense, this season with Bruce Arians was the perfect scenario for Winston to produce big fantasy numbers. As the defense is young and improving and will likely target a running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, I'd definitely temper expectations heading into 2020. Winston may not really be forced to air it out as much as he has in the past. For the 2020 season, there's no reason why Winston shouldn't be drafted as a top-12 quarterback as long as he's back in Tampa Bay with Evans and Godwin.

 

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills - QB6

Another second-year quarterback that broke out in 2019 was Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. Allen showed a lot of promise in his rookie campaign, where he showed his productivity as a rusher as well as a passer. In his rookie campaign, he played in 12 games, two of them where he played for roughly half of the game. Allen threw for 2,074 yards in 2018 with 10 TDs and 12 interceptions. He showed a lot of promise in the games he started, adding 631 rushing yards and eight TDs. After committing to Allen and letting him take full charge of this offense, we saw the Bills finish the season strong, despite losing to the Texans in the Wild Card Weekend.

In 2019, Allen doubled his touchdowns from the previous year, finishing with 20 passing TDs and nine interceptions. His YPC was down some from his rookie campaign, but he still ran for 510 yards and nine rushing TDs. Similar to what I mentioned about Jackson, anytime you have a running back that's adding this kind of production on the ground, they're going to produce solid fantasy numbers. After finishing as the QB6 in 2019, look for Allen to continue this success into 2020, especially if/when the Bills add some help at the wide receiver position in the 2020 NFL Draft.

 

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals - QB7

Next up is the rookie quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, Kyler Murray. After drafting Murray first overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, many fantasy owners were drafting him late in their fantasy drafts and hoping he'd work out. He definitely did not disappoint, finishing as the QB7 while he was a threat through the air and on the ground. Murray finished the season with 3,722 passing yards, 20 TD, and 12 interceptions. He also ran for 544 yards on 93 attempts, which was good for 5.85 YPC and four rushing TDs. Dual-threat quarterbacks tend to be very valuable for fantasy football leagues, and as Murray continues to get comfortable and his wide receivers get healthy, I'd expect him to continue being a fantasy producer.

At this point, it looks like Murray may end up getting overvalued a bit heading into the 2020 fantasy season, but it's hard not to get on board. With weapons like Larry Fitzgerald returning for another year, the running backs (whether it be David Johnson or Kenyan Drake), Christian Kirk, Hakeem Butler, and Andy Isabella there are plenty of targets for Murray to utilize. I'd head into the 2020 fantasy season with Murray inside my top 10 or 12 for fantasy quarterbacks pretty easily.

 

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans - QB21

After the Titans benched Marcus Mariota, we saw former Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill step up in a major way. From Week 7 through Week 16, we saw Tannehill finish as the QB3, behind only Jackson and Allen during that time. The finish of QB21 doesn't represent just how good Tannehill was this year, at all. During the first six weeks, he was backing up Mariota and the Titans never fully committed to him until Week 7 against the Chargers, where he threw for 312 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Tannehill has been on fire ever since, and his success continued into the playoffs where he led the Titans to victories over the Patriots and Ravens.

While the overall finish of QB21 isn't overly impressive, that number really doesn't do justice of just how good Tannehill was. He has had a couple of decent seasons during his time in Miami, but this offense appears to be a great fit for him and there's no reason the Titans should get away from him next year. He's more than proven himself and was a nice breakout quarterback in 2019. Heading into 2020, Tannehill should be someone that you can draft fairly late and if things work out, he'll be a huge value.

Honorable Mention:
Jimmy Garoppolo - San Francisco 49ers

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