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Biggest Busts of 2019: Quarterback


The 2019 NFL season is over, and it's time to look back on what happened.

2019 was a year where some quarterbacks -- Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen -- leaped up to the top of the fantasy charts, while other guys faded from where they were expected to perform. Today, I want to talk about three of the biggest quarterback busts from this season and try to figure out why they ended up struggling this past season.

(Note: For final rankings, I'm looking only at Week 1 through Week 16.)

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Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

FantasyPros ADP: QB4
End of Season Rank: QB19

We can't talk about fantasy busts without starting with Baker Mayfield.

The second-year passer was supposed to lead the Browns to the postseason. He was supposed to develop a quick rapport with star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He was this year's version of Patrick Mahomes: A guy who'd make a serious leap in year two. Instead, Mayfield was a disaster.

The Browns offense fell apart under head coach Freddie Kitchens, and Mayfield struggled immensely. Playing in all 16 games for Cleveland, Mayfield threw at least one interception in 13 games, and aside from a three-game stretch where he had 704 yards on 62.5 percent passing with five touchdowns and no picks, he looked like a replacement level -- or worse -- NFL quarterback.

On the year, Mayfield completed 59.4 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His 35 interceptions through two seasons are a bad sign, especially when Mayfield isn't coupling that with the yardage and touchdown numbers of a high-interception guy like Jameis Winston.

A new coaching staff should help Mayfield next season and his ADP's going to be significantly lower, to the point where he might end up as a sleeper in 2020. But in 2019, Mayfield was the biggest non-injury quarterback bust, and it wasn't really close. The Browns had all the weapons they needed on paper, but there was too much of a disconnect once they stepped on the actual field.

 

Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears

FantasyPros ADP: QB19
End of Season Rank: QB25

Hopes weren't nearly as high for Trubisky, who was being drafted as a mid-tier QB2. But he was still the former No. 2 overall pick and was entering his third year, so it seemed like Trubisky's fantasy stock had to be on the rise. He finished as the QB15 in 2018 and rushed for 421 yards that year, so you'd think that head coach Matt Nagy would have had Trubisky continue the things he was good at.

Instead, his rushing yards per game dropped by over half, eliminating a lot of fantasy value from his game. And as a passer, Trubisky was just incredibly inconsistent. In the 14 games where he took 90 percent or more of the team's snaps, Trubisky failed to throw a touchdown six times. He ended the year with fewer yards and touchdowns than last year while completing a lower percentage of his passes as well.

Trubisky was just 19th in the league in deep ball completion percentage, but the bigger issue might be his failure in the red zone, as he completed just 50.8 percent of red-zone passes, the 38th-worst mark among quarterbacks. He struggled when pressured and he struggled when he had a clean pocket.

Unlike Baker Mayfield -- who at least managed to have a few good things come up in his advanced metrics, like a pressured completion percentage that ranked seventh -- Trubisky's future fantasy outlook doesn't really show signs of looking different than his outlook at the end of 2019 looks. Mitch can't find his receivers. He's no longer making things happen with his legs. He's reached the man, is he making it through another year without getting benched territory.

 

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

FantasyPros ADP: QB3
End of Season Rank: QB11

Rodgers still finished as a QB1 in 12-team leagues, but the disparity between his draft spot and his final finish really shows how disappointing Rodgers was in 2019.

If Rodgers was on your fantasy team to start the season, you invested a pretty high draft pick on him. And of course you did, because Rodgers has seven finishes as the overall QB1 or QB2 in his career, and a healthy Rodgers has spent his entire career as a must-start QB1.

This year, Rodgers scored his fewest fantasy points in a full 16-game season ever. It was really a perfect storm of things: The Packers ran the ball more often, which meant Rodgers threw his fewest passes in a full season since 2014. For the second full season in a row, he threw for fewer than 30 touchdowns. And while he continued to be the NFL's best passer when it came to avoiding interceptions, leading the league in lowest interception percentage for the fourth time in his career, he dropped off a cliff as a runner, rushing for just 183 yards and a score. It was his worst full-season rushing performance of his career, and Rodgers drop over the last few years from a guy who can give you 300 yards and four rushing touchdowns to a guy who gives you 200 yards and one touchdown is one of those underrated things that hurts from a fantasy perspective.

Rodgers is also 36, so the rushing yardage and scrambles might be gone for good. That's (probably) fine for the Packers as a team since they've gotten such good production from Aaron Jones, but for fantasy owners, it's another mark against Rodgers -- a key piece of his game that won't be coming back. I think we often forget because of Rodgers not starting for his first three years that he's this old already, but he's getting to that age where his physical skills start to diminish. Again, that doesn't mean the Packers are going to be bad and Rodgers is going to start throwing 15 interceptions, but as we've seen with other older quarterbacks like Tom Brady, winning in real life can stick around, but fantasy production starts to fade. 2019 was definitely a year where things for Rodgers took an unexpected dive, and I'm worried that "low-end QB1" is the new norm for the all-time great passer.

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