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Deep-League Quarterback Sleepers

Some people climb stadium steps backward with weights strapped around their wrists and ankles. Others eat hot peppers by the jarful or build tiny ships inside bottles.

The hardiest fantasy football degenerates test their mettle by playing in leagues so deep they must scrutinize the relative merits of, say, Andy Dalton and Drew Lock. They know that last-round fliers and waiver-wire names in normal setups can become league winners in the most vexing formats.

Here are four quarterbacks with sleeper potential in leagues of 16 or more teams. Each has an average draft position beyond 200 in PPR leagues, according to FantasyPros.

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Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

ADP: 220

Talk about a change of scenery. Sam Darnold, the third overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, gets a fresh start in Carolina. He gets a better offensive line and pass-catching weapons than he had in three dismal seasons with the New York Jets. The main thing is he gets away from head coach Adam Gase.

Gase garnered a reputation as a play-calling guru while working on Denver’s staff with Peyton Manning, yet during head-coaching stints in Miami and New York over the past five years, things went from bad to worse. His plodding, run-heavy Jets offenses ranked 31st in the NFL in 2019 and last in 2020, according to Simple Rating System data compiled by Pro Football Reference as a factor in estimating point spreads.

 The Adam Gase Experience
Year Team Offense SRS Rank in NFL
2016 Miami Dolphins -0.6 17
2017 Miami Dolphins -3.9 25
2018 Miami Dolphins -3.6 26
2019 New York Jets -5.7 31
2020 New York Jets -8.7 32

Darnold played under constant duress, fought through a string of injuries, and put up few points, fantasy or otherwise. With the Panthers’ solid supporting cast and a more aggressive scheme, the 24-year-old could emerge as a Superflex option even in regular-size leagues.

His receivers include D.J. Moore, one of the steadiest and most underrated young players at the position. Moore has approached 1,200 receiving yards for two straight years. Robby Anderson, who made the Jets-to-Panthers transition a year ago, topped 1,000 yards for the first time in 2020. Second-round rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. is reunited with offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who called the plays at LSU. Then there’s dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey, the consensus No. 1 pick in fantasy.

Darnold adds little with his legs and is unlikely to ever live up to his lofty draft status, but in his fourth season, he is poised to become fantasy relevant for the first time and a potential late-round bargain.


Teddy Bridgewater, Denver Broncos

ADP: 304

Teddy Bridgewater doesn’t wow anyone with his conservative approach. Instead, he impresses his coaches by making smart decisions and protecting the football. That should enable the veteran, who only cost the Broncos a sixth-round draft pick in a trade, to beat out Drew Lock for the starting job.

At such a late ADP, that would be enough for Bridgewater to return fantasy value. Whoever Denver puts at QB will benefit from one of the NFL’s softer schedules for the position.

With Carolina in 2020, Bridgewater started a full season for the first time since 2015. He averaged 16.1 fantasy points per game, finishing as the 18th-best QB. He threw for more than 3,700 yards with 15 touchdowns against only 11 interceptions, adding five more scores on the ground. He set career highs for completion percentage and QBR.

There’s a chance that Lock flashes enough in the preseason for the Broncos brass to bet on him making a third-year leap. Or management might go with him just to spite the social media provocateurs. Even if Lock starts out with the job, however, he will surely be on a short leash. He averaged only 13.9 fantasy points per week in 2020 and looked lost at times.

Bridgewater is the safer and better option, both for Denver and for fantasy drafters.


Jordan Love, Green Bay Packers

ADP: 335

Here’s a dicey pick. Jordan Love essentially redshirted last year after the Packers traded up to select him in the first round of the NFL draft, a move that stunned observers, including the team’s starting quarterback, future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers.

Love hasn’t been seen playing football since 2019, his final year at Utah State, so he’s essentially an unknown quantity. For now, he is relevant mostly as a dynasty stash or a handcuff for Rodgers owners in redraft leagues.

That’s what happens once you get past pick 300. There’s nothing left but question marks.

Still, if Love were to get an opportunity in 2021, he’d be leading a potent attack featuring Davante Adams and Aaron Jones. Rodgers is widely expected to return to Green Bay, though his passive-aggressive spat with the organization could spark a trade. And while Rodgers has been healthy in recent years and looked as sharp as ever in 2020 en route to his third NFL MVP award, he may carry an elevated injury risk even if he returns at 37.

Love is still considered a multi-year project despite sparking positive buzz at minicamp. He could even end up behind Blake Bortles on the team’s depth chart. He can’t be trusted as anyone’s second quarterback, but for owners going three or four deep at the position, he carries appeal as a hit-or-miss stab who could get the keys to a high-octane offense.


Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans

ADP: >335

Somebody has to quarterback the Dumpster fire known as the Houston Texans. At this point, it looks like Tyrod Taylor, the veteran entering his 11th year.

Deshaun Watson, who has vowed to never play again for the team, may be suspended or traded. Taylor, who quarterbacked Buffalo when new Houston head coach David Culley was on the Bills' staff, is the logical guy to step in and help stabilize the team’s rebuilding effort while mentoring rookie Davis Mills.

Considering the ADP, he’s not half-bad. Taylor hasn’t gotten much playing time in recent years – thanks in part to the Chargers’ team doctor accidentally puncturing his lung early in 2020 -- but with the Bills from 2015 through 2017, he threw 51 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. He also ran an average of 6.4 times per game, piling up 1,575 yards.

Altogether, that added up to 17.4 fantasy points per week, making Taylor a top-16 QB each season. True, that was light-years ago in fantasy football terms, but he won’t need to match those numbers to justify his nonexistent price.

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