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Rookie Roulette - Which QB Should Go First in Dynasty Drafts?

The talk about who is the first rookie taken in dynasty drafts this year begins and ends with Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Any discussion that answers with a different name is doing so just to be a contrarian. The real question this year comes with the quarterback position, where a host of early draft picks will vie to be the first quarterback off the board in dynasty.

So, who should that quarterback be? Here are the players worth at least some consideration: Cleveland's Baker Mayfield, New York's Sam Darnold, Buffalo's Josh Allen, Arizona's Josh Rosen, and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. With apologies to Mason Rudolph and Kyle Lauletta, those five players represent the five most likely guys to become stars in the NFL.

Let's break down the pros and cons of each player as we ultimately search for the best option to go number one in your dynasty drafts.

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Baker Mayfield - Cleveland Browns


Mayfield led the NCAA in completion percentage last year; his 70.5 percent mark made him the only FBS quarterback to complete over 70 percent of his passes. He was also the leader in yards per attempt, passing efficiency rating, and he finished second in passing touchdowns (43) to Missouri's Drew Lock (44).

Cleveland is going into the season with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, but there's an easy path to Mayfield having the job by mid-season if the Browns struggle. Once he has the job, he'll have a ton of good options around him to make his life as a quarterback easier -- last year's receptions leader Jarvis Landry, fantasy football legend Josh Gordon, pass catching running back Duke Johnson, and promising young tight end David Njoku. That's a recipe for yards, yards, and more yards.


There's the dreaded maturity issues label, but I'm just going to ignore that right now. Predicting how a player matures in the NFL is nearly impossible and I think for fantasy purposes it's best to assume that Mayfield will be fine. He isn't Johnny Manziel.

Arm strength could be a concern, but his accuracy makes up for some of those issues. He'll need to bring a little more pocket presence and improve his footwork, but Mayfield has a high ceiling. Is it the highest of this draft class, though?


Sam Darnold - New York Jets


Jets head coach Todd Bowles has said that Darnold has a chance to beat out Josh McCown for the starting job in New York this season. It's possible that he's the only rookie quarterback to start Week 1, which gives him value for fantasy owners looking to win immediately, especially those playing in superflex leagues. (By the way, Darnold could also start the year third on the depth chart. Bowles has been...a little bit all over the place in talking about Darnold.)

Darnold completed 67.2 percent of his passes in 2016, though that number fell to 63.1 percent last season. Still, accuracy shouldn't be a big issue for him at the next level. He'll complete a good amount of his passes, though his college career suggests that the ones he doesn't complete might end up in the hands of the defense.

Darnold isn't going to set the world on fire with his legs, but he can move around in the pocket and run if he absolutely has to. It'll be interesting to see if he increases the use of his legs in the NFL or becomes even more of a pocket passer.


Honestly, I'm a little bored by Darnold as a prospect. Maybe I'm burned out by watching USC quarterbacks disappoint when they make it into the league, but Darnold doesn't have some of the ceiling that other guys in this class do. (A good thing, though: I don't think he has the possible lows that some of them do either.)

Darnold will HAVE to hold onto the ball better. He lost an FBS-high eight fumbles last season to go along with the 13 interceptions he threw. That's the kind of thing that can kill a player's value in the NFL and something he'll have to show he's corrected before the Jets put him on the field.


Josh Allen - Buffalo Bills


Josh Allen has high on everyone's draft boards because he looks like an NFL quarterback. Tall. Mobile. Can theoretically make any throw. Fantasy players who are high on Allen are also betting on those things and that they'll translate to the kind of on-field success he didn't enjoy at Wyoming.

Allen could play early for the Bills since the other quarterbacks on the roster -- former Bengal A.J. McCarron and interception machine Nathan Peterman -- aren't great options for a team that's coming off a playoff appearance last season, but Allen is such a raw prospect that early playing time might not be a good thing for his development.


Allen's college production was...not great. His 56.2 completion percentage over his career at Wyoming isn't an encouraging sign. To succeed in the NFL, you have to complete passes.

Back in May, RotoBaller's Kyle Richardson wrote this piece in which he draws a comparison between Allen's college numbers and the numbers of former Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Ryan Mallett. Mallett came into the NFL with a lot of hype and was expected to be a guy who would sit for a year or two and then become an above-average starter. That didn't come true.

Allen has the lowest lows to me, because so much of what could make him a successful NFL player is tied up in physical qualities and traits and not in his game film. He has a great arm and good foot speed, but can he actually show us those things when it matters.


Josh Rosen - Arizona Cardinals


Rosen will start the season backing up new Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford. You could refer to the job Sam Bradford's Backup as Guy Who Will Start At Least Eight Games, because Bradford's injury history suggests that he will never play a full 16 game season again. (There's some exaggeration here -- Bradford played 29 of a possible 32 games from 2015 to 2016.)

Rosen should be a great pocket passer in the NFL. He's got the arm to make any throw you can ask him to and he's an incredibly smart player who won't make bad decisions with the football. If he ends up starting games this season, he was a good supporting cast -- one of the league's best running backs, David Johnson, can take pressure off of Rosen and can be useful as a receiving option, and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is fast approaching retirement but is still one of the most consistent receivers in the game. If Rosen can develop a rapport with rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk, he'll have multiple strong options around him.


Ignore all the talk about Rosen being a bad teammate and too smart for football and blah blah blah...the fact that he likes to read books and has opinions about politics isn't going to hurt his ability to be a quarterback in the NFL.

If there is a major con that I see with Rosen, it's that he's had both shoulder issues and a concussion during his time at UCLA. Durability could be a concern here, but Rosen is unlikely to put himself in the same kinds of rushing situations that some of the other quarterbacks from this class will, which should limit his injury risk, though the fact that he'll rarely scramble caps his upside some when compared to quarterbacks who can take advantage of their feet and run the ball. Remember: rushing yards and rushing touchdowns give you fantasy points at a better per yard/ per touchdown rate than passing yards and passing touchdowns. (Pretend I put an emoji sticking its tongue out at the end of that sentence.)


Lamar Jackson - Baltimore Ravens


SPEED. Jackson rushed for 4,132 yards and 50 touchdowns over his three seasons at Louisville. He also added in 9,043 passing yards and 69 passing touchdowns against just 27 interceptions. Jackson is coming off one of the best college careers in recent memory.

Jackson also has a strong arm that can help him sling the ball all around the field. Mix that with Baltimore's acquisition of Michael Crabtree, a guy who can make plays down the field, and you potentially have some exciting times in Baltimore.

There have also been reports out of Baltimore that Jackson was being used all over the field during OTAs. He'll likely be on the field some this season to take advantage of his speed, but that kind of playing time won't do much for his fantasy value as it'll be inconsistent.


Of course, Joe Flacco is still the starting quarterback in Baltimore and his contract is pretty onerous for the next two years, though the Ravens can cut him before the 2020 season and take only an $8,000,000 cap hit that season before having him fully off the books for 2021. Still, that financial commitment makes it seem likely that Jackson sits for a couple of years before moving into Baltimore's lineup. That can be fine for dynasty owners who are looking to rebuild, but owners in win now mode might balk at Jackson when quarterbacks like Mayfield and Rosen have an easier path towards playing time sooner.

Jackson also had some accuracy issues at Louisville. He completed 59.1 percent of his passes last year and has improved each season. If he can get that number over 60 percent in the NFL, he'll be fine, but if he ends up closer to his college numbers -- 56.2 percent during his breakout 2016 campaign -- then there's going to be a need to worry.


So, Who Should Go First?

Here's how I have the five players ranked:

  1. Baker Mayfield
  2. Josh Rosen
  3. Sam Darnold
  4. Lamar Jackson
  5. Josh Allen

If you're in a full-on rebuild, I'd consider swapping Darnold and Jackson, as Jackson provides interesting long-term upside. But with Mayfield's accuracy and the players around him, he's my definite number one right now.


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