6 NFL QB Battles & Their Potential Fantasy Football Impacts To Monitor This Preseason
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Bears QBs Justin Fields (#1) and Andy Dalton (#14)
With less than a month left before the official start of the 2021 NFL regular season, many question marks still linger at the most important position.
Below are six training camp battles to monitor, the outcomes from which could have major impacts on fantasy football.
Broncos: Drew Lock vs. Teddy Bridgewater
Background: With the hopes of landing Aaron Rodgers quelled, the Broncos’ quarterback competition has come down to Lock vs. Bridgewater.
Bridgewater was traded to Denver this offseason after a one-year stint in Carolina in which he completed 69.1% of his passes for 3,733 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was brought in to compete against Lock, the Broncos’ 2019 second-round pick.
Lock, 24, is coming off a lackluster first season as the Broncos’ starter in which he completed 57.3% of his passes for 2,933 yards, 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Reports from training camp seem to go back-and-forth between Lock and Bridgewater with regard to who is the front-runner to win the job.
For the QB people today was a Teddy day.
— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 11, 2021
Fantasy Impact: Bridgewater would likely be a safer option for most skill-position players, including tight end Noah Fant, wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick, and running backs Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.
Lock does have a preexisting rapport with receiver Courtland Sutton, who could see a relative boost if Lock wins the job.
Saints: Jameis Winston vs. Taysom Hill
Background: The Saints’ quest to find a worthy successor has begun following Drew Brees’ retirement in February. The duel is currently between Winston, a former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick, and Hill, a gadget player and former undrafted free agent.
Winston’s career to date has been marred by inconsistency and turnovers. The 27-year-old threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in his infamous final season in Tampa Bay.
Winston served as a backup to Brees in 2020 and appeared in four games (zero starts), completing seven of 11 passes for 75 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Winston signed a one-year extension in March worth $12 million and is currently the betting favorite to take the Saints’ first snap at -210 odds (67.7%).
Hill, who turns 31 this month, had been primarily deployed as a utility player, lining up at quarterback, tight end, receiver and running back. He clearly has the affection of head coach Sean Payton, who named Hill the starter in Brees’ absence last season and shoehorned Hill into multiple interesting packages last season. He appeared in all 16 games in 2020 and completed 88 of 121 attempts (72.7%) for 928 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Hill is under contract for the next four seasons — three of which are voidable — after inking a $140 million extension in 2021 and has +175 (36.4%) to take the Saints’ first snap.
Fantasy Impact: Winston would be the clear, preferred option over Hill for the fantasy outlooks of the Saints’ offense. Winston provides high upside as a starter given his skill set and weapons. He would significantly benefit pass-catchers Michael Thomas (when he returns), Alvin Kamara, Tre’Quan Smith and Adam Trautman.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Trey Lance
Background: A whirlwind of pre-draft transactions and misdirection from the 49ers created quite a buzz around who they would select come draft day.
The team ultimately went with Lance, a two-time FCS champion and gunslinger from North Dakota State, at No. 3 overall. Reports out of training camp seem to indicate positive progress for the 21-year-old rookie, but “no” remains favored at -400 odds (80%) on DraftKings for him to take the team’s first snap, while “yes” is listed at +300 odds (25%).
Meanwhile, Garoppolo is coming off a disappointing season in which he started just six games. He suffered an ankle sprain in Week 2 and returned in Week 5 only to be benched for backup C.J. Beathard. The ankle injury seemed to plague the 29-year-old all season and he finished with a 67.1% completion rate for 1,096 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
Fantasy Impact: At this point, Garoppolo winning the job would probably be the best option for fantasy football and skill position players Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon.
Lance may offer more upside than Garoppolo given his arm strength, but the rookie will benefit from taking time to learn the playbook and develop as a potential franchise quarterback.
Patriots: Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones
Background: The post-Tom Brady era in New England has been tumultuous to say the least as the Patriots attempt to fill their beloved signal-caller’s big shoes.
Last season, the team unexpectedly signed Newton to a veteran-minimum deal, which was viewed at the time as a one-year stopgap. The former Heisman Trophy winner started all but one game and completed 65.8% of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also saw 137 rushes for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The 32-year-old re-signed with the team in March to a one-year deal worth up to $13.6 million. He’s the implied betting favorite to remain the team’s starter come Week 1 with an implied -300 odds (75%) on DraftKings.
The Patriots also drafted 22-year-old Jones amid a rare, aggressive offseason from de facto general manager Bill Belichick. The former Crimson Tide quarterback slipped all the way to pick No. 15 after being favored to go No. 3 overall for weeks leading up to the draft.
The rookie has received accolades for his game management and mental processing, but lacks athleticism and improvisation. As of writing, “yes” is listed at +250 odds (28.57%) for Jones to take the Patriots’ first snap.
Fantasy Impact: The sparse fantasy options on the Patriots are already limited by the team’s suboptimal quarterback situation.
Jones’ arm strength is an upgrade from Newton’s (albeit a low bar), and could benefit the New England pass catchers Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers.
Running backs Damien Harris and James White would probably see more touches (but fewer red zone opportunities) with Newton under center.
Bears: Andy Dalton vs. Justin Fields
Background: For the second year in a row, the Bears have another quarterback battle on their hands — this time with two new faces.
On the heels of the failed Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky Experiment, the Bears signed Dalton to a one-year, $10 million deal in March. The 33-year-old veteran had been Cincinnati’s starter for nine seasons and started nine games for Dallas last year after Dak Prescott went down. He completed 216 of 333 attempts (64.9%) for 2,169 yards, 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 11 appearances and is the betting favorite to take the team’s first snap this year.
Fields, who shockingly slipped to pick 11 in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been up-and-down during training camp. The 22-year-old Ohio State product was projected to go as early as pick 3, but concerns over some elements of his game and epilepsy diagnosis pushed his stock down.
DraftKings lists “no” for Fields to take the team’s first snap as the heavy favorite at -450 odds (81.8%), giving him odds of only +350 (22.2%) to win the starting role.
Fantasy Impact: Dalton and Fields have very different strengths and weaknesses. Dalton offers consistency and a good understanding of the offense while Fields represents the future for the Bears and offers mobility and raw talent.
Skill position players such as Allen Robinson (who has been a victim of subpar QB play his entire career), Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Cole Kmet would all stand to benefit from the upside Fields provides for this offense.
Fields will also offer standalone fantasy value if and when he takes over. His rushing floor and upside could vault him into streaming consideration in one-quarterback leagues.
Texans: Deshaun Watson vs. Tyrod Taylor vs. Davis Mills vs. Jeff Driskel
Background: Perhaps the least interesting of the quarterback battles this year is in Houston. The team had previously made national news at the outset of the offseason in light of Watson’s legal troubles .
Watson, 25, started all 16 games for the Texans in 2020 and completed 70.2% of his passes for 4,823 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He reported to training camp amid uncertainty if he can play at all this season, and is currently listed as the team’s fourth-string QB behind Taylor, Driskel and Mills. His odds to start Week 1 for the Texans is listed as +550 (15.38%) on DraftKings.
Taylor, 32, is currently the frontrunner and betting favorite to win the starting role at -500 (83.33%). The veteran QB signed a one-year deal with the Texans in March after a two-year stint with the Chargers-. He started just one game in 2020 after a freak pre-game accident resulted in a punctured lung and completed 16 of 30 attempts (53.3%) for 208 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Mills, 22, was the Texans’ third-round pick (their first pick of the draft) and eighth QB off the board this year. He appeared in five games during Stanford’s COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and completed 129 of 195 attempts (66.2%) for 1,508 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mills has the second-shortest odds to earn the starting role behind Taylor at +500 (16.67%).
Driskel, 28, has the longest odds to take the Texans’ first snap at +1000 (9.09%). The journeyman was originally drafted in the sixth round in 2016 by the 49ers. He was cut before the season began and was claimed by the Bengals-. He later spent one season with the Lions and most recently was a member of the Broncos. He has 15 career appearances (nine starts) and has completed 58.6% of his passes for 2,120 yards, 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Fantasy Impact: With Watson’s status still very much up-in-the-air, Taylor will most likely take the team’s first snap under center this year.
The team is unlikely to be competitive and its backfield is filled with underwhelming veterans Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson and Rex Burkhead — none of whom are particularly sexy options for fantasy.
Wideout Brandin Cooks, who finished 2020 as the WR28 in half PPR, is one of the only players worth considering for fantasy. He has less competition with Will Fuller gone, but is a wild card given the less-than-ideal QB situation.