When looking at positions from the perspective of importance in the NFL, the quarterback is often regarded as the most important. When it comes to fantasy, however, that narrative has unquestionably shifted over the last few years. Outside of a handful of quarterbacks in the league, the production level can change year-to-year.
It is essential to understand this because a player will excel in one season to fail to produce the season immediately following. Or vice versa, numerous quarterbacks find themselves in a down season only to reemerge as a viable producer the next year.
Observing the production from the quarterback position from last season, here are three names who could find themselves leaping back into relevance.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Mitchell Trubisky finished towards the back end of fantasy quarterbacks last season. He saw twelve total starts, finishing with 2,193 yards, seven touchdowns, and seven interceptions. On the ground, Trubisky also rushed for 248 yards and two more scores.
The biggest hindrance for Trubisky was the lack of aggressiveness in the passing game. The Chicago Bears, last season, were a run-heavy team under John Fox. The Bears offensive scheme gave Trubisky only 330 total pass-attempts. Comparatively, the most pass-friendly offense, the New York Giants, finished with over two-hundred more attempts by seasons end.
Trubisky is poised for a breakout season in his second year. Last season, he finished with 134.6 fantasy points, 11.2 points per game, in standard leagues. It was reliable enough to earn him the 28th overall finish among qualified fantasy quarterbacks.
The Bears as a collective last season were not right in the passing game. Their top receiver, Kendall Wright, saw south of one-hundred targets, hauling in just fifty-nine receptions for a measly 614 yards and a single touchdown.
Their next best receiver, Josh Bellamy, finished the season with just twenty-four receptions for 376 yards and a touchdown. Showing how brutal the Bears passing game was in 2017, Zach Miller who suffered a gruesome leg injury halfway through the season, led the team in touchdowns with two.
A new face, rookie Anthony Miller, who the Bears drafted this season will also play a major role in moving this offense into a better spot. Miller was taken in the second round and is contending for a starting role in 2018. Miller possesses an impressive college resume, finishing his career at Memphis with 3,590 yards receiving and 37 touchdowns. It includes back to back 1,400 yard seasons. Needless to say, he will certainly be someone to watch as Trubisky aims to rise.
This year, there is new hope in the Windy City, however. A flurry of off-season moves has changed the trajectory of what the offense can become. The Bears most significant addition, Allen Robinson, slots in as the No.1 receiver immediately, and provides an instant impact for Trubisky.
Robinson, working his way back from a season-ending ACL tear, should provide Trubisky with that big target he so desperately needs. In each of 2016 and 2017, Robinson saw 151 targets. Robinson’s 2015 season was one of greatness, as he posted 1,400 receiving yards and a career-high 14 touchdowns.
Outside of Robinson, the other two new weapons, field stretcher Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton, should also bring another dimension to the offense. Burton saw action in fifteen games last season, serving as a more than a serviceable backup to Zach Ertz. He finished with five touchdowns and posted an 85.7% catch rate in the red zone.
Mitchell Trubisky will find himself in a much better situation in 2018. He lands as the first quarterback “riser.”
Jimmy Garappolo, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garappolo finds himself as one of the hottest names the last few months. After a trade sent him to the San Francisco 49ers, Garappolo helped the 49ers to five straight wins to close the season out.
Overall, Garappolo finished as the No.34 overall fantasy quarterback in 2017. He posted 86.9 points in just six games, averaging a respectable 14.5 points per game. During the five-game win streak, Garappolo finished as a top ten quarterback averaging 16.4 points per game. His high point came in Week 16, where he posted twenty-two points.
It may seem difficult to get behind Garappolo for fantasy football purposes. He has, in fact, made only seven starts in his career coming into the 2018 season. Nevertheless, he finds himself on this list as a “riser” at the position.
Garappolo, last season, happened to be the most consistent quarterback for the 49ers. He finished in the upper echelon of the league in Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt, posting a very respectable 7.62 ANY/A. Unfortunately, due to the lack of attempts, Garappolo did not qualify on the list of league leaders.
Garappolo finds himself in a similar situation to Trubisky heading into 2018. The 49ers, unfortunately, do not possess a big-time pass catcher. The teams best wideout last season, Marquise Goodwin, finished the season with 56 receptions for 962 yards and two touchdowns. Goodwin, surprisingly enough, was the only player on the team who saw 100+ targets. Pierre Garcon, who was expected to be “the guy” in the 49ers offense saw a pathetic sixty-seven. Garcon also failed to record a touchdown the entire season.
Two under-the-radar weapons the Niners also possess are tight end George Kittle and rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis. Kittle, who many see as a nice target in his respective offense, should provide a boon for Garappolo. He finished with an impressive 515 yards and 2 touchdowns, only starting seven games.
Pettis is a sleeper candidate. A multi-faceted weapon both in the receiving game and the return game, Pettis finished with 2,256 yards and 24 touchdowns in his college receiving career. In the return game, Pettis added another 9 touchdowns. It will be fun to watch him and Garappolo find their groove together.
The Niners were in the bottom third of teams when it came to running the ball last season, finishing with just a little over four-hundred attempts. With the exit of Carlos Hyde, it could ultimately benefit Garappolo’s passing stats even more.
The addition of the multi-faceted hybrid Jerick McKinnon will undoubtedly open up the offense, along with allowing more production from Garappolo. McKinnon is not your every down workhorse running back. However, he is a pass-catching machine at the position, something that bodes well for the Niners offense.
Many people are all about the Garappolo hype-train heading into next season, and while he indeed will not produce top-end quarterback numbers for fantasy football purposes, Garappolo finds himself as a “riser” heading into 2018.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan may seem like a strange name on this list. However, he indeed crashed back to reality last season. Just two years ago, Matt Ryan finished as the number two quarterback in fantasy football. Last season, he fell to the number fifteen quarterback overall.
One positive about Ryan is that he continued to display good durability, starting all sixteen games. The unfortunate thing is that Ryan averaged just 14.3 fantasy points per game. Not what was expected from a guy who finished at the top the season before.
Ryan saw a significant regression from the year before. In nearly the same number of attempts, Ryan finished with almost nine-hundred yards fewer, as well as a touchdown regression by almost four percent. By seasons end, Ryan posted twenty touchdowns to twelve interceptions. The year before, Ryan had gone off for thirty-eight touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Based on the entirety of Ryan’s career it’s clear 2016 was an outlier for “Matty Ice.”
One of the biggest relapses to Ryans season was his drop in ANY/A. In 2016, Ryan posted an excellent 9.03 ANY/A. Last season, he finished with a lowly 6.87. Naturally, his yards per game also regressed heavily from a monster 309.0 to an average 255.9
A significant issue existing within the offense was brand new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. While the Falcons still finished in the top ten in overall offensive, averaging 364.5 yards per game, it was still a disappointing season across the board. The team averaged a porous 249 yards passing per game. Sarkisian is on the hot seat and hopefully, that will inspire him to utilize his weapons in a more advantageous way in 2018 (Julio lots of targets in the end zone area???).
Looking at the Falcons receiving corp, if someone told you that Julio Jones did not lead the team in touchdowns, it would hardly be believable. In 2017 it is what happened though. While Jones did lead the teams in targets, receptions, and yards, by a wide margin, the touchdowns failed to manifest. Jones finished with 148 targets, 1,444 yards on 88 receptions, yet just three scores. Strange to say the least.
Moving back to Matt Ryan, there are a few reasons why he is considered the final “riser” on this list. For one, the Falcons used their first-round selection in this years NFL Draft on Calvin Ridley. Ridley, who starred in his freshman year at Alabama, finished with a relatively stable college career. Though Ridley failed to impress physically he does come to the NFL as the best route runner of this years draft class. Ridley’s route-running should help him acclimate to the pro game quickly allowing him to be another weapon at Ryan’s disposal.
Julio Jones also missed out on offseason workouts last year. This year, that is not the case and will hopefully use that to the teams, and most importantly Matt Ryan’s advantage, to help Ryan have a productive 2018. The team also brings back tight end Austin Hooper who provided a friendly target for Ryan as he posted nearly fifty receptions for over five hundred yards and three touchdowns.
The Falcons also bring back running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman both excellent pass catchers as well adding Ito Smith, another adept pass-catcher out of the backfield. Matt Ryan can be had later on in fantasy drafts and he is a perfect bounce-back candidate for next season.