Fantasy Football: 3 QB1 candidates being drafted QB5 or later

2RTK6KC Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) celebrates after a rushing touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson: Richardson is an elite rusher in scoring position, and his pass-catching corps is among the league’s deepest units.

Washington Commanders quarterback Jayden Daniels: Daniels’ expectedly high play volume and elite rushing ability quietly place him in overall QB1 contention as a rookie.

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Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Elite dual-threat productivity remains paramount for quarterbacks in fantasy football despite nearly all NFL teams leaning into pass-heavy offensive schemes.

As detailed in “The best rushers in the 2024 NFL Draft, “[t]he last two fantasy football seasons (Weeks 1-17) produced four quarterbacks apiece who averaged more than 21.0 fantasy points per game,” with five qualifying quarterbacks averaging 6.0-plus rushing attempts per game and all but one averaging at least 3.6.

Here, we break down three overall QB1 candidates who are currently being drafted outside the top four quarterbacks in fantasy football.

QB Anthony Richardson, Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis Colts second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson dazzled as a rookie but finished just two of four contests, suffering a Week 2 concussion and a season-ending Week 5 Grade 3 AC joint sprain in his throwing shoulder.

The 6-foot-4, 244-pound Richardson’s dominant dual-threat upside, elite offensive environment and minimal re-injury concerns place him firmly in the overall QB1 discussion. He is available as the QB6 in both half-points-per-reception (half-PPR) and PPR scoring. His 52.2 PFF overall grade last year ranked 46th among 50 NFL quarterbacks with at least 160 offensive snaps.

Per doctor of physical therapy Edwin Porras via The Injury [Pro]ne Fantasy Football Podcast, Richardson resumed throwing just five months post-operation, veering off course from his original eight-month plan. Richardson then smartly dialed things back after experiencing throwing-shoulder soreness, and Porras assured listeners that “hiccup[s]” are common in return-to-throw programs. He ranks Richardson as his overall QB1 entering the 2024 NFL season.

Head coach Shane Steichen’s brilliant scheme helps reinforce Richardson’s weekly rushing share behind Indianapolis’ excellent offensive line, which returns all five starters for 2024.

Richardson totaled 10 rushing attempts in his two healthy games, finishing as the overall QB4 in both contests. His open-field rushing must improve, but his talents in scoring position are already elite.

The table below ranks in parentheses Richardson’s rushing data among 35 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 rushing attempts, his red-zone rushing data among 23 NFL quarterbacks with at least eight red-zone rushing attempts, and his green-zone rushing data among 24 NFL quarterbacks with at least four green-zone rushing attempts.

NFL QB Rushing Anthony Richardson
PFF Rushing Grade 45.3 (No. 34)
Yards/Rush Att. 5.4 (No. 7)
PFF Red-Zone Rushing Grade 64.8 (T-No. 18)
Missed Tackles Forced/Rush Att. 0.25 (No. 3)
Yards/Rush Att. 5.5 (No. 1)
1st-Down + TD Conversion Rate 62.5% (T-No. 2)
PFF Green-Zone Rushing Grade 66.7 (No. 11)
Missed Tackles Forced/Rush Att. 0.5 (No. 2)
Yards After Contact/Rush Att. 2.0 (T-No. 6)
Yards/Rush Att. 2.5 (T-No. 8)
1st-Down + TD Conversion Rate 75.0% (T-No. 4)
Stuff Rate 0.0% (T-No. 1)

As detailed in “Best anchor RBs in Rounds 1-3 on Underdog Fantasy,” Indianapolis quarterbacks totaled a league-high 302 run-pass-option snaps, producing positive expected points added at the 11th-highest rate (43.7%), despite backup quarterback Gardner Minshew fielding 264 of them.

Steichen’s savvy play-calling coupled with Indianapolis’ quietly deep pass-catching corps, a dark-horse contender for the league’s best receiving unit, make for a quarterback-friendly environment.

Richardson’s aggressive 42.9% past-the-sticks throwing rate ranks 10th among 50 NFL quarterbacks with at least 95 dropbacks.

Indianapolis failed to make the playoffs last year, but No. 1 wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. still totaled 150 targets and 109 first-read targets, respectively ranking ninth and 13th among NFL wide receivers.

Among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 555 receiving snaps, Pittman ranks 10th or better in yards per route run (2.04), yards after the catch per reception (4.8), catch rate (72.7%), contested catch rate (53.6%) and target rate (26.6%), notably ranking and/or tying for fifth in the latter two categories.

Indianapolis slot receiver Josh Downs proved himself an NFL-ready starter in his 2023 rookie season, ranking 17th in explosive pass-play rate (21.6%), 16th in missed tackles forced per reception (0.12), 15th in target rate (18.0%), 14th in YPRR (1.50) and yards per reception (11.7), ninth in yards after the catch per reception (5.3) and tied for 10th in catch rate (71.8%) and ninth in contested catch rate (50.0%) among 32 NFL wide receivers with at least 205 slot-receiving snaps. His 68.3 PFF slot-receiving grade ranked 14th.

Indianapolis second-round rookie Adonai Mitchell (6-foot-2, 205 pounds and a 4.34-second 40-yard dash) will compete with wide receiver Alec Pierce for the downfield role. Among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 555 receiving snaps, Pierce’s 30.2% deep-target rate ranked third but his 56.6 PFF receiving grade ranked 31st. Mitchell’s 25.6% deep-target rate and 74.1 PFF receiving grade respectively ranked and tied for sixth and 22nd among 32 Power Five wide receivers with at least 400 receiving snaps.

Indianapolis’ tight end room is the only unit featuring four or more tight ends who earned at least 19 targets in 2023, making it the deepest among NFL teams. Among 62 qualifiers, second-year tight end Will Mallory ranks top 12 in yards per reception (11.5), explosive pass-play rate (27.8%), YPRR (1.62) and catch rate (81.8%).

Among NFL quarterbacks being drafted outside the top four, Richardson is the best bet finish as the overall QB1.

QB Jayden Daniels, Washington Commanders

Washington Commanders rookie quarterback Jayden Daniels is an overall QB1 contender thanks to sterling accuracy, downfield aggression, elite rushing ability and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury’s high-volume scheme. He is available as the QB14 in both half-PPR and PPR scoring formats, playing behind Washington’s reliable offensive line. Daniels’ 94.7 PFF overall grade ranks No. 1 among 37 Power Five quarterbacks with at least 680 offensive snaps.

Daniels is an exceptional downfield thrower, and his rushing resume gives him a strong case for being the 2024 NFL draft class’ No. 1 quarterback.

Among 37 Power Five quarterbacks with at least 45 targets thrown at least 10 yards downfield, between the painted numbers, Daniels ranks top two in yards per passing attempt (18.9), completion rate (67.4%) and adjusted completion rate (78.3%). His 95.4 PFF passing grade and 17.6% big-time-throw rate on qualifying throws both rank top four,” as detailed in “3 must-draft rookie quarterbacks.”

His 2023 rushing data holds its own, even when ranked among both quarterbacks and running backs. Among 73 qualifying Power Five players who totaled 120-plus rushing attempts, Daniels’ metrics include six top-three finishes, with his 10.4 yards per rushing attempt, 0.39 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt and his 43.5% first-down-plus-touchdown conversion rate ranking or tying for the No. 1 overall spot, as detailed in “The best rushers in the 2024 NFL Draft.”

Daniels’ extreme talents as a downfield thrower and rusher facilitate a high ceiling, while his play-to-play passing profile creates a reliable floor.

The table below ranks in parentheses Daniels’ 2023 passing data among 31 Power Five quarterbacks with at least 375 dropbacks.

Power Five QB Passing Jayden Daniels
PFF Passing Grade 92.0 (No. 2)
Big-Time-Throw Rate 8.4% (No. 2)
Turnover-Worthy Play Rate 1.7% (No. 5)
Adjusted Completion Rate 79.6% (No. 4)
Average Depth of Target 10.5 (No. 7)
Yards/Pass Att. 11.5 (No. 1)
Past-The-Sticks Throwing Rate 47.3% (No. 7)
Passer Rating 143.7 (No. 1)

As noted in “Best tight end landing spots in the 2024 NFL Draft,” Kingsbury employs an extremely fast offensive pace while leaning heavily on play-action passing. The expectedly high play volume gives Daniels above-average opportunities to pick up chunk gains on the ground. And Daniels' 91.4 PFF play-action passing grade in 2023 ranked third among 66 Power Five quarterbacks with at least 65 play-action dropbacks.

Washington’s front office overhauled the left guard and center positions, signing former Kansas City Chiefs guard Nick Allegretti and former Dallas Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz. The duo joins talented in-house blockers, left tackle Cornelius Lucas, right guard Sam Cosmi and right tackle Andrew Wylie, forming one of the league’s best units.

Among 94 NFL tackles with at least 220 offensive snaps last season, Lucas’ 73.6 PFF pass-blocking grade tied for 24th and Wylie’s 69.9 PFF overall grade tied for 42nd. Among 86 NFL guards with at least 245 offensive snaps, Allegretti’s 73.7 PFF pass-blocking grade ranked 13th and Cosmi’s 82.1 PFF overall grade ranked fourth. Among 32 NFL centers with at least 600 offensive snaps, Biadasz’s PFF 69.2 PFF overall grade ranked 13th.

Daniels is an overall QB1 contender in Year 1.

QB Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray is inexcusably available as the QB10 in both half-PPR and PPR scoring formats. He will contend for an overall QB1 finish in his second year after ACL reconstruction, thanks to his improved pass-catching corps, elite accuracy, rushing ability and offensive play calling.

Murray returned from ACL reconstruction in Week 10 last year, initially finishing as the premier QB2 (QB13). He notched QB6 and QB10 performances in the following weeks before powering fantasy managers to playoff victories as the QB12 (Week 16) and QB5 (Week 17). His remaining three games yielded mid-tier QB2 results — impressive, given his thin pass-catching corps and still-recovering knee.

Murray enters 2024 armed with a complementary one-two receiving punch in his new, elite boundary player, first-round rookie wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., and centerfield dominator, tight end Trey McBride. As detailed in the article linked above, “Harrison’s 89.6 PFF receiving grade, 32.4% target rate and 3.44 YPRR rank fourth, second and third, respectively, among 22 Power Five wide receivers with at least 100 targets in 2023,” and McBride’s 80.5 PFF receiving grade in 2023 ranked fifth among 31 NFL tight ends with at least 45 targets.

Among 44 NFL running backs with at least 30 targets last season, starting running back James Conner ranked 16th in yards after the catch per reception (8.5) and ninth in catch rate (87.1%), while backup running back Michael Carter ranked 14th in target rate (20.5%). Third-round rookie running back Trey Benson’s 1.46 YPRR and 12.3 yards after the catch per reception respectively ranked ninth and third among 45 Power Five running backs with at least 24 targets.

Murray’s pinpoint accuracy produced “a second-ranked 1.8% turnover-worthy play rate, ranked among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 275 dropbacks,” as noted in “Best values in Rounds 4-10 on Underdog Fantasy,” and he astonishingly set four career highs as a rusher. Among 35 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 rushing attempts, Murray ranked ninth in explosive run-play rate (20.5%), eighth in missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.18) and fourth in yards per rushing attempt (5.5). He should routinely surpass the ideal 6.0 per-game rushing attempts threshold after averaging 5.5 attempts last year.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon’s smart play calling is also mentioned in the above article. Arizona’s fast pace (6.8 offensive plays per drive) and helpful play-action passing rate (23.6%) will give Murray ample opportunities to generate explosive plays. His 83.3% adjusted completion rate on play-action passes in 2023 ranked third among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 65 play-action passes.

Murray will contend for the overall QB1 spot in 2024.


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