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Fantasy football 2023: Colts' Anthony Richardson among top 10 QB values

Everyone loves good value. It's how an upstart online bookseller became a multinational one-stop online mall. (Y'know, the one named after a South American rainforest.) 

The reasons are simple. It makes us feel smarter. Because we've done research to find efficiencies others have missed. Or because our intuition led us to a conclusion outside the norm. Regardless, we all like to believe we're getting something extra than what we paid for.  

The same is true for fantasy football drafters. Especially for fantasy football drafters. We spend offseasons poring over the previous year's stats. We occupy our summers projecting the next year's stats. We're on information overload trying to divine which players are rising and falling. And through it all, we're trying to figure out which guys aren't getting the respect they deserve. All the better to take advantage of our league mates.

Finding value in fantasy is no different than finding it on a set of Allen wrenches. Or some dumbbells for your home gym. It's about getting something that performs above expectations. In this context, can a player finish above where you drafted him?

There might be no better position to find value than at quarterback. With most leagues only starting one player, there's plenty to go around for most fantasy drafters. It feels good to have Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen in your lineup. But there are other players that could give you a warm feeling inside without the draft day sticker shock. With that in mind, here are my top 10 values at the position heading into the 2023 NFL season.

NOTE: Projected draft position is based on a 12-team league format.

Lamar Jackson
Baltimore Ravens

Projected draft position: Rounds 4-5

Lamar Jackson mesmerized us in 2019. He (and fantasy managers) have been chasing that plateau ever since. Injuries have played a part in his struggle to reach that high bar –- Jackson has missed a combined 10 games over the past two seasons. A bigger issue has been a lackluster wide receiver corps. Since 2020, former Raven Marquise Brown is the only Baltimore wide receiver to top 50 receptions and 600 yards. (He did it twice before being traded to the Cardinals in 2022.)  

Entering 2023, Jackson looks to be healthy again. He'll pilot an offense designed by new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. They'll look to take advantage of a revamped wide receiver room. Baltimore hopes Rashod Bateman, Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Zay Flowers are the answer, and the offense will soar if that trio of receivers can complement three-time Pro Bowl tight end Mark Andrews. That's not to discount Jackson's game-breaking rushing ability. He could challenge to be THE QB1 this year ... yet people are drafting him as the QB5. A potential steal in the making.

Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns

Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8

After going 700 days between regular-season starts, Deshaun Watson returned to action last December and, well ... he did not play well. Watson started the final six games of the year and averaged fewer than 185 passing yards per game. His 7:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, as you can imagine, wasn't great for his fantasy numbers. He averaged 15.1 points per game. For context, Marcus Mariota averaged 15.8 per contest.

It's unlikely Watson will be that awful again in 2023. At his peak, he was a top-five fantasy quarterback. Now he's in a Cleveland offense that looks to be more pass-heavy than in past seasons. Amari Cooper, David Njoku and Elijah Moore are a better trio than any he had in Houston. Watson isn't a runner on par with Jalen Hurts or Lamar Jackson, but he's still dangerous with his legs. And his ADP sits in the same area as Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins -– two darlings of the Wait on a Quarterback crowd. Watson doesn't have to play at his ceiling to be a value. He only needs to avoid his floor. 

Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins

Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8

In 2022, Tua Tagovailoa was on track to finish the year as a top 10 fantasy signal-caller. Unfortunately, concussions derailed his season. As a result, fantasy drafters are pushing him down draft boards. Tua’s ADP falls somewhere between Kirk Cousins and Daniel Jones, both of whom have lower floors and ceilings. 

Tagovailoa set career-highs in almost every passing category in 13 games last year. The positives are obvious. He's entering his second year in Mike McDaniel's offense. He still has Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The 2022 Dolphins were a top-12 scoring team, and that's without having their quarterback healthy all year. But Tagovailoa will need to stay on the field. His 13 games in 2022 also matched a career-high. The upside is that in the range you're drafting Tua, you can add another quarterback as an insurance policy.

Russell Wilson
Denver Broncos

Projected draft position: Rounds 9-10

The central question in Denver this year is: Can Russ cook or is Russ cooked? There is reason to worry that it's the latter. But Wilson's 2022 finish offers some hope. In his final four contests, Wilson averaged 21.6 fantasy points per game -- third among QBs in that stretch. Head coach Sean Payton's prime directive is to maximize his quarterback's performance. That's a reason for optimism. Then there is this ...

Part of Wilson's recent fantasy decline has coincided with a downturn in rushing attempts. He's been a top-10 fantasy quarterback every season he's run for more than 300 yards. If he can reach that plateau, he would far outperform his current QB17 average draft position.

Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks

Projected draft position: Rounds 8-9

While Wilson was floundering in Denver, his replacement was thriving. It took until his ninth NFL campaign for Geno Smith to have his breakout. Smith was one of the biggest fantasy surprises of 2022. He shattered his previous career-highs on his way to a QB5 finish. He also supported a pair of top-20 receivers in Tyler Lockett (WR13) and DK Metcalf (WR19).  

Is Smith a one-year wonder or is there some staying power? The Seahawks seem to believe that they’ve found something, signing Geno to a three-year contract this offseason. They rewarded him further by spending a first-round pick on receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. If you prefer waiting on QBs, Smith should be a prime target. 

Anthony Richardson
Indianapolis Colts

Projected draft position: Round 12 or later

There was a time when only the foolhardy fantasy manager would draft a rookie QB who was a raw passer. Nowadays, some drafters will overlook that potential issue if there's a strong rushing upside. How much can a quarterback’s rushing ability help his fantasy production? Four QBs finished in the top 12 last season despite having fewer than 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. Three of the four had at least 700 rushing yards. (The fourth was Aaron Rodgers.) 

That's enough to put Anthony Richardson on the fantasy radar. In his final season at Florida, Richardson ran for 654 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. A similar pace in the NFL would put him over 900 yards with double-digit touchdowns. That’s a safe floor that only goes up if he turns out to be a better passer than anticipated in Year 1. Richardson has the upside of a low-end QB1 and the draft price of a low-end QB2. To me, he's currently going behind Jimmy Garoppolo and Kenny Pickett. Neither player offers a similar ceiling. The reward here far outweighs the risk. 

Kirk Cousins
Minnesota Vikings

Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8

Let’s be honest. Nothing about Cousins is exciting. He doesn’t dazzle you with his arm like Patrick Mahomes. He isn’t a rare athlete like Josh Allen. He has zero rushing upside. He’s oatmeal. No one gets very excited about oatmeal. But it’s effective at squashing hunger. And sometimes that’s all you need. 

Cousins is consistent. He’s played at least 15 games and thrown at least 25 touchdowns in each of the last eight seasons. During that time, he’s thrown for more than 4,000 yards seven times and had six top-10 fantasy QB finishes. If Minnesota’s defense doesn't show significant improvement, the Vikings will again be one of the NFL’s pass-heaviest offenses. His arsenal features Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson and first-round rookie Jordan Addison. Cousins could provide returns above his QB11 average draft position. 

Jared Goff
Detroit Lions

Projected draft position: Rounds 7-8

Goff is coming off his best season since helping the Rams to the Super Bowl in the 2018 campaign. It also marked his only top-10 fantasy finish since that 2018 season. I don't know if Goff will be Mr. Right for the Lions long-term. But he is Mr. Right Now and that could be good enough for fantasy fans.

This year’s offense has swapped Jamaal Williams for David Montgomery. It’s replaced D’Andre Swift with Jahmyr Gibbs. And Jameson Williams (when he returns from his six-game suspension) and Sam LaPorta will complement Amon-Ra St. Brown. This could be a much more aggressive aerial attack than last year. Goff won't be your weekly starter, but he has fringe QB1 potential and comes as a low-risk second option in the later rounds. 

Daniel Jones
New York Giants

Projected draft position: Rounds 8-9

Jones is proof of the power of rushing quarterbacks. Danny Dimes set a career-high with 3,205 passing yards last season. Yet Danny Dash might have been a more appropriate nickname. Jones gained 708 yards on the ground with seven rushing scores.  

It’s fair to wonder if Jones hit his ceiling in 2022. Drafters seem to think so based on his QB13 ADP, but there are reasons to think he could replicate last year’s breakout. The biggest positive is the return of Saquon Barkley, who opened up a lot of opportunities for Jones as a runner and passer. The Giants are favoring a strength-in-numbers approach at wide receiver. But they added a big piece with tight end Darren Waller. If Jones’ rushing production holds steady, he can improve on last season’s totals.

Matthew Stafford
Los Angeles Rams

Projected draft position: Rounds 11-12

For years, Matthew Stafford has been the patron saint of The Church of Wait On a Quarterback. He held firm as a guy you could draft in the ninth round or later and still end up with a quality QB1. But it all went wrong in 2022. The Rams’ offense was a mess. Injuries ravaged the team and limited Stafford to nine games.  

With a lot of wear and tear at age 35, a full return to fantasy glory might not be in the cards for Stafford this year. But he’s still a talented player. When you have Cooper Kupp as a target and Sean McVay calling the plays, you’ll always have a chance to be productive. Stafford’s ADP means he’ll be low-risk in a lot of drafts. He holds QB2 appeal for managers looking to rotate quarterbacks.