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Fantasy Football 2023: Quarterback Sleepers, Breakouts & Busts

The quarterback position is fascinating this season, and Fantasy managers have a tough decision to make on Draft Day. Do you buy back into drafting quarterbacks early? Or does waiting on the position still make sense?

Let’s try to make sense of it all.

In 2022, there were four quarterbacks (Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Joe Burrow) who averaged more than 25 Fantasy points per game in leagues where you get six points for passing touchdowns. The next closest was Lamar Jackson at 21.3 Fantasy points per game, and only 10 quarterbacks were over 20 points per game for the season. It was a bad season for the position, and the best of the best really stood out.

But in 2021, eight quarterbacks averaged between 27.9 Fantasy points per game and 24.2, and 12 quarterbacks averaged at least 22 points per game. We had 11 quarterbacks average at least 25.6 Fantasy points per game in 2020.

I think this past season was more the exception than the rule, and we’ll see better quarterback play in 2023. For example, along with Mahomes, Allen, Hurts and Burrow, I could see Jackson, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert and Trevor Lawrence average more than 25 Fantasy points per game. I’m also expecting quality seasons from Tua Tagovailoa, Anthony Richardson, Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott, and we’ll see what happens with other guys like Daniel Jones, Kirk Cousins, Geno Smith, Aaron Rodgers and Jared Goff, who all have 20-point upside. 

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It’s still a deep position — Sam Howell, Jordan Love, Kenny Pickett and Brock Purdy even offer plenty of upside, and hopefully Kyler Murray (ACL) is healthy soon — and I’m not going to panic based on what happened last year. Neither should you.

I’m fine drafting Mahomes, Allen and Hurts, but only if they fall to the end of Round 2 or later. The tier of quarterbacks I prefer to draft are Jackson, Fields, Burrow and Herbert, but only if I can get them at the right price in Round 5 or later. 

Lawrence is usually available in Round 7, which is great. And I’m also excited to draft Richardson or Tagovailoa as early as Round 8.

In Round 9, I’d look for Watson or Prescott, and if I miss on any of those guys, then I’m just waiting as long as possible to grab two of Jones, Cousins, Smith, Rodgers or Goff. Do they have the same upside as Mahomes, Allen or Hurts? No. Can I still win my Fantasy league with one of those quarterbacks? Absolutely.

Now, let’s take a look at some sleepers, breakouts and busts at quarterback for this season. We’ll use the CBS Sports Average Draft Position data as of August 22 as our guide.


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Fantasy managers don’t want to trust Jones this season despite the way he performed in 2022, his first season with coach Brian Daboll. Jones (ADP of 109.5 as QB15) became one of nine quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards and 700 rushing yards, joining Randall Cunningham (1990), Cam Newton (2011, 2012 and 2017), Robert Griffin III (2012), Russell Wilson (2014), Lamar Jackson (2019), Kyler Murray (2020), Josh Allen (2021 and 2022) and Jalen Hurts (2021 and 2022). That’s lofty company, and now we have to see if Jones can do it again. He averaged 19.9 Fantasy points per game last year, but now the Giants added better weapons in Darren Waller, Parris Campbell and Jalin Hyatt, along with Saquon Barkley avoiding a holdout. Jones is one of the best quarterbacks to wait for on Draft Day because he offers top-10 upside in 2023.

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Smith had a standout season in 2022 in his first year as the starter in Seattle, and he could be even better this year. But Fantasy managers are choosing to ignore Smith since he’s being drafted as the No. 17 quarterback with an ADP of 114.8. He finished 2022 as the No. 5 quarterback in total points and No. 9 in points per game at 20.5. Since then, Seattle committed to Smith as the starter in 2023 and added talented rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba to an already quality receiving corps with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Smith has the chance to improve on last year’s production when he passed for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while also running for 366 yards and one score. He had 11 games with at least 20 Fantasy points, and hopefully he continues to not “write back” after everyone wrote him off. He’s a great fallback option as a No. 1 quarterback in all leagues.

Other sleepers to consider: Sam Howell, Jordan Love, Kenny Pickett


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Richardson’s ADP on CBS (112.5) puts him in sleeper territory, but anyone calling him a sleeper is cheating. He’s a breakout candidate since he should be drafted as a No. 1 quarterback in all leagues. Since 2010, there have been 16 times where a quarterback has rushed for at least 700 yards. Of those 16 times, only Daniel Jones last season was below 20 Fantasy points per game (he scored 19.9). And two rookies accomplished that feat with Robert Griffin III in 2012 and Cam Newton in 2011. We expect Richardson to potentially run for 1,000 yards — his SportsLine projection is 1,039 yards — and he could be a surprise as a passer. In 12 games for the Gators in 2022, Richardson had 2,549 passing yards and 654 rushing yards, which is 212.4 passing yards per game and 54.5 rushing yards per game. That puts him on a 17-game pace for 3,611 passing yards and 927 rushing yards. It’s hard to expect that level of production exactly, but Richardson has the chance to make an immediate impact for Fantasy managers in his rookie campaign.

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It’s evident why Tagovailoa can be a breakout quarterback this season. He has arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle and a great play caller in Mike McDaniel. In 2022, Tagovailoa had four outings with at least 29 Fantasy points in the 11 healthy games he played. But it’s the six games he missed or didn’t finish that have Fantasy managers concerned, and Tagovailoa was plagued by concussions last year. He’s hopeful that’s a thing of the past, but it’s going to be a concern until he plays a full season. We’d love to see that happen in 2023, and then he’ll end up as a steal in Round 8. Given his offense and receiving corps, Tagovailoa can be a top-five Fantasy quarterback in all leagues. And, if you draft the right backup quarterback with a late-round pick, you should be covered in case Tagovailoa misses any time again, and my favorite targets are Daniel Jones, Geno Smith and Jared Goff.


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I don’t want to call Mahomes a bust, after all he is my No. 1 ranked quarterback this season. But in a one-quarterback league, he should not be drafted in Round 1, and unfortunately his CBS ADP has him at No. 3 overall. I also don’t like Jalen Hurts (No. 8 overall), Josh Allen (No. 11), Joe Burrow (No. 22) or Justin Herbert (No. 28) at their current ADP. I understand these quarterbacks are safe and beyond proven, but I still don’t want to draft them this early in a one-quarterback league. You’re passing on some high-end running back and wide receiver talent, and I’d rather draft Travis Kelce instead of Mahomes in Round 1. If this is where you have to draft a top-tier quarterback then I’m just going to wait for guys like Anthony Richardson and Tua Tagovailoa instead.

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As stated above, I don’t mind Rodgers with a late-round pick this year as a high-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback. But based on the CBS ADP, you’re not getting him late since he’s QB11 at 77.5. I’m hopeful Rodgers, 39, can turn back the clock and play like the MVP he was in 2020 and 2021, when he averaged at least 25.4 Fantasy points per game in each of those seasons. But he was awful last year in his final season with the Packers at 17.1 Fantasy points per game, and he might be washed up. He has a quality receiving corps with the Jets, which is led by sophomore standout Garrett Wilson, and Rodgers is thrilled to be reunited with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. But his offensive line has question marks, and the Jets have one of the worst schedules in the NFL (they open with Buffalo, Dallas, New England, Kansas City, Denver and Philadelphia in their first six games). If you want to draft Rodgers as a No. 1 Fantasy quarterback then that’s your decision, but he should not be selected in Round 7.

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