The secret to winning at fantasy football is finding those “sleepers” that offer exceptional value where they are being drafted, especially when it comes to drafting quarterbacks.
One of the latest trends to come along in fantasy football is the “late-round QB strategy” where you load up on other position players while waiting to draft a QB. Waiting to draft a QB is a good idea and if you are going to use this strategy, you need make some smart choices near the end of your draft.
Here are five under-the-radar quarterback steals that you should target this year in your fantasy football drafts.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
You might roll your eyes when you see Manning’s (above, right) name on this list, and it’s true that he has been below average for five years now, but if you look really hard you can see major upside. Odell Beckham Jr. will be back at 100 percent, Sterling Shepard took a major leap forward last season, second-year tight end Evan Engram had one of the best fantasy seasons from a rookie at the position and the Giants just drafted Saquon Barkley, who also will help in the passing game. The Giants invested in re-tooling their offensive line this offseason and more importantly replaced terrible Ben McAdoo with Pat Shurmur at head coach, who turned Case Keenum into a quality QB and was Nick Foles' coordinator when he threw 27 TD passes in 2013. This is Manning’s best supporting cast he has ever worked with, which should help him be a top 12 fantasy QB this year.
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Trubisky struggled as a rookie in 2017, but that wasn’t all his fault as he was on a very short leash and had old-school John Fox as his head coach. He did show potential and improved as the season progressed, posting completion rates of 60 percent or higher in six of his last eight starts. This year he will be ready to lead the offense and given the chance to use his strong arm with Matt Nagy taking over as head coach and Mark Helfrich as his offensive coordinator. The Bears also surrounded Trubinsky with more weapons by adding Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton to go along with returnees Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Trubisky probably won’t be drafted in most 12-team leagues, but he is definitely worth monitoring as the season goes along and is extremely undervalued in 2-QB leagues.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
A lot of people know about Mahomes' potential, but when it comes to draft day, most are going to take the safe route and draft Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston or Dak Prescott instead. Don't make the same mistake. Mahomes has the potential to be this year’s Carson Wentz. We’ve already seen glimpses of his elite arm strength, and in his one start last year he finished with 284 passing yards (with an INT) on the road against Denver. Don’t forget that he also had a rushing touchdown called back because of a penalty, and he was without Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Mahomes' arm strength is crazy, but in this Chiefs offense, it might not even matter. Kansas City pass catchers were third in yards after the catch last year, and Sammy Watkins has been added to the mix. With his rushing ability, strong arm, and a plethora of talent around him, Mahomes should produce during his first year as a starter.
Alex Smith, Washington Redskins
Not many people will remember that Smith had a career year last year in Kansas City, throwing for 4,042 yards and 26 TDs while adding 355 yards and a score on the ground. That was good enough for him to finish fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy points (Athlon scoring), above the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan (to name a few). Not bad for a guy who went undrafted in the majority of leagues that started one QB. Now Smith moves to the Redskins where he will be coached up by Jay Gruden, who helped Andy Dalton become fantasy relevant during his time with the Bengals, and helped make Kirk Cousins a top-10 fantasy QB as well. Look for Smith to once again throw for more than 4,000 yards, rush for more than 300 and produce close to 30 total TDs this year. Numbers like that will once again easily make him a top-10 fantasy QB, not too bad for someone currently being drafted as the 20th QB, according to FantasyPros.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
It might seem like cheating to call Luck a sleeper, but he’s being drafted as QB10 behind guys like Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo. It seems that even though Luck appears healthy, most fantasy football owners are scared off because of his injury history and the fact that he hasn’t thrown a pass in a real NFL game since Jan. 1, 2017. The true definition of a sleeper means value and if you are getting Luck in the eighth or ninth round of your draft, that’s a steal. Don’t forget that Luck has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in three of his four full NFL seasons, and he also has 1,442 rushing yards to go along with 14 rushing touchdowns. The former No. 1 overall pick has finished as a top-four QB in fantasy three times and in the top 10 in four of his five seasons. If Luck truly is healthy, he has top-three fantasy potential and is well worth grabbing on draft day.
-- Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.
And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2018 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.