Fantasy: Which QB prospects have the best chance to become stars?

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With the 2019 NFL Draft just a few weeks away, we’ve had time to go over prospects’ game tape, analyze their athletic testing, watch interviews, and assemble as many puzzle pieces as possible to project what their professional careers will look like.

As we wait to find out how NFL front offices value the incoming crop of rookies, we can begin to translate available information to help us make fantasy decisions in the future.

Landing spots will have a major impact, not only in terms of a player’s opportunity and draft capital but also coaching and team culture. A promising athlete drafted into a positive environment has an opening to reach his full potential, while the same player selected by the wrong team may never overcome his situation.

The range of outcomes for college stars entering the pros his vast, but let’s start this series by taking a look at the quarterbacks most likely to become fantasy relevant at the next level.

Potential franchise-changer

Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

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Most rookie classes are limited in the number of starting quarterbacks they deliver to the league and this year it may only be one – Murray.

All signs point to the Oklahoma product being selected No. 1 in the draft, either by the Cardinals, who currently hold the first overall pick, or by another team that moves into the first spot if Arizona is faking its interest to maximize the return in a potential trade.

Unlike most of the passers coming out, Murray is capable of starting right away. He has a strong pocket awareness and is outstanding at extending plays, consistently keeping his eyes downfield even when pressured. His speed and smooth running style will keep defenses honest and could help him find early success similar to Russell Wilson.

Standing at 5-foot-10, his height seems to be the biggest knock on his game by those in the industry, but it rarely resulted in passes being batted down. He was well below other top prospects in that category last season, according to the NFL Media Research Department, despite giving up at least five inches to each of them.

Player Batted Passes
Daniel Jones 12
Drew Lock 8
Dwayne Haskins 5
Kyler Murray 5

Murray doesn’t have the arm strength that some of the other quarterbacks on this list possess, but there isn’t a throw on the field he can’t make. My only concerns would be his tendency to miss his pass-catchers high at times and a need to improve his anticipation on throws; however, both can be worked on and neither scares me away from his overall talent.

Fantasy outlook: If he ends up with the Cardinals, Murray will find himself in what’s projected to be a high-volume passing attack under Kliff Kingsbury, an offensive-minded head coach known for a spread attack. That system will open holes for Murray to capitalize on with his legs while giving him the volume to produce as a passer.

David Johnson is one of the league’s most dynamic pass-catchers out of the backfield, sophomore Christian Kirk showed signs of game-breaking skills as a rookie, and Larry Fitzgerald remains a dependable force in the slot.

With his dual-threat ability, Murray could put up fringe top-12 fantasy stats in his first year. Remember, less accomplished passers like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen cracked fantasy lineups in the second half of the 2018 season thanks to their production on the ground.

Needs some time

Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

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There are many Haskins supporters out there, who see him as the top quarterback prospect in 2019. I don’t agree with them.

Haskins definitely improved over his final few games, but he’s a player who will require a year or two of seasoning if he’s going to be a quality starter in the pros. Unlike Murray, Haskins doesn’t have the athleticism to fall back on as he gets acclimated to a higher level of competition.

His extremely slow 5.04-second 40-yard dash time wasn’t surprising as his success in college wasn’t due to mobility. And though Haskins is a lock to hear his name called during the opening night of the draft, it does cast doubt on his future when you consider that Mark Sanchez is the only quarterback since 2003 to be drafted in the first round after posting a 40 time above five seconds.

Haskins posted other eyebrow-raising numbers during physical testing, as well. His ball velocity ranked second-worst among quarterbacks who threw at the combine. It doesn’t preclude him from prospering in the NFL, but it’s worrisome for an old-school pocket-passer type. The only players we’ve seen excel despite low-end velocity scores have been runners like Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson.

I’ll admit that arm strength didn’t stand out as a problem area for Haskins during Ohio State’s games. His passing issues revolved around a tendency to make very dangerous decisions when pressured, an inconsistent touch on short and intermediate throws (especially screens), and a throwing motion that could be refined by better coaching. If he can continue the development he showed over his final few contests, he’ll become the face of a franchise down the road.

Fantasy outlook: Haskins is a dynasty stash, who won’t return value in 2019. The worst-case scenario would be a team drafting him and immediately thrusting him into its starting lineup. Holding the clipboard behind a veteran for at least one season is the blueprint for Haskins to eventually emerge as a fantasy starter. His ceiling rests below the elite tier of passers, where someone like Jameis Winston resides, while his floor would put him into the next category as a career backup.

Backup bound

Drew Lock, Missouri
Daniel Jones, Duke
Will Grier, West Virginia

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Grouping the next trio of quarterbacks together seems fitting as all three are missing just enough to limit them in the next phase of their careers.

Lock is an enticing prospect who flashes pinpoint deep-ball accuracy and isn’t afraid to trust his arm and throw into traffic, but his confidence can get the best of him. Poor footwork exposes Lock far too often and that becomes even more evident when pressure breaks through the pocket. He also has a long way to go in moving through his reads.

Jones looks the part of an NFL quarterback even if the package is missing some important items. He has a big windup in his throwing motion and pushes the ball too much. He feels pressure well, though he doesn’t always escape it. Jones was the victim of an unfair amount of receiver drops, which could explain his proximity to most of the minimum thresholds for quarterbacks.

Jones’ underrated rushing ability could be the key to him overachieving in the pros and turning into a fantasy contributor.

The 24-year-old Grier is the oldest player on this list and might be the most fun to watch after Murray. His willingness to challenge defenses makes him the kind of risk-taking quarterback that fans fall in love with. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the arm strength to overcome his poor decision-making. When part of his line collapses, Grier’s escapability is shockingly bad, often leading to him losing huge chunks of yards trying to evade tacklers.

Fantasy outlook: With the right coaching Lock, Jones, and/or Grier could find their way to starter status, though it’s more likely that their stock is being inflated by a weak quarterback class. In the coming years, you can expect to see them pop onto the fantasy radar in spot starts when their club’s top option is sidelined, just don’t invest in them as a long-term answer for any of your fantasy teams.

Deserves more hype

Tyree Jackson, Buffalo

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Jackson is the ultimate project among this year’s class and boasts the tools to be a starter if he can bring it all together.

He displayed a monster arm, contrasted by a complete lack of touch and accuracy, reminiscent of the man starting for the NFL team in the same city as Jackson’s college – Josh Allen. Jackson isn’t as far along in his development as Allen and, therefore, won’t come with the same kind of draft capital.

Still, Jackson is an intriguing prospect who moves very well for his size and is able to break free of would-be tacklers thanks to his 6-foot-7, 245-pound frame.

With so much upside under the surface, Jackson is the kind of low-cost investment that front offices would be wise to use a late-round pick on during the final day of the draft.

Fantasy outlook: Fantasy owners in re-draft leagues won’t need to concern themselves with Jackson for a while, maybe ever. But for any dynasty owners with deep benches, you should spend one of your last picks in this year’s rookie draft on Jackson.

Long shot

Brett Rypien, Boise State

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Rypien is the only other quarterback prospect I can envision making a fantasy impact at some point. That’s not to say Rypien has a bright future, but he could deliver if put in the perfect setting. Think of someone like Andy Dalton, who requires a stellar supporting cast.

The 22-year-old Rypien doesn’t have a signature skill but makes the most of his abilities. His accuracy and anticipation cover up a lack of power on his throws. He doesn’t shy away from tucking the ball and running when the situation presents itself. He’ll attempt whatever it takes to move the ball downfield.

If he’s going to have a chance on the big stage, he’ll need to learn to feel pressure coming off the edge, something that gets him in trouble more frequently than it should.

Fantasy outlook: Let me reiterate that we’re digging deeper here. The odds of Rypien evolving into an NFL starter are slim, let alone a fantasy option. However unlikely, Rypien has enough in his toolbox to warrant mention over quarterbacks like Ryan Finley, Jarrett Stidham, and Clayton Thorson who were solid in college but will have a hard time climbing NFL depth charts.