💪 A QB Competition in DEN?

The orphan dogs are fighting...


I mean, if Peyton Manning is in your corner…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter, presented by Masterworks:

  • QB Battle: Is it heating up in DEN?

  • Watercooler: The NFL Countdown Begins

  • Team Preview: NY Jets

  • It's 5/28. Take it away, Cooterdoodle...

There's nothing novel about a friendly QB competition. 

And in our current landscape, where six rookie QBs were drafted within the first 12 picks of the 2024 NFL draft, it's not surprising that many teams are ready to name their new starters:

  • 1.01 - CHI Caleb Williams

  • 1.02 - WAS Jayden Daniels

  • 1.03 - NE Drake Maye

  • 1.08 - ATL Michael Penix Jr.

  • 1.10 - MIN JJ McCarthy

  • 1.12 - DEN Bo Nix

CHI, WAS, and MIN (who traded away their previous starters of Justin Fields, Sam Howell, and Kirk Cousins) are expected to roll out their young guns in 2024. But not every team's depth chart is quite as clear cut, despite the first round investments.

🐶 Dog Fight in Denver

Since DEN drafted Bo Nix in April, there have been some warranted questions surrounding the Bronco’s 12th overall pick. 

For starters, Nix had Day 2 grades in the draft, leaving many to wonder if his Day 1 selection was a reach, to say the least. Some even called the pick 'panic-drafting', while others labeled it more kindly.

With such strong conviction in their decision, it would seem that DEN has already sown their seeds for a bona fide starting QB in Nix. But according to Sean Payton, all of his "Orphan Dogs" still have a chance to prove themselves in OTAs and fight for the starting gig.

And in Payton's defense, he has been giving each dawg their opportunity - rotating the trio in first-team reps. This QB room has officially been labeled as a “full-scale competition”, y’all.

But we've seen this film before. Coach speak and QB battles can sometimes be an unnecessary smoke screen against an already decided depth chart.

But things can and do change quickly in the NFL, so we can't ignore any news as it comes out. We can just try to read the tea leaves.

Here’s what we know as of now:

Sure, it's possible that this is all a charade meant to keep us fooled. Sean Payton did hide his first round target, after all. Perhaps the battle is “not even close”.

And if NFL coaches are anything like us on draft day, the drive to do whatever it takes and "get your guy" might speak more towards DEN's plans than any first-team reps or OTA reports ever could.

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📈 Stock up, stock down. Risers and fallers you need to monitor.

❤️ There will never be another like him. RIP to the great Bill Walton. 

🗓️ The NFL countdown has begun. Give me double digits!

🏀 The Chiefs continue to enjoy their time off. Work hard, play hard. 

🦞 Saints rookies are adjusting to the culture. There’s a first time for everything.

Jets team preview

An absolutely electric Week 1 atmosphere was quickly undone when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles just four snaps into the 2023 season. While the Jets managed to feign competitiveness enough to still end October with a 4-3 record, things quickly unraveled soon afterward to the tune of another 7-10 campaign. Will the Jets bounce back in 2024? Ian Hartitz dives in…

✈️ Quarterback

There's obviously nothing to take away from Rodgers' four snaps with the Jets last season, but it's worth remembering he wasn't entering 2023 at the peak of his powers despite being just one year removed from winning back-to-back MVP awards.

  • 2022: +0.039 EPA per dropback (No. 21), +0.5% completion percentage over expected (No. 14)

  • 2021: +0.259 (No. 1), +5.8% (No. 2)

  • 2020: +0.362 (No. 1), +7.2% (No. 1)

Initially, the public consensus was that the Packers didn't offer the same sort of high-end supporting cast that Rodgers needed to play at an elite level, although Jordan Love's quick ascension in 2023 made that idea a bit harder to believe (with all due respect to Green Bay's influx of talented rookie WRs and TEs).

We can get an idea of how good a QB's offensive environment is by averaging a team's PFF rushing, receiving, pass blocking and run blocking grades (everything except passing). It's not a picture-perfect formula (what is?), but the results match the eye test, particularly in New York:

Jets and Packers rank in Supporting Cast Rating

  • 2023: Jets (31st), Packers (12th)

  • 2022: Jets (31st), Packers (11th)

Yes, 2024 is a new year. Also yes, the actual marquee upgrades for an offense that has scored the NFL's fewest TDs (80) over the past three seasons don't exactly look like enough to take this supporting cast from (arguably worst) to anything close to first:

  • WR Mike Williams: Has multiple 1,000-plus yard seasons to his name, but is far from guaranteed to be his usual big-play self coming off a torn ACL. Williams also will turn 30 in October.

  • WR Malachi Corley: The YAC specialist has earned some Deebo comps during this offseason cycle, but the historical hit rate on players with a high percentage of manufactured touches (low aDOT and low wide alignment rate) is full of landmines.

  • OT Olumuyiwa Fashanu, LT Tyron Smith, RT Morgan Moses, LG John Simpson: The veterans are 33, 33 and 26 years of age, respectively, while Fashanu isn't exactly guaranteed to be a stud in Year 1.

As a whole, these moves are good! Both the WR and offensive line rooms are objectively in better states than they were last year … but are we REALLY talking about the sort of moves capable of booming bottom-five performing groups into the sort of game-changing entities that Rodgers might need to regain elite play at this stage of his career?

Obviously, even 70% of what we're used to seeing out of Rodgers would be an upgrade over Zach Wilson, who has functioned as probably the single-worst QB in the NFL since 2021. To be clear: Having Rodgers under center is fantastic news for the Jets' real-life 2024 aspirations; I'm just hesitant to expect too much of a rebound in fantasy land for a 40-year-old veteran coming off an Achilles tear.

Rodgers will be well within the usual Achilles rupture timetable of nine to 12 months by the time next September rolls around; just realize he was already coming off back-to-back-to-back career-low marks in rushing yards per game during his final three years in Green Bay — there's little reason to expect Rodgers to start partying like it's 2020 again on the football field.

✍️ Bottom line

The 2022 version of Rodgers finished as just the QB22 in fantasy points per game, and it's tough to objectively call his 2024 setup an upgrade in terms of both his personal athletic upside as well as his supporting cast.

Rodgers' QB20 ADP isn't egregious, but I won't be going out of my way to land the elderly QB outside as anything more than a second option in best ball lineups that already have Garrett Wilson.

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