🤷 A Weird End To A Wild QB Saga

Let's unpack it...

Everyone inviting Ryan Poles to their fantasy league…

In today’s Fantasy Life Newsletter presented by Underdog Fantasy:

  • A QB Battle in Pittsburgh?

  • A spicy draft rumor

  • Free Agency Takeaways: What are the Raiders doing?

  • It’s 3/18. Take it away, Peter Overzet…

The wildest Free Agency period of recent memory apparently has no intention of slowing down.

Fresh off their move for Keenan Allen, the Chicago Bears hastily freed themselves from their QB quagmire by dumping Justin Fields to the Steelers and all but confirmed that they will be taking Caleb Williams first overall.

There are so many head-scratching elements to this move, but let’s try to quickly unpack them all.

🤏 That’s all you could get? All Chicago receives in exchange for Fields is a 2025 sixth-round pick that converts to a fourth-round selection if Fields plays 51% of snaps this season.

🧢 There’s no way they turned down a better offer, right? In this ESPN piece, Courtney Cronin says the Bears turned down an offer with “stronger draft capital” from a team with an established starter but wanted to “do right” by Fields and his continued development. As the kids would say: CAP.

🤷 Wait, what about Russell Wilson? The Steelers have already said that Fields will not compete with Wilson for the starting job, but that seems laughably unlikely considering the team spent very little to acquire both of them. Speaking of which, imagine if someone told you two years ago that a team could acquire both Wilson and Fields for just a sixth-round pick and $1.2 mil.

🤦 Can Arthur Smith make this work? If there’s anyone who can make this work it’s…not Arthur Smith? Sorry, but I’m skeptical. This holy triumvirate seems like a recipe for disaster. Smith spent much of last year subtweeting his QB room from the podium and yanking Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke around. The second either of these QBs slip up in Pittsburgh, everyone will be calling for a QB change. Good luck, Artie.

📆 Fields takes over in Week 10? Because of the pick swap dynamics, it would make sense for Fields to get action late in the season so 1) he doesn’t trigger the fourth-round selection and 2) the Steelers can see if he’s ready for the starting gig in 2025.

💻️ Early Fantasy Takeaway

On Friday, I recommended fading Fields at his silly prices until we got more certainty about his situation and whether he had an inside-track to a starting job in 2024.

With Wilson the projected starter for now and zero guarantees that Fields gets a start this year, he’s nearly undraftable. When drafting this far out from the season starting, we simply can’t afford the risk of a zero on our team.

Fields is still currently the QB18 in Underdog Big Board drafts, though that should adjust quickly.

I wouldn’t be taking him until after Gardner Minshew (QB32) is off the board and you are in the territory of other QBs who aren’t guaranteed to start the full season:

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Watercooler

📺 Breaking down RB landing spots…good or bad for fantasy football?

💪 An intriguing RB in a weak 2024 class. Everything you need to know about Braelon Allen.

🌶️ A spicy draft rumor. This would certainly shake things up.

😭 A bunch of Bears fans need to take the L. Tough scene.

⚡️ Why Keenan Allen isn’t a Charger. Makes sense.

😆 Mina Kimes from the top rope. So good.

🏟️ Why the Chiefs threatened to leave KC. Interesting story.

🆘 The Patriots add a WR. Now do that 3 more times in the draft.

FA Takeaways

Free Agency brought us a flurry of moves. Today, Ian picks up the pieces now that the dust has settled…

🏴‍☠️ What exactly is the Raiders’ plan under center?

I am going to be PISSED if it’s April 28th and the Raiders are unironically entering 2024 with Gardner Minshew and Aidan O’Connell as their top two QBs.

Yes, Minshew helped keep the Colts competitive last season and hilariously earned a Pro Bowl nod.

Also yes, these were two below-average NFL QBs last season by virtually any advanced metric:

Among 32 QBs with 300-plus dropbacks in 2023:

  • EPA per dropback: Minshew (+0.022, 22nd), O’Connell (-0.038, 25th)

  • Completion percentage over expected: Minshew (-3.3%, 31st), O’Connell (-3.9%, 32nd)

  • PFF pass grade: Minshew (60.6, 27th), O’Connell (64.6, 25th)

  • Passer rating: Minshew (84.6, 23rd), O’Connell (83.9, 25th)

  • Yards per attempt: Minshew (6.7, 23rd), O’Connell (6.5, 25th)

Peep that second stat from the top: Minshew and O’Connell were arguably the two least accurate QBs in all of football last season.

Bottom line: The Raiders’ QB room is currently poised to enter the 2024 season with the equivalent of a “Muhammad vs. McLovin” controversy: Why the f*ck would the starting QB job be between Minshew and O’Connell? Here’s to hoping the organization goes out of its way to at least add one of the consensus top-six incoming QB prospects to the squad at some point during the first few rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft.

FA Takeaways

💪 George Pickens is the MAN in Pittsburgh

No more Diontae Johnson is the main reason why. Pickens certainly took advantage of his time without Johnson on the field in 2023:

  • 4-127-1

  • 4-75-0

  • 3-25-0

  • 6-130-1

The presence of Russell Wilson and Justin Fields also helps matters when, you know, comparing things against the Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph experiences. Still not exactly fishing with dynamite, but both Courtland Sutton (59-772-10) and (especially) D.J. Moore (96-1,364-8) proved capable of being fantasy studs with those signal-callers last season.

It’s not a given that Pickens reaches the same heights as those two receivers, especially considering new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has a history of establishing the ole run at very high levels.

That said: The upside here is tantalizing. Pickens just turned 23 in March and has largely made the most out of his opportunities during his first two seasons in the league.

Most yards per target among 63 players with 150-plus targets 2022-23:

  1. Brandon Aiyuk (10.8)

  2. Jaylen Waddle (10.7)

  3. Tyreek Hill (10.3)

  4. George Pickens (10.2)

The tape backs up the idea that Pickens might be ready to truly explode in year three – something that has been commonplace in fantasy land over the years, but it’s at least a little bit curious that Pickens hasn’t received nearly the same sort of fanfare as someone like Drake London despite experiencing similar good news over the last two weeks.

Bottom line: There aren’t many certainties in this Pittsburgh offense ahead of next season OTHER than Pickens being the team’s alpha No. 1 pass-game target. Throw in the relative QB upgrade, and the rising third-year receiver deserves to be one of the game’s trendier breakout candidates ahead of 2024.

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