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Factoid

First-round quarterbacks

They'll start, but how good will they be?

There were six quarterbacks selected in the first 12 picks of the draft this year. Recent history suggests those guys will be starting sooner rather than later. But should fantasy teams be selecting them? That's less certain.

Patrick Mahomes, famously, sat as a rookie back in 2017, starting only the meaningless finale. That was enough for Kansas City to move on from Alex Smith in the offseason, with Mahomes going on to have the remarkable career he's in the midst of. Since that time, there's been only one first-round quarterback who didn't start at least half of his rookie season (not counting guys who would have but for injury).

Twenty-four first-round quarterbacks. Four other guys who didn't start at least 7 games. Two of them (Watson, Richardson) definitely would have, one (Lance) might have, but probably not.

Table sorted by number of rookie-year starts by those first-round quarterbacks since Mahomes. Guys who finished with top-12 numbers are in bold.

FIRST-ROUND QBS SINCE 2017
YearPlayerGSPassTDRunTDRkNote
2021Mac Jones, N.E.17380122129017Immediate starter
2021Trevor Lawrence, Jac.17364112334222Immediate starter
2023Bryce Young, Car.16287711253023Immediate starter
2019Kyler Murray, Ari.1637222054446Immediate starter
2023C.J. Stroud, Hou.15410823167313Immediate starter
2020Justin Herbert, LAC1543363123459Week 2 starter
2021Zach Wilson, NYJ1323349185430Immediate starter
2018Baker Mayfield, Cle.13372527131017Week 4 starter
2018Sam Darnold, NYJ13286517138124Immediate starter
2018Josh Rosen, Ari.13227811138032Week 4 starter
2022Kenny Pickett, Pitt.1224047237328Week 5 starter
2019Daniel Jones, NYG12302724279220Week 3 starter
2017Mitchell Trubisky, Chi.1221937248229Week 5 starter
2018Josh Allen, Buff.11207410631822Week 2 starter
2021Justin Fields, Chi.1018707420231Week 3 starter
2020Joe Burrow, Cin.10268813142325Immediate starter
2020Tua Tagovailoa, Mia.9181411109334Midseason starter
2019Dwayne Haskins, Was.713657101033Midseason starter
2018Lamar Jackson, Balt.712016695530Midseason starter
2017Deshaun Watson, Hou.6169919269227Week 2 starter; injured
2023Anthony Richardson, Ind.45773136443Immediate starter; injured
2021Trey Lance, S.F.26035168140Week 5 starter; injured
2017Patrick Mahomes, K.C.1284010053Backup
2020Jordan Love, G.B.00000999Backup

The second part of this table is, how many of these guys were good starters in fantasy leagues? The answer is not many.

Of all those quarterbacks, only two ranked in the top 15 at the position (4-point TD passes, 6-point TD runs, 1 point for every 20 passing and 10 rushing yards). Both guys (Murray and Herbert) got there in large part due to their rushing production. That's why Jayden Daniels and to a lesser extent Caleb Williams might make some sense as fantasy backups this season. Possibly Drake Maye; he also ran a surprising amount in college. And it's why J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix and Michael Penix (especially) seem like longer shots to be viable in fantasy leagues.

I did draft Nix as a third quarterback in a 28-round best-ball league. I think all of these guys, except Penix, make some sense in that kind of format. The history suggests a really good chance they'll all be starting at least half of their rookie seasons.

But it also suggests they won't be difference-makers right away. Only a couple have been; odds are definitely against it. (Even C.J. Stroud, who just had one more the more remarkable rookie seasons, finished 13th at the position -- good, but not necessarily winning leagues.) I don't expect to build a fantasy roster around any of these guys, beyond a possible No. 2 with some upside for more. And even then I'll be looking at veterans (say, Baker Mayfield) first.

--Andy Richardson

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