Fantasy Football: Three (Very) Late Round Quarterbacks To Target

Jake Locker
Scott Rovak USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football doesn’t have a nice, tidy definition of what a late-round quarterback really is, for better or worse.

Is a late-round signal call (in a traditional 12-team, one-quarterback format) anyone drafted after the middle rounds? Is a quarterback a late rounder if he’s taken outside the first dozen quarterbacks off the draft board?

It’s not at all uncommon, after all, to see mock drafters pat themselves on the back for employing the willpower necessary to wait until the fourth round to snag a signal caller. Is that the late round approach? I think you’d find many fantasy footballers say yes.

Below are three quarterbacks who fit any definition of a late rounder. These guys aren’t comfortable middle-round options like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. These quarterbacks are of the oh-wait-we’re-in-the-14th-round-and-I-still-don’t-have-a-quarterback variety.

These are the guys you draft just before it’s time to pick up a defense and a kicker and call it a day.

DeMarco Murray, Montee Ball, and running back equity scores
Toby Gerhart, Rashad Jennings, and an equity score party
Wide receiver equity score all-stars

Hardly any quarterback taken in the waning rounds of a fantasy draft are going to morph into every-week starters. That doesn’t really matter though — it’s why we stream the position, along with defenses and (for some of us) tight ends.

I’ve assigned the below quarterbacks with equity scores based partly on projections produced by the RotoViz similarity score app. I’ve made some tweaks to each projection and found that while each of these guys could fall on their faces in 2014, there are also best case scenarios that could make them the sort of value plays that bring home fantasy hardware in December.

I adjust each projection by fidgeting with the app and mixing in parts of my early projections to create two equity scores: the median score, reflecting what I’d call a realistic or slightly suppressed point total, and the high score, which paints a rosy picture of what would happen should each player hit his fantasy ceiling.

The high equity scores should be our focus here. Remember: we’re taking gargantuan swings for the fences in the final rounds of our drafts.

Player ADP Median equity score High equity score
Carson Palmer QB27 14 (QB13) 22 (QB5)
Jake Locker QB29 11 (QB18) 19 (QB10)
Geno Smith QB32 17 (QB15) 23 (QB9)


  • Carson Palmer is the new Jay Cutler. Cutler’s average draft position last season didn’t rise to QB19 until late August, when the Trestman hype machine ramped up. He was available in the QB22-25 range for most of the summer. Palmer, who was fantasy’s No. 8 quarterback during the second half of 2013, will end up on quite a few of my rosters this year. He’s beyond dirt cheap, he averaged 37.1 attempts, 304.3 pass yards, and 1.6 touchdowns per game from Week 10-17, and he has a one-year-older Michael Floyd and the pass-catching Andre Ellington squirting out of the backfield. Palmer says there’s “zero comparison” between this off-season and last off-season, when he was overwhelmed while trying to learn Bruce Arians’ offensive scheme. The similarity score app — when Palmer’s early-season struggles were stripped away — has the elderly signal caller with top-5 potential. Does that mean I’m drafting Old Carson as an elite quarterback in the 15th round? No. But if there’s any (very) late rounder who’s going to breach top-10 territory, it’s Palmer.
  • I’m highly skeptical of Locker’s potential to be a reliable fantasy option, as even last year, when Locker showed major improvement, his production was spotty at best. He’d go nuclear, then he’d vanish. Locker, during his best three-game stretch of 2013, averaged 258 passing yards, two passing scores, and 38 rushing yard per game. I’ve seen the argument that Locker will step up his play in what’s been termed a “make or break season” for the young signal caller. I wouldn’t factor that in since it’s impossible to quantify. Locker’s friendly schedule might help him get somewhere close to that high projection: he faces five favorable matchups and just one unfavorable.
  • We’ve come to terms with Geno Smith as the Jets’ starting quarterback, and his equity scores show why that acceptance might pay off in a big way. Remember that Geno roasted bad secondaries during his rookie season (with the worst group of pass catchers in the NFL) while struggling mightily against top coverage units. Probably that’s to be expected. Smith, like Locker, has a very favorable schedule until around Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Smith ends up as a top-12 quarterback with Eric Decker, Jacoby Ford, an (apparently) improving Stephen Hill, and Chris Johnson catching passes from him. After all, Geno was downright elite in eight games as a rookie.
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