Every season, there is value to be found in the late rounds of a fantasy draft due to the uncertainty surrounding positional battles. This usually centers around the running back position, but if you are looking to take a late-round quarterback this season, it pays to keep tabs on situations that are currently up in the air. This is especially true in two-QB and Superflex formats. Certain players are granted more helium than others due to rookie excitement or having flashy upside, but all that really matters, in the end, is getting the job and getting playing time.
Knowing where the positional battles will take place and how they are likely to turn out can give you an edge in fantasy football. A player going undrafted today can easily be a trendy late-round tomorrow, and vice versa.
Let’s take a look at the top positional battles among NFL quarterbacks to watch out for this summer.
Fantasy Football Position Battles 2021: Top QB duos To Watch In NFL Training Camp
Before we get started, a quick note on Carson Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts. The former Eagles quarterback is out indefinitely with an ankle injury and is expected to miss up to 12 weeks. Jacob Eason was the first to jump in for first-team reps during Wentz’s absence but has never thrown an NFL pass. Not an ideal situation, but it also gives you a peek at how the Colts view the ability of Jalen Morton and Sam Ehlinger as options. For those wondering, the best available free agents are Blake Bortles, Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, and Matt Barkley.
That was fast. #Colts QB Carson Wentz will have surgery to repair his foot, per coach Frank Reich. He’s out up to 12 weeks, but could be much less. They will remove a bone in his foot.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 2, 2021
The Colts offense is full of talented skill players such as Parris Campbell, Michael Pittman, and T.Y. Hilton, but their value plummets now that Jacob Eason has been handed the keys to the kingdom. Jonathan Taylor will remain a solid fantasy option, but with defensive schemes lined up to stop him without the threat of a balanced passing attack, even he will suffer.
In other words, the Colts (and fantasy managers) needed Carson Wentz and should be hoping for a veteran acquisition.
5. New England Patriots
Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones
The most likely scenario has Cam Newton opening up the season as the Patriots quarterback. The veteran has the advantage of experience not only in the NFL but with the system offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels wants to run. That being said, Newton was abysmal in 2020.
The 32-year-old ranked 24th in passing yards, which was just behind Joe Burrow who played in five fewer games, while throwing eight touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 65.8. Newton was still able to lead all quarterbacks in rushing scores (12), but that will not be enough if first-round pick Mac Jones shows up ready to play.
Jones was taken as the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft and is a far better fit for McDaniels’ system than Newton. The former Alabama star is an accurate pocket passer with a track record of winning. New England’s system is built on timing and quick accurate throws around the field. Jones excels at releasing the ball quickly and accurately while giving his receivers room to create yards after the catch.
Newton has shown up to camp looking more comfortable under pressure while getting the ball out quicker. There seems to be a nice rapport growing between the former MVP and wideouts Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourner, and Jakobi Myers. Newton still seems to have issues making quick reads while struggling with his timing (overthrowing receivers). If he is going to take this job and keep it, it will require more confidence in his arm and less on his legs.
The smart money is on Cam opening up the season as the starting QB, but Jones and his ability to make fast reads with accuracy are likely to take over sooner rather than later if he can pick up the speed of NFL defensive schemes quickly.
4. Denver Broncos
Teddy Bridgewater vs Drew Lock
Drew Lock has shown flashes of being a strong starting quarterback over the last 18 games, but he has been wildly inconsistent. This has led to an 8-10 record and the Broncos searching for other options. Lock led the NFL with 15 interceptions last season with a 57.3 completion percentage and is under serious pressure to improve during his third season.
Denver brought in veteran Teddy Bridgewater to compete for the starting role, but unfortunately, there is nothing special about him. The sad thing is that may give him a leg up in the competition. The Broncos know what they are getting with Bridgewater, who is a solid leader on the field and can command the short passing game. There is a very low ceiling here though, and while Teddy could be the safer choice, he may not have the ability to push Denver into the playoffs.
The bottom line is that Lock has the talent advantage and should open up the season as the Broncos quarterback unless he truly falters in camp. He has a 3.9 percent sack rate and has a physical advantage over Bridgewater, who mostly serves as a safety net this season. This battle is likely to remain unsettled any time soon, with each quarterback getting equal reps with the starting offense.
If Lock had makes consistent progress then this should be his job to lose, but if he falters this could be a timeshare nightmare or Bridgewater may simply take the role.
3. Chicago Bears
Andy Dalton vs. Justin Fields
Andy Dalton signed a one-year deal in free agency while the Bears traded up for the No. 11 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Justin Fields. The writing is on the wall here. However, it still does not offer much clarity on the 2021 season for fantasy purposes. Fields is going to play at some point, it is more a matter of when.
Dalton is the clear front-runner to open up the season as the starting quarterback. He may not be the same guy who made the Pro Bowl three times, but Dalton is a veteran presence that should provide stability for Matt Nagy. Fields has admitted openly that he has bought into the idea of being mentored by Dalton while absorbing all of the information he can. The former Buckeye expects to make mistakes, but he’s confident in his ability to learn from them and even make the same one twice.
The bottom line here is that Fields is an accurate passer with a strong arm and a ton of speed. Dalton is simply keeping his seat warm. Nagy has already announced that Dalton will be the Week 1 starter versus the Rams, but you should pay attention to the progress Fields is making because the switch will be flipped at some point.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Trey Lance
Since becoming the starting quarterback to San Francisco in 2017, Jimmy Garoppolo has compiled a 22-8 record while leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl. There is something to be said for that. However, there is also something to be said that the success has mostly been driven by a strong rushing attack and a phenomenal defense. Garoppolo is a game manager, but one who is mistake- and injury-prone. Over his first three seasons in San Francisco, Garoppolo has played in just one full season and missed 10 games in 2020 due to an ankle injury.
Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft, has all the physical tools to be a top NFL quarterback. The North Dakota State standout is a dual-threat who limits mistakes. However, San Francisco’s CEO Jed York is of the opinion that Lance would benefit from not playing this season and taking his time to learn and grow behind Garoppolo.
49ers general manager John Lynch has stated that he plans on keeping Garoppolo for at least next season while planning on having the veteran start Week 1 versus the Lions. If you pair this with Kyle Shanahan’s statement that there is no open competition at quarterback, then it’s hard to get too excited about Lance in 2021. The issue may come down to Garoppolo’s health and how quickly Lance adapts to the 49ers’ offensive scheme. Las Vegas certainly seems to think there is a possibility, with 22.6 percent of all money bet on the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year being placed on Lance.
1. New Orleans Saints
Taysom Hill vs. Jameis Winston
This is the quarterback battle that will impact fantasy the most. Not only do the quarterbacks offer standalone value if they are selected to lead the Saints, but each possesses a wildly different play style that will impact the skill players around them.
Jameis Winston, the former No. 1 overall pick in 2015, is certainly a more prototypical quarterback that would be the best fit for the job. He has a powerful arm with physical attributes that have never been in question. The former Buccaneer should have benefited with a year behind Drew Brees and may have shed some of his wild and reckless tendencies from the past. If so, this should be an easy decision for Sean Payton, if only he had a track record of being rational.
Taysom Hill is more of a gadget quarterback. The 31-year-old has excelled on special teams, as a wide receiver, and a wildcat option at quarterback. In 2020, Hill took over as the starter when Brees went down to injury and went 3-1 with a 72 percent completion rate with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Hill looks comfortable in the pocket and added a dimension of mobility that Winston simply does not have. The question is if Hill can consistently read the defense and be patient enough to watch a play develop before using his legs to escape.
Winston has averaged 260 yards passing per game in his career and reached 5,109 yards in 2019, the eighth-highest in NFL history. The issue has always been interceptions and decision-making. Forcing a pass into double, if not triple coverage has given the veteran QB 88 picks to go with 121 career touchdowns.
If Winston is the starting quarterback, the Saints will open up the passing game, which will be fantastic for Alvin Kamara while giving an opportunity for Tre’Quan Smith and rookie tight-end Adam Trautman to shine. If Hill is given the nod, the passing volume of the Saints offense will be limited and will instead focus on mobility and the ground game.
Hill is the superior option in fantasy if given the job due to his rushing ability, but he would severely limit the upside of many other skill players in New Orleans. Winston would still carry fantasy value, especially in Superflex, if given the job while boosting the value of the players around him. This should be an exciting battle to watch and have a ton of fallout for whoever wins.