Lions Jared Goff holds high upside heading into 2021
By: Andrew Metcalfe
Superflex format leagues have become the norm for Fantasy players, over the last few years. With most teams starting two quarterbacks in their lineups, it’s no longer just about going after one of the Elite QBs or “streaming” if you aren’t able to acquire one. “Streaming” is a common 1QB league strategy where you pickup the best option off of waivers to play each week. There is no such thing in Superflex leagues though, as every starting QB (and some backups) will be rostered due to their increased value in this format. This article focuses on three of my favorite players to target for my second QB spot in Superflex leagues. None of these guys are mobile which caps their fantasy ceilings since they won’t add much on the ground, but there is still upside with these particular pocket passers.
Baker Mayfield (ADP: QB17)
In 2018, Baker started his career off with a bang, setting the record for pass attempts by a rookie at that time (27). The 2019 season ended in major disappointment as the Freddie Kitchens-led Browns finished with a 6-10 record, failing to live up to the off-season hype after signing Odell Beckham Jr. The offense was all out of sorts as Baker threw 21 interceptions, despite turnovers never being an issue for him in college. Kitchens proved to be a failure as an NFL Head Coach and was quickly terminated. Looking back at 2020, even though Mayfield lost his star wide receiver in week 7 when Odell tore his ACL, Baker finally seemed to hit his stride near the midseason point.
His final fantasy finish was not that impressive, ending up as just the QB18 on the year, but I saw him take several major steps forward. Most notably was his deep ball improvement. Baker struggled to consistently complete deep passes in his first two years, but in 2020 he had the sixth-best deep ball completion percentage (46.6%). He also started to show the same level of confidence on the field that we saw from him during his Oklahoma days. He completed the second most “Money Throws”–This is a pass that requires an exceptional level of skill and also factors in the importance of the throw based on the game situation or the “clutch” factor (credit: Player Profiler).
Some may be worried about the low-volume passing offense of Cleveland, but the efficiency that Mayfield showed last season is enough to overcome that. Even though he was just 17th in pass attempts, he had the tenth most completed air yards, the ninth highest air yards per attempt, and a true completion percentage (removes throw aways and drops) of 80.9% which was the eighth-best among QBs. I also have to mention his stretch of bad weather games. For three straight weeks (Weeks 8,9 and 11- they were on bye week 10) the Cleveland weather was a major nuisance to the passing game, as Baker faced high winds and/or rain for each of the games during that stretch. After that point (weeks 12-17), Mayfield was the QB10. With a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. returning and (hopefully) better weather in Cleveland, Baker’s first QB1 season could very well come in 2021.
Jared Goff (ADP: QB27)
It seems like it was just yesterday when Sean “Wonderboy” McVay took over the LA Rams in 2017 and revitalized the franchise after years of being a bottom-of-the-barrel team. In Goff’s first season under McVay, he finished as the QB12, then followed that up with a QB6 finish in 2018. Even though Goff regressed as a Fantasy QB in 2019, finishing just outside of the top 12, the team went on to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl and lost 13-3. Apparently, Bill Belichick exposed the McVay offense in that game, because the Rams haven’t been the same on that side of the ball since. They were also a playoff team in 2020, but it was much more reliant on the defense. Goff has his worst fantasy season since his rookie year, finishing as the QB20. At that point, McVay had seen enough and decided to ship Goff and a pair of first-round picks off to Detroit in exchange for Matthew Stafford.
Now, what should we think of Jared Goff with his new team? The popular take is to slam Goff as a terrible Quarterback, but I can’t ignore the production that we saw from him earlier in his career. Sure, McVay has a lot to do with that success, but you have to credit the player for being the one making the throws. Even though 2020 was his worst statistical season, there were some positives. He had his career-high in on-target pass percentage (78.5%) which was 11th best among passers with more than 100 attempts. He also had his lowest Bad Throw percentage of his career (16%) which was better than QBs like Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Matthew Stafford.
Another issue for Goff is the downgrade of the players surrounding him, going from LA to Detroit. We aren’t even sure who the number one wideout will be, picking from uninspiring names like Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, and Quintez Cephus. The top playmakers currently on the team are TE T.J. Hockenson and RB D’Andre Swift. Both were elite college prospects that have flashed great potential in their young careers and are expected to progress even more in 2021. I’m also excited to see what they can get out of their 2021 fourth-round pick, Amon-Ra St. Brown out of USC. His impressive analytical profile includes a Breakout Age of 18.9 and College Dominator rating of 33.1%. Many believe that Detroit got a steal by snagging him in the fourth round.
On paper, this is not an attractive offense, but there is breakout potential for several of the skill position players. Detroit also has a fantasy offenses’ best friend: A terrible defense. Last season, they were a bottom three team in yards allowed per play, passing yards allowed and points allowed. Even though the Lions invested several Day 2 picks on defensive players and signed a few free agents that should help, there weren’t any significant additions to suggest the defense will be much different this season. Goff will likely find himself playing in negative game scripts often, racking up plenty of “garbage time” fantasy points to the satisfaction of his managers.
Matt Ryan (ADP: QB14)
The story on Matt Ryan has always been to draft him in ‘even-numbered years. Every other season, from 2010-2018, Ryan finished as a top 7 quarterback, including top 2 finishes in ’16 and ’18. The pattern ended in 2020 when he finished as QB12. That shows you how reliable Ryan has been as a Fantasy QB when a QB12 finish is considered a disappointment. He has only had three finishes outside of the top 12 in his 13-year career, yet his 2021 ADP is QB14 as of May.
There was a point during the off-season when we thought Atlanta would move on from Matt Ryan. The front office might have entertained trade offers but decided to stick with him for at least one more season. They had a chance to draft quarterback prospects like Justin Fields and Mac Jones with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft but opted to select TE Kyle Pitts and continue to build around Ryan. In case you have been hiding under a rock for the past several months and don’t know who Pitts is, he is a generational prospect that is expected to make an immediate impact on the offense. I don’t expect much from career-backup Mike Davis who is currently atop the RB depth chart, so we should see the Falcons towards the top of the league in pass attempts, yet again.
After 2021, Matt Ryan’s dead cap hit will drop significantly, and that gives the Falcons a window of opportunity to release him if they decide to move on. He is well aware that this could possibly be his final season in Atlanta and I imagine him playing with an extra chip on his shoulder after all of the media talk about the team being foolish for passing on Justin Fields. This is an extremely important season that will decide his NFL fate for 2022 and beyond. If Julio Jones remains on the team, he will have the best arsenal of offensive weapons than he’s ever played with at his disposal.