Bargain Quarterbacks: Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott
As crazy as it may seem, not everyone loves bacon. It is true. There are those who do not care for bacon. There is a slim margin of people who simply do not care for the taste of bacon, but those represent a minority and can simply be thought of as having improperly functioning tastebuds. Comedian Jim Gaffigan even mentions that the frying of bacon sounds like applause. Ask yourself, have you ever seen someone angrily consuming bacon? No, no you have not because it cannot happen. Bacon brings joy.
We can safely establish that for whatever reason, not everyone loves bacon. Everyone, however, loves a good bargain. There are exactly zero people who scoff at the thought of a bargain. There are, however, plenty of people who would be ecstatic about a good bargain, even more so if that bargain included bacon. Bargains are universally enjoyed by all. Fantasy football enthusiasts are no different in this regard. That is why when this time of year rolls around, sleepers, busts, and breakout candidates dominate fantasy football related searches.
Here we are going to take a look at two quarterbacks that are currently being undervalued per ADP and the value they represent.
Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
In his first season with the Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins finished as the QB13 for fantasy. This finish came lower than expected, especially after a scorching start.
Cousins’ production was more above average to average than in years previous. This could be attributed to multiple factors. It was his first season on a new team, new offense, and with new weapons. Most of these factors were also part of the hype surrounding Cousins prior to the 2018 season. The perceived upgrade in weapons excited owners as did the lucrative contract.
The way the season began, it had all the appearances of being the start of something impressive. In two of the first four games, Cousins erupted for 400+ passing yards and at least three touchdowns. Through the first eight weeks of the season Cousins was the QB3 behind only Patrick Mahomes and Andrew Luck. In weeks eight through 16, he was the QB17. The tale-of-two seasons approach directly affected Adam Thielen, who’s seasonal production arc was very similar. This led to some disappointment for Cousins owners who typically had drafted him as the seventh quarterback off the board for the 2018 season.
The lackluster finish to the season has resulted in nose-dive for Cousins value. At the time of this writing, Cousins ADP has him as the 20th quarterback off the board.
Assessing the Past and Value
Does anyone remember Marcus Mariota‘s 2016 “breakout” season? He finished with 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. He followed that up in 2017 with 3,232 yards, 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. How quickly that script flipped. Even good quarterbacks can have a down season without it being an indication that said quarterback has lost his potential.
Before anyone writes off Kirk Cousins as a year-one bust in a new system, let us take a closer look at some important history and data. Since assuming the full-time starter role in 2015, Cousins worst finish was QB13 last season. Marinade on that for a moment, his worst season was a top-13 finish. He finished as the QB5 in both 2016 and 2017 respectively, and the QB8 in the 2015 season. He has done enough to show that even with a mediocre supporting cast he can finish in the upper echelon among his peers.
To set the record straight, a top-13 finish with the scoring represented by quarterbacks last season is nothing to be upset about. Quarterback scoring, in general, was incredibly high last season. Patrick Mahomes lit the world on fire with his 417 fantasy points. Matt Ryan came in second with 354 fantasy points, representing a 63 point difference between first and second place. In the 2017 season, the point differential between first and second place was only 48.3 points. The QB1 from 2018 finished 69.2 points higher than the QB1 from the 2017 season, and 37 points higher than the QB1 from 2016.
Bargain: Bottom Line
Kirk Cousins actually scored more fantasy points (282.1) in 2018 than in 2017 (277.6) but finished four spots lower due to the higher output from the top tier quarterbacks. Part of that regression was the lack of rushing touchdowns. Prior to last season’s one rushing score, he averaged 4.3 rushing touchdowns per season. The Vikings offensive line and play-calling were not conducive to that aspect of his game last season.
Since assuming the starting mantle, all Cousins has done is finish inside the top-13 quarterbacks. Typically within the top-eight, for fantasy purposes. With the drop in his ADP, he should be on any savvy drafter’s radar this season. He is tied to one of the best wide receiver duos with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs in all of football. Dalvin Cook appears to be fully healthy to enter the season. The Vikings addressed the offensive line to a degree, which should be an immediate benefit.
In his first year in this offense Cousins spread the ball around quite well. Maintaining a 106 to 115 passer rating between the four top targets is fairly high marks and should improve if he has more time in the pocket.
Drew Brees and Kirk Cousins were the only two quarterbacks last season to complete 70% of their passes. With the improvements to the offensive line, the weapons around him, and another year in the system; Cousins is ripe for resurgence. Add in a return to the mean when it comes to his rushing production, and he could fare better as a fantasy asset than in years previous. His current draft cost of the late 12th round is a steal and he has a legitimate top-six upside. He may not be bacon, but he definitely appears to be a bargain.
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of bargains, the ADP price check on Dak Prescott is another one that should be both confusing and attractive to late-round quarterback fans. Currently, Prescott is the 19th quarterback off the board, going one spot ahead of Captain Kirk.
What remains interesting about the Dallas Cowboys signal caller is that he also has a history of finishing within the top ten at the position, yet consistently remains undervalued come draft day. One of the reasons I personally favor Prescott is the reliable rushing totals. Sure, Cousins typically has four or more rushing touchdowns, but very limited yardage to go with them. Prescott on the other hand averages 314.67 rushing yards along with six scores per season.
The case has already been made that Prescott could very well end up as a top-five option at this position this season. Our own Sam Lane covered it very succinctly, therefore this will be kept fairly brief.
If all Prescott has done is finish among the QB1’s, why is he being drafted so late? There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that he does not have that flashy, high weekly output that can single-handedly win an owner a week. In 2018 he only had two games of 300+ passing yards and both of those games were the ones in which he threw for more than two scores. Both of those performances came after the trade to acquire Amari Cooper. In fact, in his three-year career, he’s only posted five total games (10.4%) of 300 yards or more passing. Somewhat in the same vein as that discussion, Dak has yet to post a 4,000-yard season or throw for more than 23 touchdowns.
Bargain: Bottom Line
Prescotts value is in his consistency. He may not have a slew of the high-volume games, but he doesn’t typically bust a week either. The addition of Amari Cooper to this offense is only going to improve that value in the season to come.
Cooper had a higher average target separation than any of the Cowboys pass-catchers in 2018. His presence allowed Dak to throw to more open wide receivers, which in turn increased his completion percentage and passer rating. In terms of fantasy football, the addition of Cooper helped increase Dak’s per game stats. Dak was on pace for a fantasy QB2 season versus a QB7 season without Cooper. Dak increased his number of attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, and touchdowns per game while decreasing his interceptions.
Prescott’s average of 22 to 23 passing touchdowns is slightly deceptive since one must factor in the six more he is going to run for. Prescott is and will remain to be, a highly consistent top-twelve quarterback.
In fantasy football, bacon is pretty rare but the bargains are there if one knows how to recognize them. If there is a chance to front-load a roster through the first 10 or 11 rounds and then add a QB1, owners would be doing their team a disservice not to take it. Both Cousins and Prescott are primed for a great fantasy season and have the tools and weapons to make it happen. In redraft, single-quarterback leagues both of these guys are enticing options in league sizes of 12 teams or more. In Superflex leagues, a smooth owner could draft a quarterback earlier and then take one of these options and be fairly set, outside of bye-weeks. Both quarterbacks also represent value in bestball leagues and a matchup plays in DFS. Sifting through the ADP and finding gems like these is what separates good teams from great ones down the stretch.
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