Fortunately, in the NFL and fantasy football we have higher expectations. Year Two is often a period of growth and improvement ... at least it is if you plan on seeing a trilogy. For the astute fantasy manager, being able to truly determine if a player has future potential is paramount to prolonged success. To that end, I took a look at last season's three best rookie quarterbacks (sorry, Johnny Manziel) to see if their sophomore efforts would play more like The Godfather: Part II or, well ... The Godfather: Part III.
Carr led all rookie quarterbacks in fantasy scoring last season. But that is a little misleading because he was the only one to play in all 16 of his team's contests. Nonetheless, Carr gave both Raiders fans and fantasy enthusiasts reason to be optimistic about how high his ceiling could be. The Fresno State product threw for 3,270 yards while tossing 21 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. Those numbers are particularly remarkable when you look at the group of pass-catchers he had to work with (more on that later). Some have mentioned that Carr's air yards per completion numbers (5.3) might not bode well for the future, but it also seems a little too soon to panic.
Watching Carr's game tape gave me a serious case of the sadz. The problem wasn't with the quarterback -- it was his receivers. There are plenty of things I could say about this group, but Around the NFL's Chris Wesseling summed it up best.
Comb through tape of Oakland's passing game last season and you'll see a young signal-caller dancing around in the pocket beseeching someone -- anyone -- to get open downfield. As such, this young quarterback with the big arm rarely got a chance to show it off.
But not all of Carr's issues can be attributed to his pass-catchers. There were times when he held the ball too long or would be late on throws. And while he showed a deft touch on plenty of throws, there were times when he might have been better off to let it rip. He's also not a big threat to run, as evidenced by his 92 rushing yards in 2014. Yet, he does possess some mobility and a penchant for buying himself extra time in the pocket, even if he sometimes fails to feel the rush coming.
I've been a fan of Carr since his collegiate days and believed that the Raiders were an excellent landing spot for him. Nothing I saw in his tape has changed my mind. After having started for a full season, hopefully the game has slowed down and Carr is able to fit throws in a few more windows. Then again, it did reinforce why Oakland made the choice to draft Amari Cooper over Leonard Williams with the fourth pick in the draft. It also explains why there's so much early buzz around the rookie wideout. Adding a receiver who can stretch the field to go along with the veteran presence of Michael Crabtree should help open some of those windows a little wider.
Last season, Carr was no more than a late-round flier in re-drafts and a stash in dynasty leagues. This season, he'll upgrade to being worthy of a late-round pick as a QB2 in just about all formats.
Carr was the top scoring rookie fantasy quarterback in 2014, but not by much. Bridgewater finished fewer than 13 points behind while making four fewer starts. Bridgewater's numbers weren't eye-popping (2,919 yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs), but his fantasy totals were good enough to land him in the top 25 at the position. Teddy Two Gloves made his first appearance in Week 3, relieving an injured Matt Cassel and assumed the job permanently when Cassel went on injured reserve. His biggest fantasy performance came a week later in his first start. Bridgewater threw for 317 yards while rushing for 27 yards and a score. A dearth of scoring throws conspired to keep his weekly fantasy totals down (the Week 4 outing was Bridgewater's only game with 20-plus fantasy points). A look at his game tape shows a quarterback that was gaining in confidence by the week.
After watching Bridgewater's tape, it's hard to imagine why he fell so far in the 2014 NFL Draft. He might not have the same type of arm strength as Derek Carr or Blake Bortles, but the Louisville product has a calm demeanor in the pocket and is consistently on target with his throws. Perhaps the most impressive part of Bridgewater's game is his accuracy on medium-range throws, especially over the middle of the field.
Plus, much like Ringo Starr, Bridgewater got by with a little help from his friends. He was able to work with receivers that could actually get open while operating within Norv Turner's typically creative offensive scheme. As Bridgewater's confidence grew throughout the season, it was fun to watch him work in new pass-catchers -- going from veteran Greg Jennings to the much younger Charles Johnson. As for Cordarrelle Patterson ... well, we all know how that went last season.
One of Bridgewater's more surprising numbers in 2014 was his rushing total. Teddy tallied 209 yards on the ground last season. It's not really enough to truly make him a dual-threat quarterback, but it's far more than most of us would have anticipated. After all, Bridgewater rushed for 170 yards in three seasons at Louisville. It's obvious that Bridgewater isn't often looking to take off with the football, but when he does run, he's smart about it ... and also smart enough to get down before trouble arrives.
Of the three quarterbacks I looked at, Bridgewater is the one with the greatest upside. Let's not forget that he was considered by many to be the top signal-caller in the 2014 draft before a disastrous pro day sent him tumbling down draft boards. Nonetheless, there was plenty to like from Bridgewater's rookie campaign. But there's even better news: Adrian Peterson is back! Matt Asiata might have been a top-20 fantasy back and Jerick McKinnon added some excitement later in the season, but neither one of them is Purple Jesus. With defenses once again being forced to pay extra attention to the Vikings' running game, Bridgewater and his pass-catching cohorts should find a little more room to prosper.
Much like Carr, Bridgewater was seen as a prospect who had greater upside in dynasty leagues than standard re-drafts. And much like Carr, Bridgewater should find a home on most fantasy rosters as an emerging second QB option in 2015.
All throughout the 2014 preseason, the Jaguars tried to convince anyone who would listen that Bortles was going to "redshirt" his rookie season. But that was before Chad Henne posted two and a half miserable outings, thrusting Bortles into the starting gig. Despite playing well in the preseason, the No. 3 overall pick couldn't carry that momentum over to the regular season. While the other two quarterbacks on this list appeared to be more comfortable as their seasons progressed, Bortles seemed to head the other direction. Even despite diminished expectations, the ratio of 11 touchdowns to 17 interceptions couldn't have been what anyone in Duval County had in mind for the young man.
When you watch Bortles on tape, you understand why the Jaguars were hoping to wait a year before getting him on the field. His size and arm strength make him a prototypical pocket passer. His throwing mechanics make him a project. The Central Florida product displayed a long throwing motion and often looked off-balance when delivering the ball. At times that contributed to losing velocity on his throws as well as general erraticness. It was also a problem that seemed to get worse as the quarterback saw heavy pass rushes. However, Bortles has spent the offseason tightening his mechanics and says he's seen improvement.
But here's a fun fact you probably didn't know about Bortles ... he rushed for 419 yards. That was second on the team and fourth among quarterbacks. You read that right. Few talked about the quarterback's rushing skills when he entered the league (despite him rushing for 557 over his final two collegiate seasons), but the Jags ran a surprising amount of read-option during the 2014 season. Now that T.J. Yeldon has taken up residence in Jacksonville, it will be interesting to see if the Jaguars put so much of the rushing burden on their quarterback.
It also wouldn't surprise me if Bortles spent some time on the phone commiserating with Derek Carr about having receivers who can't get open downfield. Jacksonville's roster was loaded with young wideouts -- including three rookies -- who had problems getting separation from defenders downfield. But where the Raiders took pains to overhaul their wide receiver corps, the Jaguars are hoping that a year of seasoning can help their group cook in 2015.
Of the three quarterbacks in this piece, Bortles is the one that's the furthest away from being a consistent fantasy contributor. Hopefully, the improvement in his mechanics leads to more consistent production, as long as it's a motion he can replicate under duress. Still, the Jaguars offense is probably another year or two away from being a truly productive unit which means Bortles is likely a couple of years away from being a truly productive quarterback option for fantasy enthusiasts.
Right now, there isn't much reason to consider Bortles as anything more than a waiver wire or bye-week fill-in option. Even then, it would need to be severely matchup-based. Even in dynasty leagues, anything more than a late-round flier on Bortles would be unadvisable.