Welcome to the Stock Watch. While the picture above might make you worried you’ve stumbled into a financial advice column, have no fear, this is about our fantasy football stock. Each year in dynasty leagues we look forward to rookie drafts, snatching up all the prospects we know will lead to glory. But it doesn’t always happen right away. Over the next few pieces, as this off-season draws to a close, I’ll be taking stock of prospects at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 draft class. This isn’t about the stars that we already know are great, it’s about the players taken in the first three rounds that haven’t hit yet—and might never hit.
For this first edition, I’m beginning the Class of 2018 with quarterbacks. A total of five were taken in the First Round of the draft, with Baker Mayfield (No. 1), Josh Allen (No. 7), and Lamar Jackson (No. 32) have all put up solid numbers, are entrenched as starters on the teams that drafted them, and have been to the playoffs. But there are three others, including two snagged in the first round, that remain question marks. Let’s focus on them.
Drafted: No. 3 overall by the New York Jets
Situation: Darnold was part of an off-season move this year, going from the Jets where he’s toiled the past three seasons to the Carolina Panthers. It’s a fresh start, and one that has many intrigued about Darnold in 2021. If he can deliver, it would redeem the value for many who took him high in rookie drafts. His career with the Jets has been uneven at best. In three seasons he’s completed 59.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 8,097 yards, 45 TDs and 39 INTs. Not quite what was expected from the third overall pick. Darnold was 13-25 as a starter, and it never quite clicked in New York. Some blame Adam Gase, some blame the rest of the team in New York, either way, those that grabbed him early with hopes of fantasy glory have yet to see a great return on investment.
But the hope comes from his new situation. The Panthers weren’t incredible in the first season with Matt Rhule as Head Coach and Joe Brady as the Offensive Coordinator, but they were decent assets in fantasy. Rhule believed enough in Darnold to make the trade, pass up other prospects like Justin Fields in the 2021 Draft. The team picked up Darnold’s fifth-year option, locking in a guaranteed salary for at least two seasons. Darnold also comes into a good situation with Christian McCaffrey in the backfield and a receiver group that includes D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Terrace Marshall, Jr. So, it’s easy to understand the optimism.
Stock Value: This one is rising. If you’ve hung on to Darnold for the past three years, you’re probably hoping to see a good performance in 2021. You might also be acquiring shares. Darnold is sitting with an ADP of QB31, and I think there’s a strong chance he outperforms that mark. If I have Darnold, I’m holding and waiting for a return. If I can find someone who has given up and get him on the cheap, especially in a Superflex league, I’m doing it.
Drafted: No. 10 overall by the Arizona Cardinals
Situation: Rosen famously called out all the teams that passed on him in the 2018 draft, indicating they’d regret it. That might be the most famous thing about him. His rookie season with the Cardinals was a disaster. He went 3-10 as a starter and got beaten up as part of a bad team. He completed just 55.2 percent of his passes for 2,278 yards, 11 TDs, and 14 INTs. Rosen was also sacked 45 times. When Kliff Kingsbury came to Arizona, he used the first overall pick to snap up Kyler Murray, and Rosen was dumped off to the Dolphins.
In his second year, he struggled when sharing time with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He went 0-3 as a starter, throwing for 567 yards, a touchdown, and five INTs. The Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 Draft, and Rosen was out again. He was on the Buccaneers’ practice squad for much of 2020, before being signed by the 49ers. He never started there or even played, but he remains on the roster. Presumed starter Jimmy Garoppolo and third overall pick Trey Lance out of North Dakota State are in front of him. It’s unlikely we see Rosen get a shot with the 49ers in 2021, but there’s talk he could stay on the roster as a potential backup this year and beyond.
Stock Value: Null. Rosen is the longest of long shots here. The best hope is likely that he ends up a career backup, which isn’t great for fantasy. Some picked him up, or held him, in 2020 when he was taken by the Buccaneers. It seemed like potentially he’d get another shot. Instead, he’s buried in San Francisco and any hopes of working his way up were dashed when the team drafted Lance.
Drafted: No. 76 overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Situation: When Rudolph was taken in the third round by the Steelers in the 2018 draft, there was some optimism he could be the quarterback of the future. He didn’t see the field as a rookie, but in 2019, when Ben Roethlisberger was lost for the season, he got his chance. Rudolph started eight games, going 5-3 while completing 62.2 percent of his passes, throwing for 1,765 yards, 13 TDs, and 9 INTs. While those don’t seem like bad numbers, Rudolph didn’t exactly light the position on fire, splitting time with other backups as the Steelers ultimately missed the playoffs.
In 2020, Ben was back and Rudolph only saw the field in Week 17, leading the team to a meaningless loss while the starters rested for the playoffs. Ben is back again in 2021, Rudolph’s final season on his rookie contract, so he doesn’t look to get his shot this year, either. Worse yet, it’s unclear if he’s even the prospect on the roster that would be viewed as a potential quarterback of the future. The team signed Dwayne Haskins, a former First Round pick for Washington, and still have veteran Josh Dobbs on the roster. This pre-season, Rudolph will likely be fighting just to keep a spot on the roster.
Stock Value: Fading. Like his college teammate James Washington, Rudolph came to the Steelers with high hopes that haven’t really paid off. When he got his shot in 2019, it looked like Rudolph wasn’t the answer. The moves made by the team in the year and a half since seem to indicate they feel the same. If he flames out in pre-season, Rudolph’s NFL career could well be over.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton network.