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    Soppe’s Fantasy Football QB Sleepers: Can Baker Mayfield and Jayden Daniels Combine to Create a Top-12 QB Output?

    Seven quarterbacks routinely come off the board in the first five rounds of 12-team fantasy football drafts, which tells you what we already know: there is a ton of game-breaking talent at the position in this era of an NFL geared toward offenses.

    For many, drafting a quarterback early is simply part of doing business in 2024. It’s a non-negotiable. Many managers treat their fantasy roster the same way NFL franchises do in that if you don’t have an elite option, you can’t win at a high level.

    Are we sure that’s true?

    Fantasy Football Sleepers: QB Strategy

    It’s no secret that mobile quarterbacks are a cheat code in most fantasy scoring types, which is why Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Anthony Richardson require significant draft capital to acquire.

    Patrick Mahomes, C.J. Stroud, and Joe Burrow are exceptions to that rule, as they’ve proven potent enough through the air to offset the limited upside they bring to the table in rushing stats.

    There’s your top seven on most boards, and all are more than likely to be selected in the first five rounds of your one-QB league. Toss in at least four and potentially up to six tight ends being drafted before the sixth round, and we are projecting 47-49 of the first 60 picks to be running backs and wide receivers.

    I don’t know about you, but I start losing confidence after roughly 20 RBs (stable roles) and 30 WRs (clear path to consistent usage) are off the board. After that, there’s a lot of similarity among the flex positions, so I wouldn’t blame you for trying to get as many options as possible. But that can mean you’re left out of the early QB run.

    Worry not.

    There are viable options down the board — I love Kyler Murray’s asking price, Caleb Williams is positioned to succeed right away, Kirk Cousins is going outside of the top 100, etc. But you’re fighting with five other managers, and you may find value in continuing to build depth elsewhere.

    If you’re not worried about the QB position, you can truly focus on your RB/WR situation and the positions that have the most turnover during the season and require roster depth. Now for the million-dollar question: How can you squeeze enough production out of your low-investment QB room to allow your depth elsewhere to decide weekly matchups?

    I’ve got you.

    What if I told you that there was a tandem of quarterbacks that, if rostered together, would give you access to 10 top-10 matchups based on fantasy points allowed to the position? And that in the other seven weeks, you get access to a matchup against a defense that was in the bottom 10 in missed tackles, yards per play, completion percentage, or yards per completion. Would that be of interest?

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield opens his season with five straight top-10 matchups and has seven during the fantasy season. Washington Commanders QB Jayden Daniels has four such games on his schedule, three of which come on a different week than Mayfield’s advantageous spot.

    That covers us for 10 weeks, including all three that are part of the postseason in most leagues — Weeks 15-17. But that’s not good enough. Let’s take a look at how the other seven would play out.

    Week 6, Mayfield at Saints

    New Orleans ranked 24th in yards per completion allowed last season, a flaw that is unlikely to be rectified after the Saints spent just one of their first four picks on the defensive side of the ball. Cameron Jordan and Tyrann Mathieu have (likely) already played their best football, while the Saints’ young talent has health concerns.

    Mayfield picked apart this secondary twice last season, racking up 555 yards and five scores through the air while completing 72.3% of his passes. He gets extended time for this matchup after playing on Thursday night the week before, giving him the potential to repeat the success he experienced last season.

    Week 7, Daniels vs. Panthers

    Carolina technically was stout against fantasy QBs last season, but trailing early and often in games will result in some funky numbers due to game flow.

    The Panthers missed more tackles than any defense in 2023, and if that continues — three of their first four picks in April were invested into offensive skill positions — a Commanders attack that figures to be dangerous around the line of scrimmage with the signing of Austin Ekeler and the drafting of Luke McCaffrey alongside Terry McLaurin could take advantage of the matchup.

    Washington is going to be favored and projected to score north of 20 points — not a bad environment for a QB with rare athleticism who will have over a month of NFL experience at this point.

    Week 9, Daniels at Giants

    New York allowed the fifth-most yards per play last season, and while Wink Martindale is out as defensive coordinator, are we sure that Shane Bowen is set to turn things around?

    The Giants probably won’t blitz at an elite rate, but none of Bowen’s defenses in Tennessee over the past three years ranked better than average in pressure rate — something that points to Daniels being comfortable in this spot.

    Look out. Daniels will have learning moments this season, but this will be a good measuring stick game, as it is his first repeat opponent of the season.

    Week 10, Daniels vs. Steelers

    Playing the kid for the third time in four weeks? You bet.

    The Steelers were the third-worst defense in the NFL last season in terms of yards per completion, giving Daniels reasonable upside given the blend of skills his primary pass catchers have.

    That upside is nice, but it’s the floor that has my attention.

    MORE: 6 Fantasy Football Breakouts to Target in 2024

    When playing mobile quarterbacks last season, the Steelers allowed athletic signal-callers to average 40.8 opportunities per game (pass attempts plus rushes). That’s a big number, and it included a pair of games against backup QBs (Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Tyler Huntley).

    Daniels doesn’t have to be great. Heck, he doesn’t even have to be good. If you give a player with this skill set in an offense that wants to see what he can do that many opportunities, he’s a good bet to produce viable fantasy numbers.

    Week 12, Mayfield at Giants

    We get to target New York again, this time with Mayfield coming off of a bye.

    I expect the Bucs to be in poor form prior due to games against the Chiefs and 49ers preceding their off week. But that shouldn’t worry you. Mayfield had multiple touchdowns in just two of his first five games a year ago, and he went on to throw for multiple scores in eight of his next 10.

    Week 13, Mayfield at Panthers

    Notice a theme? Both of our QBs faced the Giants, and now both have played the worst team in the league from last season.

    The reliable nature of Chris Godwin and the high-volume role of Rachaad White in the short passing game figure to highlight Carolina’s tackling issues, and we know Mayfield is more than willing to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers.

    Week 14, Mayfield vs. Raiders

    Las Vegas, the 26th-ranked defense in terms of completion percentage a year ago, will be playing in its fourth city in as many weeks and coming off of an odd week — they play in Kansas City on Friday the game prior.

    In each of the past six games where Mayfield completed at least two-thirds of his passes, he also scored multiple touchdowns, a trend that likely will land him a favorable projection in a December game where weather won’t be a concern.

    I’m not suggesting that the Mayfield-Daniels plan will net you elite quarterback numbers, but do I think there’s a path where, as a tandem, they can threaten QB1 status on a week-to-week basis? I do, and that’s all you really need, given how little investment it takes to roster these two.

    If you’re operating under this plan, it’s with the understanding that your skill players will do the heavy lifting while your patchwork QB situation won’t lose you individual weeks often.

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