Every year in the fantasy football world, there are players who end a season ranked way higher than where they were drafted. Usually, an owner’s immediate thought is, “I should have seen that coming.”
It’s easy to say that in hindsight.
Nobody, not even the best fantasy football analysts, could have predicted a Christian McCaffrey injury that led to his back up, Mike Davis, finishing as a back end RB1 (12 overall) in PPR (Points Per Reception) formats. James Robinson (7 overall), and Nyheim Hines (15 overall) are a couple more running back names that snuck by everyone.
But it’s not exclusively running backs: it’s at every position. Names like Ryan Tannehill, Justin Jefferson and Robert Tonyan ranked first at their respective positions in 2020, and all of them were not talked about much, or drafted there, prior to the season.
High Rizer Series
I will be discussing one player at each position who finished ranked outside the Top 20 in 2020, that are candidates to potentially finish as a number 1 at their position in 2021.
Let’s first take a look at the most important position in all of sports – quarterback.
2021 Quarterback High Rizer – Tua Tagovailoa
Look, I’m trying to go to the well here. There are guys right outside the Top 12 from last year that would be easy targets like Matthew Stafford (15 overall) or Baker Mayfield (17 overall). But that’s against the contractual rules, and, frankly, the communal spirit, of High Rizers. I’d be shamed for it.
And I’m not picking Dak Prescott. That’s just cheating.
From the outside, it feels like it shouldn’t be a do-or-die year for Tua, but the reality is, it might be. Patience is no longer a virtue when it comes to young quarterbacks.
Rumors floated around all offseason that Miami was in the DeShaun Watson sweepstakes, or potentially going to use a high draft pick on a quarterback.
Neither of them came to fruition – although the Watson trade still lingers.
This definitely has impacted dynasty fantasy owners’ thoughts on Tua’s immediate future, however, his draft capital, talent, and age says he’ll get every opportunity to succeed in the NFL no matter where he ends up.
According to Fantasy Pros, Tua finished as QB32 overall a season ago after starting nine games and playing in 10 total. Extrapolating his 2020 numbers, if Tua would have played in all 16 games, he would have finished around QB21 overall. But the powers that be (me) OK’d Tua as a High Rizer. So, I digress.
He got his first start – somewhat controversially – in Week 8, after the Dolphins decided to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick after a 5-3 start.
It was hit and miss all season for the fifth overall draft pick. In three of his nine starts, he threw for under 100 yards while reaching the 300-yard plateau twice. His best stat line was against Kansas City in Week 14, where he threw for 316 yards and two scores, and ran also ran for 24 yards and a score.
So there were flashes.
Other final stats include a 64.1% completion rate, 11-5 TD-INT ratio, 6.3 YPA, 181.4 YPG, and a 52.5 QBR.
There are times where fantasy owners simply look at these end-of-season stat lines and use that as data to justify narratives, which is fine. We all do it. But there are some outlier factors to his inconsistent season as well:
- Covid. Tua was a rookie quarterback who did not get any offseason reps or preseason action. Sure, Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow were in the same boat. Missing these important reps impacts players differently. Pro-Tua people can point to this being the case in year one.
- Hip injury. It derailed his final season at Alabama and continued to linger. Who knows if he was at full strength? A year of strengthening and training will only help.
- Weapons. It was DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki. That’s it. The third leading pass catcher (sans Myles Gaskin) was Isaiah Ford (28 catches), followed by Drew Smythe (26 catches). Yeah, you heard that right. Drew Smythe. Sprinkle in a little Mack Hollins (16 catches), and you’re now smelling what I’m cooking. The weapons were nowhere.
— Miami Sports Vibes (@SportsVibes305) April 8, 2021
The general feeling in the fantasy industry is that Tua is going to either be a bust, or is severely undervalued heading into 2021. Not a lot in between.
If anything, the Miami Dolphins have set up their second year quarterback for success this year.
They vastly improved their wide receiver corps by signing Will Fuller in the offseason and using their number six overall selection on Tua’s college teammate, Jaylen Waddle. Both are expected to start (Fuller is suspended Week 1), right away alongside the veteran Parker.
We would be remiss not to mention Gesicki, who quietly was the TE6 in PPR formats last season and showed a great rapport with Tua.
The last ingredient is the offensive line. The Dolphins were super young last year, as three rookies split time. They also invested a second round pick on Notre Dame’s Liam Eichenberg in 2021. So they’ll still be relatively young, but should be better heading into the season.
Coach speak is really hard to sift through and translate at times, but comments from head coach Brian Flores are positive. He even mentioned they want to be a more vertical offense and for Tua to take more chances. That’s always music to the ears for fantasy owners.
In redraft one quarterback leagues, Tua often isn’t getting selected. Right now, depending on the ADP you look at, he’s going anywhere between the 18-20 overall quarterback range with the likes of Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
He’s likely going to be on the waiver wire in those one quarterback redraft leagues. The Dolphins do have somewhat of a tough schedule against pass defenses to start the 2021 season. Quality opponents include the Patriots, Bills and Colts in three of the first four weeks. But after that, they have teams like the Jaguars, Falcons and Texans, so streaming Tua will come in handy.
In dynasty, which is our main focus, if you drafted him last season you are waiting for a bust out. Unless you are wowed by a trade offer, hang onto him one more season (and if you don’t have him rostered, he could be a great buy-low candidate). His stock is pretty low right now, so you wouldn’t get any value back for him anyway. So either wait for his stock to rise before cashing in, or hang onto him, because you might have found your quarterback of the future.