Fantasy Football

Big Fantasy Breakout Series: Third-Year Quarterbacks in 2016


This week, we start our big Fantasy breakout series, looking at the players we expect to post better Fantasy production than their current ADP might indicate. I recently wrote an article over at, pointing out when you should look for breakout Fantasy Football players from which positions.

For quarterbacks, we look to those that have already been pros for a couple years, pointing to big breakout success in Year 3.

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, looking for breakouts from third-year quarterbacks was as tried-and-true as current second- and third-year WR breakouts. Dan Marino was the lone exception to the rule, as he broke out near the end of his rookie year (1983), and certainly in Year 2 when he threw for 48 touchdown passes.

However, over the past 20 years, with free agency and the salary cap having a bigger say in how teams manage their rosters, quarterbacks are forced to get into the games sooner than the old days. It’s uncommon, these days, to see first-round rookie quarterbacks holding clipboards on the sidelines unless they’re injured. The fact that young quarterbacks are forced to play earlier also makes sense why the read-zone offenses became a big deal, since they are easier for young quarterbacks to manage. Cam Newton and Russell Wilson were Fantasy helpful from the get-go.

But that doesn’t mean this big breakout period is a bust.

Look at what Andrew Luck did in Year 3 after two solid seasons right out of the gate – he led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes. Sure, his 2012 draftmate Robert Griffin III didn’t have the same success, but hey …

Other examples of third-year quarterback breakouts over the past 10 years include: Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Coiln Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill.

That’s a crazy impressive list, right?

If we look at the top 30 Fantasy quarterbacks from 2015, eliminating the old fellas, like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Eli Manning, and the young guys, like Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, then we’re left with a ton of the aforementioned players that broke out in Year 3.

Third-Year Quarterbacks for 2016

So here’s a list of third-year quarterbacks possibly poised for big breakouts in 2016. Some have already had big years, and some might never see a starting snap in an NFL game ever again, but here are your third-year quarterbacks breakout candidates for 2016.

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

It’s tough to conceive of Bortles having a bigger breakout in Year 3 than he did in Year 2, when he finished fourth in Fantasy points, behind just Newton, Brady and Wilson. But let’s consider some reasons why Bortles could actually have an even better 2016 season, when he threw for 4,428 yards, 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions:

  • He has TWO third-year wide receivers poised for big years in the Allen Bros. – Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
  • Tight end Julius Thomas enters this season fully healthy, unlike last year when he was returning from a broken index finger suffered in preseason. This will also be Thomas’ second year in the offense.
  • Bortles will have a running game to help keep defenses more honest, with a tandem backfield consisting of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory.
  • An offensive line that could be maturing into at least an average one.

Bortles is a perfect quarterback to wait and pick off after several get drafted, as others won’t be as big of a believer as you.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Carr really started off like gangbusters last year, with at least two touchdown passes in seven of his first nine games – and three games with three or more TDs! But he slowed in the second half, and finished just outside the top 12 Fantasy QBs in scoring.

In Year 3, though, Carr gets Amari Cooper a year older and a year wiser, along with an improved running game led by Latavius Murray.

One important thing to note is how the Raiders offensive line went from being a fair-to-middling group in 2014 to being a top-six unit last season (ranked second in pass blocking!) according to

The Raiders’ strength of schedule is about average for a Fantasy quarterback, but it does appear that Carr will face the second-easiest schedule for a QB in the first five games of the season (at NO, ATL, at TEN, at BAL, SD). So consider drafting him late, waiting for his stock to rise, then use him as a bargaining chip in a pre-Week 6 trade.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

We mentioned schedules earlier, and the Vikings have the best schedules among this group for the entire season, not just the first five games. Only the Lions, Cowboys and Giants have a better strength of schedule for Fantasy quarterbacks than the Vikings.

He’s currently the 28th quarterback being drafted in ADP on, but you have to figure some of those, like Paxton Lynch, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff are players going higher in rookie-only drafts. Bridgewater is also ranked 28th on FantasyPros, though.

This looks like your best bet for a third-year breakout that will make a big dent in his Fantasy value. Both Bortles and Carr have pretty high expectations already, but nobody expects much from Bridgewater, it seems, despite getting one of the best wide receivers in the draft in Laquon Treadwell. Minnesota just doesn’t throw that much, and their conservative nature, with one of the greatest running backs in NFL history in Adrian Peterson, makes sense. Still, he’s 31 years old, and the team might need Bridgewater to throw more than we expect.

Johnny Manziel, Free Agent

This is Johnny Football’s year!

In all seriousness, Manziel is currently team-less, agent-less and apparently brain-less.

I would like to exhort him to get with Josh Gordon, Justin Blackmon and Martavis Bryant to form the greatest flag football team in the history of the world!

Stay tuned for more articles on running backs, wide receivers and tight ends, pointing out the best – and worst in the case of running backs – years to draft players at each position, hoping for Fantasy Football breakout seasons.

Teddy Bridgewater Photo Credit: Kyle Engman

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