Fantasy Football Sleepers: Believe in the First-Year Starting Quarterbacks

By Bill Pivetz
EJ Manuel
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012 rookie class of quarterbacks lit the fantasy football world on fire. Four of the five starters were drafted in the first round (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill) while the fifth starter, Russell Wilson, was drafted in the third round. Luck broke record for yards passing by a rookie. RGIII rejuvenated the Washington Redskins. Wilson is the perfect fit for Pete Carroll‘s offense.

This year’s class of quarterbacks are providing teams with exciting play and hope for the future. The Buffalo Bills selected E.J. Manuel in the first round, Geno Smith was drafted by the New York Jets in the middle of the second round. Every other quarterback drafted will be a backup for a couple of years.

The third quarterback on this list is Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor. The Raiders drafted him in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft. For fantasy owners, it’s worth keeping an eye out for these players as a bye-week fill-in or a replacement if your starting quarterback goes down. They are also worth adding in two -quarterback leagues.

E.J. Manuel: The Bills could easily be 2-1, but Tom Brady drove the New England Patriots downfield twice for two Stephen Gostkowski field goals to win the game. Despite that, Manuel has been the most consistent quarterback of the three, averaging 16.33 fantasy points per game. He has 689 passing yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. He protects the ball and doesn’t force passes into tight coverage.

It helps to have C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson at running back to help keep defenses honest. Stevie Johnson is Manuel’s go-to guy, racking up 14 receptions in two games. Jackson and tight end Scott Chandler are No. 2 and 3 for receptions.

Geno Smith: Oh, the Jets. Would Smith be the starter if Mark Sanchez was healthy? Unlikely. But that doesn’t matter because Smith is starting and the Jets are 2-1. After three games, Smith has thrown for 801 yards, three touchdowns and six picks. He also has 78 rushing yards and a touchdown.

In a depleted Jets receiving corps, Smith continues to find Stephen Hill for big yardage. They hooked up three times for 108 yards and a score. Santonio Holmes showed signs of life with five catches, 154 yards and a touchdown. Smith is not worth owning even as a backup, but if you’re in a 16-team or deeper league, he isn’t a bad option.

Terrelle Pryor: Pryor had his first start at the end of the 2012 season against the San Diego Chargers. He threw for two touchdowns and rushed for another, threw an interception and completed 46 percent of his passes. Not a bad start for someone coming off the bench.

This season, Pryor picked up where he left off. He started the season off with 217 passing yards and a touchdown, 13 carries for 112 yards and 19 fantasy points against the Indianapolis Colts. The following week, he struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars, throwing for 126 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.

He will have a tough matchup Monday night against the Denver Broncos, but his schedule eases up after the Broncos. It will take a full season or two before Pryor becomes polished, but his running game will always be a plus for fantasy owners.

Bill Pivetz is a fantasy football writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @Mr_Piv1127.

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