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4 Darkhorse QB1 Candidates for Fantasy Football in 2024

Drafting any player in Fantasy Football who finished first overall for their specific position in total Fantasy Points scored, can likely mean giving you a major edge in your league. Sometimes those players are obvious, sometimes they are a major surprise. Take Josh Allen this past season for instance. Allen’s ADP (average draft position) heading into 2023 was the QB3, and he ended up finishing as the QB1. Not a major surprise there when looking at the big picture of quarterbacks someone could have selected. A much different example was Lamar Jackson in 2019, who was drafted as the QB14 that season but finished as the QB1 overall in Fantasy Points scored. Anything can happen in Fantasy Football with a long list of variables, so identifying “Darkhorse” candidates to finish at the top of their position can be key in helping you win.

It is always important to individually define terms for Fantasy Football, as these terms can have varying definitions by different content creators. When referencing a “Darkhorse QB1,” I mean a quarterback that most people would not consider a candidate to finish as the best quarterback in Fantasy Football but has that range of outcomes. These are players who will not be universally ranked and drafted towards the top of the position but could finish at the top. Your obvious candidates to finish as the QB1 for Fantasy Football are Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Lamar Jackson. The below list of players are other quarterbacks who will be drafted after this group of players but have the potential to finish at the top for Fantasy Football in 2024.

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4 Darkhorse QB1 Candidates for Fantasy Football in 2024

History of the QB1 for Fantasy Football

Before digging into the names of who can be a “Darkhorse QB1” candidate for 2024, it is important to take a look at what it takes to actually be the QB1 historically. The chart below shows the QB1s from the last 10 seasons in total Fantasy Points scored. The green boxes indicate a category leader in a statistic. The yellow boxes indicate the averages for each statistic.

2023Josh Allen1757938566.54,3067.4291811152415410.924.2
2022Patrick Mahomes1764843567.15,2508.14112613584429.425.3
2021Josh Allen1764640963.34,4076.836151227636417.724.6
2020Josh Allen1657239669.24,5447.937101024218406.225.4
2019Lamar Jackson1540126566.13,1277.83661761,2067421.728.1
2018Patrick Mahomes16580383665,0978.8501260272241726.1
2017Russell Wilson1655333961.33,9837.23411955863347.821.7
2016Aaron Rodgers1661040165.74,4287.340767369438023.8
2015Cam Newton1649529659.83,8377.8351013263610389.124.3
2014Aaron Rodgers1652034165.64,3818.4385432692354.122.1

There are obvious outliers within the data set that impact the averages. Lamar Jackson rushed for 1,206 yards in 2019 which was 666 more yards than the average of 540. Patrick Mahomes threw for 5,250 yards in 2022, which was 914 more yards than the 4,336-yard average. More examples can be given to draw the same point here. 70% of the data set threw for 4,300+ yards, so that can be a bit sticky. 80% of the data set threw for 35+ touchdowns, which also feels sticky. We can see that rushing numbers have great impacts on Fantasy scoring for some of the seasons, so quarterbacks who can fit that mold have a boost in Fantasy potential as well.

Crunching the numbers, calculating averages, digging through the percentage of times a statistic was hit, and then looking at who can be a candidate can mean draft success for Fantasy Football in 2024. Variables will be health, team scheme, protection, receiving weapons, quarterback skillset, and other factors. The four quarterbacks below are my Darkhorse QB1s for 2024:

Joe Burrow, Bengals 

2023 was a season cut short for Joe Burrow due to a wrist injury, which marks his second season playing 10 games through his four-year career. Burrow played 10 games as well his rookie season after injuries to his ACL, MCL, and PCL in Week 11. Burrow finished with 2,688 passing yards and 13 passing touchdowns, averaging 17,8 Fantasy PPG which ranked 18th. Burrow’s sophomore season he played 16 games, throwing 4,611 yards and 34 touchdowns as the QB10 in Fantasy PPG (20.5). 2022 was the Fantasy breakout season, with Burrow finishing fourth in Fantasy PPG at 21.7 through a full 17-game season. Burrow threw for fewer yards (4,527) but rushed for 259 yards in comparison to the 118 the year prior while tossing two more touchdowns at 36. In 2023, Burrow on a per-game basis through 10 games averaged 36.5 passing attempts, 230.9 passing yards, and threw 15 total touchdowns.

Looking ahead to 2024, we will hopefully have a fully healthy Burrow for 17 games. Burrow has arguably the best wide receiver duo in the NFL in Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, who both could have major seasons. Chase finished with 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie in 2021 and finished with 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns in 2023. Higgins has two seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards under his belt. Tyler Boyd is gone, but the Bengals selected Jermaine Burton out of Alabama via the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. Mike Gesicki is now a Bengal via a one-year deal worth $2.5 million and has two seasons with over 700 receiving yards on his resume. The Bengals will project to be one of the better offenses in the NFL in 2024 led by Joe Sheisty.

The QB1 chart’s average of 4,336 passing yards is a mark Burrow has been above twice in his career. both of which were in his full seasons. Burrow’s passing touchdown ceiling could exceed the 37.6 average as well, as evidenced by the 36 thrown in 2022. Burow is not a massively mobile quarterback but the 259 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in 2022 show a little bit of promise. Burrow has already finished as the QB4 in Fantasy PPG, so we know a major Fantasy season is very possible. Look for Burrow to have a big 2024. He is my favorite to win this coming season’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Anthony Richardson, Colts 

I recently covered Anthony Richardson as one of my favorite breakouts for 2024. The SparkNotes version is that he is a freak athlete who showed major signs of Fantasy Football elite production possibilities as a rookie and is in a system that continues to build around him. The rushing upside lines up with that of Lamar Jackson and Cam Newton from the above chart. Please give that article a read here:

Kyler Murray, Cardinals 

Only 19 games played across the last two seasons has meant people forgetting the Fantasy Football impact Kyler Murray has historically had. Murray tore his ACL in December of 2022, which meant missing the remainder of that season and a good chunk of 2023. Prior to the ACL tear, Murray had seasons that looked like:

  • 2019: 3,722 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 544 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns, and 18.2 Fantasy PPG (#11)
  • 2020: 3,971 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 819 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, and 24.4 Fantasy PPG (#3)
  • 2021: 3,787 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 423 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns and 22.2 Fantasy PPG (#4)

Finishing as a top 12 Fantasy quarterback in PPG for all three full seasons, and a top four Fantasy quarterback in PPG in two of those seasons shows the Fantasy upside Murray has had. The dual-threat numbers have given Murray a substantial bump that has translated in him historically being one of the best options to roster. Even in 2023 following the ACL injury, Murray through eight games still finished as a top 12 Fantasy quarterback in four of them.

Looking ahead to 2024 hopefully means a fully healthy Kyler Murray. Murray is an easy candidate to rush for 500+ yards, which will elevate his Fantasy ceiling. Murray attempted 542 and 558 passes in his first two NFL seasons, which I believe is volume he can get back to in 2024 with the WR-TE combination of Marvin Harrison Jr. and Trey McBride. This sort of combination is unlike any Kyler has ever had in the NFL, and both MHJ and McBride are candidates I have talked about breaking out in my wide receiver and tight end breakout articles. The dual-threat numbers Kyler can produce, with the history of him being such a Fantasy impact on top of him having the best weapons duo he has ever had in the NFL makes him a QB1 overall candidate for 2024.

CJ Stroud, Texans 

2023 was a historic rookie season for CJ Stroud, who was selected number two by the Texans in the 2023 NFL Draft. Stroud set a record for the most attempts without an interception to start a career (186) in October. In Week 9 in 2023, Stroud’s 470 passing yards set a single-game rookie record. Stroud finished with 4,108 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, and averaged 18.7 Fantasy PPG which ranked seventh. Stroud was the fifth rookie quarterback ever to pass for over 4,000 yards in a season. In the NFL Playoffs, Stroud threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns which tied a rookie playoff record for touchdowns by a rookie quarterback.

The Texans’ offense was questionable heading into 2023 but displayed tons of upside through the year. Nico Collins had a breakout season, catching 80 of his 109 targets for 1,297 and eight touchdowns. This resulted in a three-year extension with the Texans for Nico. Fellow rookie Tank Dell’s season was cut short to 11 games due to injury, but he produced 709 yards and seven touchdowns during this span. Tight end Dalton Schultz finished with 635 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Solid production was all-around. The Texans got even better this off-season.

The Texans traded for and then extended Joe Mixon, a clear running back upgrade to Devin Singletary (now a Giant) and Dameo Pierce from last year. Mixon finished with over 1,000 rushing yards last year on the Bengals for the fourth time in his career and offers pass-catching upside for Stroud as a running back with back-to-back seasons over 50 receptions. The Texans also traded for and worked some financials out with Stefon Diggs, which was one of the biggest pieces of news this off-season. Even in a down year, Diggs produced over 1,100 yards for the fifth consecutive year and earned 155+ targets for the fourth consecutive season.

The lack of mobility (167 rushing yards) has been a Fantasy ceiling concern for many people. When you have the season Stroud did as a rookie though, with upsides in passing that translated to Fantasy Football well, and your weapons got better, the sky seems like the limit. Stroud could lead the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns and it would not surprise me in 2024.

Who’s your favorite dark horse QB1? Drop some names in the comments below and then make sure to check out our 2024 Fantasy Football Draft Kit for more great rankings and analysis.

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