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Should You Draft Anthony Richardson or C.J. Stroud in 2024: Fantasy Crossroads

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(Follow along with the whole Fantasy Crossroads series as you get ready for your 2024 fantasy football drafts.)

For the last few seasons, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes have been the consensus top-three fantasy quarterbacks ahead of draft day. That is once again the case this offseason, but there are a handful of players who have the chase to change that.

C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson are undoubtedly the future of the position, both showing immense upside during their rookie seasons in 2023. But the excitement is palpable, as Stroud and Richardson are coming off draft boards as QB5 and QB6, respectively. One quarterback has to lead your fantasy roster in 2024. Who should it be?

Let’s find out.

Anthony Richardson, QB, Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – OCTOBER 01: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Anthony Richardson (5) reacts after scoring a touchdown during a NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Indianapolis Colts on October 1, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire)

The Case for Richardson

All of the upside in the world.

That’s the case for Anthony Richardson in fantasy football. His rookie season was obviously cut very short, but when he was on the field, Richardson showcased an immense ceiling. He made impressive off-platform throws, continued to demonstrate his insane arm strength and was very effective when taking off and running. Although it was only 98 total dropbacks, Richardson showed flashes of being a fantasy superstar, averaging 0.73 fantasy points per dropback in Weeks 1-5, the most in the league. Richardson played the majority of the snaps just twice during his shortened rookie campaign, finishing as the QB4 and QB2 in those contests. And in Weeks 2 and 5 when he left early, Richardson was on pace for top-10 fantasy days again, especially Week 2 where he scored nearly 18 fantasy points in just a half of work. Richardson’s upside was unlocked with his rushing potential, as he averaged 6.3 rush attempts and 34 rushing yards per game, while scoring four rushing touchdowns through just two full games. He had three carries from inside the five-yard line from Weeks 1-5, while handling 18% of Indianapolis’ designed rush attempts during that span.

There is also the element of the offense that Richardson plays in. During Shane Steichen’s first season in Indianapolis, the Colts played at a blistering pace, leading the entire NFL in both average seconds per snap (24.0) and no-huddle rate (16.6%). Steichen also implemented a ton of run-pass option concepts, as the Colts also led the league in RPO rate, according to FTN Data (18.1%). Their 55 pass attempts off the play type were the most in the league and with the addition of Adonai Mitchell, Richardson has plenty of talent around him to thrive in this system.

The Case Against Richardson

For Richardson, it all comes down to health. His rookie campaign featured a concussion and, of course, a shoulder injury that ended his season in Week 5. There were a handful of instances where Richardson refused to either slide or get out of bounds, resulting in him taking some unnecessary hits. Although he has terrific size, if Richardson is going to play the entire season in 2024, he’ll have to limit the hits he takes from opposing defenders.

And I guess if you had to make one more case against Richardson, you could argue that you don’t love the fact that the Colts posted the league’s ninth-highest neutral script rush rate last year at 45.2%. But of course, plenty of that rushing volume and production is headed Richardson’s way, though we haven’t really seen him play alongside Jonathan Taylor at all. That is going to be pretty exciting.

C.J. Stroud, QB, Houston Texans

HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 19: Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) prepares to call for the snap of the ball in the first quarter during the preseason NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans on August 19, 2023 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire)

The Case for Stroud

C.J. Stroud’s rookie season was historic and totally didn’t lead to thousands of eye rolls from Carolina Panthers fans at all. In 15 games, Stroud passed for 4,108 yards (eighth), 23 touchdowns (13th) and just five interceptions. Stroud’s 4,108 passing yards were the third most by a rookie in NFL history, trailing only Andrew Luck and Justin Herbert, while his 8.2 yards per attempt ranked fourth among qualified signal callers. The deep ball was insanely efficient, as Stroud ranked second in the league in deep completion percentage (56.1%), tossing eight touchdowns to zero interceptions on passes 20-plus yards down the field. He and wide receiver Nico Collins emerged into one of the better duos in the league, especially on post routes down the field. And then we saw rookie wideout Tank Dell shine during his first season.

And then the Texans traded for Stefon Diggs.

After already proving he can be both an elite real life and fantasy quarterback as a rookie, Stroud now has arguably the best wide receiver room in the NFL to work with in year two, on top of also having Joe Mixon and Dalton Schultz. Houston also has a very solid offensive line, as Stroud was under pressure on 34% of his dropbacks last year, despite Stroud averaging 2.86 seconds to throw, the third-longest in the NFL. The environment surrounding Stroud is just about as good as it gets in Houston.

The Case Against Stroud

Despite how elite Stroud was throwing the football last year, he still ranked just 11th in fantasy points per game (18.7). That can happen when you don’t provide a ton of rushing production on a weekly basis. Stroud ultimately rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns last year, seeing just four percent of Houston’s designed rush attempts. He also ranked 17th among quarterbacks in scrambles with 23. Stroud can easily lead the NFL in both passing touchdowns and yards in 2024 but could still finish outside the top-five fantasy signal callers if there isn’t a ton of rushing production alongside it.

I do, however, expect more pass volume from the Texans in 2024. With Stroud entering year two and Diggs joining the offense, it just makes very little sense for Houston to once again rank 26th in early down pass rate like they did in 2023 (49.2%). But who knows? I’d expect the early down pass rate to skyrocket in 2024 but the Texans also added Mixon and perhaps it climbs ever so slightly.

The Verdict: Anthony Richardson

This decision depends on the type of fantasy player you are. Are you more risk averse? If so, you’ll probably lean with Stroud, who I truly think could lead the league in multiple passing metrics in 2024. But for me, I want to chase the upside with Richardson. And I get it, he brings along a lot more risk. However, the quarterback position is so deep. and we know how easy it is to find someone to, at the very worst, stream each week. And if you are really worried about Richardson, you can even pair him with a second quarterback on draft day.

I’d be thrilled if either quarterback led my team in 2024. But if I’m shooting for the moon (and I am), give me Richardson in a close matchup.

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