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2016 Fantasy Football Review: QBs

By Matt Schauf 10:02am EST 2/20/17

We reviewed QBs as part of a podcast series in January and February. This article kicks off an adjoining series that digs deeper.

Dak Prescott needs to do more if he’s going to help your fantasy football team in 2017.

That might seem like an odd way to begin this QB review. How can we possibly ask for more from a 4th-round rookie who went from summer backup to top-8 fantasy performer on the NFC’s #1 seed? Well, that’s kinda my point.

If you drafted Prescott – or snatched him off waivers – in 2016, then he paid off for you big time. The exact final ranking depended on your particular scoring format, but the Dallas rook finished somewhere around 7th among QBs.

Prescott’s 6 rushing TDs helped quite a bit. That number also seems likely to come down.

There have been 40 seasons of 6+ QB rushing scores since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Among that group, Prescott ranked 30th in rushing attempts and 32nd in rushing yards.

Cam Newton, for comparison’s sake, has rushed for 5+ TDs in each of his 6 seasons. His career-low of 90 attempts in 2016 outpaced Prescott by 33.

It’s certainly possible that Prescott continues to pile up ground scores at an abnormal rate — but it’s not likely. Just once in his 6 seasons has Newton matched or beaten the 10.5% TD rate at which Prescott scored among his 57 carries in 2016. And that came back in Newton’s 14-TD rookie campaign. He has come within 4 of that number just once — despite spending his career as Carolina’s lead goal-line back.


Where 2016 Scoring Came From

Let’s shift gears now a little bit, because I don’t mean to bash Prescott at all. He just enjoyed a tremendous debut season and should have plenty more fantasy success ahead of him. That’s why we’ve jumped him all the way up to 3rd in our QB dynasty rankings.

But a season review isn’t just about looking back on what just happened. It should also look ahead to what we can expect next year. That makes it important to know just where the QB scoring came from.

Among all QBs who started at least half the season, Prescott ranked 4th in percentage of fantasy points derived from rushing stats. Just Tyrod Taylor, Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton beat him (along with Jacoby Brissett, Robert Griffin and Blaine Gabbert among less-frequent starters).

Rushing Points

Tyrod Taylor

30.0%

Colin Kaepernick

25.0%

Cam Newton

20.8%

Dak Prescott

18.9%

Blake Bortles

15.8%

Alex Smith

15.6%

Marcus Mariota

14.8%

Aaron Rodgers

13.8%

Andy Dalton

13.1%

Andrew Luck

12.1%

Brock Osweiler

10.8%

The whole QB group scored 9.3% of its gross fantasy points (not taking anything away for turnovers) on the ground. Fantasy-league scoring can vary quite a bit, which will alter the percentages. For this exercise, I used the following format:

1 point per 20 passing yards
4 points per passing TD
1 point per 10 rushing yards
6 points per rushing TD

Of the 11 rush-heavier scorers above, just 4 finished among the top 13 fantasy QBs in gross points per game.

Look only at rushing TDs, and Prescott jumps ahead of Newton. The Cowboy joined Tyrod Taylor and Alex Smith as the only starters to generate more than 10% of their fantasy points via ground scores. League wide, QBs scored just less than 3.7% of their fantasy points on rushing TDs.

Finally, here’s the list when you pull out just rushing yardage:

Colin Kaepernick

19.9%

Tyrod Taylor

18.5%

Cam Newton

11.3%

Marcus Mariota

11.1%

Blake Bortles

10.5%

Andrew Luck

8.9%

Aaron Rodgers

8.3%

Dak Prescott

8.3%

Russell Wilson

7.9%

Prescott’s #8 finish falls right in line with his #9 ranking among QBs in total rushing attempts. If the TDs line up more with those numbers — and the Cowboys don’t bump up his rushing volume (and why add that risk?) — Prescott will need to post more on the passing side to keep his fantasy scoring up.


The Passing Side

Here’s the final top 12 in the aforementioned scoring system (gross points) and the percentage of their scoring accumulated in each category:

Player

PaYds Pct

PaTD Pct

RuYds Pct

RuTD Pct

1. Aaron Rodgers

50.06%

36.17%

8.34%

5.43%

2. Drew Brees

61.64%

35.04%

0.47%

2.84%

3. Matt Ryan

60.16%

36.99%

2.85%

0.00%

4. Andrew Luck

55.48%

32.45%

8.92%

3.14%

5. Kirk Cousins

64.71%

26.32%

2.63%

6.32%

6. Philip Rivers

61.83%

37.18%

0.99%

0.00%

7. Matthew Stafford

62.69%

27.82%

6.00%

3.48%

8. Blake Bortles

57.22%

26.96%

10.52%

5.28%

9. Dak Prescott

53.99%

27.09%

8.30%

10.60%

10. Jameis Winston

60.27%

33.01%

4.95%

1.77%

11. Russell Wilson

64.53%

25.70%

7.92%

1.84%

12. Andy Dalton

64.77%

22.17%

5.67%

7.39%

Group

59.58%

30.93%

5.54%

3.95%

Overall, the position scored at similar rates: 60.9% from passing yards, 29.8% from passing TDs, 5.6% from rushing yards and 3.8% from rushing TDs. Those numbers fell pretty much in line with the percentages from the previous 3 seasons. Interestingly, though, the percentage of QB scoring from rushing yards has dipped each of the past 3 seasons: nearly a full percentage point from 2013’s 6.44%.

Last season marked a low point among the past 4 years in the percentage of top-12 QB scoring generated by TD passes, with a 4-year high in rushing-TD percentage. Overall, though, the numbers don’t suggest a trend in any particular direction.

Among QBs who appeared in at least half the games, these 10 generated the largest shares of their fantasy points via passing yardage:

Cody Kessler

72.8%

Case Keenum

70.0%

Sam Bradford

69.4%

Ryan Fitzpatrick

68.9%

Joe Flacco

68.9%

Trevor Siemian

68.6%

Carson Wentz

67.5%

Carson Palmer

66.3%

Eli Manning

66.1%

Andy Dalton

64.8%

Eight more starters surpassed the league-wide rate of 61.4%.

And here’s the top-10 list for passing TDs:

Tom Brady

37.8%

Philip Rivers

37.2%

Matt Ryan

37.0%

Ben Roethlisberger

36.9%

Aaron Rodgers

36.2%

Derek Carr

35.5%

Drew Brees

35.0%

Eli Manning

34.2%

Jameis Winston

33.0%

Carson Palmer

32.5%

Three other starters – Luck, Mariota and Ryan Tannehill – topped the league-wide rate of 29.3%.

The most successful of these groups in terms of placing guys near the top of the final fantasy-point board was the TD-pass crew. And that came despite an overall dip in TD throws.

The entire league threw for its fewest scores since 2012. Fantasy owners watched just 5 QBs tally 30+ TD passes for the 1st time in 3 years. Eleven signal-callers reached that number in 2015; nine did so the year before.

And QBs weren’t throwing the ball any less this past fall. They tallied just 25 fewer attempts than in 2015; 409 more than in 2014.


Consistency

The TD-pass guys also fared well on a week-to-week basis. Jared already laid out his Reliability Rankings for the 2016 season. Five guys from the TD percentage list above ranked among the top 10 in his ratings.

I also did my own, however, scoring players against the full-season average of what made a weekly top-12 QB. By my calculations, 7 of the 10 guys from the list above finished among the top 10 for percentage of top-12 weeks. The other 3 top-10 guys on that top-12 list – Luck, Prescott and Mariota – all ranked among the top producers of QB rushing stats.

Prescott made up for any pass-TD deficiency with the 6 rushing scores. Mariota ranked 4th among starting QBs in rushing production as a percentage of total fantasy output. Plus, he sits 12th on the passing-TD percentage list. Luck checks in a few spots behind Mariota in rushing production and 1 spot ahead of him on the passing-TD list.

The message: If you’re good at both throwing TDs and running the ball, then you’re a good fantasy bet at QB. If you’re only good at 1 of those 2 things, then the passing side will make you more reliable.


Rushing to the Top

Running the ball did, however, help a number of QBs reach the high end in terms of weekly production. Nine QBs produced 4+ weeks of top-5 level fantasy numbers in 2016. Six of those QBs also ranked among the position’s top 12 in total rushing points.

Also, 12 QBs finished 50% or more of their top-12 level weeks in top-5 territory. Eight of those QBs ranked among the top 13 in total rushing points. The group of 5 who didn’t included Trevor Siemian and Case Keenum, who supplied just 2 weeks of top-12 production apiece.

This could help as you build a QB stable in a league where you plan to platoon heavily – such as the draft-only formats that kick off earlier than most other fantasy football leagues.


Looking Ahead

I compiled these numbers primarily to look back on the 2016 season, but there’s not much value to that unless we spin the analysis ahead to 2017 and beyond. I’m sure we’ll continue to work with the various stats as we start getting into projections, rankings and then drafting for the coming season. So treat this as a starting point rather than a conclusion.

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