2020 QB Scoring Review
Quarterbacks scored a lot of freakin’ fantasy points last season.
You didn’t need to open this article to learn that, and that’s not all I plan to say on the subject. But it seems a worthwhile starting point.
A 400-point fantasy QB used to be a unicorn. Tom Brady rode a then-record 50 TD passes beyond that benchmark back in 2007. The next 3 seasons produced zero 400-point QBs. The 2 seasons before that Brady campaign also delivered 0, after 2004 gave us Peyton Manning’s 49-TD line plus Daunte Culpepper’s league-leading 429.5 fantasy points.
(Obviously, all these point totals will differ by league scoring. But you get the idea.)
Recent years have seen the NFL continue to mold rules to favor offenses and QBs, and we have come to see 400-point fantasy lines annually. This past season delivered the most ever, though: 6 quarterbacks roared past 400 fantasy points. Only 1 other year has given us more than 3.
That came back in 2011, when Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford all exceeded 400 points. We had 0 such performances the 3 seasons prior. The season after produced one 400+ QB. In fact, the 8 years between 2011 and 2020 totaled just 13 such fantasy lines -- 1.6 per season.
The point surge of 2020 extended beyond those top 6 scorers as well. The top overall scoring spot trailed 2019’s numbers. But every other position down the QB rankings beat its 2019 counterpart.
Does that make 2020 a harbinger of an upward trend in QB scoring? Or was it a high point in a graph bound to bounce up and down?
We obviously can’t know that answer for sure until ensuing seasons play out. But let’s look at other recent numbers.
I took every week of QB scoring over the past 5 years and found the median points per game for each position in the QB fantasy rankings each season. The chart above shows the top 12 from each year. As you can see, the blue dot for 2020 falls short of the lead at QB1 but leads every other spot.
The rest of the dots proved more mixed, however. That means 2020 didn’t just represent the next step in a clear upward scoring trend.
It might be that, of course. Every draft class promises to bring more QBs with at least some mobility, which we know enhances both fantasy floor and upside. So we’ll see where that scoring goes. And we’ll, of course, look further into that as we move toward 2021 projections time.
Top Performers of 2020
For now, though, we’re going to shift focus to look back on how last year’s QBs scored for us week to week.
First, the chart:
As I mentioned, I lined up all 17 weeks of QB scoring for last season and found the median score for each spot in the rankings. Then I tallied up the number of teams a QB reached the 3 levels listed:
35+. That put you in the top 2. The median weekly score for the QB leader was 36.9. Second place was 34.9. Third, 32.7. That’s gaps of 2+ points per game for each of those steps, with smaller gaps the rest of the way down.
30+. This put you in the top 5. The QB5 spot delivered a weekly median of 29.6.
24+. This is basically a top-12 finish. The QB12 spot posted a median score of 23.9 for the season.
The chart above is sorted by percentage of games in 24+ territory -- i.e. top-12 fantasy weeks.
If we look past Marcus Mariota and his 1-for-1 in that category, Aaron Rodgers checks in as an unsurprising leader. He didn’t post any top-level scores but finished 13 of his 16 outings with a fantasy score good enough for the top 12. And only 3 QBs delivered more games of 30+ points than Rodgers’ 5.
Deshaun Watson, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert were the only other QBs to score 24+ fantasy points in at least 60% of their starts. Hurts did so on a 3-game sample: 4 starts, minus the Week 17 game that saw him yanked in the 2nd half for Nate Sudfeld.
Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Tom Brady and Russell Wilson joined that group in scoring 24+ points in more than 50% of outings. Their scoring highs exceeded just about everyone else’s, while their valleys proved a little lower vs. other top scorers.
Overall, 15 guys produced at least 5 games of 24+ points.
Allen led the whole group in games of 35+ and 30+, with Murray, Wilson and Watson next behind him in games of 30+.
Overall, 9 QBs delivered 5+ games of 30 points or more. That group did not include Lamar Jackson. His 2020 was far from terrible. Jackson finished 11th in fantasy points per game and got particularly hot from Week 13 on. But he could serve as this year’s warning to be wary of reaching too early for last year’s darling QB.
I think Dak Prescott bears special mention here as well. He racked up 35+ fantasy points in 3 of his 4 full outings before the gruesome ankle injury of Week 5. Only Allen, Murray, Mahomes and Brady reached 35 fantasy points as many times for the whole season, and only Allen got to 5 such games. Prescott really could have been en route to a historic fantasy campaign.
Seattle’s QB might have posted the position’s oddest season. Only Allen reached 30 fantasy points more than Wilson’s 6 such games for the year. But all of those came among his 1st 8 outings. Through Week 9, only Murray was averaging more fantasy points per game. From Week 10 through the end of the regular season, Wilson checked in 17th in that category.
The Seahawks’ postseason decision to dump OC Brian Schottenheimer would have seemed like a positive for Wilson’s upside not so long ago. But HC Pete Carroll finished 2020 saying his team needed to run the ball more. So the “philosophical differences” that created the split don’t seem to bode well for the 2021 passing volume.
We’ll see what new OC Shane Waldron has to say this offseason, but he comes from 1 of the league’s more run-leaning offenses.