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Fantasy Football: History of the Running QB

by Stan Son | @Stan_Son | Featured Writer
Sep 3, 2015

Dual-threat QBs, like Tyrod Taylor, are enticing for their ability to rack up points through the air and on the ground

Dual-threat QBs, like Tyrod Taylor, provide the ability to score through the air and on the ground

I have always been infatuated with the dual-threat quarterback. Watching Randall Cunningham and Steve Young toy with defenses in the 90’s was comical. The concept of getting two for the price of one usually resonates with me. I’ve drafted and owned them all. For better or for worse, till death do us part.

Read Rich Hribar’s article here on the impact that running quarterbacks have on the game of fantasy football. Hribar also delved into the history of the running quarterback here, so I pay homage to him.

I recently wrote a Predicting the Top 10 series. In my quarterback edition, I wrote that Tyrod Taylor could finish as a top 10 quarterback in fantasy. I received a lot of criticism for that, so I wanted to go back in history and look up all the running quarterbacks. Cam Newton and Michael Vick weren’t slated to be top 10 quarterbacks, yet there they were at the end of the year.

For the below exercise, I will be using the Football Guys historical data. The furthest the data goes back is 1960. I will use an arbitrary number of 500 rushing yards. That comes out to 31 yards-per-game. Not an outlandish number but one that distinguishes a running quarterback from a pocket quarterback that escapes pressure from time to time. Let’s see how many of those quarterbacks ended as a top 10 option at quarterback.

NAME YEAR PYD COMP % PTD RUSH YD RUSH TD FANT PT FINAL QB RANK
Michael Vick 2006 2474 53% 20 1039 2 306.7 #4
Bobby Douglass 1972 1246 38% 9 968 8 231.1 #3
Randall Cunningham 1990 3466 58% 30 942 5 404.5 #1
Michael Vick 2004 2313 56% 14 902 3 267.9 #12
Russell Wilson 2014 3475 63% 20 849 6 369.4 #5
Robert Griffin III 2012 3211 66% 20 833 7 360.9 #7
Michael Vick 2002 2936 55% 16 777 8 331.3 #3
Cam Newton 2012 3869 58% 19 741 8 380.2 #4
Cam Newton 2011 4051 60% 21 706 14 426.9 #4
Michael Vick 2010 3018 63% 21 676 9 350.5 #3
Steve McNair 1997 2665 52% 14 674 8 291.7 #5
Tim Tebow 2011 1729 46% 12 660 6 229.5 #19
Colin Kaepernick 2014 3369 60% 19 641 1 304.6 #16
Donovan McNabb 2000 3365 58% 21 629 6 338.2 #5
Randall Cunningham 1988 3808 54% 24 624 6 368.8 #1
Randall Cunningham 1989 3400 55% 21 621 4 325.1 #2
Daunte Culpepper 2002 3859 61% 18 603 10 362.3 #1
Michael Vick 2005 2412 55% 15 597 6 261.9 #10
Michael Vick 2011 3303 60% 18 589 1 288.1 #11
Cam Newton 2013 3379 62% 24 585 6 346.5 #6
Steve McNair 1998 3228 59% 15 568 4 292.2 #4
Vince Young 2006 2199 52% 12 552 7 242.2 #12
Randall Cunningham 1992 2775 61% 19 549 5 288.7 #3
Randall Cunningham 1986 1391 53% 8 540 5 178.6 #19
Steve Grogan 1978 2824 50% 15 539 5 262.1 #3
Cam Newton 2014 3127 58% 18 539 5 300.3 #17
Russell Wilson 2013 3357 63% 26 539 1 322.8 #9
Kordell Stewart 2001 3109 60% 14 537 5 284.2 #9
Steve Young 1992 3465 67% 25 537 4 344 #1
Greg Landry 1971 2237 52% 16 530 3 233.9 #1
Rich Gannon 2000 3430 60% 28 529 4 349.4 #4
Bobby Douglass 1973 1057 47% 5 525 5 148.4 #12
Greg Landry 1972 2066 50% 18 524 9 264.7 #1
Colin Kaepernick 2013 3197 58% 21 524 4 312.3 #11
Billy Kilmer 1961 286 58% 0 509 10 121.2 #19
Randall Cunningham 1987 2786 55% 23 505 3 287.8 #1

So, in the past 55 years, the NFL has produced 36 seasons in which a quarterback rushed for 500 or more yards. There were 10 instances the player finished outside the top 10:

  1. 2004 Michael Vick. Finished #12. Missed one game due to injury.
  2. 2011 Tim Tebow. Finished #19. Did not play two games. Passing completion percentage was 46%.
  3. 2014 Colin Kaepernick. Finished #16.
  4. 2011 Michael Vick. Finished #11. Missed three games due to injury.
  5. 2006 Vince Young. Finished #12. Missed one game due to injury.
  6. 1986 Randall Cunningham. Finished #19. Only started five games.
  7. 2014 Cam Newton. Finished #17. Missed two games due to injury.
  8. 1973 Bobby Douglass. Finished #12. Threw 174 passes all season.
  9. 2013 Colin Kaepernick. Finished #11.
  10. 1961 Billy Kilmer. Finished #19. Threw 34 passes all season.

Analysts always say that it’s common to skew stats to best fit your theory. It’s my article so you are at my mercy.

If we break down the above numbers further, only five players finished outside the top 12. Two of those players threw less that 175 passes, one started only five games, and one was Tim Tebow. Seven of the 36 ended as the No. 1 quarterback and 21 finished in the top five. Only 13 had a passing completion percentage over 60%.

Now you see why I love the running quarterback?

Stan Son is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Stan, check out his archive and follow him @Stan_Son

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