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By The Numbers: Quarterback Edition

by Eric Moody | @EricNMoody | Featured Writer
Aug 31, 2016

Drew Brees

Drew Brees has finished as a top-six QB in each of the last 10 seasons

Eric Moody examines the top quarterbacks by the numbers to help readers prepare for 2016 fantasy football drafts.

Fantasy football is a game of numbers. The goal is to outscore your opponent every week. The game film tells one story, but innovative statistics and analytics tell another.

Tom Brady led all quarterbacks in touchdown passes (36) last season. Blake Bortles (18) led the league in interceptions and sacks (51). Cam Newton led NFL quarterbacks in rushing touchdowns (10). The top three quarterbacks who led in fantasy points per drop back (Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Tyrod Taylor) all had 100 or more rushing attempts in 2015. Jameis Winston had the second highest number of rushing attempts (seven) inside10-yard yard line last season.

The fantasy football draft season continues to be a rollercoaster filled with numerous twists and turns. The goal of this article is to share stats, provide clarity, and to help you understand the productivity of the top 10 quarterbacks according to FantasyPros ADP (average draft position) consensus rankings.

With that in mind, it’s time to dive into the statistical analysis of these quarterbacks.

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1. Cam Newton produced 0.93 fantasy points per rush.

Newton defied the odds and became the de-facto QB1 last season after many doubted he could be viable after losing Kelvin Benjamin to an ACL injury last August. He also produced 0.73 fantasy points per dropback according to Pro Football Focus. Newton averaged 2.81 touchdowns per game (passing and rushing combined) last season. He will not come at a discount in fantasy draft this season. Can the self-proclaimed Superman fend off negative regression in 2016?

2. Aaron Rodgers had a similar number of pass attempts inside the 20-yard line from 2014 (109) to 2015 (100).

The narrative surrounding Rodgers is that his fantasy production last season was impacted by the absence of Jordy Nelson. The perplexing thing about the Packers’ offense in 2015 was their inability to pivot and have success without Nelson. It is critical to have another wide receiver step up in 2016 and it remains to be seen how effective Nelson will be returning from his ACL injury. Rodgers has finished as a top two quarterback in six of his last eight seasons. The sixth best fantasy quarterback (Drew Brees) averaged 20.3 fantasy points per game last season and top fantasy quarterback (Cam Newton) averaged 24.3 fantasy points per game. Can those four fantasy points justify Rodgers’ ADP? The only quarterback I would consider drafting early in 2016 would be Drew Brees. If you are looking for more details on various strategies to address the quarterback position this article can be a resource to you.

3. Russell Wilson produced 0.57 fantasy points per rush, but only scored one rushing touchdown.

Wilson also produced 0.60 fantasy points per dropback in 2015. The Seahawks’ offense opened up the second half of the season and those fantasy owners who were patient with him were rewarded. Wilson had 60 completions of 20 yards or more and the fourth highest yards per attempt (8.33) among quarterbacks who played 10 or more games in 2015. His rushing ability sets him apart by giving him a higher floor than other quarterbacks that do not have the ability to create fantasy points with their legs. Wilson remains a QB1 in 2016.

4. Andrew Luck has only averaged 0.48 fantasy points per drop back from 2012-2014

Luck’s 2014 fantasy season was phenomenal. He threw for 4,762 yards, 40 touchdowns and rushed for three more on the ground while throwing 16 interceptions. The hope is that Luck recreates this type of production in 2016. My primary concern with the Colts is their offensive line. The team’s line is struggling and allowed Luck to be hit or sacked on nine of his 21 drop backs. The Colts’ running and passing attack starts with this unit. Luck lead all quarterbacks with 73 passing plays of 20 yards or more and 15 of 40 yards or more in 2015. If the protection is not on point then Luck will not have time to attack opposing defenses vertically. The potential is there for Luck to return to form in 2016. The irony is that despite playing only 510 offensive snaps he still averaged the same amount of fantasy points (26) per 100 snaps as Rodgers and Eli Manning. I am not on board with drafting Luck at his current ADP.

5. Drew Brees has averaged 40 or more pass attempts per game since 2010

Brees finished second in pass attempts and completions in 2015. He has finished as a top-six fantasy quarterback for 10 seasons in a row. Brees has a viable running game with Mark Ingram and one of the best receiving cores in the NFL. He is one of the few quarterbacks I am open to select at his current ADP. Brees has the potential to finish as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback as the Saints’ offense tries to cover up an abomination of a defense.

6. Ben Roethlisberger had the fourth highest DVOA (22.1%) among quarterbacks according to Football Outsiders. 

DVOA, or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, boils down to a quarterback with more value per play. My biggest concern with drafting Roethlisberger at his current ADP is his lack of offensive weapons. He has lost Martavis Bryant, Le’Veon Bell, and Ladarius Green. Roethlisberger still has Antonio Brown, but one would expect these losses to catch up with him sooner rather than later. He led the NFL in pass plays greater than 40 yards (17) in 2015.

7. Carson Palmer led all quarterbacks with a Pro Football Focus aDOT of 11.3.

The Cardinals’ offense attacks opposing defenses vertically early and often. Palmer’s depth of his passes along with his average yards per attempt display this. It is fair to say the Cardinals have the most imposing trio of wide receivers in the NFL with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, and John Brown. Palmer can not be drafted as a value this season. The 36 year-old completed 69.4 percent of his aimed throws in 2015. Palmer’s fantasy production could regress in 2016 due to the emergence of David Johnson.

8. Tom Brady had the second highest DYAR (1,312) among quarterbacks according to Football Outsiders.

DYAR, or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, boils to a quarterback with more total value. Brady produced 0.52 fantasy points per drop back in 2015 as the Patriots attempted a pass on 63.5 percent of their offensive plays. The Patriots will continue to be an offensive juggernaut in 2016 after scoring 2.34 points per drive in 2015. If you plan on incorporating a quarterback by committee approach Brady is a perfect target to select late in your draft. He and the Patriots’ offense will have a mission to humiliate every opponent on their schedule after Brady serves his suspension. I would consider pairing Brady with Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, or Marcus Mariota.

9. Eli Manning had the second highest number of pass plays (42) inside the 10-yard line. 

Manning produced career highs in numerous statistical categories last season. He set a career best in pass attempts (618), completions (387), and touchdowns (35) while producing 0.45 fantasy points per drop back. Manning has quietly finished as a top 10 fantasy quarterback in back to back years. The Giants’ strength as an offensive unit is its receiving core. Manning will be in a position to replicate or exceed these statistical highs.

10. Blake Bortles threw the third highest number of touchdowns (35) among quarterbacks. 

Bortles also led the NFL in pass plays inside the five-yard line. He finished eighth in the league in completions and sixth in pass attempts. Many are concerned about regression due to the arrival of Chris Ivory. Bortles can still be a very viable QB1 for fantasy owners in 2016. He has improved as a quarterback and has multiple receiving weapons.

Rapid Takes on Other Notable Quarterbacks

Philip Rivers lead all quarterbacks with 661 pass attempts. 

Rivers was ranked QB2 before Keenan Allen suffered a season-ending injury in week 8. He produced 0.42 fantasy points per drop back in 2015.

Tyrod Taylor produced 0.77 fantasy points per rush last season. 

The epitome of a late-round quarterback with the rushing ability to generate fantasy points and provide a high weekly floor. Taylor owned 34.1 percent of the Bills’ rushing attempts inside the 20-yard line.

Matthew Stafford has averaged 40 pass attempts per game over the last four seasons. 

The lack of an efficient running game in Detroit has benefited Stafford over the years. Another excellent late-round quarterback in 2016.

Kirk Cousins produced 0.63 fantasy points per drop back over the final eight games. 

Cousins helped many owners win fantasy championships last season. He produced 0.78 fantasy points per drop back during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14 to 16). Cousins had 984 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, one interception, and two rushing touchdowns during that time frame.

Conclusion

It is tough in many fantasy football formats to justify drafting a quarterback with an early draft pick. There continues to be so much value at the quarterback position year in and year out. It helps to target quarterbacks who project to have a high number of pass attempts and can create fantasy points with their rushing ability. Here are five quarterbacks I project to have 600 or more pass attempts in 2016: Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers. These are all quarterbacks you can select at different parts of your fantasy draft. Here are quarterbacks that have the ability to create yards with their legs: Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, and Alex Smith.

This concludes the 2016 introductory series of By The Numbers. If you missed my previous articles evaluating the running back, wide receiver, and tight end positions click on the links. By The Numbers will be a weekly column at FantasyPros starting in Week 1 of the regular season.

What statistics stood out to you? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter. You can find me @EricNMoody and I am always open to answering questions or discussing football. Until next time!

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