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Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between – Quarterbacks (2020 Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Aug 3, 2020

Aaron Rodgers used to be considered among the elite quarterbacks but is falling down draft boards in 2020

Boom, bust, and everything in between. What does that mean, exactly? If this is your first time reading this piece, you might be wondering that.

When someone mentions that “Player X recorded five QB1 performances last year,” it irks me a bit. It’s like saying something to the effect of “Kyler Murray was the QB8 last year, so he was a solid QB1.” Ask anyone who owned him in fantasy last year if he was the 8th best quarterback. He scored less than 18.0 fantasy points in 10-of-16 games. Stating where someone finished for a particular week doesn’t do us any good, either, because variance is a real thing.

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To better help you understand what I’m talking about, the average top-12 quarterback performance in 2019 was 18.6 points. What you don’t know is that Teddy Bridgewater scored 19.94 points in Week 7 but wasn’t awarded with a QB1 performance because it just happened to be a high-scoring week for quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Case Keenum posted 16.74 points in Week 2 and was awarded with a QB1 performance because it was a low-scoring week for quarterbacks.

The player’s performance should not be graded on a curve, because we have no control on predicting what that curve is for any particular week. Our goal as analysts is to predict who will have QB1 performances in any given week, which stood at 18.6 fantasy points in 2019.

The numbers vary from year-to-year, which is where the research comes into play. While a top-12 performance was 18.6 in 2019, it was an even higher 19.2 points in 2018, but only 18.1 in 2017. Every position is different, but know that I’ve gone through each year, each position, and each player, charting how many top-12, top-24, top-36 performances they’ve had according to that year’s stats. Not just that, though, as I’ve added boom and bust categories, which showcases their ceiling and floor on a week-to-week basis.

The number to achieve boom or bust status varies per position, as some have it harder than others. With quarterbacks, the number to “boom” wound up on 26.0 PPR points because it would have amounted to 300 yards, three passing touchdowns, and 20 rushing yards. That number can obviously be accomplished in a variety of different ways, but again, we just want them to reach that number. A “bust” on the other hand amounted to less than 14.0 PPR points. Below, you can find the chart with the parameters for each position.

Position Boom Bust
QB 26.0 13.9 or less
RB 25.0 6.9 or less
WR 25.0 7.9 or less
TE 20.0 6.9 or less

 

To give you an idea as to something you may find below, here’s an example: Carson Wentz performed as a QB1 in 50.0 percent of his games and is going outside the top 10 quarterbacks, while Kyler Murray performed as an QB1 in just 37.5 percent of his games in 2019 and is going as a top-five quarterback in drafts.

For the fourth time, welcome to Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between. Here are the quarterbacks, while the other positions will be released throughout the rest of the week. You’ll be able to find the links below once they go live.

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Quarterbacks

Top-6

So, you want to pay up for a quarterback, eh? This tier is reserved for those who are okay with drafting a quarterback in the first handful of rounds. Even if I don’t believe in the early-round quarterback approach, I want to give you the details of who you should be choosing if you have your mind set on that.

ADP Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
1 Patrick Mahomes 35.7% 57.1% 78.6% 28.6% 21.4%
2 Lamar Jackson 60.0% 93.3% 93.3% 60.0% 6.7%
3 Dak Prescott 31.3% 62.5% 81.3% 25.0% 18.8%
4 Kyler Murray 25.0% 37.5% 62.5% 18.8% 37.5%
5 Russell Wilson 25.0% 43.8% 81.3% 25.0% 18.8%
6 Deshaun Watson 46.7% 60.0% 73.3% 40.0% 26.7%

 

There are certainly a few things that jump off the page here. One being Lamar Jackson‘s insane top-5 percentage. Can it be replicated? Well, going over the last 10 years, here are the quarterbacks who reached 60 percent, as well as their percentage the following year.

YEAR PLAYER Top-5 % FOLLOWING YEAR
2011 Aaron Rodgers 66.7% 50.0%
2013 Peyton Manning 62.5% 25.0%
2014 Aaron Rodgers 62.5% 18.8%
2018 Patrick Mahomes 62.5% 35.7%

 

For one, it’s a very small list. And two, everyone declined the following year, with just one quarterback (Rodgers) hitting over 35.7 percent. I’m not saying Jackson is going to fall off completely, but he’s not repeating his 2019 performance. I’d say it’s more likely that Mahomes gets back to that 60 percent mark in 2020.

When drafting a quarterback this high, you need them to be a starter essentially every week, with the rare occasion of maybe snagging one to stream if they have a brutal matchup. So, when you see that just four of the top six quarterbacks being drafted hit QB1-type numbers in more than 43.8 percent of their games, you should be scared off them. This is why you see a lot of analysts taking the late-round or streaming approach to quarterbacks. If they hit on their streaming quarterback just 50 percent of the time, it gives them just as good of odds as drafting a top-six quarterback. Crazy, right?

Russell Wilson may be the second-most talented quarterback in football right now, but his pass attempts need to come up if he’s going to raise his QB1 percentages. Fortunately, the state of the defense is as bad as it’s ever been, so we could see him throw more in 2020. To be drafted here, he needs to.

Kyler Murray is the one who sticks out like a sore thumb on this list. Is he ascending? Sure. Did he just get DeAndre Hopkins added to his arsenal? Sure. Does he need to take a massive step forward to justify his average draft position. Absolutely. Judging him solely off last year’s numbers, he’d be going outside the top-12 quarterbacks in drafts. Don’t believe me? Here’s the best way for me to help you understand:

ADP Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
4 Kyler Murray 25.0% 37.5% 62.5% 18.8% 37.5%
19 Jared Goff 0.0% 43.8% 62.5% 0.0% 31.3%
21 Kirk Cousins 13.3% 40.0% 53.3% 13.3% 46.7%
35 Mitch Trubisky 6.7% 40.0% 46.7% 6.7% 53.3%

 

His upside certainly carries some weight, but not enough to justify ranking him as a top-four quarterback (where he’s currently being drafted). The idea of drafting a quarterback high is knowing the stability he brings to your lineup. You don’t get guaranteed stability with Murray. You get sky-high potential, sure, but based on what we know about quarterbacks, you shouldn’t have to spend a pick in the top five rounds to “hope” for that upside. The difference between Murray and the other quarterbacks on this list? They’ve already proven to be top-two options at some point in their career.

7-12 Range

This is the range where a lot of fantasy owners tend to snag their quarterbacks in the middle rounds. They don’t want to spend a lot of equity on a quarterback (inside the top five rounds), but they also don’t want to be stuck starting someone like Jared Goff, leaving them reaching for someone in this range. Let’s see what the numbers say.

ADP Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
7 Josh Allen 12.5% 43.8% 81.3% 6.3% 18.8%
8 Matt Ryan 13.3% 46.7% 86.7% 13.3% 13.3%
9 Drew Brees 18.2% 72.7% 72.7% 18.2% 27.3%
10 Aaron Rodgers 25.0% 31.3% 50.0% 18.8% 50.0%
11 Tom Brady 6.3% 37.5% 56.3% 0.0% 43.8%
12 Carson Wentz 0.0% 50.0% 75.0% 0.0% 25.0%

 

You certainly lose a lot of that top-five upside in this range, as Aaron Rodgers was the only one who reached that territory more than 18.2 percent of the time. It came at a big cost, though, as his 50 percent bust number was the highest in this group. It was a bad year for Rodgers, but he was someone justifiable when you wanted to spend a high round pick on a quarterback in years past. He was the definition of consistency throughout his career and his career chart below highlights that.

YEAR Top-5 % QB12 % QB18 % Boom % Bust %
2019 25.0% 31.3% 50.0% 18.8% 50.0%
2018 18.8% 50.0% 75.0% 18.8% 18.8%
2017 42.9% 71.4% 85.7% 0.0% 14.3%
2016 43.8% 68.8% 87.5% 43.8% 12.5%
2015 18.8% 37.5% 68.8% 12.5% 31.3%
2014 62.5% 68.8% 75.0% 37.5% 18.8%
2013 11.1% 44.4% 77.8% 11.1% 22.2%
2012 50.0% 56.3% 68.8% 31.3% 25.0%
2011 66.7% 93.3% 100.0% 40.0% 0.0%
2010 40.0% 53.3% 73.3% 40.0% 26.7%
2009 31.3% 81.3% 81.3% 18.8% 6.3%
2008 25.0% 56.3% 75.0% 6.3% 25.0%

 

Now you tell me what looks like the outlier in this set of numbers. There was a change in the offense, which definitely contributed to the decline, but was enough to drag Rodgers out of the “elite” group of quarterbacks. At just 36 years old, he’s still in the prime of his career, even if his group of pass-catchers isn’t ideal.

Drew Brees is the perfect picture of someone who won’t win you your fantasy league, but also someone who won’t lose it. His 72.7 percent top-12 mark was tied for second best in the league last year. But don’t grow too attached to that number, as it stood at just 46.7 percent in 2018. He’s safe, but knowing the Saints have what might be their best defense behind Brees, his pass attempts should remain somewhat low.

It’s quite remarkable that Carson Wentz was able to post top-12 numbers in 50.0 percent of his games despite playing with backups at nearly every position. That mark was at 54.5 percent in 2018 and 69.2 percent in 2017. If he can remain healthy, Wentz is a QB1 you’re getting at a discount. Sure, Alshon Jeffery is likely starting on the PUP list and DeSean Jackson is 34 years old, but the addition of first-round pick Jalen Reagor should help immediately.

13-18 Range

This is where most of the streamers live. No one is drafting them as quarterbacks who are expected to be every-week fantasy starters, though some of them will take the step into that territory.

ADP Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
13 Matthew Stafford 25.0% 62.5% 75.0% 25.0% 25.0%
14 Baker Mayfield 0.0% 25.0% 56.3% 0.0% 37.5%
15 Ben Roethlisberger 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
16 Daniel Jones 30.8% 30.8% 46.2% 30.8% 53.8%
17 Ryan Tannehill 18.2% 72.7% 81.8% 18.2% 18.2%
18 Joe Burrow DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

 

There are a few major things that stand out on this list. Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill were really frickin’ good in 2019. But I want to start on Stafford because he’s the one who’s being drafted as a borderline QB1. In fact, 48 percent of experts are saying they’d draft Stafford over Aaron Rodgers. Remember the chart we viewed on Rodgers earlier? Here’s Stafford’s career to this point.

YEAR Top-5 % QB12 % QB18 % Boom % Bust %
2019 25.0% 62.5% 75.0% 25.0% 25.0%
2018 0.0% 12.5% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
2017 12.5% 43.8% 75.0% 12.5% 25.0%
2016 18.8% 37.5% 68.8% 18.8% 31.3%
2015 12.5% 37.5% 68.8% 12.5% 31.3%
2014 12.5% 37.5% 50.0% 12.5% 43.8%
2013 12.5% 50.0% 68.8% 12.5% 25.0%
2012 18.8% 43.8% 62.5% 12.5% 31.3%
2011 37.5% 62.5% 81.3% 25.0% 12.5%
2010 66.7% 66.7% 66.7% 0.0% 33.3%
2009 10.0% 10.0% 30.0% 10.0% 70.0%

 

Stafford is a very good quarterback, and a consistent one at that. However, I see a lot of people using his 2019 eight-game sample size as a reason to value him a lot more in 2020. That’s likely to be a mistake, as he’s finished as a top-12 quarterback more than 50 percent of the time in just once in a season he played more than eight games (played 8 games in 2019, 3 games in 2010). Add in the back problems that had to shut him down in 2019, and it’s a bit risky to say Stafford should go inside the QB1 range.

Ryan Tannehill was ridiculous in 2019 and would be drafted as a top-five quarterback if we knew he could repeat his performance. His marks were better than Drew Brees‘ across the board. Tannehill’s top-12 marks were in between 25.0 and 37.5 percent when he was the starter back in Miami, but that was early in his career and then under Adam Gase, so can we really hold that against him? There’s certainly some unknown with Tannehill, but that’s baked into his cost.

The last name to address in this territory is Daniel Jones, who was the definition of boom or bust in 2019, as those two categories accounted for 84.6 percent of his games. Sure, he helped you win a week 30.8 percent of the time, but he likely cost you a game 53.8 percent of the time. No one wants to address this, but his 2019 numbers resemble Mitch Trubisky‘s numbers from 2018.

Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
Daniel Jones 2019 30.8% 30.8% 46.2% 30.8% 53.8%
Mitch Trubisky 2018 28.6% 35.7% 42.9% 28.6% 35.7%

 

Jones makes for a fine dark horse to take a step forward in 2020, but knowing he’ll play the Steelers, Bears, and 49ers the first three weeks, you’re likely going to be able to snag him off waivers later on. It’s the same thing that should stop you from selecting Joe Burrow in your draft, as you won’t want to play him against the Chargers in Week 1.

19-35 Range

These are the guys who are likely to go undrafted in standard 1QB leagues, though there may be a few hidden gems. This territory is important for those in 2QB leagues, as it highlights a floor that players in this range have.

ADP Player Top-5 % QB1 % Top-18 % Boom % Bust %
19 Jared Goff 0.0% 43.8% 62.5% 0.0% 31.3%
20 Jimmy Garoppolo 18.8% 25.0% 37.5% 18.8% 62.5%
21 Kirk Cousins 13.3% 40.0% 53.3% 13.3% 46.7%
22 Cam Newton 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 100.0%
23 Philip Rivers 0.0% 31.3% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
24 Drew Lock 0.0% 20.0% 20.0% 0.0% 80.0%
25 Sam Darnold 15.4% 30.8% 46.2% 7.7% 53.8%
26 Derek Carr 0.0% 37.5% 62.5% 0.0% 37.5%
27 Teddy Bridgewater 16.7% 33.3% 50.0% 16.7% 50.0%
28 Gardner Minshew 0.0% 35.7% 71.4% 0.0% 28.6%
29 Tua Tagovailoa DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
30 Tyrod Taylor DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
31 Ryan Fitzpatrick 13.3% 46.7% 53.3% 13.3% 46.7%
32 Dwayne Haskins 0.0% 11.1% 22.2% 0.0% 77.8%
33 Nick Foles 0.0% 0.0% 50.0% 0.0% 50.0%
34 Jarrett Stidham DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
35 Mitch Trubisky 6.7% 40.0% 46.7% 6.7% 53.3%

 

If you’re looking for stability in your 2QB or Superflex spot, Gardner Minshew is being tremendously undervalued. He was a top-18-type quarterback 71.4 percent of the time in 2019, which ranked 12th among quarterbacks. There’s zero competition on the roster and their defense took a major turn for the worse. He’s not someone you draft hoping he’ll carry you to a fantasy championship, but he’s an ideal second quarterback.

Jared Goff is boring, but he can be put into the same conversation as Minshew. They won’t win you a fantasy championship, but they aren’t going to destroy you in your Superflex/2QB slot. If we knew Derek Carr would retain the starting job all year, he’d be someone to target in 2QB formats, but knowing they added Marcus Mariota, he might have a short leash.

That brings me to another point. This year, more than any other, the ideal scenario might be to wait at quarterback in these multiple quarterback formats and select a timeshare. Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor and Justin Herbert, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa. You don’t have to invest much of anything, but you’ll likely have a stable presence at quarterback, especially if someone is scratched on gameday morning due to a virus.

What We Learned

There were just seven quarterbacks who produced QB1-type numbers in more than half their games in 2019, and one of them played just eight games (limited sample). Three of them were drafted outside the top 15 quarterbacks. Does it make you feel better to know that if you correctly guess the right streaming quarterback just 60 percent of the time, you’re doing just as well as drafting some of those top-five quarterbacks.

I won’t pretend that Patrick Mahomes doesn’t give you an advantage – he does. But what has better odds: That you can stream quarterbacks close to his level, or find a running back in the double-digit rounds that can outproduce a running back drafted in the second or third round? The answer is the streaming quarterback. However, if you play in a league where everyone devalues quarterbacks, feel free to select Mahomes in the fourth round, as most of the sure things at running back and wide receiver are gone. But more importantly, don’t chase the non-elite quarterbacks. That’s the worst thing you could do.

If you’d like to check out the sortable charts for Boom, Bust, and Everything In Between, our amazing developers have put together the data for you based on any scoring setting (STD, Half PPR, Full PPR). You can check that out right here.


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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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