Evolve or Die: QB Edition

Evolve or Die: QB Edition

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Throughout this series, I’ll be your guide in taking you through the ins and outs of how each position is evolving in the fantasy football landscape. My goal is to give you actionable advice that you can use to become better fantasy players. This advice will shed a light on positional trends, and enable you to properly evaluate which players and positions you should be prioritizing. Whether you are using this information for your startup drafts, rookie drafts, or simply general strategy, I promise you will leave more informed than you came. 


Checkout the other editions in the series here:

RB Edition

WR Edition

TE Edition


Let’s jump right into it, shall we?


Unlike some of the other positions, it’s fairly straightforward to see how the evolving QB position is changing fantasy football. Dual threat quarterbacks have been labeled the “konami code,” and for good reason: QBs with rushing ability have a higher weekly scoring floor, while also possessing significantly more upside than their immobile counterparts. Obviously, I’m not the first to tell you about the importance of having a dual threat quarterback on your fantasy team. However, I’m willing to bet you probably haven’t seen much evidence of exactly how strong the correlation really is. I’ll lay it out for you.


The same ten players finished within the top 10 of both the “% top 5 finishes” and “% top 10 finishes” categories, as you can see in the table below. Of these ten elite fantasy quarterbacks, 70% of them rushed the ball 3.7 times per game or more. In other words. 70% of these players finished in the top 10 in rush attempts per game for quarterbacks. In today’s NFL, if the quarterback you have on your fantasy roster is not a dual threat talent, there is a slim probability of them finishing in the top 10 of their position when it’s all said and done. 


The only three quarterbacks who finished in the upper echelon of the “% top 5” and “% top 10” categories that didn’t qualify as dual threat QBs were Ryan Tannehill, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. While Tannehill and Rodgers weren’t bonafide rushing stars, they weren’t completely immobile either. Both rushed for 3 or more touchdowns and ran the ball at least twice per game. This leaves Brady as the only QB within the top ten that ran the ball less than two times per game.


Although Tannehill generally isn’t mentioned in the “elite QB” conversation, he was second in fantasy points per drop back in 2020, and has been extremely efficient since he arrived in Tennessee. Similarly to Tannehill, Rodgers was extraordinarily efficient with his volume in 2020. He finished first in the NFL with 0.66 fantasy points per drop back and threw 8 more touchdowns than Tom Brady, (who finished 2nd place with 40 touchdowns) despite averaging 0.7 less red zone attempts per game. 


While Tannehill and Rodgers made up for their lack of rushing upside with incredible efficiency, Brady made up for this same deficit with a combination of elite volume and solid efficiency. More specifically, Brady finished first in the NFL in red zone passing attempts per game, and second in the NFL in pass attempts per game. He wasn’t quite as efficient as Rodgers and Tannehill, but still ranked top 10 in fantasy points per drop back. 


So, in short, if a given quarterback doesn’t possess the konami code, in order to be a top shelf fantasy option they must have elite efficiency, elite volume, or rank in the upper tier of both. It is also important to note that not all volume is created equally. High value pass attempts (i.e. red zone attempts) should be given more weight. Another important point to remember is that while volume is an important indicator, some level of efficiency is a prerequisite for high level fantasy production. Last year Matt Ryan was 4th in red zone pass attempts per game. However, he ranked 20th in fantasy points per drop back; meaning he was very inefficient. Sure enough, Ryan ranked outside the top 12 in the % top 20, 10 and 5 performance measures.


The table below looks at the percentage of games each top 24 fantasy quarterback finished in the top 20, 10 and 5 to reveal their floor and ceiling performances. I also track high value volume (through red zone attempts p/g) rushing ability, and efficiency (fan. points per dropback). 


QB Statistical Analysis:

Floor and Ceiling


Volume, Rushing Ability, and Efficiency

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Five Takeaways:

1. In comparison to last offseason, Lamar Jackson hype has dwindled considerably. Jackson finished as QB10 this season, after finishing as QB1 last year. While his touchdown efficiency did regress considerably, along with most of his other stats, there is reason for optimism moving forward. Jackson is often labeled as an inept thrower of the ball, but those that believe this should ask themselves how well other quarterbacks would do with the weapons in Baltimore. Mark Andrews is a quality weapon at TE, but Marquise Brown struggled for much of the season with inconsistency and drops, and the Ravens had virtually no dependable options outside of these two. If the Ravens can give Jackson a legit number one receiver, I believe this will do wonders for his development and subsequent production as a passer. The Ravens are not an incompetent organization, and it seems very likely that they will do just that this offseason. I recommend you acquire Jackson where you can, and enjoy a high end QB1 season from the young star next year.  


2. While not the sexiest option in the world, Kirk Cousins ranked within the top 12 of both the measures of floor and ceiling performance. He was also ranked top 10 in efficiency, scoring the same amount of fantasy points/drop back as Tom Brady, and 0.01 less than Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray. As long as he is throwing the ball to Justin Jefferson, with Dalvin Cook keeping defenses honest, he is a great value in fantasy football, and an underrated asset in dynasty. 


3. Aaron Rodgers was first in the NFL in touchdowns, despite ranking outside the top 10 in red zone pass attempts. Rodgers was historically efficient with his opportunity in 2020, and is virtually certain to regress in that department next year. However, his MVP performance is a testament to just how much he has left in the tank. His dynasty value rose significantly this year, but in my opinion, he’s still not regarded in the light that he should be. In today’s NFL, quarterbacks are getting hit much less (especially pocket passer), which will increase the average longevity of the position. If Rodgers was a few years younger coming off the season he just had, he’d likely be a top 3 dynasty quarterback. Because of his age, he’s currently the 12th quarterback off the board in dynasty startup ADP. Rodgers looks like he easily has 3-4 more years of solid QB1 left in him, and is someone I’m acquiring whenever possible in my dynasty leagues. 


4. Another quarterback who is a dynasty value according to the statistical measures above is Derek Carr. Currently QB24 off the board in dynasty ADP according to DLF, Carr ranked top 12 in % top 10 and % top 5 performances. Additionally, he was 7th in red zone pass attempts per game, tied with Mahomes at 5.4. If second year receivers Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs can take a step forward in their development, Carr should be in line for another strong year next season. He is very cheap to acquire, and is a dependable high end QB2 in superflex leagues. 


5. Lastly, I will touch on two quarterbacks who had down years in 2020 that I expect to bounce back. The first and most obvious is Matthew Stafford. Stafford landing in LA with Sean McVay is as close to a best case scenario as it gets. He will be surrounded by solid talent in Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, a capable TE in Tyler Higbee, and a young stud running back in Cam Akers. Stafford will likely ascend to mid-low end QB1 status next year.

The second of these prime bounce back candidates also had a change of scenery for the better. Carson Wentz was stuck behind one of the worst patch work jobs of an offensive line in the league last year, and struggled immensely. His weapons didn’t do him any favors either, as rookie Jalen Reagor failed to meet expectations, and Desean Jackson and Zach Ertz suffered from injuries. The Colts will give him a great opportunity to regain his confidence and re-ascend to low end QB1/high end QB2 status next year. They have a great offensive line, Jonathan Taylor keeping defenses honest, and are likely to go out and add another wide receiver to complement Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell this offseason. 

That’s all for now folks! Stay tuned in for the final TE edition of this article series that will be dropping in the coming days. Thanks for reading.

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