The Anatomy of a Difference Making Fantasy Quarterback
Say you want to plan a road trip…
First, you ensure your passport is up to date, make the reservations, book the time off work, etc.
But what happens if you don’t have directions?
You’ll have no idea where you’re going or when you’ll get there, if at all.
Scouting Quarterbacks is a lot like planning a trip, you need the road map or “anatomy” of what makes some of the best fantasy quarterbacks in the NFL to guide you through the process.
In this article, I am going to outline which traits and commonalities the best fantasy QBs of the last 6 seasons all shared. I will be doing this for all four fantasy positions in a four-part series. The parameters I set are as follows:
To qualify, a QB finished top 8 in fantasy points per game in any one of those 6 seasons (2015-2020).
Play a minimum of 10 games in that season.
The reason I chose quarterbacks who ACTUALLY FINISHED top 8 in PPG is due to the unpredictability of fantasy football. Sure, I could’ve looked at the consensus top 15 dynasty quarterbacks and used that as my sample, but chances are, half of those guys will bust and never have a top 8 finish. Secondly, the reason I chose top 8 and not top 12, was due to the top 8 being a more accurate depiction of a difference-maker at the position that we’re trying to find when we scout. We all know that quarterbacks are a dime-a-dozen in fantasy, so we care about the “set-it-and-forget-it” starters.
Before we get into this, I always want to remind you that BOTH film and stats/analytics need to be considered when evaluating any position, so this is only ½ the equation.
Here are the 23 qualified candidates.
The metrics I chose are believed to be some of the more predictive ones around the industry. The following are ranked from most common to least common below:
1. Career Pass Attempts Above 600 (20/23 or 87%)
The Quarterback position is the hardest in sports, it’s not shocking to see that 1-year starters or quarterbacks with limited experience were outliers. Not having a lot of starting experience makes the pro transition that much more difficult.
2. College QBR above 75 (15/18 or 83%)
Unfortunately, some of the QBR data isn’t available for the older QBs like Brady and Ben along with Wentz who went to an FBS school. But this makes sense also, QBR is indicative of efficiency moving the ball and scoring in college, if you aren’t successfully doing that, it’s harder to do it in the NFL.
3. Completion % above 60% (17/23 or 74%)
Accurate passers in college tend to be more accurate in the NFL and the more accurate you are, the better the chance for success in general.
4. First Round Draft Capital (16/23 or 70%)
A player's ceiling in fantasy is usually determined by talent meeting an ideal situation. Talented players get drafted higher and tend to last longer in the NFL. Overall, this number is lower than I anticipated.
Surprisingly, rushing production and yards per attempt didn’t prove to be that predictive at 14/23 and 13/23 respectively.
I also wanted to see if anything changed for repeat top 8 finishes (QBs who finished top 8 in PPG more than once from 2015-2020) and there were 14 QBs that fit that description.
1. Career Pass Attempts Above 600 (13/14 or 93%)
Again, more experience = easier transition
2. Completion % above 60% (10/14 or 71%)
Again, accuracy translates.
3. Highest rushing yardage season as 400+ yards (10/14 or 71%)
Here’s where it changed, the ability of rushing quarterbacks may not have shown up in the first sample, but sustained fantasy production was aided by a quarterback rushing production in college.
Now that we’ve determined what’s most important, we can examine how the top quarterbacks in this year’s class stack up.
Again, we want to combine this with film and context to determine the relevance of some of this information. But it is worth noting a couple of things:
Lawrence & Fields check every box.
Zach Wilson is only 114 rushing yards short of checking every box.
Trey Lance, as an FCS QB didn’t have his QBR available but his 28/0 TD/INT ratio ensures it would have been above 75.
Trey Lance and Mac Jones limited starting experience is a concern especially knowing that it was the most common stat in the sample.
Kyle Trask checks more boxes than Mac Jones outside of projected draft capital.
Kellen Mond and Jamie Newman have a lot of question marks.
As mentioned previously, I will be conducting a similar exercise with all of the remaining positions in fantasy as well!