Fantasy Equity Scores: Late-Round Quarterbacks And Every-Week Starters
July 12, 2016 | C.D. Carter
The goal of streaming quarterbacks, as I’ve written seven or eight hundred times, is not to stream. The successful streaming end game is to draft or nab off the waiver wire a signal caller who can put up every-week startable numbers.
This is hardly uncommon in standard 12-team leagues, as we’ve documented on a show commonly known as Living The Stream. Philip Rivers, who went in the 10th round in 2015, produced at an elite clip for the season’s first half and finished the year as a top-10 option. Carson Palmer was available in the 11th round and outscored all but five quarterbacks. Hell, fantasy’s top scoring player, Cam Newton, went in the early 10th round a year ago.
The availability of every-week quarterbacks available in the double digit rounds is good enough reason to tune out anyone who trumpets the “safety” of early-round quarterbacks. Here’s a public service announcement: Tyrod Taylor scored more fantasy points per game in 2015 than Aaron Rodgers. Palmer scored one fantasy point per game less than Russell Wilson. Blake Bortles, whose 2015 ADP was a big, fat N/A, tied Drew Brees in fantasy points per week.
Middle and late-round quarterbacks securing a spot among fantasy’s top scorers wasn’t limited to 2015, of course. Wilson, a late ninth rounder in 2014, finished the year as QB3. Taken in the 13th round, Ryan Tannehill scored more than all but seven signal callers in 2014. Ben Roethlisberger notched top-5 numbers two years ago after being taken in the late 11th round, after 17 quarterbacks were off the draft board.
The relative “safety” of early-round quarterbacks is a myth and you are just the imagination of yourself. Now for more equity scores.
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No one should be bowled over by Fitzpatrick’s elevated median and high equity scores. His high score would essentially be a repeat of his 2015 performance as New York starter, when he averaged 22.4 fantasy points per game (25.1 points against bottom-half pass defenses) in Chan Gailey’s quarterback friendly system. Surrounding casts matter, for both middling quarterbacks like Fitzpatrick and for top guys like Aaron Rodgers (turns out, Jordy Nelson matters). Fitz’s pass catchers, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, along with the additions of pass-catching deity Matt Forte and athletic freak-of-the-week tight end Jace Amaro, could once again make Fitzpatrick an every-week starter. And if the bearded one stands strong and refuses the Jets’ contract offers, I believe Geno Smith can step into this fantasy-friendly offensive system with those surrounding weapons and be just as useful as Fitzpatrick (who, if you needed reminding, is not #good). Never forget that Tyler Thigpen in 2008 was fantasy’s 12th highest scoring quarterback on a per game basis in Gailey’s system. Geno could bring a Konami Code advantage that Fitz doesn’t quite match too. He was sixth among quarterbacks in rushing attempts in 2014, averaging more than two fantasy points per game on the ground. That’s not insignificant. In fact, Geno has scored more than 100 fantasy points on the ground in 30 career starts. Geno will be a (very) useful fantasy asset in 2016, if given the chance. You should agree if you believe he’s better than Tyler Thigpen.
Mariota’s equity scores are a tad on the jarring side. I find it tough to be bullish on anyone in an offense run by a coach who obsesses about the ground game and some sort of “exotic smash mouth” system. That’s just code for “fun ways to be boring on offense.” I can’t shake the desire to ignore all this talk of backward philosophies and trust that Tennessee will once again be a bad team in 2016. Vegas has the Titans winning a grand total of 5.5 games — the second fewest in the league. That most likely translates into plenty of drop backs for Mariota, who sprinkled in some blow-up performances during his rookie campaign. While we shouldn’t chase quarterback volume, there’s something very enticing about Mariota’s multifaceted fantasy appeal and the addition of two running backs who look like Hall of Famers compared to what Mariota worked with last season. Mariota’s best comps, per the QB sim score machine, are Donovan McNabb’s 2002 campaign — when he averaged 26.5 points in 10 games — and Daunte Culpepper’s 2004, when the Vikings’ quarterback outscored all signal callers, topping Cam Newton’s 2015 total by almost 40 fantasy points. I see Mariota as a high-upside option to pursue in super flex and 2-QB formats.
Red zone passing opportunities matter a whole hell of a lot in fantasy football. Hardly ever have we seen this spelled out like it was last season in Jacksonville, where Blake Bortles turned 97 red zone attempts in 25 touchdowns — 71.5 percent of his season total. Kirk Cousins in 2015 had the fifth most red zone pass attempts, along with the eighth most red zone touchdown tosses. Only three quarterbacks had more pass attempts inside the 10-yard line (16 of Cousins’ 29 touchdown tosses came from inside the 10). This is hardly out of the norm for a Jay Gruden-run offense. Andy Dalton had the eighth and tenth most red zone pass attempts in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Don’t underestimate the impact of DeSean Jackson on Cousins’ fantasy output; Cousins scored about seven more fantasy points per game last year with a healthy DJax in the lineup. I’m only OK with Cousins in the 10th round because I think the Washington signal caller has as good a chance as anyone listed above to be a top-end fantasy asset.
Perhaps it’s the Bills’ baffling lack of confidence in Tyrod (Tygod) Taylor as a long-term starter, but Buffalo’s quarterback doesn’t even have his median projection baked into his ADP. It’s not even close. There’s no indication that Taylor’s 7.4 rushing attempts per game is going to plummet, meaning we can expect the second-year starter to overcome less-than-great passing performances with that injection of rushing production. While Sammy Watkins’ foot injury remains a major concern for the entire Buffalo offense, we shouldn’t forget how rock solid Tygoat was during games in which Watkins was heavily targeted. Taylor scored an average of 21.6 fantasy points when Watkins saw more than his seasonal average of seven targets. That average, in case you were wondering, would’ve been good for QB4 numbers in 2015. Taylor in 2015 pulled off the rare feat of posting a high average depth of target (third highest in the NFL) and throwing precious few interceptions (six). Cam Newton’s 2015 season is Taylor’s best comp for 2016, per QB sim scores. A small adjustment in the Rotoviz projection app, making Buffalo a slightly more pass happy team in 2016, put Taylor at 317 fantasy points, or last season’s QB7. He’s criminally under-drafted, as he was last summer.