NFL Quarterbacks Throw Mo’ and Better Making Running Backs Blue
May 3, 2012 | Chet
This information is fairly easy to realize without the actual statistics but I made some graphs and I didn’t want to just hang them on my wall and stare at them all day. First what we have below are the average touchdown passes and interceptions per team from 1970-2011, or post-merger. As you can see, interceptions have fallen while TD passes have risen. The last two seasons there was the biggest split between those two in NFL history with a 23.5 to 16 TD/INT ratio (+7.5) in 2010 and then 23.3/15.5 ratio (+7.5) in 2011. The worst of all time was in 1977 with a 13.9/20.1 ratio (-6.20). So when you bag on Terry Bradshaw and other stats from the 70’s keep in mind that decade was not kind to quarterbacks in general. Rules for cornerbacks chucking receivers were invented because Mel Blount beat the hell out of guys at the line, quarterbacks were pretty much free game for blood thirsty lineman, and most offenses ran the ball a whole bunch. Check out the second chart to see just how much.
So that brings me to a point that I think is useful in fantasy and one I will continue harping on going into the 2012 season and that is, that the better the league as a whole is at passing the ball, the easier it will be to find consistent and productive fantasy quarterbacks with potential to put up big numbers. Last season there were 11 QBs with 4,000+ yards passing and 9 QBs with 30+ touchdowns (pass/rush). I am in no way saying that QB isn’t an important fantasy position, but in 1977 the Bills’ Joe Ferguson threw 12 touchdowns and 24 interceptions and led the league in passing yards. In 2011 Drew Brees led the league (and all time) in passing yards and threw 46 TDs to 14 interceptions. The league now caters to quarterbacks. Their margin of error isn’t nearly as small as it once was. If you picked the #5 QB in 2011 you got Matt Stafford and his 5k yards and 41 TDs. In 1977 you would have gotten Terry Bradshaw with 17 TDs, 19 INTS and 2500 yards. It was very difficult to know what you were getting from quarterbacks in the past. They didn’t throw that much and when they did their receivers were being manhandled and all that was contingent on your QB not having his head torn off by Jack Lambert ending his and your season and possibly his or your life (if you were betting heavily on your 1977 fantasy team).
The position that now gets their stats spread out and diminished is running back. In 1977 running backs averaged 37 carries a game while quarterbacks averaged 25 pass attempts a game. Compare that to 2011 when running backs averaged 27 carries to quarterbacks 34 attempts. Add to that the specialization of running backs into goal line, 3rd down, change of pace, Cam Newton, etc… and you have an extreme need to pick the best fantasy running back possible in your drafts and to get that back before some other jerk-face does.
There are no easy answers as to when to take each position. If I can grab Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees and feel like they are the best players left, then I’ll do it, but I’ll also have these trends in the back of my mind and value the ever diminishing running back. They’re people to0 damnit!