Fantasy Equity Scores: The Quarterback Goods, For Cheap
June 7, 2017 | C.D. Carter
I enjoy this part of the equity score exercise largely because it feels like a cleansing shower. I long to wash away the stink of “Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are good” takes from the elite quarterback tier. Writing about how great the league’s best players are is, after all, the lowest form of analysis.
They’re good. We get it. They are valued accordingly.
So join me in the shower. Wait.
As a reminder, I use the Rotoviz sim score app to generate raw median and high-end prospects for each player, make some regression-related adjustments, and come up with a range in which (I believe) the player will fall. Is it subjective? Yes, it is. Are some of the range of outcomes cavernous? Yes, they are. That can tell us what we need to know about a player and how fantasy footballers are valuing him, as you’ll see below.
I’ll update these scores as the starting quarterback picture becomes clearer this summer.
Tyrod (Tygod/Tygoat) Taylor drafted is valued as QB19 after two seasons of QB1 production. It makes sense in that it doesn’t. At all. The haters and losers are many. May Tygod smite them. The high score isn’t far fetched considering Taylor was 11 fantasy points away from being QB7 in 2016 despite seeing his touchdown rate plummet from 5.4 percent to 3.9 percent last year. His rushing production has proven stable over two seasons as Buffalo’s starter: he notched 40.5 rushing yards per game in 2015 and 36.2 yards per game in 2016. If opportunity is king in fantasy football (it is), we should note that Tygoat has run 6.6 times per contest over two seasons. Taylor — who led the NFL in quarterback rushes in 2016 and was second in 2015 — has rushed seven or more times in 14 of his 29 games as Buffalo’s starter. That’s a hefty amount of potential Konami Code. Taylor’s high equity score is in part related to Sammy Watkins playing 16 games at something close to the pace of his 2015 campaign. Taylor has managed 22.59 fantasy points per game when the oft-injured Watkins is in the lineup. His passing touchdown production, not shockingly, jumps from 0.9 to 1.47 when Watkins suits up. Taylor is an easy target in the ninth or tenth round.
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It’s no secret that Ben Roethlisberger’s home-road splits have driven mad millions of fantasy football players. They sit in a padded room, broken. Roethlisberger goes from elite at home (27.3 fantasy points per game since 2013) to a middling fantasy option on the road (18.4 points per game). Maybe that feeds his wide range of outcomes in the above equity scores, as his median prospects are a QB11 shoulder shrug and his best-case scenario would put him among draft day’s best values. I thought Roethlisberger’s splits with and without Le’Veon Bell might tell us something about his 2017 prospects, but the Pittsburgh quarterback scores more fantasy points with Bell sidelined than he does with Bell in the backfield. Because running backs don’t matter. Roethlisberger, who has finished the season as a top-10 fantasy quarterback precisely twice since 2010, sported a nice 5.69 percent touchdown rate in 2016 and ranked seventh in fantasy points per game among signal callers. He was eighth in per-game production in 2015 and fifth in 2014. This offers some credence to Roethlisberger’s high fantasy equity score, if the oft-injured, retirement-pondering quarterback can avoid nagging injuries for a whole season.
Dalton was an equity score flop in 2016, as he projected as potentially high-ceiling draft pick and finished the year as QB13. Long story quite short, Dalton’s median and high projections didn’t anticipate a woefully low 3.19 percent touchdown rate. That marks an eye-popping 3.3 percent decline from 2015. Give Dalton the league average touchdown rate and he leaps from QB12 to QB7 in 2016. His peripheral stats — yardage, completion rate, adjusted yards per attempt — were all in line with his most useful fantasy seasons. The best part about Dalton’s mostly ugly 2016 season is that we get him at a slight discount in 2017. Not many quarterbacks have the sort of gaping range of outcomes that Dalton sports here. The median score would hardly be a team killer and the best-case prospects offer borderline elite production at a fraction of the cost of Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and other signal callers going nine or ten rounds before Dalton. Tyler Eifert makes a big difference for the Bengals, per stats. That’s apparent in Dalton’s splits with and without his behemoth tight end. Dalton averages almost four more fantasy points when Eifert is in the Bengals’ lineup. Dalton’s high score shouldn’t stun us: he was QB4 through 12 weeks of the 2015 season, and outscored all but three quarterbacks in 2013.
Eli Manning last year posted the league average touchdown rate (4.3 percent) and finished outside the top-20 fantasy quarterbacks. His efficiency dropped off the planet, into some swirling black hole that worsened my Sunday afternoon tilt by 69 percent in 2016. Blaine Gabbert and Brian Hoyer were better on a per-snap basis last season. My expert analysis: that’s not good. You’ll notice Manning’s median and high equity scores are right next to each other. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a thing, but here we are. The short story: Manning is a boring, if low risk option available just after quarterbacks with much higher ceilings. His closest comps in the sim score machine are borderline fantasy starters who served as better streamers than locked-in starters. Matt Ryan’s 2016 season is Eli’s best-case comp for 2017 — a rather rosy scenario, considering Ryan managed 6.7 more points per game in 2016 than Eli in a campaign that saw Ryan’s touchdown rate spike to 7.1 percent.
What if I told you Carson Palmer averaged 0.1 fantasy points per game more than Dak Prescott in 2016? Would it put you on tilt? Mega tilt? Death tilt? Well, rest in peace because, somehow, it happened. Palmer has been summarily written off after his (and the Cardinals’) total debacle of a 2016 campaign. He’s being drafted among flier wide receivers and rookie tight ends one year after being the eighth quarterback off the board. Life, as Twitter tells us, comes at you fast. The 2017 afterthought version of Palmer has averaged a not-terrible 279.6 passing yards and 1.8 touchdowns per game since coming to Arizona in 2013. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns in 36 of 53 games in Bruce Arians’ offense. Forget that Palmer hurt your feelings in 2016 and put him on your late-round radar this summer. May the power of equity scores compel you.
Blake Bortles was last season’s QB12 while seeing his touchdown rate take a notable 2.1 percent fall. His always underestimated rushing prowess remained intact in 2016 (six more rushes, 59 more yards than in 2015), and he once again produced in Jacksonville losses, of which there are always many. Bortles has scored more fantasy points in Jags’ losses than wins since 2015. He’s a garbage time hero, and the bane of those who want real football success to mirror fantasy football success. I’d rather take Palmer a round or two later, but Bortles clearly has value at QB20. Andrew Luck’s 2013 season, when he finished as QB6, is among Bortles’ closest comps in the Rotoviz sim score machine. You might give Bortles the ole’ nah-wave if you have reason to think Jacksonville will be good in 2017. Vegas has them pegged for six wins. Jaguars coaches will say they want to run, run, run — like any bad team. I wish them luck with that plan when they’re down three scores in the second quarter.