Four QBs Who Are Fantasy Disasters When Their Teams Lose
May 22, 2015 | C.D. Carter
I’m not exactly opening up the innermost sanctum of fantasy football knowledge when I charge that quarterbacks are often statistically worse when their squad loses on the gridiron.
You will, however, see Week 1 quarterback streaming plays if you read that sentence backwards after using certain hypnotics.
Game flow and its impact on player production has become a niche obsession in fantasy football circles, with writers like esteemed Fake Football colleague Rich Hribar and Pro Football Focus scribe Pat Thorman having been hospitalized after 72-hour game flow research binges. Their sacrifice is very much appreciated.
Hribar discovered that Sam Bradford has been a garbage time prince and Eli Manning, headed in 2014, had been a debacle beyond human understanding with unfavorable game flow. Thorman explored the ideal situation for producing league-high snaps — a bad pass defense and a decent run defense.
You might ask: why should we pay any attention to game flow? Why should we care if a quarterback’s team wins, loses or draws? And is any of this actionable? I believe it is, as savvy fantasy footballers study Vegas betting lines very closely as a building block of their weekly fake football research.
Knowing that a team faces a decidedly ugly matchup — one in which they’re on the road, perhaps a heavy underdog, against a solid defense — can and should affect lineup decisions. That proves especially true for quarterback streamers who evaluates matchups until their eyeballs ache. A quarterback’s defense is also important here. If said defense is primed to be steamrolled by a high-powered offense, the quarterback’s game flow prospects take a serious hit. Efficiency, for the most part, should be valued over volume of opportunity.
Below are four quarterbacks whose fantasy production takes a nose dive when their teams lose. Every one of these signal callers conversely post outstanding numbers when their team walks away with a win. I used the wondrous Rotoviz Game Split app to divvy up these stats during wins and losses.
* Cam Newton, perhaps not surprisingly, is far more efficient when the Panthers win. While his touchdown pass production is fairly similar in wins and losses, Newton’s interception average is close to stunning when Carolina loses. It’s hardly shocking to see that much of the difference comes in Cam’s rushing numbers — he notches 8.7 fantasy points on the ground when Carolina wins, and just six points in losses. Newton’s splits are much more alarming over the past two seasons: he’s scored 6.3 more fantasy points per game in wins than losses over that span, rushing for .15 touchdowns in losses and .53 rushing scores in wins. Cam has scored 25.5 percent more fantasy points in wins over the past couple seasons. I think this is just the sort of thing that should make us (very) cautious of deploying Newton when Vegas says game flow might not be in Carolina’s favor. It’s important to remember — and often overlooked — that Newton in 2014 was a wildly inaccurate thrower, completing 61 percent of his 2014 passes. That’s in line with Josh McCown, Drew Stanton, and Jake Locker. A quarterback like that — even though he completed a respectable 67 percent of his 2013 attempts — would freak me out in an unfavorable game flow scenario.
* It’s pretty well understood in fantasy football circles that risk-taking, slinging, DGAF-ing Matthew Stafford is who he is: a creature of volume and a product of Calvin Johnson’s dominance. His interception splits are something less than beautiful, though his touchdown average in wins really jumps out in the chart above. Stafford, during his career, has scored 22.6 percent less when Detroit loses. The past two years have seen the percentage grow: Stafford has notched 26 percent fewer fantasy points during Lions losses since the start of 2013. It’s plainly and simply good process to hedge of Stafford if you suspect Detroit’s offense will be on its heels early and often against a certain opponent, or if the team’s defense will be dominated, forcing a predictably pass-heavy Lions attack. Outside of his splendid 2011 campaign, Stafford has proven one of fantasy’s least efficient signal callers. He scored fewer fantasy points per drop back in 2014 than guys like Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith, Jake Locker, and Charlie Whitehurst, per Pro Football Focus. Stafford over the past couple seasons has been a fountain of ugly numbers.
* I’m fairly confident that it’s understood — or it should be — that Andy Dalton is an average signal caller who flashes signs of being truly awful. We hear chirps of Dalton being an every-week fantasy guy when, on occasional, he goes nuclear against one of the league’s worst defenses, as he did four times in 2013 and somehow finished as QB3 on the year. You can see above that in losses, with a marked jump in opportunity, the red-haired wonder’s production plummets. His interception average, not shockingly, spikes in Cincinnati losses. We saw Dalton fall victim to game flow a few times in 2014, with the ultimate example coming on a Thursday Night Football debacle in which he threw for 117 yards and a pick against Cleveland. It might be worth noting that Dalton isn’t great even with plenty of time in the pocket: in 2014, he completed a meager 56 percent of his passes when he had at least 2.6 seconds to throw the ball, per PFF. That falls smack in the middle of the pack. Back to game flow: Dalton relies on positive flow as much as any fantasy-worthy quarterback, which is why fantasy owners should consider looking elsewhere if the Bengals are looking at an unfavorable scenario.
* I’ll be upfront here and tell you that I thought Colin Kaepernick was primed to change the game. I thought he’d be the perfect fantasy football weapon, something like an RGIII circa 2012 who avoided nightmarish hits while devouring yardage on the ground. That hasn’t quite happened, according to everyone who’s watched a 49ers game since 2013. Maybe the most disturbing part of the above numbers is that even in wins, Kaep isn’t setting the world aflame. Dalton averages a full two fantasy points more per game in Cincy wins. Kaep’s win-loss fantasy splits since the start of 2013 are downright terrifying: he’s notched 8.8 more fantasy points in 49ers wins than he does in losses over that stretch. He fails to crack 170 passing yards in Niners losses. That Kaep runs for 17 more rushing yards in losses — but averages just 14.5 fantasy points in those contests — makes me squirm in my seat. San Francisco might be bad — really bad — in 2015, so unless Kaepernick’s off-season training and “radically new [throwing] motion” help him ease these splits, he might not be the draft day value that he appears to be.