One of the most difficult - and sometimes impossible - tasks for
any fantasy owner during the offseason is figuring out what players
have league-winning upside. Certainly, the Christian
McCaffrey's and Saquon
Barkley's of the world come immediately to mind, but we need
some pretty good luck in a traditional snake draft to land either
one of those players.
To answer this "league-winner" question better, I decided
to break down what one looks like - physically and statistically
- by taking a closer look at each player that reached a particular
fantasy-point benchmark that could be considered great or elite
over the last three seasons. By using the best of the best in
each position group over a three-year period as the basis for
what is great versus elite, we should be able to create realistic
parameters for what it takes to be a true fantasy difference-maker.
The goal of this analysis is to give readers a general idea of
what characteristics - be it physical or statistical - they need
to keep in mind on draft day. There will invariably be repeat
entries (as in certain players appearing two or three times on
the list). It's also OK to view this series of articles as something
of a correlational study, but it's more than that. My top priority
is trying to establish what benchmarks fantasy owners need to
shoot for at each position, especially considering the different
styles of players that exist in the game.
At the bottom of the sortable table, there is another mini-table
summarizing the group averages, minimums and maximums of each
category, hits and hit rate. The "hits" are how many
players at that position exceeded the average of the players in
the first table, while the hit rate is the percentage of "hits"
in that group (a "greater than x" situation). In rare
circumstances such as quarterback age, I opted for a "less
than X" approach. The text will be red in those atypical
situations. My advice to maximize the value of the table below:
sort each column and then read the analysis that accompanies that
Because we are discussing an average of the best of the best
over the last three seasons, the "hit rate" percentages will probably
be lower than some would expect Thus, anything over about 60 percent
is notable because it suggests the group is bottom-heavy. Likewise,
anything below about 40 percent suggests the group is top-heavy.
This "rule" will apply to all positions.
Fantasy point threshold - 280 fantasy points
(four points/passing TD). A total of 27 quarterbacks reached this
mark over the last three seasons.
Age - There are 16 instances (59 percent) on the
table above of 29-or-younger quarterbacks enjoying their banner
season(s). Eight of the 11 best single-season performances (73 percent)
over the last three years by quarterback were achieved by this group.
There are only six entries (22 percent) of quarterbacks 35 or older
finishing inside the top 27.
Height (inches) - The stature of a quarterback
has become less of a priority for evaluators in recent years,
but the position has enough players remaining from the "old
guard" that the data appears to still favor the taller ones.
A whopping 81.5 percent of the entries above (22 of 27) belong
to quarterbacks who stand at least 6-2. There are 16 entries (59
percent) above of quarterbacks standing 6-3. Only Murray, Wilson
and Brees made the list as quarterbacks who stand 6-0 or smaller.
Weight - It's mildly interesting that five of
the top eight fantasy-point totals over the last three seasons
have been achieved by quarterbacks weighing 220 pounds or less,
but the majority of those folks are gifted runners. It is common
knowledge that quarterbacks who possess an uncommon blend of athleticism
and accuracy possess more fantasy upside than signal-callers who
don't. With that said, weight and height are going to rank on
the low end of characteristics I'm considering on fantasy draft
Games - Most quarterbacks need to play in as
many games as possible to reach 280 fantasy points. Twenty of
the 27 quarterbacks above (74 percent) played in every game. Per
Pro Football Reference, only 13 full-time quarterbacks went 16
last year. That seems to be right about average, as there are
43 instances of full-time quarterbacks accomplishing that feat
Completions/attempts - As the summary section
at the bottom of the table suggests, there's not a lot of reason
to spend much time here. It stands to reason five of the top seven
(71.4 percent) fantasy performances from quarterbacks over the
last three years have been by players who led this group of 27
in completions. Five of the top nine (55.6 percent) fantasy performances
from quarterbacks in that same time frame have been by players
who led the group of 27 in attempts.
Completion percentage - Eight of the top 10
efforts by quarterbacks over the last three seasons (80 percent)
have been signal-callers who completed at least 66 percent of
their throws. It makes sense that quarterbacks who rank high in
this category have a high chance of being elite. The odds are
strong that a quarterback completing two-thirds of his throws
will get more opportunities to throw, leading to more production.
Passing yards - Given the influx of dual-threat
quarterbacks over the last few seasons, a top performer doesn't
have to throw for 4,000 yards, as 11 of the players listed above
(41 percent) did not reach that benchmark. However, fantasy owners
need to be sure about the "running quarterback" that
stake their fortunes to, as the odds still favor the quarterback
who throws for at least 4,000 yards. Seven of the top 10 and 13
of the top 20 fantasy-point totals above meet that criteria.
Passing TDs - It should come as no surprise
the top 11 fantasy performances in this position group over the
last three seasons have been achieved by quarterbacks who threw
for at least 26 touchdowns. The better number for fantasy owners
to shoot for is at least 30 total TDs from quarterbacks, as Watson's
back-to-back seasons of 26 passing TDs have been supplemented
by 12 rushing scores.
Passing TD % - Unless fantasy owners are counting
on the kind of volume Roethlisberger had in 2018 (675 pass attempts)
or a huge yards-per-attempt average like Prescott had last year
(8.2), it is for the best that quarterbacks find a way to keep
their TD rate above five percent. Six percent should be the goal.
Six of the top nine performances by quarterbacks over the last
three seasons have been by signal-callers at 5.8 or above. For
those folks wondering about Jackson, his 9.0 passing TD rate was
tied for the second-best mark in league history among quarterbacks
with at least 400 passing attempts. Peyton Manning is the only
player in league history (min. 400 attempts) to post two seasons
with a passing TD rate of eight or higher, so major regression
is likely coming.
Interceptions - Winston's 30 picks in 2019 sticks
out like a sore thumb and ruins the average for the group, but
there appears to be a relatively equal distribution of high-end
fantasy performances when it comes to interceptions. Twelve picks
is an acceptable number for a potential league-winning quarterback.
Of the 27 entries on this list, 22 (81.4 percent) fall within
Interception % - Two percent is a bit on the
high end for this stat, yet 44.4 percent of the entries (12 of
27) are in that range. Granted, that is less of a crime when Murray
is running for 544 yards, Allen is scoring nine rushing touchdowns
or the rest of the high interception rate group is accounting
for roughly two TDs per game. A high interception rate is not
necessarily detrimental to the odds of a quarterback reaching
fantasy nirvana in a season, but the odds are always going to
favor those who keep it under two percent.
Carries - Rivers made the list with 18 rushing
attempts in 2018 and Jackson piled up 176, so all kinds of quarterbacks
are welcome to make this kind of list. While six entries show
signal-callers with 33 or fewer carries, 78 percent (21 of 27)
had at least 43. The difference between roughly two rushing attempts
and roughly 2.5 rushing attempts doesn't sound like much, but
the evidence strongly favors quarterbacks who can average the
latter and reach 40 carries.
Rushing yards - For what it's worth, the average
of this group of 27 without Jackson is just under 289 yards. It
stands to reason the "hit rate" is the same as it was
for carries (41 percent). Unsurprisingly, the same six entries
(22 percent) that failed to top 40 carries were the same ones
who fell short of 100 yards rushing. It appears 125 yards is a
good goal, as Roethlisberger's aforementioned high-volume 2018
campaign (which led to a fifth-place fantasy finish in this group
of 27) is the only example of a quarterback landing inside the
top 10 when he did not top 125 yards rushing.
Rushing TDs - With the possible exception of
players like Newton and Allen, rushing touchdowns for quarterbacks
aren't what we would consider bankable - and I'm not sure Newton
or Allen should get the benefit of the doubt either. Rushing TDs
- especially for quarterbacks - are just too volatile. With that
said, it's interesting to note that 10 of the top 11 performances
above (90.9 percent) involved a quarterback scoring at least twice
on the ground.
Recommended baselines for quarterbacks to reach potential
Doug Orth has written for FF Today
since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy Football
Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s hour-long,
pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday in 2012-13
and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio
shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.