2020 RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: August 21st 2020

My annual look at early RSO auction values begins at the quarterback position.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished this year.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.  Provided fantasy stats and rankings utilize ESPN scoring.

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

Upper Tier

Mahomes and Jackson make up the top-tier of RSO quarterbacks, by a wide margin, with GMs making massive investments in the two.  Maybe no QB started off their first two seasons in the NFL as well as the Kansas City quarterback.  Mahomes still produced non-Jackson upper-level quarterback numbers while in the lineup despite dislocating a kneecap in 2019.  He retains one of the best supporting casts and coaching teams in the NFL.  Jackson essentially inserts a free RB2 in the lineup and easily finished 2019 as the top fantasy quarterback.  His improvement as a passer from his rookie season, where he was among the least accurate passers in the league, was nothing short of amazing.  His 27.2 points per game was 32% higher than the second-highest scoring quarterback.

Second Tier

Plenty of quality every-week starting options exist outside of Jackson and Mahomes at a sharp price discount.  Murray, Watson, Wilson, and Prescott all possess rushing and scrambling abilities which boost their weekly output.  The oddball out of this group is Murray who is more of a projection at this point, but one with tantalizing rushing and offensive volume upside.  He played a solid rookie season with little notable proven talent on offense against one of the most difficult passing schedules.  Murray’s schedule projects as one of the more difficult again in 2020 but the supporting cast is a year older and added former Houston star receiver DeAndre Hopkins.  The afore-mentioned loss of Hopkins may not reasonably help the Texans but might increase Watson’s rushing attempts. The addition of Randall Cobb and Brandin Cooks should also dampen Hopkins’ loss somewhat.  The only question surrounding Wilson is volume which limits the chances of reaching true top-tier production.  Prescott put together his best season as a pro in 2019 finishing as the QB2 and Dallas stole CeeDee Lamb in the draft.   Dallas was one of the most opponent-strength sensitive teams meaning they tended to crush lesser competition while struggling against quality units more so than other teams.

Low-End Fantasy Starters

Quarterbacks like Wentz, Brees, and Ryan provide relatively cheap and quality starting options in known situations with great surrounding talent but without the rushing upside of quarterbacks in the second tier of RSO auctions.  Boost them up your rankings in fantasy scoring formats which more heavily weight passing statistics.  I expect a big boost from Wentz, in particular, for 2020.  Injuries decimated the Eagles’ receiving core last season removing most of the deep speed element, while forcing players off the street like Greg Ward into the lineup.  The addition of first round draft pick Jalen Raegor and hopeful health of DeSean Jackson should alleviate some of those issues.  Brees finished as the QB5 and QB7 over the last two seasons in points per game and the Saints added Emmanuel Sanders to solidify the receiving core.

Wild Cards and Questions

I like Josh Allen and his rushing game as a great weekly matchup play, especially with the addition of Stefon Diggs to the receiving core.  I don’t like Allen’s current cost in RSO auctions with his demonstrated passing inconsistencies.  Tom Brady gets a big upgrade in receiving weapons for Tampa Bay with a coach who airs the ball out.  Is it enough to overcome old age after a remarkably unremarkable 2019?  Do we see Baker Mayfield, who failed to deliver on the hype last year, emerge under new coach Kevin Stefanski who utilized a relatively run-heavy offense in Minnesota?  What is the health status of Stafford (back), Roethlisberger (arm), and Cam Newton (all over)?  When do we see first-round rookies Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa get a chance at the starting lineup?

Value Weekly Matchup Plays

Jimmy Garoppolo owns one of the highest completion percentages to start a career while also being among the most efficient quarterbacks.  The 49ers also project with one of the easiest schedules to start the season and during the fantasy playoffs.  A receiving group with practically no experience in San Francisco and potentially limited volume due to run-oriented scheme and great defense raises volume concerns.  Gardner Minshew posted quality numbers last year with many comparing him to Kyler Murray. Minshew ranked just 29th in ESPN’s QBR and 22nd in Football Outsider’s DVOA which highlights how one of the most pass-friendly schedules in the NFL inflated his numbers during the 2019 season.  The plus side is Jacksonville, once again, projects with one of the easiest pass schedules, particularly during the first half of the season.  Cousins and Rivers represent cheap reliable low-upside options.  Tyrod Taylor gives weekly rushing upside on a team with good receiving weapons for as long as he remains the starter.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

Uncommon Scoring Rules: Points for Completions and Incompletions

Updated: June 7th 2020

The All About Reality Podcast league inspired me to examine a few fantasy scoring rules not used in most leagues but are becoming more popular to various degrees.  This article focuses on the effects of adding (subtracting) points for completions and incompletions utilizing data from the 2019 season.  The results may or may not surprise you but the reader might find details which could provide an advantage when entering into a league with one of these scoring settings.

Adding Points for Completions and Incompletions

The typical settings, when incorporated, involve adding (partial) points for completions and subtracting points for incompletions.  NFL starting quarterbacks almost always complete more than 50% per season with the median of the top-32 passers completing about 64% in 2019.  These completion percentages dictate that using these scoring settings adds fantasy points to the quarterback position.  Below the reader finds a chart of quarterback fantasy scoring for the top-32 passers comparing a standard fantasy scoring league with one which gives partial points for completions and incompletions.  ESPN refers to a 4 point per passing touchdown and 1 point per 25 passing yards league.  0.5COMP adds 0.5 points per completion while subtracting 0.5 points per incompletion and so forth for different weights.

QB Scoring with and without Completions

 

5COMP scoring added an average of 26% to the top-12 scorers and 28% to the top-24 quarterbacks.  While we generally see an increase for all quarterbacks, adding/subtracting points for completions/incompletions affects quarterbacks differently.   Derek Carr (43%), Drew Brees (41%), Phillip Rivers (40%), Matt Ryan (38%), and Jimmy Garoppolo (37%) saw some of the biggest gains in this scoring format.  Josh Allen (14%) and Lamar Jackson (16%) displayed some of the smallest increases among notable fantasy starters.  High volume, accurate quarterbacks receive the most help, relative to their peers, while quarterbacks who significantly rely on their legs for fantasy points are hurt the most.  The reader should also note that completion percentage generally decreases with depth of target.  We should not then be surprised that some of the quarterbacks showing the biggest increases in fantasy scoring when adding completion points were those with the lowest average intended air yards per attempt.

Maybe the more important question is how these scoring changes affect quarterback values.  As usual, the answer depends.  Notice from the above scoring chart how the slopes of the scoring curves look similar for both scoring formats presented.  This means the marginal points scored going from one quarterback to the next ranked one is similar in both formats.  Using VBD valuation, the total value of quarterbacks for 12-team, 1-QB leagues actually decreased slightly by adding completions/incompletions scoring in 2019.  NFL rules encouraging the passing game and many coaches moving to a lower depth-of-target approach have bunched mid-range quarterbacks into a somewhat similarly accurate group.  Combine with similar volume for many of these QBs and you get a very flat tier of quality options available in 1-QB leagues.

The calculation changes when you look at superflex and bigger leagues with the ability to use more quarterbacks in starting lineups.  Lower tier quarterbacks generally see less volume and throw for lower completion percentages.  This leads to bigger differentiation in scoring when using completion scoring formats when compared to standard formats as leagues start more and more quarterbacks.  Using our 0.5COMP scoring substantially increased the total value of quarterbacks in a 12-team superflex league when compared to the ESPN scoring, for example.  The table below details how total value (in points above replacement) at the quarterback position in 12 team leagues changed with different scoring settings and league formats.

Total QB Positional Values under Various Formats

 

Most notably, we see the value of quarterbacks for superflex leagues increasingly climb as more points are added (subtracted) to completions (incompletions).  Another big implication for superflex leagues is that quarterbacks become near must-starts in the superflex spot as completion scoring gets higher weights.  QB scoring attains such heights that other positional players available for use in a superflex spot simply can’t realistically contend with QB scoring.  For example, the QB20 scored 280 fantasy points in the 0.5COMP system which is more than the RB7 and WR2 in PPR leagues.  A team would have to be absolutely stacked at either the RB or WR position to competitively use one in the superflex position.

Key Implications

  1. We do not see much value added to the quarterback position due to completion scoring in smaller 1-QB leagues (at least in 2019). The deep middle class of NFL starters does not show the variation needed to create the differences in fantasy scoring for added value.
  2. Completion scoring adds significant value to quarterback position in deeper leagues like superflex formats, particularly where leagues weight completions higher. While the middle tier of NFL passers is relatively flat, the bottom tier demonstrates a considerable drop-off in volume and accuracy. This gives more separation from top and middle tier-starters in comparison to the lower-tier of quarterbacks.
  3. A superflex spot becomes a near must-start quarterback in completion scoring leagues. The increased quarterback scoring, notably at higher completion scoring weights, gives quarterbacks a big advantage over most non-quarterbacks.
  4. Completion scoring affects quarterbacks differently.  Accurate, high volume passers show the biggest increases in scoring while quarterbacks producing a big portion of their fantasy points through rushing see smaller increases.  Adjust your QB rankings accordingly.

Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

More Analysis by Bernard Faller

2020 Quarterback Manifesto

Updated: May 20th 2020

I’ve recently had the pleasure of collaborating with a few dynasty newcomers in my 3 RSO leagues.  In doing so, I have found their hunger for insight invigorating.  It’s caused me to push my own boundaries as an analyst.  Try as I may, I cannot cover everything these guys need to know in one offseason.  Learn by doing, right?  I hate giving them vague advice like, “Zig when people zag” or “Forget groupthink and do your own due diligence.”  I have to be able to offer them (and RSO readers) more.  So for me, this article goes beyond just breaking down quarterbacks.  It’s a template for changing the way you attack fantasy.

Years ago, I found myself constantly arguing with friends over the Aaron Rodgers’ “Sit and Learn” myth.  I call it a myth because until Pat Mahomes burst out on to the scene in 2018, the list of 1st-Round QBs that sat as rookies post-Aaron Rodgers’ 2008 breakout consisted of Tim Tebow, Blaine Gabbert, Johnny Manziel, and Paxton Lynch.  Not exactly the who’s who of NFL careers.  It took 10 seasons to find a second qualifying case for this gabage sentiment, and yet NFL pundits beat us over the head with it week after week, year after year.  As a result, many owners missed out on the Jared Goffs and Josh Allens, fearing that they might be wasting a pick/roster spot.  1st-round rookie QBs play Year 1 (except for you Jordan Love).  It may be 7 games like Lamar Jackson and Dwayne Haskins.  It may be 14 games like Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield.  Whatever the case, buying into this realization and investing accordingly will always give you an edge from a cap perspective.

I understand this is old news for a lot of you veterans that could not wait to grab Tua and Herbert in your Rookie Drafts.  Hopefully, this next insight will be a bit more compelling.

Lamar Jackson threw a touchdown pass on 8.98% of his attempts last year.  Why not just round it up to an even 9% you ask?  Well, because since the merger, Peyton Manning is the only person to have ever surpassed that threshold.  He threw 49 TDs on a mere 497 pass attempts (9.86%) in 2004.  Despite all the monster QB seasons that came in the 15 years since then, Lamar’s 36 TDs on 401 attempts ranks the closest.  Here’s a list of the Top 10 seasons according to TD to Pass Attempt Ratio.

Name Year TDs Ratio
Peyton Manning 2004 49 9.86%
Lamar Jackson 2019 36 8.98%
Aaron Rodgers 2011 45 8.96%
Tom Brady 2007 50 8.65%
Pat Mahomes 2018 50 8.62%
Nick Foles 2013 27 8.52%
Dan Marino 1984 48 8.51%
Peyton Manning 2013 55 8.35%
Russell Wilson 2018 35 8.20%
Randall Cunningham 1998 34 8.00%

The TD to Pass Attempts Ratio helps us pinpoint efficiency.  Contemplate Rodgers vs Brady vs Brees for this upcoming season.   Deciphering which one of these old-timers we may want to invest in becomes much easier once we focus our attention to efficiency.  Rodgers has the biggest arm, while Brady boasts the best weapons.  Brees, however, is the clear-cut choice due to his 7.1% TD rate last year (3rd highest).  Observe what a difference this made in terms of fantasy points per game.You will notice Peyton Manning is the only player who has eclipsed 8% multiple times in his career, and the second instance came 9 years later in 2013.  This data can be beneficial to us in a couple of ways.  For starters, Lamar’s absurd scoring efficiency through the air is bound to come down in 2020 (more on that later).  35-36 TDs may be repeatable, but it will require a hell of a lot more throws moving forward.  So the first question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you envision Lamar increasing his pass attempts to say 480+.  If you do not, you should probably forget about him returning to this mark.

2018 TD/Att Ratio 2019 TD/Att Ratio 2019 Points Per Game PPG Ranking
Drew Brees 6.5% 7.1% 20.4 7th
Aaron Rodgers 4.2% 4.6% 17.4 13th
Tom Brady 5.1% 3.9% 16.5 16th

Back to Lamar.  Earlier I referrenced how disproving the “Sit and Learn” rookie myth provided clarity for dynasty leagues.  I would like to now PROVE a QB trend that should have a similar impact.  In 2018, Patrick Mahomes threw for 5100 yards and 50 TDs.  Public opinion varied on how he would follow it up.  Most expected at least a mild step back.  I, on the other hand, was placing small bets with friends that even with Tyreke Hill eluding a suspension, Mahomes would not exceed 36 TDs.  Now I hardly expected him to be reduced to nearly half his production (26 TDs).  I was more in the 32-34 range.  I did predict a massive regression, though, and here is why.

I call it the “Matt Ryan Rule”.  It’s simple.  Big seasons are followed up with considerable regression.  To prove it, I have provided a list of all the 34+ Passing TD seasons in NFL history, as well as their respective fantasy totals.  Also included are the follow-up seasons’ stats and Regression %.  Of the 51 season sample size, only 3 QBs managed to improve upon their big year fantasy output.  Another way of putting that is 94.1% of these QBs experienced some level of regression.  The average regression rate was 31.7%, which indicates these follow-up seasons as a whole range from significant dropoffs to absolute busts.

I know what you are thinking.  These passing trends do not account for the 1200 yards and 6 TDs Lamar just ran for, and therefore can not be applied to him.  Fair enough.  While we are at it, let’s disect history’s most notable QB rushing seasons.  Our metrics of qualification can be 500+ yards or 6+ Rushing TDs.

The running results are a bit more positive with 7 of the 44 QBs improving in their fantasy production via running.  Ultimately, though, it is a similar diagnosis.  84.1% of the follow-up seasons experienced some form of regression, and the average regression was 23.9%.  To sum it up, the safe bet is Lamar Jackson is neither throwing for 35-36 TDs, nor is he rushing for anywhere near 1200 yards in 2020.  I have him projected for 3500 passing yards with 26 TDs & 9 Ints. On the ground – 810 rushing yards with 6 rushing TDs & 4 Fumbles.  Those are still Top 5 QB numbers, but that represents a 16.5% regression.  If you are satisfied with that level of production on the final year of his rookie contract, power to you.  I, however, would consider shopping him around.  Perhaps someone in your league will throw you 3 future 1st-round picks, with plans to later tag and extend Lamar in the offseason.  Whatever you do, do not drop 30+ mil on him in the event that he is available in your auction (for leagues entering their 1st season).  Regression is coming.

The same can be said for Dak Prescott.  The man went from 3900 yards in 2018 to 4900 in 2019…on just 32 more completions.  I love Dak’s development through 4 seasons, and his WR trio is the best in the league in my opinion.  The Cowboys expeirenced a lot of stat padding in garbage time, however.  CeeDee Lamb and Blake Jarwin may have more upside than Randall Cobb and Jason Witten, but that is still a combined 118 receptions, 1,350 yards, and 25 years of experience that just left the building.  On top of all this, Zeke Elliott could easily lead the league in rushing once again.  All in all, I have Dak projected for 4300 yards with 25 TDs and 12 Ints, while adding 300 yards and 4 TDs on the ground.  This stat line represets roughly an 8% regression.  That forecast really shouldn’t scare you considering Dak has recorded 29, 28, 28 and 33 total TDs in his first 4 seasons.  I would pay Dak less than Wilson but more than Watson for what it’s worth.

 

So, if Lamar and Dak aren’t throwing for 30 touchdowns this season, who is?  I would like to close with 5 cheap QBs I believe can accomplish this feat in order of probability:

1).  Derek Carr will never receive the “Doing it with nobodies” credit the league showered Tom Brady and Andrew Luck with every year, but his 4,000+ yards & 21 TDs in 2019 is the new standard with which I measure those type of overachieving seasons.  Carr’s “veterans” consisted of Tyrell Williams, Zay Jones and Jalen Richard.  Darren Waller was embarking on his 4th season, but only had 18 career catches.  Aftert that it was all rookies, albeit some good ones: Josh Jacobs, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau and Keelan Doss.  Such an uninspiring group, and yet Carr completed 70.4% of his passes (2nd only to Brees).  Observe below how his compared with 3 of the biggest names in the league.

Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints Comp %
Pat Mahomes 4031 26 5 65.9
Aaron Rodgers 4002 26 4 62
Tom Brady 4057 24 8 60.8
Derek Carr 4054 21 8 70.4

Carr’s perseverance last year proved to Gruden he is not only the right man for the job, but that this team is ready to compete for a playoff berth under his leadership.  He and Mike Mayock’s draft selections in April reflected that.  Henry Ruggs adds explosiveness to the offense.  Even if Carr cannot connect on vertical passes, Ruggs can take intermediate work in stride and turn it into chunk plays.  Bryan Edwards and Lynn Bowden bring strong run after the catch ability to the table as well.  We round out the offensive offseason additions with Nelson Agholor.  His hands are shaky at times, but he does have 2 60+ catch and 700+ yard seasons under his belt.  It’s a raw group, but it’s talented and I believe the Raiders and Broncos are both trying to out-offense the Chiefs for that division.

Projections:  4200 yards – 28 TDs & 10 Ints, 90 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

2).  Ryan Tannehill started 10 games last year.  He threw 2 or more TDs in 9 of them.  I admit, it’s easy to fall into this trap of thinking, “Well, Henry might rush for 2,000 yards this year, and who’s the #2 after A.J. Brown?”  However, I have seen time after time a team exceed passing expectations due to a stout running game.  That is when play action is most lethal.  In 2014, Demarco Murray led the league in rushing with 1845 yards on 392 carries.  Tony Romo managed to throw 34 TDs on just 435 pass attempts.  That’s a 7.8% TD rate.  Ryan Tannehill finished 2nd in the league last year with a 7.7% TD rate.   In 2007, we witnessed a similar occurence with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Willie Parker and Najeh Davenport combined for 428 carries for 1,815 yards.  That was hands down Big Ben’s most efficient season of his career.  He threw 32 TDs on just 404 pass attempts – 7.9% TD rate.  His top 3 pass catchers were Santonio Holmes with 942 yards, Hines Ward with 732, and Heath Miller with 566.  That’s the kind of season we can project for the 2020 Titans.

Projections:  3800 yards – 27 TDs & 11 Ints, 240 yards rushing – 3 TDs & 2 fumbles

3).  In the last 2 seasons, we have witnessed a 2nd year QB without much experience take over the league I’m not predicting an MVP caliber season, but I do believe Drew Lock is poised to somewhat follow in Mahomes and Lamar’s footsteps.  Full disclosure: I would prefer to talk about Daniel Jones or Kyler Murray here, but I don’t think they are very accessible.  From my experience thus far, their current owners aren’t interested in moving them.  Lock, on the other hand, can likely be acquired for say a future 2nd round pick.  I think many will be surprised to see just how well Lock performed in his 5 starts last year:

Week Opponent Result Comp % Yards TDs Ints QB Rating
13 Chargers W 23-20 64.29 134 2 1 84.5
14 Texans W 38-24 81.48 309 3 1 136
15 Chiefs L 3-23 45 208 0 1 50.8
16 Lions W 27-17 75.76 192 1 0 99.6
17 Raiders W 16-15 60.71 177 1 0 90.9

Lamar Jackson went 6-1 as a rookie with an 84.5 QB rating.  Drew Lock went 4-1 with an 89. 7 QB rating.  One of my favorite stats regarding Lock’s rookie campaign…he hit Courtland Sutton 4 times for 72 yards and 2 scores in his 1st NFL start & Noah Fant 4 times for 113 yards and a TD in his 2nd.  That answers the question of whether he can find his playmakers.  His completion percentage (64.1%) and his lack of Ints (3) also addresses any turnover concerns.  All that’s left to do is build around him, and did John Elway ever.  Melvin Gordon may be limited as a runner, but his 1680 yards, 11 TDs and 8.8 ypc as a receiver the last 4 years make him a perfect fit for a young QB.  Add Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam to the mix and Lock will now have freedom to make his own reads and exploit mismatches.  Commence “Operation Beat Chiefs 38-35 Twice a Year”.

Projections:  3700 yards – 25 TDs & 12 Ints, 210 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 4 fumbles

4).  You will have to forgive me for this one.  I can’t help but draw parallels between players sometimes.  In 2001, Drew Bledsoe signed a 100 mil contract with the Patriots at age 29.  He went down late in Week 2, and was replaced by 6th rounder Tom Brady.  Brady recorded an 86.5 QB rating through 14 games, and Bledsoe was subsequently traded to the Bills that offseason.  Fast forward 18 years.  Nick Foles signed an 88 mil contract with the Jaguars at age 30.  He went down in the first half of Week 1, and was replaced by 6th rounder Gardner Minshew.  Menshew recorded a 91.2 QB rating through 14 games, and Foles was subsequently traded to the Bears this offseason.  Now, by no means am I calling Menshew the next Tom Brady.  I just find the similarities interesting, especially considering Brady went on to throw for 3,764 yards and 28 TDs in his 2nd year as a starter.  That’s exactly the sort of ceiling I envision for Menshew in 2020.  For starters, the Jags hired Jay Gruden as the new offensive coordiantor.  Let’s take a look at his QB resume.

Year  Experience Comp % Pass Yards Pass TDs Ints QB Rating
Andy Dalton 2011 Rookie 58.1 3398 20 13 80.4
2012 Year 2 62.3 3669 27 16 87.4
2013 61.9 33 20 20 88.8
Kirk Cousins 2014 5 starts as RG3’s backup 61.8 1710 10 9 86.4
2015 Year 2 69.8 4166 29 11 101.6
2016 67.0 4917 25 12 97.2
2017 64.3 4093 27 13 93.9

Although he hasn’t had much success in the win column, Jay has long been regarded as a QB whisperer.  The additions of Tyler Eifert, Chris Thompson and Laviska Shenault Jr. will go a long ways in maintaining said reputation.

Another factor that plays into Menshew’s chances of ascending in 2020 is Leonard Fournette’s extreme mediocrity.  Buga found the endzone 3 times on 341 touches last year.  You can say he got unlucky in terms of goal-line opportunities.  That’s fine.  There is no denying his ineffectiveness in the passing game, however.  Let’s compare his numbers to the rest of the Top 10 Targeted RBs last year:

Fournette’s 6.9 ypc was tied for 3rd to last in this group, while his 5.2 yards per target fell short of everyone but Tarik Cohen (heads up to you Kamara owners out there as well).  The days of playing tough defense and grinding with Leonard Fournette are over.  The Jags gave up 26.5 points in the final 6 games last year.  Neither that unit, nor Leonard Fournette and his chronic ankles, are special.  The culture of this team is about to flip.  Fade Fournette and invest in Menshew long term folks.

Projections:  3900 yards – 25 TDs & 13 Ints, 360 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 5 fumbles

5).  What goes for the Jags also applies to Sam Darnold, Le’Veon Bell and the Jets.  It is time to evolve.  Bell is clearly not the runner or receiver he was in 2014 and 2016.  He and the Jets backfield accounted for 3 rushing TDs in 2019.  He didn’t do much with his 78 targets either.  If the Jets are going to score in 2020, it is going to be up to Darnold.  Chris Herndon is back.  Remember him?  He caught 39 passes for 502 yards and 4 TDs as a rookie in 2018.  Mark Andrews hauled in a similar 34 receptions for 552 yards and 3 TDs that same year.  I absolutely believe Herndon was poised for a Mark Andrews type of breakout before his 4 game suspension to start the season disrupted everything.  His prescence will be felt immediately this year.  As for the new WRs, I cannot promote Breshard Perriman and Denzel Mims too much, aside from the fact that they possess size mismatches at 6’2 215 lbs and 6’3 207.  This trio of big bodies, along with Jamison Crowder and what’s left of Le’Veon must be enough for Darnold to take that next step.

Sam threw 2 or more TDs 6 times out of 13 last year.  Baker Mayfield only managed 6 out of 16, and yet he wound up with 22 TDs.  I think that is very encouraging for all these young QBs.  You can play horrendous, backyard football, consistently fail to get a Top 5 WR the ball, and struggle with Ints all year, and still somehow finish with just 2-4 less TDs than Brady, Rodgers and Mahomes.  Darnold will never play as poorly as Baker did last year.  I think if he can give us a full 16 game season, 30 TDs is within reach.

Projections:  3800 yards – 24 TDs & 15 Ints, 150 yards rushing – 2 TDs & 3 fumbles

 

So this offseason, don’t sweat it if the Lamar, Dak or Mahomes owners talk.  Our focus is on depth and balance, not a big name QB.  Go sign/trade for 2 of the QBs on this list.  Pair them with a Matt Stafford, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff or Drew Brees and I promise you will be in a better position than the rest of the league.

More Analysis by Grant Viviano

Early 2019 RSO Contracts: QBs

Updated: July 23rd 2019

My annual look at early RSO auction values begins at the quarterback position in 2019.  The series was designed to give the reader help in planning for upcoming auctions by looking at actual RSO auctions already finished.  The data comes from a variety of different types of leagues with varying scoring rules and starting requirements which can drastically alter player values so be cautious in expecting values to match your particular league.  The number of auctions for any particular player may also be limited this early in the RSO season.  The information does provide a useful starting point for examining how RSO owners value players at a certain position relative to one another and the length of contract they are willing to invest.

 

Average RSO Quarterback Contracts

Is Russell Wilson elite in the fantasy realm?

The argument for Wilson as an elite quarterback needs little discussion.  He consistently ranks among the most efficient quarterbacks in the league, limits turnovers, and adds a rushing element to his game which keeps opposing defenses off balance.  RSO GMs made Wilson the 5th highest paid quarterback to match his football talent.

Wilson’s fantasy prospects leave some questions left unanswered though.  The Seahawks transitioned to a more run-heavy approach in 2018 which severely limited Wilson’s volume.  He ranked 20th in passing attempts and 28th in passing yards per game despite his top-10 efficiency.  Wilson also posted his lowest rushing yardage ever thanks to the lowest rushing attempts in his career.   His fantasy season was essentially saved by a ridiculous (and unsustainable) 8.2% touchdown rate which made Wilson the 11th ranked fantasy quarterback in points per game last season.  This is the problem for RSO GMs.  His combination passing/rushing skill-set presents a fantasy ceiling as one of the highest scoring quarterbacks in the NFL.  On the other hand, that ceiling is unattainable if Seattle’s offense remains one of the most run-heavy in the league.

The Baker Mayfield train left the station.

The hopes for Baker field are stratospheric after one of the better rookie seasons ever at quarterback in 2018.  Adding one of the best wide receivers in Beckham Jr. only expands expectations further.  The Browns were already stocked with solid young talent at the skill positions including David Njoku at tight end, wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway, plus running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.   If you want Mayfield at this stage, you probably must pay top-end prices.

Lamar Jackson and Jimmy Garoppolo no longer qualify as value buys.

I listed Jackson and Garoppolo as values earlier this offseason based on broader dynasty community prices where both were going off the board as lower-end QB2s.  RSO GMs are having none of that with the duo coming in at QB9 and QB10 going just ahead of Matt Ryan, who put up two overall QB2 fantasy season in the last three years.  The expectations for Jackson and Garoppolo are beyond just good bets at this stage.  If you want either of them on your RSO squad, you likely invest starting quarterback salaries.

The RSO community shares some concerns about Cam Newton’s health.

Fantasy players in general held many legitimate questions surrounding Cam Newton’s shoulder health.  Newton struggled with throwing shoulder injuries the last two seasons resulting in on-field problems.  We just saw Andrew Luck forced to miss an entire season two years ago with a similar injury.  Predictably, the question marks drove Newton’s price down to the QB13 so far this season which is fairly cheap given his multiple top-10 fantasy performances.  The more interesting part of his contract data is the 2.1 average years suggesting some serious long-term questions either about the shoulder or his accumulation of hits due to his physical running style.  Newton presents a possible bargain with reports that he is on track for 100% status before the season starts.

Which quarterbacks survive beyond 2019?

Winston, Flacco, Carr, Dalton, and Mariota all have NFL contracts which expire after 2019 or contain little to no dead money.  Brees, Rivers, Brady, and Manning could retire at any point now.  Miami is very likely in the quarterback hunt during next year’s draft and Detroit is another possibility if things go poorly again in 2019.  All of this information suggests significant turnover at the quarterback position over the next few years with many quarterbacks retiring, transferring teams, or being relegated to backup quarterback duties.  Oakland, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and Denver are all projected bottom-10 in wins for 2019 according to many betting platforms which puts them all squarely in the “possibly draft a quarterback” group next year.  Tennessee’s constant middle-of-the –pack finishes suggests a possible free agent landing spot for one of the quarterbacks if Mariota does not improve on his mediocre, injury-riddled performances so far.  The RSO market shares this uncertainty with most of these quarterbacks getting short-term deals.

Going cheap at quarterback remains a viable option.

Options remain plentiful for fantasy teams looking at cheaper quarterbacks to rotate on a weekly basis in single QB leagues or in need of a second starter for 2QB leagues.  The veteran quarterback group of Roethlisberger, Cousins, Rivers, and Brady all finished at QB14 or better in fantasy scoring for 2018.  They provide solid weekly floors at the position for bargain prices.   There are also a number of options with the upside to improve on 2018.  Allen ended the season as one of the highest scoring fantasy players over the last month thanks in large part to his scrambling ability.  Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and J.J. Nelson furnish Carr a greatly improved wide receiver core with a drastic increase in game speed over what was in Oakland last season.  Stafford lost his two top receivers to injury and trade in 2018 plus reportedly played injured while in a new offense emphasizing the run.  Dalton played in only 11 games last year and gets back one of the best skill position groups in the NFL.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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Early 2019 Free Agency Look: QBs

Updated: January 18th 2019

As usual, there is no shortage of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL.  Jacksonville and Miami very likely look for immediate change while Denver and the New York Giants need fixes very soon.  Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury unfortunately creates uncertainty in Washington. Tampa Bay and Tennessee probably stick with what they have in 2019 but the future appears murky, at best, for Winston and Mariota.  Oakland and Cincinnati are lower probability bets for quarterback moves where Carr and Dalton continue as mediocre options.  New England, Pittsburgh, and the Chargers may soon address their respective long-term situations.

We should be clear right from the start.  This is not a good year for teams with quarterback needs.  The draft class does not rate anywhere near 2018’s lot and the free agent group does not have a single plug-and-play starter.  Teams might decide to stick with what they have in many cases as they do not view available quarterbacks as significant upgrades.  The reader could see many teams just “taking their lumps” next season in preparation for 2020.

Free Agents

Teddy Bridgewater

The fact that this article begins with Bridgewater says all you need to know about the 2019 free agent quarterback class.  Bridgewater does not possess much upside but has long-term competent NFL starter potential.  That is enough to put him ahead of most of the other quarterbacks on this list for many NFL teams.  We have seen nothing from Bridgewater which suggests he will be much of a fantasy option for any of the potential suitors.  New Orleans might convince Bridgewater to sign a longer-term deal to remain with the Saints as their long-term option at quarterback.

Tyrod Taylor

Taylor shot out of nowhere in 2015 for Buffalo finishing as the 7th highest rated passer after years on the bench in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, Taylor has seen a steady downward trajectory to his career ever since seeing his yards per attempt, QBR, and passer rating fall each and every year from his first starting season.  The run culminated with a disastrous 2018 in which he was benched for Baker Mayfield after four games.  Still, there is potentially a spot for Taylor as a starting quarterback.  We can forgive any player’s stint with Hue Jackson in Cleveland.  Taylor plays a very conservative style which minimizes turnovers and makes enough plays with his legs to extend drives occasionally.  Jacksonville, for example, seems a particularly attractive spot for him where the defense will be counted on to win games.  Taylor’s rushing ability can mean big fantasy points so he needs to be on the radar, especially in deeper leagues if a team signs him as a starter or injuries occur.

Sam Bradford

The downside of Bradford is readily apparent.  He can not stay healthy.  Bradford appears molded from the most brittle substance on the planet.  The odds do not appear good that he will get a starting job in 2019.  Still, coaches around the league seem to like him as he continually gets starting chances with multiple teams.  His career trajectory pointed upward until his 2017 injury.  Like Taylor, we need not diminish Bradford too much for an ugly 2018 in which no offensive skill player on Arizona had much of a chance given the coaching staff and offensive line deficiencies.

Potentially Available in Trade or Release

Nick Foles

The Philadelphia legend probably earns top pick among NFL teams if he becomes a free agent.  Foles’ career may be best described as inconsistent.  He had one of the all-time amazing years in 2013 with an incredible 27-2 touchdown to interception ratio and led Philadelphia to the Super Bowl title in 2018 during a great post-season run.  He ranged from a solid starter to a bottom-end option during the various games for three teams over the rest of his time in the league.  His contract presents lots of options.  The Eagles could pick up the $20 million salary option for 2019 forcing Foles to give back $2 million to buy his way into free agency or setting up a potential trade.  This move proves potentially problematic tying that much money to a backup quarterback.  The more likely option allows Foles to hit free agency capitalizing on his recent post-season success to a starting job in 2019.

Joe Flacco

Flacco parlayed the Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl title into an enormous contract which has been a disaster for Baltimore.  The contract had to be reworked for cap purposes extending the contract further out leading to continual cap problems for Baltimore.  In return, the Ravens received mostly bottom-level quarterbacking keeping Baltimore in that ugly middle-tier of teams despite having a strong defense most years.  His contract is reasonable with no guarantees left and a $18.5 million salary for 2019.  The question is what type of team would be interested in Flacco?  He won’t be the long-term answer for any team, would just delay the inevitable for teams not really in the super bowl hunt, and is not a significant upgrade on the host of marginal starters floating around he might replace.  Flacco possesses very little fantasy relevance wherever he ends up.

Current Starters

A new group of potential quarterbacks emerge if teams decide to move on from their current starters.  The Dolphins fired Adam Gase which could mean the end of Ryan Tannehill in Miami.  He displayed some quality throws occasionally with good athleticism but comes with immense injury baggage and struggles with pocket awareness.   The most likely scenario for Eli Manning is retirement or the Giants convincing themselves once again they are not as far away from contention as they actually are with Manning returning again for 2019.  Blake Bortles is almost certainty done in Jacksonville following multiple benching.  He also almost certainly will not be starting for any other team in 2019.  One great season convinced Denver to give Case Keenum a solid contract and ignore the rest of his career.  His masquerade as a starter in the NFL may end sooner than later.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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Mid-Season Quarterback Stories

Updated: October 31st 2018

Numerous interesting stories exist at the midway point in the NFL season from Patrick Mahomes emergence to the uptick in offensive production across the league.  This article looks at a few quarterback situations in flux and what that means rest of season for your fantasy team.  The writing concentrates on the Bortles scenario and how Jacksonville arrived in the place they are, with lessons learned from how they handled his contract.

The Blake Bortles Saga

Jacksonville benched Blake Bortles week 7 in a move which clearly foreshadows the end of his time as starting quarterback for the Jaguars sometime in the near future.  The question remains how did the Jaguars get to this point with Bortles still as their starting quarterback and significant money left on his contract?  A calamity of faulty reasoning and different biases supply a big piece of the answer and give examples for NFL teams and RSO GMs of what not to do to get in this type of trouble.

  1. Jacksonville picks up Bortles’ 5th year option. This act set in motion future events for the Jaguars with relation to Bortles. General manger Dave Caldwell picked up Bortles’ option under two primary reasons.  First, Caldwell contends the $19 million option was a relative bargain at quarterback.

“I think that slots him as the 16th highest quarterback next year, right around the median,” Caldwell said. “If he was to get the franchise tender that puts him at the third or fourth or fifth ranked quarterback depending on who gets new deals next year.”

The obvious question that comes to mind is what possible reason would the Jaguars have in franchising Bortles?  No other NFL team was going to give Bortles anything remotely close to $19 million per season, much less the expense of a franchised quarterback.  The odds that another team would have even given him a starting opportunity were extremely low at the time.  It is clear Caldwell misevaluated Bortles value, both on the open market and to his own team.  The fact that Bortles was Caldwell’s first pick for Jacksonville likely influenced his decision to pick up the option.

The second reason given by Caldwell for picking up Bortles’ option is his relatively cheap two-year salary with the extension.

“We look at two-year values on our contracts,” Caldwell said. “I think this year he’s scheduled to make about $3.2 million in cash, and then the $19 million next year is just a little over $22 million, it’s a two-year, $11 million average on what is considered a new deal, and that puts him not in the Top 16 of quarterbacks.”

This classical error may be seen across the business world.  The final year of Bortles’ rookie contract was already locked in and should have had no bearing on the new decision to pick up his option.  What the deal averages out to when including old contract numbers is irrelevant.

Lesson for RSO GMs:  Take your ego out of decisions when franchising or extending players.  Do not let the fact that you drafted a player influence your decision on future contracts and his worth.  Examine the player’s expected value in your league to determine an appropriate salary and be prepared to move on if the franchise tag or extension price is too high.

  1. Jacksonville signs Bortles to three-year extension. Caldwell doubled down on the option mistake by signing him to a three-year $54 million extension following the season. The extension, in part, stems from the option by reducing the $19 million cap hit to a more reasonable $10 million in 2018.  This came at the cost of $16.5 million in dead cap for 2019 which makes releasing Bortles in 2019 an expensive option.  Cap room was not the only reason for the extension however.  Jacksonville believed Bortles made significant progress in 2017 and was a piece of Jacksonville’s future.

“Blake’s growth and development last season was a key to the success we had as a team,” Jaguars executive VP Tom Coughlin said in a release from the team. “Blake has proven, with toughness and dependability, that he can be the leader this team needs going forward. Along with this contract come high expectations that he will continue to improve and help our team accomplish its ultimate goal.”

So how did Jaguars management get fooled into believing in Bortles long-term?  The answer is Bortles performed well near the end of the year in 2017.  He was averaging a very Bortles-like 58% completion percentage and 6.4 yards per attempt to go with 12 touchdowns and 8 interceptions through 11 weeks last season.  He followed that up the next four weeks averaging a robust 9.1 yards per attempt with a 69% completion percentage to go with 9 touchdowns.  Bortles also finished the season with an impressive outing versus New England in the AFC championship game.  How did he accomplish this upgrade in play?  The Jaguars faced incredibly soft passing defenses during those games with Football Outsiders’ 21st, 25th, 28th, and 32nd ranked pass efficiency defenses to go along with a Seattle defense decimated by injuries at the end of season.  The Jaguars saw progress where in reality Bortles simply faced lower-end pass defenses and took advantage of the matchups.  They ignored the long body of work and let a handful of games dictate their outlook.  Jacksonville is now stuck in an ugly situation with no long-term answer at quarterback and the short-term solution is unenviable at best on a team which just missed the Super Bowl last season.

Lesson for RSO GMs:  Do not let recency bias distort your view of players too much.  Relying on players based on a handful of recent games while ignoring everything before can lead to disaster for your fantasy team.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook: Bortles was a lower-end streaming option before the benching.  He is almost impossible to trust now, even as a streamer, given that he may be benched in any game.  Look at Bortles as an emergency starter in 2QB and superflex leagues.

Jameis Winston

Bortles was not the only quarterback benched recently.  Winston got the hook after a disastrous four interception game versus Cincinnati last week.  The Bucs have already named Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched for Winston earlier, the starter next week.  No one really knows after that.  Winston might relieve Fitzpatrick next week if he struggles or at some future week if Tampa Bay is eliminated from contention.  Tampa Bay put the fifth year option on Winston which is guaranteed for injury only.  This means he also might never see the field again in Tampa Bay if they have determined he is not part of their future in order to eliminate injury risk.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook:  Chaotic. Impossible to predict.  What we do know is tremendous weekly upside exists for whoever throws the ball.  Tampa Bay averages 376 passing yards per game (58 more than the next highest team) with a stable of high-end receiving threats and a defense among the league’s worst.  The upcoming schedule is also great for Tampa Bay passers.  Definitely grab Fitzpatrick if he is on your waiver wire.  The upside is so high that I would not mind having both him and Winston on my roster.  The main problem lies in the fact that either may be benched on any given week possibly ruining you fantasy week.

Eli Manning

Career finishes rarely end well for NFL star players.  Their skills diminish quickly toward the end and they almost never are able to make an accurate assessment of their lower abilities.  Manning is no different.  Manning is a statue in the pocket with non-existent movement skills who freezes up anytime pressure presents itself playing on a team which really struggles protecting the passer.  In this case, the organization failed miserably in evaluating Manning and a New York roster which won three games last season.  Management vastly over-estimated this roster and the ability to play competitive football weekly.  No realistic backup plan exists for Manning and the quarterback spot.

Rest of Season Fantasy Outlook:  Manning is a lower-end starting option in two QB leagues.  The Giants season is virtually over already which means they may want to get a look at younger quarterbacks on the roster.  Be prepared with other options if you are counting on Manning in your league.


Bio:  Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

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