How 2016's quarterback results will impact 2017 Fantasy Football drafts
Quarterback production took a dive in 2016 despite teams passing as much as they did in 2015. How did it happen and how will it impact Fantasy drafts in 2017?
For the fifth straight season, NFL teams attempted at least 17,500 passes. And for the fifth straight season, NFL teams threw for over 120,000 yards. That's a lot.
But for the first time since 2012, total passing touchdowns fell below 800. Specifically, the league threw 786 touchdowns, which seems like a lot, but is less than the 842 scored through the air in 2015. As passing scores dropped by 56 year-over-year, rushing touchdowns by running backs surged by 67.
You better believe that had an impact on Fantasy Football this past season.
All data is based on CBS Sports standard scoring (six points per passing touchdown).
That's the average Fantasy points per game scored by the top 12 quarterbacks in 2016, down 1.39 points per game from 2015. It's Exhibit A that even though passers threw more, they didn't score more.
It also means, for the sake of simplicity, that it was "a good week" when a quarterback produced at least 20 Fantasy points.
Consistency is key
Ten quarterbacks averaged over 20 Fantasy points per game played:
|Aaron Rodgers||27.8||Ben Roethlisberger||21.7|
|Matt Ryan||25.6||Kirk Cousins||21.3|
|Tom Brady||25.6||Dak Prescott||21.1|
|Drew Brees||24.8||Derek Carr||20.9|
|Andrew Luck||23.9||Colin Kaepernick||20.3|
If you don't think that's a lot, you're right. Last year there were 18 (!!!) quarterbacks who played in at least seven games and averaged 20 Fantasy points per game.
But before you start plotting to take a quarterback with an early choice next summer, note that there were six quarterbacks who averaged 19.1 to 19.9 Fantasy points per game ...
|Marcus Mariota||19.9||Tyrod Taylor||19.2|
|Philip Rivers||19.8||Carson Palmer||19.1|
|Matthew Stafford||19.7||Blake Bortles||19.1|
... and another three who averaged over 18.5 points per game.
|Jameis Winston||18.7||Cam Newton||18.6|
So while the difference between the best quarterbacks (Rodgers, Ryan, Brady, Brees) and the most frustrating (Winston, Wilson, Newton) was significant, it's clear that there were still a lot of productive signal-callers putting up averages just shy of what we had in 2015.
10-plus with 20-plus
Consistency creates comfort. When a player starts racking up big games, he becomes a no-brainer to start.
Only five quarterbacks had 10-plus games with 20 or more Fantasy points last year. Five more had nine games with 20-plus.
The leaders in the clubhouse? Matt Ryan and ...
Luck didn't score as many Fantasy points as Rodgers, Ryan or Brees but did something no one else did. He was the most consistent quarterback in Fantasy, nailing down 20 or more points in 12 of 15 games, a solid 80 percent return.
This isn't new for him. Luck is actually the most consistent Fantasy quarterback over the past three seasons, returning value in 29 of 38 games (76.3 percent of the time). Nothing should make Fantasy owners happier than seeing him get some help along the O-line to keep him upright in 2017.
Points plus consistency
Another stat combination to cross-reference is cumulative Fantasy points scored plus consistency. It measures year-to-date production and reliability -- two things Fantasy owners crave from their players.
Last year, nine quarterbacks finished in the top 12 in both categories: Rodgers, Ryan, Brees, Luck, Cousins, Dak, Carr, Brady and Roethlisberger.
But only one quarterback of those nine finished in the top 12 in both categories for two years running. That would be Tom Brady, who has actually finished in the top 10 in both stats for three years in a row.
He's going to be an interesting player to figure out in 2017. He might be without offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the status of tight end Rob Gronkowski will hinge on his projection and he'll be 40 years old.
Most inconsistent in top 12
Matthew Stafford finished as a top 12 Fantasy passer but had just six games with 20-plus Fantasy points. Thing is, four of those six games were really good -- at least 27 points. Stafford also had three games with 18 or 19 Fantasy points, suggesting he was a few yards or a turnover away in those matchups from getting more 20-point games.
Stafford's one of those guys who could be a tremendous Fantasy bargain given adjustments the Detroit Lions make offensively. He was close to being a consistent, reliable Fantasy option and could get there in 2017.
Matt Ryan is your Fantasy MVP because he went from a late-round pick (or undrafted player) to a staple on championship rosters. No quarterback improved as much as he did, moving from 19th in points scored to second. Certainly, Fantasy owners will look for him after the first few rounds of drafts next summer.
Last year's Fantasy MVP, Cam Newton, took a worse-than-expected tumble in 2016. He fell from the highest point scorer in Fantasy to the 19th-best. Fears about his willingness to run and ability to pass accurately from game to game might really lower his Fantasy stock.
The steep decline in passing touchdowns across the league hurt the position as a whole, but not to the point where it became a nightmare. It'll take just a handful of touchdowns to turn the quarterbacks who fell short of averaging 20 points per game into consistent heroes for your team.
If there's an issue to sweat it's that we'll need a serious swing back toward passing touchdowns to create a bunch of incredible Fantasy studs instead of a bunch of guys who can average 20 points per game. For that to happen we'll need erosion at the running back position, an unlikely scenario given the youth at the position in the league now and coming to the league soon.
In 2017 it will be true that you can wait on a quarterback in the draft, but if you want one with difference-making potential like Rodgers, Brady or Luck, you'll probably have to spend a pick between 20th and 40th overall.
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