As we continue to lay the foundation for the fantasy football landscape for 2022 we are following up our look at league and team performance in the red zone last season, and spilling that over into individual player analysis.
So far, we have already laid out which running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends ran hot or cold in the red zone in 2021 in hopes of finding primary regression candidates. In that initial running back post, we went through the methodology, so I won’t double down here in the intro. Go and check that one out for the lead-in.
Today, we are bringing things home with the quarterbacks, highlighting the top-35 options in current ADP, excluding rookies and players injured for all of 2021.
2021 QB Red Zone Fantasy Points Vs. Expectation
|QB||RZ FF Pts||Exp. Pts||(+/-)|
HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND OVERACHIEVERS
When looking at the top outliers among quarterbacks over expectation in the red zone last year, the first that jumps out is that we are littered with signal callers that were in the middle to bottom of the field in actual expected points. Of the top five quarterbacks over expectation, only Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford were in the top 10 in expected points at the position.
Starting things off from an actual expectation stance, all things begin with Josh Allen. Allen led all players in actual and expected red zone points scored in 2021. Allen has now finished first, second, and fifth in fantasy red zone production the past three seasons, the only player in the top five in each of those years.
The Bills ran the most plays in the red zone last season. As a byproduct, Allen set career-highs in red zone pass attempts (123) after his previous best was 84. He led the NFL with 65 end zone targets, 15 more than the next closest passer (Stafford). 10.1% of his passes went into the end zone, which also led the league from a rate perspective. Allen also carried the ball a career-high 30 times in the red zone.
We have talked a few times this offseason about how the addition of Matthew Stafford changed the Rams’ offense. From their ability to put the ball into the end zone, their aggressiveness throwing the ball near the end zone, and how each of those things impacted Cooper Kupp’s incredible season near the paint.
Stafford was fifth among all quarterbacks in expected points in the red zone, attempting a career-high 112 red zone passes. Sensational with his opportunity, Stafford threw 32 red zone touchdowns to just one interception. His 28.6% red zone touchdown rate was his highest mark in a season since 2015 to go along with that apex volume.
Tom Brady’s first two seasons in Tampa Bay have been spectacular on so many levels. In 2021, he threw a career-high 30 red zone touchdowns, giving him 58 red zone touchdown tosses in Tampa. To put that in added context, Brady threw 57 red touchdowns over his final three seasons in New England.
Brady set a new precedent near the end zone, throwing 16 touchdown passes inside the 5-yard line, the most for any quarterback in a season in the 2000s.
When looking at things from a points over expectation stance, we were likely robbed of the inevitable regression we were going to see from Jameis Winston last season when he was lost for the season in the seventh game of the season.
At that time, Winston was carrying a career-high 8.7% touchdown rate (his career rate in Tampa Bay was 4.7%). 52.4% of Winston’s red zone passes (11-of-21) went for touchdowns, just a silly number that was sure to naturally come down over a larger sample. More impressively is that just four of those 11 touchdowns came from inside of the 10-yard line. Winston will have little to no chance of replicating that level of efficiency, but the silver lining is that his receiving corps is massively improved heading into 2022.
Highlighting how high Winston’s touchdown rate in the red zone actually was on his abbreviated sample, Russell Wilson led the league among quarterbacks on a larger scale at 33.3% (15-of-45). This wasn’t even a top-three season for Wilson in red zone touchdown rate, either. Wilson attempted a career-low 45 red zone passes. While he missed the first three games of his career in limiting that volume, his previous totals were 82 and 89 red zone passes.
If I asked you to tell me who was the best quarterback inside of the 10-yard line last season, how many names would reel off before getting to Tua Tagovailoa?
Tagovailoa led the league in rating inside of the 10 (118.9), completing a league-high 77.3% of his passes in that area of the field. Only Dak Prescott (62.5%) had a higher touchdown rate than Tagovailoa (59.1%) in that area as 13 of his 17 completions there went for scores. The downside is that Tagovailoa was 20th in the league in actual attempts in that area of the field, something we are hoping improves in 2022 with all of the changes Miami has made this offseason.
Over the past two posts on wide receivers and tight ends, we were flooded with a bunch of Cardinal skill players that underperformed in the red zone last season. With that, it is no surprise to see Kyler Murray fall short of expectations, even if he is not completely at the bottom.
Murray completed a career-low 51.4% of his red zone passes. After a 29.0% touchdown rate in the red zone in 2020, Murray sported a 19.4% rate in 2021.
As the field shrunk, so did Murray’s output. He also completed a career-low 44.1% of his passes inside of the 10-yard line after 54.3% and 57.1% rates to open his career. His 20.6% touchdown rate in that area of the field was below the 28.6% and 42.9% rates he opened his career with and ahead of only Trevor Lawrence and Tyrod Taylor in 2021 among passers with double-digit attempts in that area of the field.
Inside of the 5-yard line, Murray completed just 3-of-12 passes with two touchdowns after going 17-of-30 for 15 touchdowns over his opening two seasons that close to the end zone.
Matt Ryan was ninth in expected points in the red zone but closed the year 32nd above in point differential. Ryan fielded a 21.7% touchdown rate in the red zone, the lowest of his career outside of his rookie season (14.5%). Ryan posted touchdown rates of 30.6% inside of the 10 and 38.9% inside of the 5-yard line after career rates of 40.5% and 48.1% in those areas prior. The question for Ryan was whether this was him approaching the end or a byproduct of the depleted talent he had in Atlanta a year ago with him moving to the Colts this offseason.
It was a tough season all around for the first two draft picks last season and both Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson occupy the bottom two spots here in points below expectations.
Lawrence completed just 48.2% of his red zone passes, ahead of only Jared Goff and Daniel Jones among passers with 25 or more attempts. His 12.5% touchdown rate was ahead of only Jones.
Lawrence was 12th in the league in pass attempts inside of the 10-yard line but completed just 12 of those passes for six touchdowns. League conversion rate in that area of the field was 36.9%.
No passer threw a lower rate of passes into the end zone last season than Zach Wilson at 3.1%. On top of the low-end zone volume, Wilson also only fielded a 1.6% touchdown rate on those end zone throws, 26th in the league.
Wilson ended the year throwing just six red zone touchdowns on 41 passes (14.6%), a rate ranking 40th among passers with double-digit red zone attempts.
Both the Jaguars and Jets have made strides in giving both young passers more to work with in their second seasons, and there’s not much room to go anywhere but up compared to their rookie campaigns.
Staying in New York, Daniel Jones has now been dead last in points below expectation in each of the past two seasons. After starting his career out running hot with a 5.2% touchdown rate, Jones has limped out of his past two seasons with 2.5% and 2.8% touchdown rates.
Just three of Jones’s 15 end zone passes ended up as catches in 2021, the lowest rate in the league.
Over the past two seasons, Jones has completed 47.5% of his red zone passes, a rate only above Sam Darnold (46.5%) and Gardner Minshew (45.2%) among qualifying passers. Throwing just 12 touchdown passes on 101 red zone attempts these past two seasons, Jones’s 11.9% touchdown rate is ahead of only Tyrod Taylor (now his backup!) among the 63 passers with double-digit attempts over that span.
Brian Daboll has a low bar to work with in attempting to coax out more from Jones than we have seen the past two seasons.
- No quarterback scored more fantasy points from the 1-yard line than Ryan Tannehill last season (32.4).
- 8.1% of Justin Fields’s pass attempts went into the end zone, fourth in the league.
- Jalen Hurts led all quarterbacks with 31 red zone rushes (nine for touchdowns) and 13 rushing attempts inside of the 5-yard line, with seven going for scores.