As we continue to roll on through the offseason in preparing for the 2022 fantasy season we are taking a top-down look at the production for each position.
Last week, we kicked things off looking at how there was recoil in the 2021 season compared to the record-setting season we had across the board the year prior and what went into that regression. Despite scoring production coming down in comparison to 2020, we were still in a good place overall.
Leaguewide Passing Output Since 2010
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With overall offensive production declining compared to 2020, a reduction in passing output was expected to also show up here.
After the league set all-time records in completed passes, completion rate, touchdown passes, and quarterback rating in 2020, every single category above in 2021 was worse than the year prior.
Despite every team getting an extra game in 2021, we saw 31 fewer touchdown passes than 2020.
Not only did things dip, but combined passing yardage and passing points for fantasy were the lowest they have been since 2017. After four quarterbacks averaged 20-plus passing points per game in 2020, Tom Brady was the only passer to do so in 2021.
With at 2020 explosion, quarterbacks were bumped up draft boards. Early-round quarterback made a slight revival as we had eight quarterbacks carry an average draft position in the top-60 in general public ADP after six carried that much draft capital prior to the 2020 season and just four the year before that. It is not uncommon to see us pay a tax on a record-setting season and last season was no exception as quarterbacks were overvalued coming out of 2020.
QB Rushing Output Since 2010
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2020 not only saw passing production soar to new highs, but quarterbacks also turned in their greatest season ever on the ground.
That also had instant fall off. Quarterbacks rushed for 27 fewer touchdowns despite the 17-game season. Three quarterbacks rushed for more than five touchdowns after six in 2020. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was Lamar Jackson, who had just two rushing touchdowns — the same amount as Drew Lock — after seven in each of the previous two seasons.
While rushing output dipped for quarterbacks, we can still see through league rates that a large part of that decline was a byproduct of the league having a worse season on offense as a whole. Quarterbacks still posted their highest percentage of leaguewide carries, designed runs, rushing yardage, touchdowns, and fantasy points on the ground per game for any NFL season outside of 2020.
The lone outlier in rates appears to solely be that touchdown spike from 2020, but even with that coming back down below 20%, quarterbacks still had their largest share of leaguewide rushing outside of that year.
11 quarterbacks still averaged over 4.0 rushing points per game (the equivalent of a passing touchdown in standard scoring) while eight averaged 5.0 or more rushing points per game. In 2020, 10 and eight quarterbacks hit those arbitrary thresholds.
Weekly QB1 scorers averaged 4.1 rushing points per game while top-six scorers averaged 5.1 rushing points per game and top-three scorers averaged 5.6 per game. The 18 QB1 weekly scorers averaged 7.0 rushing points per game. Just three of those 18 failed to record a rushing point in the week they paced the position while 11 of them registered at least 4.0 rushing points.
Despite the overall counting stats being lower than 2020, rushing impact was still alive and well at the quarterback position.
The Waiting is the Hardest Part…
That said, while you may have missed out on some weekly ceiling elevation by not having a dual-threat quarterback, the number of quarterbacks that provided BOTH front-end rushing and passing output was lacking.
While the archetype of landing a dual-threat passer still affords the highest ceiling and ADP followed suit in pushing them up draft boards, you could more than survive if you ran into a passer that carried a high touchdown total through the air. Paired with the ADP spike at the top of the position (the dual-threat options), waiting on the quarterback position once again still provided value if you landed an elite passer while remaining patient.
Tom Brady (1.2 rushing points per game), Aaron Rodgers (1.8), Dak Prescott (1.3), Joe Burrow (1.5), Matthew Stafford (0.3), and Kirk Cousins (1.1) were all top-12 quarterbacks in overall points per game. All were top-nine in passing touchdowns on the season, with Brady, Stafford, and Rodgers all ranking in the top five.
Rodgers and Prescott were the only two there that carried an ADP in that top-60 overall bucket mentioned earlier and drafted within the top six at the position.
While all the information here so far should be sending up alarm bells that late-round quarterback is still the way to go, there is a fine line to walk as we have absolutely smashed a setting the market at the position.
Last year, positional ADP among the top-24 quarterbacks carried an r-squared correlation to fantasy points per game of .5826 after a .4995 r-squared in 2020. In other words, 58% and nearly 50% of fantasy output per game could be explained in relation to draft position within the position. From 2010-2019, that correlation was just .2194. That is a massive difference in draft accuracy.
We have either gotten extremely fortunate or extremely efficient at setting the market for the position in fantasy these past two years. With gamers now focusing on elevating the quarterbacks that have that dual-threat ability which creates high floors paired with high-ceiling potential, we do know that we are looking at the right things in supporting that the latter accuracy could be sticky.
In 2021, the only two quarterbacks that were QB1 options in points per game that were selected outside of the top-12 in ADP were Joe Burrow (ADP QB13) and Kirk Cousins (QB18). In 2020, there were just three (Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, ad Justin Herbert). In 2019, there were seven with five in 2018.
This has made it increasingly difficult to go late-round quarterback the past two seasons. You could have run into Justin Herbert in 2020 off waivers (or late-round 2QB ADP), but the hit rate for late-round quarterbacks competing with the front-end of the position has been nearly non-existent the past two years while the top of the position has rarely bottomed out.
Josh Allen Looking to Match History
Just two quarterbacks last season were in the top-10 in both passing and rushing points per game, Kyler Murray, and Josh Allen.
With Allen ranking ninth in passing points per game (17.1) and fourth in rushing points per game (6.6), he became the first fantasy QB1 in overall scoring in back-to-back seasons since Drew Brees in 2011-2012 and the first QB1 in points per game in consecutive seasons since Daunte Culpepper in 2003-2004.
The last time that a quarterback led the league in fantasy points three years in a row was Brett Favre 1995-1997, who ironically did it after Steve Young was the QB1 overall the three previous years. Those are the only two quarterbacks ever to lead the position in points per game three years in a row, with Young pacing the position per game for four straight seasons from 1991-1994.
While Allen is the consensus QB1 this offseason, the positional leverage he has provided has been marginal, so do not overvalue pushing the QB button first in drafts this summer, even if Allen matches Favre and Young with his third consecutive QB1 overall campaign…
Lastly, the QBs… % of scoring compared to QB1 over the previous 10 years.
The position depth was due to regress coming off a silly 2020 passing season, but the top of the position was still semi-tight and productive compared to Josh Allen running it back as QB1. pic.twitter.com/kGnnKf5QIk
— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) January 10, 2022
Bringing things home…
- Quarterbacks were overvalued following record-setting 2020 but remained highly productive in context of the era.
- Rushing usage from quarterbacks remains near the top of the era.
- Fantasy gamers have been as efficient as ever at setting the quarterback market.
- You should not be the first gamer selecting a quarterback, but that efficiency has made it much harder to go late-round quarterback.
- The QB1 still is providing the lowest positional leverage compared to all other positions.