The quarterback landscape for fantasy is a strange one as unlike other positions a quality QB can stay atop the rankings for over a decade with minimal fluctuation. Additionally, only the very elite  QBs really matter for our game, as we know that after a select few passers, replaceability is very high. So, when looking at rookie QBs, redraft league players can pretty much forget the class (unless it’s Kyler Murray *swoon*) and even dynasty league managers with 1QB don’t need to stick their neck out for a rookie. 

However, moving into deep dynasty or leagues where it is required (2QB) or beneficial (superflex) to start multiple QBs, things get interesting. These types of leagues are often starved for starting QBs and the only way to obtain one is a difficult trade or drafting an incoming rookie. For managers in these types of leagues, let’s get to prospecting! 

Only The Best Need Apply

For running backs, a top 12 finish is great and for wide receivers even a top 24 season is helpful. But for a QB, only upper echelon players make much of a difference in fantasy. There’s a few elites, a large swath of whatever and there’s a handful of players that can be actually detrimental to your matchups.

I wanted to see what college stats top 5 fantasy QBs in the NFL had in common. I searched Peter Howard’s (@pahowdy) database for all QBs drafted since 2003 and found the median value for every QB statistic. From there I grouped QBs who had a top 5 finish in their career and those who did not. In the following table I have listed the metrics for which there was a substantial difference in the top 5 group and “everyone else”. 

Completion Percentage Over Expectation (CPOE)

In short, this is the difference between a player’s completion percentage his last year in college and the average completion percentage for their conference. If you want to know more or why this is relevant, check out this great piece by Josh Hermsmeyer

The Results

  Age in draft year Average career yards per pass attempt  Average career air yards per pass attempt CPOE
Top 5 QB finish 22 8.21 9.3 +9%
Non-top 5 QB finish 23 7.64 8.48 +5%
All  23 7.78 8.66 +5%

So, it appears that top 5 fantasy QBs were 1 year younger when drafted, had 0.57 more yards per attempt, 0.82 more air yards per attempt and almost double the CPOE than QBs who never saw a top 5 fantasy season. 

A Closer Look At CPOE 

  • 19 QBs met a CPOE mark of >9% and had at least 1 season starting 16 NFL games
    • 10 (52%) had at least one top 5 finish
    • 6 (32%) had multiple top 5 finishes

6 QBs had >3 top 5 finishes and only Cam Newton (8.1%) and Carson Palmer (6.3%) had CPOE less than 9%. Newton was never reliant on passing for his fantasy success, so CPOE could be overlooked a bit. These stats seem to be as good a place to start as any when trying to identify a future producer at QB in the NFL: they make logical sense and we see a clear divide between a top group and the rest.

For our game, the player needs to be on the field to accrue points and that means they probably need to be drafted high. Therefore, even if a QB has the numbers but is a 5th round pick, odds are slim they will inherit a starting role any time soon. 

The List!

Rank Name School Age in draft year Average career yards per pass attempt  (y/a) Average career air yards per pass attempt (ay/a) CPOE Projected draft round
QB1 Tua Tagovailoa Alabama 22 10.9 12.7 13.3 1
QB2 Joe Burrow Louisiana State 23 9.4 10.5 19.9 1
QB3 Jalen Hurts Oklahoma 21 9.1 9.7 10 2-3
QB4 Justin Herbert Oregon 22 8.2 8.8 5.2 1
QB5 Jordan Love Utah State 21 7.6 7.6 3.4 1
QB6 Jacob Eason Washington 22 7.1 7.2 6.2 2-3
QB7 Jake Fromm Georgia 22 8.4 9.1 2.3 3+

Tier 1 – Take Em To The Bank

QB1 – Tua Tagovailoa

Yeah, that’s right. Folks, I understand why Joe Burrow will likely be the top rookie QB drafted in the NFL coming off a historically outrageous season that saw him throw 60(!!!) touchdowns. But if Tua had not been injured this would be a Winston/Mariota type battle for the first overall selection. Tua’s injury complicates things as a team simply can’t take an already injured player at 1.01, and Burrow to his credit has a legit case. For fantasy purposes I am going to swing for upside, since the position is fairly replaceable and all things considered, that’s Tua.

Burrow’s 2019 may never be topped but it was one year in a novel system that destroyed the SEC. However, he was the oldest player on the field most weeks and it was still just one magical season. I’m taking the guy who has better numbers over the course of his career and who did it at a younger age. 

QB2 – Joe Burrow

I spent a lot of the above section on Burrow so I’ll make it simple: his senior year CPOE of 19.9 is the highest in the database. He deserves to be taken #1 in the NFL and I also can’t fault someone taking him #1 in a multi-QB dynasty draft. 

Tier 2 – One Man Band

QB3 – Jalen Hurts

As stated above, I focus only on upside when looking at QB, which is why I overloaded on Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray last season. Because of that, Jalen Hurts lands in his own tier as QB3 due to that sweet sweet rushing ability. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry in his career which is similar to Cam Newton (5.6) and more than Russell Wilson (3.2). Of course he lost his job and had to transfer, but he did lose it to one of the better QB prospects in the last decade. I am OK letting that slide, plus no one seems to be holding Burrow, Murray, or Mayfield to the fire for their transfer-to-stardom paths. Hurts is not just a runner as his passing numbers are very impressive on their own. His y/a, ay/a and CPOE all sit third highest in the class and all are above the average for a top 5 fantasy QB. 

The main concern with Hurts is draft capital and whether a team that will hand him the keys to the offense early. That remains to be seen, although there is some steam behind him and I have seen Hurts taken in a lot of 3rd round mocks. As the draft gets closer and the QB cravings mount, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him as a 2nd round pick. We just need to see a glimmer of a path to playing time, and the rest will take care of itself. Since the NFL has a QB problem in general, I think he’ll get a chance to shine.

For fantasy purposes, I would rather swing and miss on Hurts than grab a medium ceiling, pass-only QB.

Tier 3 – Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

QB4 – Justin Herbert

The former Oregon Duck is probably the most interesting in this tier, but I’ll be honest none of them seem to pop on paper. All these guys are kind of worth a pick out of necessity if you need a QB in a multi-QB league. Herbert does not meet any threshold for career stats, although his sophomore year was very impressive. He appears to be a good QB but I find it difficult to think he should be considered special. He will go in the first round, which means a QB needy team is welcome scoop him up in dynasty. He’ll almost assuredly be an NFL starter in the early going of 2020, but will likely fall into a “replaceable” bucket in terms of fantasy. 

QB5 – Jordan Love

I have him here for 3 reasons: 1) he’ll go in the first round 2) he did have an exceptional sophomore year and 3) he is a project and we may not have seen his best play yet. But wow was his junior year was a disaster. A 20/17 TD/INT ratio in the Mountain West? Woof. His supporters will cite a coaching change as a possible excuse but that is a terrifying ratio. As a project, his fantasy impact may take a while to bloom. If you twist my arm, I wouldn’t mind him as a 2nd round rookie pick in multi-QB dynasties or a 3rd round pick in single QB dynasty formats. 

QB6 – Jacob Eason

He has the highest CPOE after Hurts, but the rest of his numbers are marginal at best. He won’t have the draft capital to jump right in and start for a team, so therefore he’s an afterthought in fantasy. 

QB7 –  Jake Fromm

I have been laughing at Georgia fans since Fromm stepped foot on campus and ruined the aforementioned Eason’s career then also drove Justin Fields away. It is shocking to see Fromm impress with some efficiency numbers like y/a and ay/a, because he just comes across as such a boring game manager. He threw for 300 yards just twice in his 3 year career, but on a per attempt basis he’s interesting. The CPOE is damning, however, and combined with a poor showing in Indy his draft stock is on the frtiz. There’s enough here to include him in the rankings and I could be tempted to take a very late flier on Fromm. 

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