Quarterback Danger Zone
The most important position in professional sports is often a second thought in Fantasy. As the NFL becomes more pass-oriented, quarterbacks seem to become more analogous. But a strong quarterback you can “set and forget” can open up your FAAB budget for other positions, lower your waiver wire stress and propel your team to the playoffs. But what sets some signal-callers apart in fantasy? Two key stats have the biggest impact, interceptions, and sacks. Signal callers who lead in these stats find themselves squarely in the quarterback danger zone and should be avoided in your drafts.
This one is obvious. Almost all scoring formats give some sort penalty to an interception. But one scoring system that is becoming more and more popular, 6-4 as made popular by James Koh, exacerbates this by penalizing quarterbacks with minus-four points per interception thrown. But regardless if your league scores it minus-two or minus-four, an interception equals fantasy points lost.
Last year Ben Roethlisberger threw for 687 more yards and 9 more touchdowns than Aaron Rodgers. That would be good for 63.48 points in four-point/passing TD league, or 81.48 fantasy points in six-point per passing touchdown leagues. But by the end of the season, less than 30 fantasy points separated the two quarterbacks in standard leagues and Rodgers scored 4 points more in 6/4 scoring. Rodgers two interceptions on the season were the league-best, whereas Big Ben threw the most INT’s in the NFL, 16.
|Min>=80 Pass Att||2018 Fantasy Points 6-4 Scoring||INT||Rank||Points Lost to Interception||Fantasy Points Lost per Game|
Last year 15 quarterbacks who threw for a minimum of 80 pass attempts averaged an interception per game or more, which came out to be ranked 32 or worse in this stat. Of those 15, eight are expected to be starters for their teams in 2019.
|Quarterback||2018 Fantasy QB Rank||2018 INT's||FP Lost Per Game (-4/INT)|
All eight of these quarterbacks are flirting with the Quarterback Danger Zone. So let’s examine the other part of this equation.
Whereas it’s obvious how interceptions affect QBs in all leagues, the impact of sacks is often overlooked.
First of all, they can pile up for negative rushing yardage resulting in fantasy points lost. Whereas an interception clearly kills a drive, taking a sack has a surprisingly powerful impact on the likely success of an offensive drive as well. Michael Salfino examined Aaron Rodgers 2018 season sack struggles in detail for the Wall Street Journal and scrapped together some shocking stats. Salfino wrote;
“…getting sacked on first down cuts the odds of moving the chains by more than half, to 36.7% from 74.7% when there is no sack. When sacked on second down, that number is just 22.1%”
If the drive goes three-and-out, your fantasy quarterback can’t keep racking up stats, limiting his weekly fantasy output. So if sacks are drive killers, quarterbacks who get sacked a lot, have a lower ceiling to their fantasy week. More so, some scoring formats (including my home league) apply point penalties for sacks, similar to interceptions.
The Bullet-Proof-Glass Ceiling
When looking at how sacks affect your fantasy QB, let’s apply a minus-one point penalty for every sack. This can not only represent a point penalty scoring system but also stand in for fantasy points that they could have otherwise scored had the drive not ended, which, as Salfino explained, likely did.
Two signal-callers that finished with nearly identical total fantasy points last year, in standard scoring, were Dak Prescott, 285.86, and Philip Rivers, 285.02. Prescott left far more points on the field and should have been far above Rivers at the end of the season.
|2018 Total Fantasy Points||2018 Fantasy QB Rank||2018 Total Sacks||2018 Fantasy Points + Sack Points Lost|
Less than one fantasy point separated the two quarterbacks at the end of 2018. If we add even just one extra point gained per sack Prescott would have separated himself from Rivers by over 24 fantasy points. Prescott’s new total of 341.86 would have been good enough to make him the 3rd best quarterback in fantasy last year.
Now, this is obviously more important for players whose league does inflict a penalty per sack, but expecting just one additional fantasy point for a drive extending to another set of downs isn’t outrageous. More importantly, it signifies potential fantasy points missed, limiting a player’s ceiling.
By ranking the player’s sacks-per-game, similar to the above rankings for interceptions, there are 14 players under center who rank 32 or lower in terms of Sacks-per-game. Again, with a minimum of 80 attempts. Of those 14, nine are expected starters under center.
|Quarterback||2018 Fantasy QB Rank||2018 Sacks||Sack per Game|
The Quarterback Danger Zone
One season with too many interceptions or a bad sack rate doesn’t mean I’m taking that passer completely off my board. But a history of lost fantasy points does make me avoid them in drafts. So what field generals should you avoid and why?
There are some trendy field generals on this list. But everyone listed above has ranked 32nd or lower in FP lost per-game due to interceptions &/or sacks, in two out of the last three seasons. The exception is Rosen, who as a rookie, couldn’t have done it multiple times yet. But in his one NFL season, he ranked in the quarterback danger zone for both sacks and interceptions. Miami has one of the worst-ranked strength of schedules+ for both Quarterbacks and Receivers (when analyzing passers, I look at SOS for receivers as well). We aren’t sure yet if it will be Fitzpatrick or Rosen under center, but I don’t want the Miami QB no matter who it is.
Draft With Caution
Wilson and Rodgers have both had some issues in multiple seasons, but their SOS and their ability to just put up high FPs raises their floors.
Garoppolo, in limited work last season, threw too many interceptions and took too many sacks, but has one of the best combined SOS for both QBs and WRs in 2019.
The rest of the mix had ugly 2018 seasons in terms of sacks or interceptions, but not both. On top of that, their 2019 SOS are all projected to be in the bottom 3rd in terms of difficulty.
Green Light QBs
This is simple. None of these players have had interception or sack issues over the last three seasons. Moreso, everyone but Mahomes and Wentz have some of the best SOS projections for 2019. Foles, who I admit, I am a little skeptical about, has a 2019 SOS ranking of No.1 for both QBs and WRs. Mahomes, with one of the hardest SOS rankings, is still my No.1 ranked field general and is likely to produce no matter the competition. Wentz doesn’t have nearly as daunting a SOS projection, but it still is among the bottom 3rd in terms of difficulty. But we have seen that when Wentz is healthy, his legs provide one of the safest floors in fantasy.
* Denotes they only played partial season
+ Strength Of Schedule Rankings from FantasyPros.com
THANK YOU FOR READING. YOU CAN READ SOME OF MY OTHER WORK AND THOUGHTS ON TWITTER @DumpsterDiveFF. FOLLOW FFSTATISTICS ON TWITTER @FFSTATISTICS_. PLEASE CHECK OUT EVERYTHING THAT FFSTATISTICS HAS TO OFFER. NEW STATISTICS AND DATA ARE BEING ADDED CONSTANTLY. READ MORE ME AS WELL AS OTHER ARTICLES FROM THE FFSTATISTICS WRITING STAFF HERE. LISTEN TO THE FFSTATISTICS FAMILY OF PODCASTS HERE.