When going into a fantasy draft, a fantasy owners strategy regarding their starting quarterback is very important. Do you go for a high ceiling or consistency? Some fantasy players like the solid production the elite options like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. These quarterbacks may provide a higher likelihood of a great fantasy season, but they come with a fairly steep price tag. A price tag that would prevent the acquisition of a valuable running back or wide receiver.
Then there is the popular school of thought from many fantasy owners that you should wait on a quarterback. The position is certainly deep enough where you can afford to wait. This is a popular strategy given how small the difference in value is between the elite quarterbacks (Wilson/Rodgers) and ones found outside of the top-12 ( QB’s not even starting in standard leagues). This is in comparison to the difference in value between those same groups at RB and WR in fantasy football.
So, how do you find value when waiting for a quarterback? It is unwise to roll the dice on a high ceiling option if that have a volatile track record. You want to draft a quarterback who has shown a certain level of consistency. A quarterback that you can count on for safe production with as little risk as possible of a “dud” game (or “dud” season for that matter).
This article is the first in a series highlighting hidden value among consistent performers at each position. I will show you how to locate some smart, safe options using FFStatistics Consistency Data Charts and Z-Score.
What are FFStatistics Consistency Data Charts?
Do you want to know how to locate a consistent performer? Better yet, do you want to know how that player performs compared to the top players at their position? That is why the FFStatistics Consistency Data Charts exist. They show you how many times a player has finished in in the Top-12, 13-24, or 25-plus in fantasy scoring each week for the time period you decide. You can sort by either the total number of weeks at each level or the percentage of total weeks spent in each level. All you need to do is search for the player or players you want to research and decide on the timeline you wish to pull from. Easy right?
I will be using these charts in this article to show how some lesser valued quarterbacks stack up against the RB1 from 2017, Russell Wilson. This will give you a prime, in your face example of some overlooked quarterback targets that are worth your attention on draft day. Consistency is valuable in fantasy, especially when searching for value late in the draft.
What is a Z-Score?
Ok, I have to break out the nerd glasses for a moment. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit. A z-score is the number of standard deviations from the mean a data point is. For our purposes, it’s a great way to measure how many standard deviations a player is below or above the mean. Got it? No?
We want to know how a player performed in comparison to his peers. We want to see how their performance, or “raw score”, differed from the mean (or league average). To do this we will use a measurement using standard deviations, or the measure of how spread out the variables are. By doing this we can see how above or below average a player is in comparison to the league average. A Z-score of zero will represent “league average” or the mean. Anything above zero will be considered above league average, and any negative number will represent someone performing below that level.
Let’s see an example. Let’s take a look at the Z-Score from Aaron Rodgers. The “mean” we will be using is the top-12 quarterbacks in fantasy football. A Z-Score will be determined by how the player performed each year, by their age. You can also do this by season on FFStatistics.com.
As you can see, Aaron Rodgers is very good. Shocker. He has a near consistent Z-Score average of two during his career. The only exceptions are the two seasons in which Rodgers missed extensive time due to a fractured clavicle. This should give you a general idea of how the scale can look when applying Z-Scores to fantasy football.
So, how can you use this information to gain an advantage in fantasy football? I am going to take a look at some undervalued quarterbacks that perform consistently, year after year, to find some safe value picks for 2018 drafts. If you wait on a quarterback you will want to draft a player you can count on. Let’s take a look at my first article in the “The Value Of Consistency” series: quaterbacks…..
Quarterbacks Who Provide Safe Value & Consistency
Our first candidate is Phillip Rivers. The San Diego captain is consistently drafted outside of the top-10 at quarterback, if not the top-15, only to finish the season well above his ADP. Over the last five seasons, Rivers holds an average ADP of QB 15.6. Yet, he has a five average of finishing as the QB 10.4 in fantasy leagues. There is value all in itself.
Rivers is also an iron man, holding the 4th longest consecutive game streak in NFL History. I bet you did not realize that. Being on the field is an undervalued asset in itself. Not that you can predict injuries in an accurate way.
Over the last 12 consecutive seasons, Rivers has posted a Z-Score at or above the mean. Nine of those seasons hover around one or higher (see chart below). Those are exactly the numbers you want to see when drafting a quarterback late. There is nothing to suggest that Phillip Rivers will not continue to perform above the curve in 2018.
The Chargers have also armed Rivers with an immense amount of firepower, led by Keenan Allen. In 2017, the stud wideout was 4th in receptions, 3rd in receiving yards, 2nd in yards after the catch, and 3rd in fantasy points per game. The San Diego wide receiver core is comprised of Allen, Tyrell Williams, and Mike Williams to go along with Melvin Gordan and Austin Eckler. That is quite the group of skill players that Rivers has at his disposal.
The bottom line here is that Phillip Rivers is predictable, consistent, and productive. He is also likely to fall well below his real value in your fantasy draft. This makes him a fine target if you decide to wait on a quarterback. Don’t overthink it, Rivers is safe.
Like Phillip Rivers, Matthew Stafford has led a steady career of consistent performances. He is a bit more of a risk taker than Rivers, ranking 6th in the NFL in interceptable passes thrown. Luckily this is offset by him being the 3rd in the league in deep ball completion percentage. Even though Stafford likes to air the ball out, he ends up being fairly consistent in his end of year results.
Matthew Stafford has finished as a top-10 fantasy quarterback each of the past three seasons, improving each year. The Lions captain also holds an above average Z-Score in seven straight seasons (see chart below).
Now, the thing to realize with Stafford is that while his end of year results are consistent, he is not consistent from game to game. He’s has achieved 20-plus fantasy points 22 times in the last three seasons (which is 48 games). He does, however, tend to avoid “blowup” games. Stafford may not play at an elite level consistently, but he will get you a solid score most weeks. Take a look at how he compares to Russel Wilson (the QB1 from 2018), and Phillip Rivers over the last six seasons in “consistency.”
The chart above represents the number of weeks each of the quarterbacks has finished as a “Top-12” quarterback for the last six seasons. Sure, Russell Wilson is going to get you those “breakout” games, but at what cost? Stafford makes for a valuable late-round draft pick that comes with a safe floor and modest ceiling. Just remember, his value comes as a result of his ADP. Do not take this as an excuse to reach for Stafford. Let him come to you.
If there was an award for “Mr. Consistency,” it would be given to Drew Brees. The future hall-of-famer is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league every season in a typically aggressive Saints offense. Want to hear some good news? You can get Brees at an incredible discount this season.
Drew Brees registered, statistically, one of the least productive campaigns of his career in 2017. Brees threw for 4,334 yards, which is close to 900 less than he totaled in the previous season. The 39-year-old also finished with just 23 touchdown passes, his lowest mark since his final year with the Chargers in 2005. Wait, what? This is good news? Yes, stick with me. Bress also happened to be the most accurate quarterback in the league with a 72% completion percentage.
Most of his “woes” were the result of underutilization. The Saints were armed with a fantastic defense and an overly productive backfield. I say “overly” because Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram’s 2017 efficiency is highly unlikely to be repeated in 2018. This will lead to a more typical Sean Payton season filled with more run and gun rather than ground and pound.
The bottom line here is that Drew Brees is about as consistent as they come. He has posted a Z-Score above one for 14 consecutive seasons and has shown no signs that will be coming to an end. Brees will provide one of the safest floors in fantasy football, but without the elite price tag typically assigned to him.
Blake Bortles? Really? Yes, really. Bortles hasn’t thrown for less than 3600 yards since his rookie season. He even achieved a 4400 yard/35 TD season in 2015, in case you forgot. He may not be the safest pick in the world, he truly is fairly consistent when it comes to the end of season production. Take a look at how he compares to Russell Wilson and Drew Brees in a consistency chart over the last three seasons.
After their week 8 bye last season, Bortles scored less than 16 fantasy points just once, averaging 19.3 points per game. For those of you who refuse to believe how good that it is, in the final 8 weeks of the fantasy season, Blake Bortles was the QB4. He was behind only Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, and Cam Newton. In fact, Bortles was the QB1 for the final five weeks of the season, for the fantasy playoffs.
In 2018, the Jaguars have the 4th easiest schedule in the NFL, with 12 of their 16 games against opponents who finished in the top half of fantasy points allowed to QBs. Borltes will also come into the season with a vastly improved receiving core with the additions of Donte Moncrief and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.
The bottom line here is that Blake Bortles has been a surprisingly good fantasy options in recent years, especially the playoffs. He has above average Z-scores and a supporting cast that should allow him to put together his best fantasy season to date. Borltes may be a late round steal that is not as risky as many think.
Risky Quarterbacks Who Should Be Avoided
Since a prolific 2013 season, Ben Roethlisberger has been inconsistent and inefficient. Just last season many were led to believe that Big Ben may retire mid-season, that is how poorly he played. He finished the year as QB10. That is inconsistency right there.
Does he have the big play ability and weapons around him to be a top fantasy quarterback? Yep. Is he a dependable option that you can count on to keep you in the hunt for a fantasy title? Nope. In five of the last 10 seasons, Roethlisberger has finished with an average of below Z-Score (chart below). You never know what you are going to get with this guy.
Big Ben has finished as a top-10 fantasy passer in just 4-of-14 NFL seasons. You can gamble on the upside, but if you saw his five interceptions (yes five) against the Jaguars last season, you would be worried about the floor of Roethlisberger, not the ceiling.
In 2015 Matt Ryan had a lowly 3.4 percent touchdown rate. In 2016 his TD rate jumped to a totally unsustainable 7.1 percent. Last season, Ryan saw his rate fall all the way down to 3.8%. We are talking about consistency folks, and this is not it. A reasonable person may expect there to be a bounce back, or positive regression coming Matt Ryan’s way. Not necessarily. Ryan;’s career average touchdown rate is 4.6%, so his likely season will fall closer to 2017 than to his MVP caliber 2016.
It is reasonable to expect Ryan to throw more touchdowns than he did last year (20), but keep your expectations in check. He is very likely to land outside of the top-10 in that category. In fact, unless Ryan can reclaim the pinpoint accuracy he possessed in his 2016 campaign, he is more of a streaming quarterback than anything in shallow formats.
This is not to say that Matt Ryan can’t be useful. He is a floor pick, meaning his floor is league average but he has the ability to do better. In fact, Ryan has shown the ability to be elite at times. The likely scenario is that Ryan will hover right around the mean. Ryan has seen a ping pong Z-score in three of his last five season that sees him performing closer to league average than above (see chart below).
Remember, we are talking about consistency. You are unlikely to find a quarterback with the kind of upside Ryan can provide late in the draft. The thing Ryan cannot give you is consistency. That upside gamble comes with a risk of it blowing up in your face. That very well be worth the gamble in the later rounds, but you can certainly try to find a safer bet around the same value.
Andy Dalton is without question among the worst starters in football. He is very consistent though. Consistently bad. The Cincinnati quarterback hovers right around the mean, giving you just enough hope that he can one day turn it around. After all, he has A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, and Joe Mixon. Do not fall into the trap. Dalton shows just enough promise to make you wonder, but the facts are the facts. Andy Dalton is a bad quarterback.
Dalton threw just 20 touchdowns to 14 interceptions last season. Not exactly what fantasy owners want to see. Dalton also only threw for over 300 yards in a game just once. There is a chance for him to have a solid year with a revamped offensive line, but it’s also more likely that he is headed towards the downward portion of his career at the age of 30. There is nothing to see here. Low ceiling, low floor.
Flacco has never been a consistent fantasy producer and it’s hard to believe he’ll suddenly become a solid fantasy starter at age of 33. To be honest, if it were not for the $24.75 million price tag attached to Flacco, Lamar Jackson would likely be starting in Baltimore.
Flacco does have some upside with the new weapons like Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst. However, his history of inconsistent fantasy production gives him limited value and a low floor in most fantasy leagues. If you take a look at the chart below, you will see that Flacco’s head is bobbing above and below the surface from season to season. Not in a good way. Stay away.
Below is a look at the yearly fantasy finishes for Roethlisberger, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco. The ideal scenario for a player is to a steady line, consistently flowing from season to season. Spoiler alert: We do not see that with these three. Instead, we see a fluctuating line graph, almost EKG like.
If you want to know what you are drafting at quarterback in 2018, look for a player who can maintain a consistent performance. High ceilings are great, but high floors are more reliable. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @MattWi77iams.