Rich Hribar

By the Numbers

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How Rookie QBs Impact Fantasy

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Beginning a new job is always a unique experience. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or fledgling starter in each field, there’s always a learning curve when applying yourself to new conditions. That application dial is turned all the way up when you’re talking about being a player in the NFL. More specifically, being a first-year player at the toughest position to play in the NFL. Not only does quarterbacking require the mastery of immensely difficult tasks, but many rookie signal callers enter their jobs tasked with turning around failing franchises or maintaining current levels of success.

 

Rookies Play Sooner Than Later


Rookie quarterbacks are finding the field faster than ever before. Since 2010, 5.9 different rookie quarterbacks per year have started multiple games. That number has risen from 4.9 in the 2000s, 3.5 in the 1990s, and 3.8 in the 1980s (removing the 1987 strike-shortened season).

 

Today’s NFL has shorter windows for coaching and organizational turnover, and with how the game is accessible and marketed, teams are coerced into playing younger players to satiate fans. Quarterbacks that were selected with higher-end draft capital are accelerated into starting. Over the past five seasons, there have been 18 quarterbacks selected in the opening two rounds. 15 of those players started multiple games in their rookie campaigns, with Brock Osweiler and Jimmy Garoppolo being two of those three that did not. Those guys just happened to be on rosters behind two of the greatest quarterbacks ever, while the other one is Christian Hackenberg, who has the early writing on the wall of being one of the most egregious second-round picks in recent memory. Of those 15 quarterbacks to start multiple games in their first season, 12 of them started 10 or more.  The last first-round rookie quarterback that did not start a single game was Jake Locker in 2011 after we had six different first-round selections go without a start in their inaugural season from 2000 up until then.

 

As that dovetails into this 2017 quarterback class, the only selection taken in the opening two rounds that is heavily insulated to sit behind an incumbent quarterback while the team is successful is Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs have won nine or more games and have been to the playoffs in three of the past four seasons with Alex Smith.  Mahomes still very well may find the field more than we assume because everything in the NFL is fragile – Smith has started 16 games in just four of his 11 NFL seasons – but Kansas City is set up properly to have this be a season where they truly bring Mahomes along slowly.

 

The Texans could be in the conversation if Tom Savage plays better than expected and Houston is winning games, but it’s more than reasonable to project Deshaun Watson for the bulk of playing time. Throughout all the expected early word of mouth of OTAs and minicamp, Savage is being talked up, but I’m of the belief that he is indeed not very much competition to keep Houston from turning to Watson. I doubt the team tries to fight through another Osweilian campaign, and Savage couldn’t keep them from turning back to Brock Osweiler a year ago. If you go back watch Bill O’Brien’s face at halftime of Savage’s Christmas Eve start, it’s a picture that says a thousand words.

 

The Bears, Browns and 49ers can give you the token lines of summer as to where their wishful quarterback desires are heading into 2017, but the fact is that it will be unlikely that any of those teams will be successful enough to start one quarterback for the entirety of the season. I’d more than anticipate we see Mitchell Trubisky and DeShone Kizer starting multiples games in 2017. I would even suggest that there are very low odds that the 49ers are effective enough to keep third-round pick C.J. Beathard off the field. Beathard is in a very similar spot that Cody Kessler was in a year ago, playing for a team with minute expectations behind a veteran starter who has had trouble completing a full season on his own merit.

 

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Teams Playing Rookie Quarterbacks Are Unproductive for Fantasy Measures


Suggesting that rookie quarterbacks struggle and the teams that are playing them aren’t a hotbed for fantasy production is hardly a groundbreaking notion by any means, but that potential struggle is one that isn’t overly dissected as it pertains to impacting fantasy football. There have been 54 teams since the start of 2000 to have a rookie quarterback start at least five games – roughly a third of the season – and just nine of those 54 teams have finished in the top half of the league in total points scored. Just 10 have finished in the top half of either total yards or touchdowns produced, the primary contributors for housing fantasy points. Not only have those teams struggled to find mediocrity at best, 30 of those teams have finished 25th in the league or lower in points scored as well as total yardage with 29 teams ranking 25th or lower in touchdowns generated. We’re talking some of the worst offenses the league has had in those years.

 

Those Teams Don’t Produce Fantasy Stars


Now we can get into some finer details of the specific fantasy production these teams are creating. Here are those 54 quarterbacks and the highest positional finishes (PPR Scoring) the offensive skill players attached to that climate produced.  Just nine of those 54 quarterbacks were selected after pick 93 in their rookie season with just two as undrafted free agents, so fishing for the next Dak Prescott is not a normality. Draft capital still holds many of the cards that lead to early playing time at the position. 

 

YearQBHigh WR RankHigh PPG RankHigh RB RankHigh PPG RankHigh TE RankHigh PPG Rank
2016 Jared Goff 28 27 15 25 23 30
2016 Carson Wentz 44 37 24 30 6 3
2016 Cody Kessler 19 23 14 23 18 24
2016 Dak Prescott 33 20 2 3 11 16
2015 Jameis Winston 23 26 4 12 32 11
2015 Marcus Mariota 75 54 44 55 2 3
2014 Blake Bortles 49 59 39 36 43 25
2014 Teddy Bridgewater 41 49 14 18 37 26
2014 Derek Carr 40 46 35 46 17 19
2014 Zach Mettenberger 42 33 46 59 8 6
2013 EJ Manuel 54 43 10 13 16 21
2013 Geno Smith 62 57 34 42 34 30
2013 Mike Glennon 16 20 56 30 13 18
2013 Matt McGloin 33 42 23 23 24 33
2012 Andrew Luck 10 11 33 39 25 25
2012 Robert Griffin 48 27 8 10 40 41
2012 Ryan Tannehill 27 38 14 19 28 28
2012 Brandon Weeden 41 52 7 5 24 24
2012 Russell Wilson 35 49 5 6 30 30
2012 Nick Foles 22 29 17 8 19 18
2011 Cam Newton 7 10 19 24 18 19
2011 Blaine Gabbert 81 62 4 5 30 31
2011 Christian Ponder 8 11 15 9 27 29
2011 Andy Dalton 17 17 26 32 14 13
2011 T.J. Yates 66 25 3 2 24 23
2010 Sam Bradford 36 41 11 13 29 32
2010 Jimmy Clausen 65 67 38 33 38 39
2010 Colt McCoy 71 83 3 4 9 13
2009 Matthew Stafford 22 19 21 15 24 25
2009 Mark Sanchez 32 30 9 12 19 19
2009 Josh Freeman 57 44 25 28 7 8
2008 Matt Ryan 4 7 3 5 40 41
2008 Joe Flacco 20 22 23 26 24 26
2007 Trent Edwards 32 38 16 16 29 31
2006 Vince Young 47 55 22 20 18 17
2006 Matt Leinart 15 14 17 21 42 44
2006 Jay Cutler 12 15 31 30 20 19
2006 Jason Campbell 29 26 10 11 7 7
2006 Andrew Walter 44 49 48 50 24 25
2006 Bruce Gradkowski 21 23 36 39 18 19
2005 Alex Smith 40 45 30 31 71 72
2005 Charlie Frye 25 30 14 20 17 18
2005 Kyle Orton 33 38 11 15 27 29
2004 Eli Manning 49 57 1 4 7 9
2004 Ben Roethlisberger 23 26 22 31 48 40
2004 Craig Krenzel 54 64 11 13 32 38
2003 Byron Leftwich 32 20 8 10 30 31
2003 Kyle Boller 47 57 4 5 3 4
2002 David Carr 48 55 35 40 6 7
2002 Joey Harrington 56 41 21 16 20 18
2002 Patrick Ramsey 20 23 28 25 40 43
2002 Chad Hutchinson 26 30 32 36 33 35
2001 Quincy Carter 39 39 26 31 43 38
2001 Chris Weinke 55 42 38 34 14 14

 

In many cases, the same player occupies both seasonal and per-game rankings spots, but note that all the rankings above aren’t the same player to account for players that were injured. For example, Cole Beasley was the WR33 for seasonal scoring for Dak Prescott, but Dez Bryant was the WR20 in points per game.

 

Just five top-12 scoring wide receivers were attached to those 54 rookie quarterbacks with just 16 teams able to produce a climate that could induce a top-24 scorer at the position for the season. Just under half (26) could even produce a top-36 scoring receiver in points per game. 

 

Of the five wide receivers to achieve WR1 status with rookie quarterbacks, two came in exceptional conditions. In 2011, Percy Harvin was the overall WR8 with Christian Ponder of all quarterbacks, but Harvin had 17 percent of his fantasy scoring come from rushing production, adding 345 yards and two scores on the ground. Perhaps the only player from the teams with potential rookie starters capable of sprinkling production like that would be Tyreek Hill. Reggie Wayne in 2012 benefitted from being in the possession stage of his career and being attached to Andrew Luck, who attempted an NFL-record 627 passes for a rookie. Although not impossible, it’s hard to forecast that volume for one these rookie passers. The remaining three top-12 scorers were Steve Smith in 2011, Roddy White in 2008 and Javon Walker in 2006.

 

Running backs have fared much better than receivers when forced to play significant time with rookie quarterbacks, but still have struggled in bulk. Just one third of those teams (18) produced a top-12 scoring running back with 35 producing a top-24 scorer at the position, though only 31 of those were top-24 in points per game. The difference here is that there have been some monster running back campaigns that were able to overcome offensive environment, led by Tiki Barber’s 2004 season and Peyton Hillis’ 2010 season, which earned the cover of a video game.

 

As for tight ends, there have been just 10 top-12 scorers from that group with just nine in the top-12 in points per game output.  Many of those were forged from dire wide receiving circumstances such as Delanie Walker in 2015 and Zach Ertz’s strong finish a season ago, but not many of those rookie quarterbacks inherited competent tight end play, which leads us to our next question.

 

The issue you are assuredly raising from everything so far is that most of, or at least many of rookie quarterbacks that are selected highly are taken by awful teams, with those teams in a position to draft those players in the first place. Is it simply that players playing with rookie quarterbacks aren’t often going to find success because those players aren’t successful to begin with?

 


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Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer. You can find him on Twitter @LordReebs.
Email :Rich Hribar



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