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Fantasy Playoffs Passing Leaderboards: Next Gen Stats


It's over. The season is over. I can't believe my eyes, but they're telling me pretty clearly that we're past Week 16 and that's a wrap for our fantasy football adventures in the year 2019. I still remember those days thinking about untapped potential, impossible expectations, and lifting trophies just before feasting in back-to-back Christmas dinners. If you're done with fantasy football for the year, you'll still find this column useful as a summary of what helped you win your league or what killed you and made you lose it. If you're still hanging onto a final winning outing from your team in a completely impossible-to-predict Week 17, you'll find this content as useful as always as we go for a quarterback roundup!

To gain the biggest edge in your fantasy football league, it's necessary to understand how to apply the advanced statistics being used in sports nowadays. Back in the day, it was all about wins and losses, passing yards, and touchdowns scored. It's not that those stats are now worthless, they just don't offer enough information to savvy analysts. While football is still in its infancy compared to baseball in terms of analytics, the evolution the sport has seen lately in those terms is notable.

Each week, I'll be tackling NFL's Next Gen Stats, bringing you data from the just-completed week's games with notable takeaways you should consider when assessing fantasy players for the upcoming week. In case you're new to the series, or Next Gen Stats altogether, I recommend you read our preseason primer. Now, let's get to the data!

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The State of QBs After the Fantasy Playoffs - Next Gen Stats

So far we have studied which NFL Next Gen Stats metrics correlate best with each position and its fantasy production. We have also taken a look at other interesting tidbits of information with insights for each of the three positional groups (rushers, receivers, and quarterbacks). The fantasy playoffs -- at least in most leagues -- are now over and it is time to look at what has happened to those who are given the hardest of tasks in all of sports: Handling a football team from the pocket.

This week I'll inform you on how the fantasy season went for all of the league-qualified quarterbacks in the different metrics we've already tackled during the past three months. I'll be going metric by metric including a leaderboard and commenting on the players and performances I find most interesting, as has been the case in the rest of the series entries.

As we'll be discussing quarterbacks and their passing stats, I will reduce the fantasy points per game averages to just those related to passing. That means that I have removed the rushing/receiving fantasy points the qualifying quarterbacks have logged during the season (that is why Matthew Stafford has a better fantasy average than Lamar Jackson, for example). I've called this "new" metric paFP/G, which is to say passing Fantasy Points per Game. I have included the full fantasy points average (passing, receiving, and rushing stats included, labeled simply FP/G) for context. So let's dive in!

Note: The cutoff to qualify is set at 120 pass attempts.

 

Time to Throw

Correlation with Passing Fantasy Points: negative-11%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Andy Dalton has been, indeed, a Red Rifle. Although he missed some time on the year, Dalton still was able to throw 500 passes through Week 16 so the sample is as big as that of any other quarterback (it is the 10th largest, just in case). He's done so averaging under 2.5 seconds per throw, becoming the only quarterback to do so with just one game left to play.
  • Had Drew Brees played a few more games on the year, his average would probably be a little higher and in the 2.6-2.7 range at least. His numbers would have regressed a bit, but he's by far (only remotely close to Matthew Stafford) the only top-tier QB with such a quick throw.
  • This metric, as I have already said in the past, doesn't mean a lot in fantasy terms. While Mitch Trubisky (2.66) and Matthew Stafford (2.69) have virtually the same TT, the latter almost doubled his passing production in fantasy leagues.
  • Something similar happens at the other end with David Blough (2.88) and Dak Prescott (2.87), again telling the same story about the meaning (or lack of it) of this metric.
  • The overall picture is the same: At the top of the leaderboard shown above, eight players averaged 14-plus paFP/G while seven didn't. At the bottom, eight averaged 14-plus paFP/G while four didn't. It is not a completely random distribution, but random enough as to not consider TT of any importance.
  • Time to Throw correlates best with the number of interceptions thrown (negative-22%) and the expected completion rate (negative-20%). Those are not overly great values, but they at least indicate a slight tendency of quick throwers to be intercepted more often. They are also likely to complete fewer passes.
  • That, again, should be taken with a grain of salt. Dalton and Brees make for a great example once more. Dalton has 13 interceptions and a 59.6% completion rate to Brees' four interceptions and 75.3% completion rate while boasting virtually the same TT.

 

Completed/Intended Air Yards / Air Yards Differential

Correlation with Passing Fantasy Points: 51% / 43% / 8%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • I still think of Stafford as a fitting player for the CAY metric, but he posted that 10.7-yard mark in just eight games this season. Jameis Winston, on the other hand, has played the same amount of games as Dak Prescott (15) yet he's averaging a half yard more than him in completed passes. Obviously, we all know about Jameis as a booming passer who likes to throw bombs no matter the situation.
  • Drew Lock has garnered too much attention during his four games as a pro in Denver. He might be the Broncos' future at the position, but he'd have to raise that CAY a bit if he really wants to become something special, even more given his pure-passer profile and lack of rushing upside. The names close to him (Mason Rudolph, Derek Carr, Devlin Hodges, Joe Flacco, and Mitch Trubisky) are not very encouraging.
  • Drew Brees, again, defies the odds being the only quarterback averaging 19-plus paFP/G with a CAY lower than 6.2 yards, averaging 5.2 CAY yards. The next-best player is Patrick Mahomes, averaging 19.3 paFP/G but doing so with that 6.2 CAY mark.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick, on the other hand, has been quite disappointing as he's averaging one the highest CAY (7.1) yet he's only putting up 13.7 paFP/G. That means that he's completing a small number of passes but those in which he connects go for long distances.
  • Getting back to Dak Prescott, he's the only QB with a difference over -1.6 throwing for 8.5-plus yards per attempt. His 18.5 paFP/G and -1.8 AYD pair are unmatched in the league. No one is throwing for more yards while trying to get the furthest downfield and doing so to such success as to be averaging more than 18.0 passing fantasy points per game.
  • Related to the Intended Air Yards metric, it is obvious that those going for shorter passes are the ones with the smaller gaps between the CAY and IAY metrics, as those passes are safer and more probable to turn into completions. Marcus Mariota, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Brees, and Derek Carr are the only players with a difference of under 1.5 yards between both metrics.

 

Aggressiveness

Correlation with Passing Fantasy Points: 10%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • With both Stafford and Dwayne Haskins done for the year, only Daniel Jones could pass them for the most-aggressive passer title, though it is not very probable for him to jump more than 1.3 percentage points in just one game. Those two were in a league of their own.
  • This metric doesn't have a lot to do with fantasy production, but it correlates perfectly with the weekly narratives put out there. Almost all of the names at the top of the leaderboard (with the exceptions of Ryan Tannehill and Prescott) have been criticized often during the season and labeled as risky/bad players at some point.
  • Two Lions (Stafford and David Blough) and two Giants (Eli Manning and Jones) qualified and are inside the top-eight most-aggressive passers in the league. Are we talking about individual traits, offensive systems, or a development regime that molds players in similar styles here?
  • The opposite happens at the other end of the leaderboard with New Orleans (Brees and Teddy Bridgewater) and Denver (Joe Flacco and Lock).
  • Only Stafford and Prescott have been able to average more than 16 paFP/G while throwing more than 18% aggressive passes. Russell Wilson is the next-best, most-aggressive QB (averaging 17.5 paFP/G) with an AGG% of 17.9.
  • In completely opposite ways, both Dwayne Haskins and Devlin Hodges have been mediocre. Haskins has thrown 22.7% of aggressive passes to average 8.4 paFP/G while Hodges has averaged 7.2 paFP/ on just 11.1% of aggressive passes. Neither approach has worked well worked for them.

 

Attempts / Yards / Y/A

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 54% / 66% / 61%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Once again, I can't close the column without mentioning Ryan Tannehill's impressive season and how this "comeback" of sorts will hand him a very delicious extension after this year. He's averaging more than a yard per attempt more than the next active passer (Patrick Mahomes) and it's going to be hard to see him finish other than at the top of that column after the final weekend of games.
  • All things considered, though, Jameis Winston's year has probably been much better. He is the only quarterback at 600-plus attempts yet he's been able to log the fifth-highest Y/A mark and he will most probably surpass the 5,000-yard mark in the season finale. Sure, he comes with the interceptions problem, but Winston is a massive volume passer that can make up for his mistakes without any problem.
  • If we go for efficiency, though, then we have to praise Dak Prescott. His numbers are close enough to Winston's but Prescott has 11 interceptions on the year to Winston's 28 through 15 games.
  • Of those quarterbacks with at least 12 games played, only three are averaging more than 15 paFP/G on fewer than 450 attempts: Daniel Jones (15.8 paFP/G, 412 attempts), Kirk Cousins (16.1, 444), and Lamar Jackson (17.5, 401). That speaks volumes of how efficient all of them have been, whether completing passes at high rates, avoiding interceptions, finding the end zone, or throwing for huge yardage chunks.
  • At the other side of the spectrum, we find Kyler Murray (13.2 paFP/G, 500 attempts) and Baker Mayfield (13.3, 507). At least Murray can make up for that low average on the ground.

 

Completion Percentage / xCOMP / COMP Above Expectation

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 33% / negative-3% / 42%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • After Week 16, Tannehill was able to get into the elite club of 70%-rate passers. Only he, Brees, and Derek Carr are part of it and will most probably be the only ones to finish with a completion rate of over 70% on the year. Kudos to Carr for accomplishing such a feat while playing at least four more games than any of the other two, and attempting 100 more passes than Drew Brees and 200 over Tannehill's tally.
  • Speaking of Brees and Tannehill, you can see how the former finally got to a COMP Above Expectation at 7.0%, joining Tannehill and his now (still insane) 7.9%. We should expect regression from Tannehill next season at least a bit, and the same goes for Brees. Just look at the gap between him and the third-highest +/- holder (Kirk Cousins, 5.6%) and you'll see something is a little out of place. Even Cousins' own value is a tad bit high itself.
  • No quarterback with 500-plus attempts (there are 11 of them) have reached a completion rate of 67%. Matt Ryan (565 attempts) has the highest at 66.9%, followed by Philip Rivers (545) at 65.9%.
  •  Four quarterbacks attempted 500-plus passes while having completion rates of under 62%: Tom Brady (584, 61.1%), Jameis Winston (602, 61.1%), Baker Mayfield (507, 60.2%), and Andy Dalton (500, 59.6%). Yes, I'm talking about that Tom Brady being part of this group of madmen.
  • I've been preaching the Word of Minshew all year long, and he hasn't been bad at all in fantasy leagues (19.1 FP/G). The problem is that Gardner Minshew has completed only 59.9% of his attempts while he should have completed 64.8%, giving him the lowest difference at negative-4.9%. Jared Goff is the second-worst among "true-starters", but he's miles ahead with "only" a negative-3.7% himself.
  • Winston is averaging 19.5 paFP/G through 15 games (the third-most among qualified QBs) and he's completed exactly the same amount of passes history says he should have: 61%. He's the only quarterback to do so and finish the fantasy season with an exact zero in the +/- category.

That's it for today. Until we meet again next week, if your fantasy season is already over you can always start planning for next season by finding what you did wrong or what won you the league in this one. If you are part of a crazy league holding the title game in Week 17, good luck in such an unpredictable environment!

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