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Quarterback Leaderboards At Midseason - NFL Next Gen Stats


We've consumed our first "double-digit week" set of games. That means we've entered the final part of the season and, in fact, the fantasy football playoffs are closer than you may realize. There are just three more weeks to go until we hit Week 14 and celebrate our presence in the run for the chip, or lament the chances we lost along the way by falling short of making it to the final bracket. Now more than ever, no blunders are allowed. You have to know your weapons, have a strategy in place, and trust the leaders on the actual football field (the quarterbacks) to also be the leaders of your fantasy football teams.

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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Mid-Season Rundown of Quarterbacks - NextGenStats

After spending three weeks analyzing NextGenStats data with the aim of determining the most and least impactful advanced stats in fantasy football (for running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers/tight ends), it's time to put knowledge to practice.

Last week I looked at the rushing leaderboards. This week, we turn to quarterbacks and how NextGenStats impact their fantasy finishes. I'll present each of the stats from the NFL's advanced metrics site, its correlation with QB-fantasy points, a list of leaders and trailers in each category, and finally some notes and takeaways on both the players and the metrics' impact on fantasy as a whole.

So let's dive in. Note: The cutoff is set at 75 pass attempts.

 

Time to Throw

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 38%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Of the 15 quarterbacks averaging 20-plus fantasy points per game, only Tom Brady is throwing the ball quicker than 2.7 seconds.
  • Only Jimmy Garoppolo has played every game this season while having an average TT under 2.6 seconds. The rest of the qualifiers were either benched, injured, or came in as backups.
  • Although Kirk Cousins has the highest TT by a mile he should be happy about it, as that is probably helping him to hold the sixth-highest completion rate (69.1%) among qualifying quarterbacks.
  • Drew Brees (2.61) and Derek Carr (2.67) are the only quarterbacks completing at least 68% of their passes while having a TT under 2.7 seconds. On the other hand, only Marcus Mariota (2.84) and Josh Allen (2.9) have completed less than 60% of their passes while having a TT 2.8.

Fantasy Takeaways:

  • This metric correlates to 34% with CAY: It makes sense, considering that the more time a quarterback spends waiting for his receivers to run their routes, the deeper they can get and therefore the more yards they can gain through the air.
  • This metric correlates to 37% with YDS: Similar to the last point, only that we're baking in yards after catch too. The relation is strongest because not only does a more "patient" approach ease the finding of open receivers, but it also aids in targeting receivers in spots that allow them to rack up yards after they catch the ball.
  • This metric correlates to negative-44% with xCOMP: This allows us to know how quick throwers have historically performed better than slower ones in completing their passes. The relationship is not overly high, but being negative and nearing the 50% it should be considered important. Keep in mind that this comes from averaging the data from all of the league's quarterbacks, which means being "slow" doesn't make a QB bad as that could be the style he excels at and feels more comfortable with (e.g. Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson).

 

Completed/Intended Air Yards & Air Yards Differential

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 61% / 38% / 30%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Total yards (air yards + yards after catch) are factored into fantasy points without any complication, and air yards make for the bigger part of that tally. That is why completed air yards have a high relationship with fantasy points.
  • Every quarterback averaging 22 or more FP/G is averaging at least 6.3 CAY. Everyone averaging more than 20 is also carrying an average of 5.0 or more CAY.
  • Only Daniel Jones and Jacoby Brissett are averaging 18-plus fantasy points while having an average of 5.0 or fewer CAY. Jones has that high FP/G mark because of his contributions on the ground, while Brissett has been incredible in terms of throwing touchdowns on low volume which has helped his scores.
  • No wonder Matthew Stafford and Jameis Winston lead the IAY column. They are also the first and third in CAY but their booming traits are paying off with the sixth- and eighth-highest fantasy points per game.

Fantasy Takeaways:

  • The Intended Air Yards metric correlates to negative-47% with the Air Yards Differential one: This is interesting, as one metric explains up to almost 50% of the other. The higher yards a quarterback tries to get through the air on his passes, the lower the gap between his "completed" and "intended" yards. No one is completing fewer than 3.8 air yards this season, and there is a point where that mark virtually can't go lower. That is why those passers have smaller gaps. On the other hand, passers that normally throw long passes are going to miss many more while still completing the short ones, widening that gap.
  • The IAY metric correlates to negative-76% with xCOMP: I guess we all expected this, but there are a lot of boom-or-bust quarterbacks out there (think Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick), and history says there is a really strong relationship between throwing for booming passes and not completing them. The more air yards thrown for on average, the lesser the chance to hit the receiver.

 

Aggressiveness

Correlation with Fantasy Points: negative-27%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • Just four quarterbacks are over the 20% AGG mark. The fact that they're averaging between 13 to 24.7 fantasy points per game highlights how little relation there is between both values and the low impact aggressiveness has in fantasy football.
  • Even considering that, however, less aggressive quarterbacks have a better outcome here. In fact, the QB1 tier has an AGG of 15.6% on average while the QB3 tier has an average of 17% AGG.
  • As happens with many "advanced" metrics such as this one, they are more descriptive and showcase styles of play more than anything. Patrick Mahomes (11%) and Joe Flacco (12.2%) have pretty similar AGG, but they are averaging 26.2 and 13.6 FP/G respectively. Mahomes can afford to throw low-risk passes thanks to his receiving corps (often open, with the chance to rack up yards after the catch) while Flacco must remain risk-averse given the lower quality of his receivers.
  • The opposite is also true. Just look at Matthew Stafford (23.4% AGG, 24.7 FP/G) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (23.1% AGG, 13.0 FP/G).

Fantasy Takeaways:

  • This metric correlates to negative-58% with xCOMP: As happened with IAY in the last section, the relationship between Aggressiveness and expected completion percentage is high and negative. Again, it bears to reason that passers that put the ball in tight windows are expected to complete fewer passes than those throwing to open receivers. And that is true to a great extent this season, as the relationship between AGG and actual COMP in 2019 is negative-48%.

 

Attempts & Yards & Y/A

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 74% / 82% / 76%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • The more yards per throw, the better. Seven of eight quarterbacks with 8.0 or more Y/A are averaging 20-plus fantasy points per game. Only Ryan Tannehill isn't but it must be said that he's on the toughest situation of all and he's played fewer games, which could mean some stabilization is still to come (same with Drew Brees).
  • At the bottom of the leaderboard, though, six of seven quarterbacks who are at or below 6.6 Y/A are averaging 15 or fewer fantasy points per game. There are some asterisks between them (Josh Rosen, Cam Newton) but the other four (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky, Sam Darnold) are clear examples of low yardage per attempt equaling bad fantasy outings.
  • The group of season-long starting quarterbacks this season to have thrown more than 300 passes average 21.6 FP/G. On the other hand, the group of starters with fewer than 300 attempts average 19.8 points per game.

Fantasy Takeaways:

  • As the fantasy gospel says, volume is key and with volume comes production. That explains why players with the most attempts (and yards as a product of that throwing volume) are those putting up the best quarterback performances.
  • This metric correlates to 96% with YDS: As obvious as it gets. The more attempts, the more yards gained. The relationship is almost perfect, and although it might show outliers early in the season due to the small sample, it stabilizes over the year and we're already at that point.

 

Completion Percentage & xCOMP & COMP Above Expectation

Correlation with Fantasy Points: 45% / negative-16% / 57%

Leaders and Trailers:

Leaderboard Notes:

  • As happens with volume and rate-based stats, the first always beats the second no matter what. You should always look at the quarterbacks throwing the most possible passes, not those hitting them at higher clips.
  • Ryan Tannehill has been ridiculous in terms of completing passes (71.3%) this season in comparison to what he should have done (62.1%). That difference probably comes from the very low volume he's throwing, which is not translating into high fantasy scores. Tannehill is only throwing 23 passes per game, the lowest in the league among QBs with at least four starts.
  • Matthew Stafford has a horrid completion rate in comparison to those surrounding him in the table above. Even with that, he's got the sixth-highest fantasy points per game this season. That is due to his huge passing volume and long throws. Stafford is launching 36 passes per game and, as we have already seen, ranks first in IYA. Volume is helping his game immensely.
  • Five of eight quarterbacks completing at least 68% of their attempts are averaging 20-plus fantasy points per game, and all but one (Derek Carr) are completing passes at least 2.5% over expectation.
  • Again, Ryan Tannehill has played way above expectations. He should regress during the rest of the season, as his +/- is plainly unsustainable at 9.2% through Week 10.
  • Near the bottom of the plus-minus leaderboard, though, we find Jared Goff (negative-6.8%) and Baker Mayfield (negative-4.7%). This is not something that should regress that much, given that both quarterbacks have started every game all season long. This means that both of them are underperforming in comparison to what has happened historically. In other words, Mayfield and Goff have been bad.

Fantasy Takeaways:

  • The Completion Percentage metric correlates to 47% with TD: Although a better completion rate should mean more chances of hitting a receiver in the perfect place and moment, the relationship isn't overly great. Of course, 47% is strong enough to go with accurate passers if looking for scores, but that doesn't entirely mean that a quarterback has to complete passes on high rates overall to be good at scoring touchdowns. He only needs to hit them when he really needs it to get those sweet points.

 

That's it for today. Until we meet again next week, don't get too mad at the bye weeks, try to find the best free agents on your leagues' player pools, field the most productive teams you can, and win the weekend with all of your squads!

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