Editor's note: This is Part 3 in a several part series where we dissect each offensive fantasy position and tell you what happened this season (2016) and how you can apply those lessons into your draft for next season (2017). You can check out all the lessons learned from quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends throughout the offseason.
Coming out of the 2015 season, the 2016 quarterback landscape was looking good. In 2015 all of the top 13 QBs threw for 30+ touchdowns and the top 6 all had over 300 fantasy points. In 2016 however, only five players threw 30+ touchdowns and only three QBs topped the 300 fantasy point bar. So, what did we learn about the quarterback position this fantasy season? Did anything go right or was this just simply a down year for quarterbacks?
We learned that…mechanics make the wheel go round
2016 was the year the general football consensus learned the importance of QB mechanics. Many quarterbacks have managed to skate by on arm talent alone and that makes them good fantasy options for one season. But inconsistent mechanics means inconsistent quarterback play and this means inconsistent fantasy production in the long run, explaining the huge drop off in quarterback production from 2015 to 2016.
Brock Osweiler was at the helm of arguably the most talented offense in the NFL. Surrounded by DeAndre Hopkins, Lamar Miller and Will Fuller, Osweiler’s lethargic wind-up and sluggish release resulted in batted balls and many uncatchable targets due to his side-arm release.
The same goes for Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles. The Jags offensive performance in 2015 garnered questions as to whether they were home to the best wide receiver tandem in the league in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Bortles’ terrible 2016 mechanics resulted in Allen Robinson, a borderline 1st/2nd round pick in August, becoming effectively unusable this season as Bortles began to drop the ball below his elbow in his wind up leading to an unnecessarily long release and producing overthrown passes.
Even last year’s MVP Cam Newton along with rookie prospect Carson Wentz had their mechanical flaws expose them this season. Relying on arm strength alone leads to inaccuracy and produces passes often too low for receivers to catch. Forced passes and backfoot throws are all traits of a quarterback’s reliance on their arm strength and often result in passes being too far behind receivers. Using your arm instead of your body is a quick recipe for an interception. Neither player steps into their throws and so they struggle to throw with touch and anticipation.
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees on the other hand have perfect mechanics and it comes as no surprise that both of them are consistently top 5 fantasy quarterbacks, with the odd SuperBowl thrown in too.
We learned that…mojo doesn’t last
Momentum is a term we hear a lot regarding NFL offenses and it is often why fantasy owners worry when their players return from their bye-weeks as offense is all about practice, repetition and chemistry. Offenses that can keep their momentum going throughout the season are both NFL gold and fantasy gold.
In 2015 we saw that a few offenses certainly were feeling their mojo and this lead to stellar quarterback play. Cam Newton, Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer were all part of high-flying offenses last year and all finished as top 5 fantasy quarterbacks.
However, without relatively much changing, all three of those quarterbacks failed to repeat this in 2016, with Newton following his QB1 season finishing as the QB18 and Palmer slotting in right behind him. Strangely enough, the much maligned Blake Bortles finished as the best of the bad bunch with a confusing QB8 ranking.
As we all accept Bortles is a fantasy anomaly year on year, the rankings clearly show that momentum doesn’t carry over through the offseason. With this in mind, beware of drafting the wildly inform quarterbacks from this season again in 2017. I’m looking at you Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford.
We learned about…the new kids on the fantasy block
2016 however, wasn’t all bad. With Peyton Manning retiring and Tom Brady and Drew Brees getting up there in years, 2016 saw the birth of the new crop of fantasy studs. Derek Carr (QB9), Marcus Mariota (QB15) and of course Dak Prescott (QB6) had a coming out party this year.
Carr was an MVP candidate this season and probably would’ve finished as a top 5 QB without his injury in week 16. Mariota, who was also similarly injured to Carr in week 16, was complete gold-dust early in the season with three top 5 finishes in quick succession and threw for two or more touchdowns in two thirds of the games he played in in 2016.
And we couldn’t discuss young quarterbacks without talking about the man of the moment, Dak Prescott. Prescott finished 2016 tied 5th for total touchdowns with 29 but the true measure of Prescott’s greatness this year has been in his ability to limit his interception total with only 4 INTs. Not only does that result in less negative points but it also keeps drives alive and results in more scoring opportunities for Prescott, who has also demonstrated legitimate rushing capability too.
We learned to…please wait on QB
If 2016 has taught us anything, it is that you please, PLEASE wait on a quarterback when you draft next season. Unless you’re drafting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees, there is no need to take a quarterback in the first 6 rounds. Top RBs and WRs are so few and far between and with injuries too, the need to stockpile your skill position players is greater than ever before. Fantasy is usually uses only one quarterback per line-up and as quarterback is so deep there is no need to waste a high pick on a brand name quarterback. Instead take a RB/WR and wait for a sensible upside QB.
For example, Ben Roethlisberger had a 6th round ADP and finished as the QB16 whereas Dak Prescott for instance had a 12th round ADP and finished as the QB6. It doesn’t stop there either; Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Derek Carr were all available in rounds 10-12 and all finished as top 10 QBs this season. But the craziest thing of all…Matt Ryan was undrafted this year in the majority of leagues. Wait and bet on upside, you might just wind up picking up the QB2 off the waiver wire.
Thank you for reading, you can follow Will Pendleton on twitter @willpendosports
On Thursday's edition of the podcast, the Helpers talk about their favorite sleeper picks and also give out some daily fantasy advice regarding quarterbacks. Daily fantasy football is a blast to play, and if you want to join some contests, here are some links.
On Thursday's Treatment podcast, the Helpers discuss fantasy football quarterbacks and dissect their ADP. They talk about QBs they feel are undervalued in Tony Romo, Joe Flacco and Derek Carr. They also voice excitement for guys like Matt Ryan and Eli Manning.
On Friday's edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers discuss a few playoff sleeper options at each position for Week 15. Week 15 is often considered the divisional round of the fantasy playoffs, so the competition is likely to get even tougher from here on out. Also, they go over their hits and misses from Week 14.
Our bullet points articles are written to help better highlight our weekly rankings and explain our rationale behind ranking certain guys in certain places.
QB –Andrew Luck vs. Jacksonville - #2 in Weekly Rankings
I never get to write about players like this because they’re so obvious but I just want to express that I think Andrew Luck is about to have his best game of the season. He’s coming off a home loss in a blowout against the Patriots and I think he gets it going in a huge way when the Jaguars 24th ranked defense vs. fantasy QBs comes to town. Luck will take last week’s frustration on a team devoid of talent on defense and 300 yards and 3 TDs is the minimum of what we’ll see. Getting Luck in the lineup is more than obvious, but get every Colts player in there as well.
D/ST – San Francisco vs. Washington - #1 in Weekly Rankings
The 49ers are coming off their best defensive performance since week 1. They went on the road into Metlife Stadium and intercepted Eli Manning 5 times due to a ferocious pass rush. It’s no coincidence that this performance came at the same time as Aldon Smith’s return to the lineup. The defense only managed just 2 sacks but that total is sure to grow this week against the Redskins, a team that has allowed the most sacks this season. RG3’s work ethic was called into question earlier this week by Steve Young and Young’s unnamed sources, and his coaches have said he needs to improve his fundamentals. His leadership is a bigger question as he basically threw his teammates under the bus deflecting the blame for last week’s horrific loss to Tampa Bay. Most importantly his talent is being called into question. He threw a pick 6 this past week and 2 INTs, and his dreadful season continues to spiral in the wrong direction. He’s just a shell of the rookie we all witnessed just a couple of years ago. Griffin can’t stay out of the spotlight and there is a target on his back. Things will not get any better in San Francisco this week. Start the 49ers defense with confidence.
QB – Tony Romo - #10 in Weekly Rankings
Tony Romo was incredibly impressive in London’s 31-17 victory over Jacksonville. The broken bones in his back seem to be a non-issue at this point and while they cannot fully heal in one week, the late bye worked to Romo’s advantage. Romo travels to New Jersey to take on public enemy #1 the Giants. The Gmen can’t get out of their own way defensively, ranking dead last against the run and 22nd against the pass. The Cowboys will once again lean on the running game and pick their spots leading to a game from Romo similar to what he had against another hapless and hopeless defense in London.
D/ST – New England v. Detroit- #5 in Weekly Rankings
Calvin Johnson? Golden Tate? Matthew Stafford? No problem! The Patriots are coming off one of the season’s most impressive games by any football team, a 21 point victory on the road in Indianapolis. They slowed down Andrew Luck and TY Hilton, so coming home for a lesser offense will be no problem. The Lions are playing winning football, but it’s the defense that has led the way. There are big names at the skill positions for the Lions but they have struggled mightily when facing a top defense. Teams such as Buffalo, Miami, Arizona and Minnesota have stymied the offense throughout the year. Despite Chandler Jones’s absence the Patriots have continued to play tough defense, especially against the pass. Expect Stafford to struggle once again resulting in multiple turnovers.
QB – Ryan Tannehill at Denver - #14 in Weekly Rankings
Ryan Tannehill is in the midst of a career year and is a fine QB, but this is the wrong week for him to start against the Broncos. Denver is a great team on both sides of the ball. When a team like this comes off a loss where they lose to a clearly lesser team (Rams), you don’t want to be playing against them the following week, especially in their building. Denver will be out for blood to prove that they are the best team in the league, and every Dolphin player is in a lot of trouble. Peyton Manning will be sustaining long drives on offense limiting the Dolphins opportunities and Von Miller and Aqib Talib will lead this defense in a rout over a quality but inferior team like the Dolphins. Look for Tannehill to hover in the low 200s in terms of yardage and 1-2 scores along with 1-2 turnovers.
D/ST – Arizona at Seattle - #21 in Weekly Rankings
Let me start with saying that the Cardinals have a great defense. They understand how to play against their NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks. However, the Seahawks are at home where they always play dominant football, and despite their recent struggles they are still the Super Bowl champs. They have a top 5 RB in Marshawn Lynch and one of the smartest QBs in the game in Russell Wilson, two players who will be touching the ball on basically every play and will not allow turnovers to pile up. Wilson is too smart to take the amount of sacks needed for the Cardinals to be a good start. Seattle is desperate and I expect them to play that way, and play their best game of the season. Find another matchup play defense and stash the Cardinals for another week.
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Fantasy owners who drafted Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in 2012 hauled in perhaps the best value quarterback of the 2012 season. With an average draft position of 12th overall among quarterbacks, RG3 owners ended up getting way more bang for their buck as he steamrolled to 26 total touchdowns and 4,000 yards combined rushing and passing. By the end of 2012, RG3 ranked fifth among all quarterbacks in fantasy points with 317.5.