Fantasy Football Analysis: QBs



Is it too early to talk about fantasy football? Heck no! This summer I decided to take a look at 2011 fantasy football stats to hopefully spot some trends that I can use when setting up my rankings for draft day in a few months. The first position I tackled was Quarterback, so read on for some analysis and my very early QB Ranking. Oh, and this analysis assumes ESPN standard 10-team league scoring, so check it out after the jump.

One of the first things I looked at was points allowed to QBs by every team in the league. I was most interested in seeing which divisions allowed the most points on average, since teams play every other team in their division twice. When looking at this statistic, I had to remind myself that there are a variety of factors that can influence how many fantasy points a team allows to a QB. It could be that the team defense, especially the secondary, is terrible (see: Vikings, Minnesota), which would be the most relevant thing here. Or, it could be that the team has an outstanding rushing attack and simply doesn’t need to throw the ball much to be effective (see: Texans, Houston), and that could skew the results of other teams in their division. Alternately, it could be that a QB is just really good, and it doesn’t matter what defense they are up against (see: Rodgers, Aaron). But, at the end of the day, if I’m drafting a QB, I want a guy that a) was a top 10 QB last year, and b) plays in a weak division that is known to give up a lot of points to QBs. I used the stats at to come up with the following ranking, and here are the divisions and their average points allowed to QBs:

8. NFC North, 22.9
7. NFC South, 21.9
6. AFC West 21.4
5. AFC East 21.1
4. NFC East 20.9
3. NFC West 18.4
2. AFC South 18.1
1. AFC North 15.2

A couple of things strike me on this ranking. First, Rodgers and Stafford may skew things a bit in the NFC North as they both have a higher number of attempts than average, but let’s not forget that the Vikings and Packers secondary were both particularly bad last year too (heck even Detroit wasn’t very good either). The combination of QBs that throw the ball a lot with bad secondary play will generally give a division a bad ranking here. Second, is it really surprising that a division with the Steelers, Ravens and Browns defenses yields the lowest points allowed to QBs? Throw in the fact that the QBs in that division were nothing special (McCoy, Dalton, Flacco and Roethlisberger), and again, it shouldn’t be all that surprising the AFC North winds up in first place. So, generally speaking, grabbing a QB that plays in one of the bottom four divisions in this ranking would generally be a good thing. But lastly, check out the standard deviation, there’s a distinct cut-off between the #4 division and the #3 division. Therefore, it would probably be good to avoid most QBs in the top 3 divisions, because they are collectively allowing less than 20 points per game to QBs. Let’s take a look at last year’s top 15 QBs and compare that ranking to the divisions they came from:

Tier 1
1. Aaron Rodgers, NFC North 26.5
2. Drew Brees, NFC South 24.2
3. Tom Brady, AFC East 22.9
4. Cam Newton, NFC South 22.7
5. Matthew Stafford, NFC North 21.2

Tier 2
6. Michael Vick, NFC East 17.9
7. Eli Manning, NFC East 17.6
8. Tony Romo, NFC East 17.2
9. Matt Ryan, NFC South 17.1

Tier 3
10t. Matt Schaub, AFC South 15.8
10t. Philip Rivers, AFC West 15.8
12. Mark Sanchez, AFC East 14.8
13. Chad Henne, AFC East 14.7
14. Ben Roethlisberger, AFC North 14.4
15. Tim Tebow, AFC West 13.9

Several things jump out at me. First, the top 5 QBs all played in the bottom half of divisions in points allowed. That shouldn’t be surprising, but notice that 4 out of the top 5 played in the bottom TWO divisions: NFC North and NFC South. While Manning, Vick and Romo all make the top 10, they fall to Tier 2, and play in the 4th ranked division. Second, consider Matt Schaub is the only QB in the top 10 to play in one of the top 3 ranked divisions, albeit, he tied for 10th place. Also, the highest ranked QB in the toughest division was Ben Roethlisberger, who sits at the bottom of Tier 3, barely in the top 15 overall for QBs.

So, is there anybody not included above that I think could surprise in 2012? Well based on the divisions, if we look a little closer at the NFC North and NFC South (worst 2 divisions), we get the following QBs not on the list above: Jay Cutler, Christian Ponder, and Josh Freeman. All of them are huge question marks heading into 2012. On the one hand, we know what we have in Jay Cutler: a fearless gunslinger that puts up a lot of INTs, but struggles to stretch the field. He only averaged 13.8 points per game last year. On the other hand, he also will have a completely new offense, not to mention a major upgrade to the receiving corps as he reunites with Brandon Marshall and adds Alshon Jeffrey. I think Cutler could surprise some people, but I’d rather take a wait and see approach. Wait and see how he does this year and then maybe next year we’ll know what the changes will bring. Josh Freeman is in a similar situation: new head coach, and a shiny new receiver in Vincent Jackson. He also only averaged 13.4 points per game last year. However, because of Freeman’s relative youth, and potential he showed in 2010, he would be a guy in which I’d be much more comfortable taking a risk. And then there is Christian Ponder. We all want him to show progress, and I think he will. He’s got several new wide receivers this year: Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, and our offensive line should be improved with Kalil, Johnson moving inside and another new guard. Consider though, Ponder averaged a very pedestrian 10.7 points per game last year. On the other hand, that includes all games he started regardless of whether he finished them, so it is skewed a bit. So, of the three guys, Christian Ponder is the guy that, IMO, has the potential to improve the most upon his 2011 points. I don’t think Ponder will break the top 10 in 2012, but he could find himself approaching the Tier 3 guys, and I could see him easily falling into the 14-16 points per game range, which would make him a solid backup/bye week fill-in QB for fantasy. Think: 2011 Mark Sanchez/Chad Henne/Ben Roethlisberger range for average points.

So, based on last year’s results, and taking the division ranking into consideration, here are my early top 10 QB Rankings for 2012:

1. Aaron Rodgers
2. Drew Brees
3. Cam Newton
4. Tom Brady
5. Matthew Stafford
6. Michael Vick
7. Tony Romo
8. Eli Manning
9. Matt Schaub
10. Matt Ryan

I’d feel pretty comfortable with any of those guys as starters in a standard 10-team league, but I’d target the Top 5 guys in the 1st or early 2nd rounds of the draft. Rodgers, Brees and Brady are household names that almost always get drafted in the first round, and Newton will be high on a lot of people’s list after an incredible rookie season. I would be very happy to land Michael Vick or Matthew Stafford however, and I think both could be had in the 2nd round of a draft, depending on your fantasy league’s draft tendencies. Vick might slide under the radar after a down-year last year (when compared to a super-human 2010). But remember, DeSean Jackson wasn’t himself (cough, contract, cough) and Jeremy Maclin was injured a lot. Despite that, a "down" year for Vick still put him 6th overall with 17.9 points per game. He was no slouch in 2011 and even a small rebound in 2012 could put him back in the top 5. And did you know that Matthew Stafford had the most attempts of any QB in the league last year? Lastly, don’t overlook guys like Tony Romo, or Eli Manning though, as both were solid starters, and even Matt Ryan got on a hot streak in the 2nd half of last season (he plays in a great division for QBs too!). Oh, and it's anybody's guess as to how well the following guys will do: Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Wheedon. We have no stats on those guys from last year, so for me, the risk is too great to roll with any of them as a starter. But, if you can snag one of them as a backup, the reward might be such that one of them ends up in the top 10 in 2012.

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.

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