2016 QB Projections – AFC East & NFC East
Fantasy QB Projections Introduction
If you’ve landed here directly, I encourage you to read part one of the series projecting the AFC North and NFC North. … Where I discuss my projection methodology and define the metrics used to measure team performance. You can also check out my projections of the AFC South and NFC South. The third installment of the series covered the AFC and NFC West divisions.
Now, for the final installment of QB projections for 2016, I present the AFC West & NFC East.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Buffalo this season. My gut feeling is they’re Jeff Fisher East, based on how Rex Ryan has DGAF’d offense for nearly a decade. In that case, we know what to expect – a very productive run game based on rush play volume. In six seasons as an OC, Greg Roman’s offenses finish at or near the top in Rush Yards, and last season scored the most rushing TDs in the league. This bodes well if you’re into Tyrod Taylor as your QB.
Last season, Tyrod was the model of efficiency, posting 8.0 YPA (8.2 ANYA) to go with a 5:1 TD/INT ratio. That’s solid, considering he tossed in 561 rushing yards and 4 rushing TDs. As you can see below, the Bills scripted negative 37% of snaps, and only opted to go pass-heavy once they were down more than eight points. In leagues where rushing attempts are awarded with points, Greg Roman is hidden gold.
For comparison, here is the Game Script Split Plot from Roman’s 2014 campaign in San Francisco. These play splits were more balanced, but I believe that is the influence of Jim Harbaugh and the personnel the Niners had in place. Still, it’s similar enough to note tendencies.
Buffalo is projected to win eight games, which I feel is a bit generous. Presently, their defense is reeling from either injury or suspension. They still have a head coach who is -EV on the offensive side of the ball. We still need to find out if Tyrod Taylor has grown into an efficient, competent QB, or if last season was a mirage.
My gut feeling is that the defensive issues will cause more passing. As you can see above, I have seven of their games as questionable (toss-up), meaning I have no idea how those scripts will go. I’m hopeful for Tyrod this season, but if he crashes back to Earth, then we can all shrug and say, “Well, that’s Buffalo for you.”
I’ll be up front – I have a horrible taste in my mouth regarding Miami this season. This franchise is still reeling from the Jeff Ireland/Joe Philbin quagmire from a talent perspective, and this isn’t the year they dig themselves out. Rebuilding years (we shouldn’t kid ourselves) usually work out as pass-heavy, inefficient seasons for the offensive players in question, simply because those teams aren’t winning many games. Miami is projected by Las Vegas at 7 wins. As of this article, I see only two positive-script games on their slate.
For such a heavily-negative season, I decided to look at Adam Gase’s last stop to see how he handled the play splits. Granted, he was calling the plays for John Fox, who would be happy to take three knees and kick a 19-yard FG with 3 minutes left in a game to tie the score. Now, for what it’s worth, most of the fantasy football community feels Gase is a smart guy, and will deploy his offense as efficiently as game situation and personnel dictate.
And see see this below. Even with fading Peyton Manning, Gase chose to operate primarily as a passing team, even when ahead, because it played to the strength of his team.
Do I think Miami will go 6-10 this season? Absolutely. Do I think they can still provide enough fantasy production to warrant rostering two RBs, three WRs, and a TE? Yes. Which means you should also strongly consider Ryan Tannehill (late) in your drafts.
New England Patriots
For the Patriots this season, I wanted to look at two scenarios – the Matt Cassel season of 2008, and the “We’re on to Cincinnati” season of 2014. The 2008 season should be obvious, however, I chose the 2014 season because of how poorly Brady played during the first two months. He was inaccurate, inefficient, and at times just looked confused. Clearly, they righted the ship that season, but not without struggle.
The 2008 season is of particular interest because of the play split with a QB other than Tom Brady. The takeaway here is the negative script play split. I feel pretty confident New England will be behind more often than in 2015 (a mere 151 plays – and only 40 snaps down more than eight points), and will choose to split plays like they did in the 2008 and 2014 seasons.
The big question here will be Tom Brady, and if he screams over the age cliff in 2016. The offense is designed around his brain, rather than his physical tools, so I think that possibility is minimized… however, we did see another erudite QB suddenly and completely cripple the Best Offense In Football last season. We need to be prepared for Tom Brady’s demise. I’m avoiding him this season, but I don’t have any issue with folks who draft him after QB12.
New York Jets
Last season, the Jets were run-heavy relative to the pack from an overall perspective. On the whole, Chan Gailey chose to pass 58% of non special-teams snaps, which ranked in the lower third of the league. However, in close game situations (within 8 points), Gailey ran the 14th heaviest passing split (59.5%), which indicates he is more than happy to play to the strengths of his roster. Last season, that was the devastating tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Going into 2016, it’s possible we see a shift toward the running game again.
From a play split perspective, I reached back to Chan Gailey’s 2012 season with Buffalo for another perspective on how he may choose to run his offense with the additions of Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson. The largest takeaway for me in this was that Gailey chose to go much more run-heavy when behind than he did last season with the Jets, which speaks to the quality of WRs between both squads.
Now, what happens if Ryan Fitzpatrick turns back into the bad QB he’s been known as his non-Gailey career? I believe Gailey is a sharp enough coach that there will be little, if any, drop-off in offensive production.
You can do nothing but say the 2015 season was a complete disaster for the Cowboys. I decided to look at the play split difference between Dallas QBs last season, and it wasn’t pretty. Already facing low play volume due to Jason Garrett’s clever plan to own 40 minutes of possession (even when losing late), QBs not named Tony Romo face a horribly uphill battle to become fantasy relevant. The outlook for Dak Prescott this year is pretty dim, despite the seemingly stellar play during the preseason. I expect defenses game-planned to confuse him will win handily until Romo is healthy at mid-season.
Looking back at Romo’s incredibly efficient 2014 season, I decided to see where he stood among the best QB efficiency seasons of the last ten years. I was expecting an all-time efficient season, and I wasn’t surprised when I pulled the numbers. Romo ranked 5th in TD efficiency, with 7.3% of his dropbacks resulting in receiving touchdowns. Three of the QB seasons above him resulted in MVP awards. The other resulted in too many fantasy championships to count.
Do we think this is sustainable? Do we even think Dak Prescott can come close? I’m not buying it.
New York Giants
The last two seasons under Ben McAdoo, the Giants have cranked up the play pace and the pass split. In one-TD situations in McAdoo’s first season (2014), the Giants ranked 5th in both complete pass play and rush play pace. Last season, McAdoo cranked up the pace even more, snapping a completed pass play every 26.7 seconds (2nd), a 1.5 second pace gap ahead of the 3rd quickest offense (SEA). They were just as fast-paced on rushing plays, snapping the ball every 31.8 seconds.
My thoughts on this season, with McAdoo in charge of the entire team, should see the pace increase even more. With the improvement this offense saw over the last quarter of 2015. Although they have finished 6-10 in each of the last two seasons, their Pythagorean Expectations show them as a 7.5 win team both years. They were the sixth-highest scoring team last season (420 pts), and 13th in 2014. They are trending in the right direction to be an offensive juggernaut in 2016.
With the complete changeover in Philly, I thought it wouldn’t be fair to assess this team with last year’s play splits. Instead, I’ve opted to look at splits from Kansas City in 2014 and 2015, which will be more representative of how Doug Pederson should call plays in his first season as head coach.
What I don’t believe will happen, however, is the positive game scripts we see above. While this team should be competitive, the lack of upside at QB (whether Daniel or Wentz plays) is very limited. I expect this will be one of the slower-paced, lower-scoring teams in the league. If they win 6 games, it will be an over-achievement in my opinion.
Washington came on strong in the back half of last season. As you can see below, they executed less than 1/8 of their snaps behind more than 3 points. During the first half, however, they didn’t enjoy many leads (32 snaps ahead by more than a TD).
What we do see, however, is a firm commitment to Kirk Cousins and the passing game over the course of the season. Play splits in close games (within a TD) shifted from run heavy in weeks 1-9, to pass-heavy in weeks 10-17. I think we will see that trend continue, especially given the seemingly shaky state of Washington’s running back situation.
While I don’t believe we will see this wild discrepancy in play splits between seasonal halves, we can likely look to Gruden’s tendencies in Cincinnati for some further guidance.
That wraps up QB projections for the 2016 season. Hopefully these will provide some insight into team tendencies in 2016, as well as provide indications of QBs that might crush their ADP. In particular, I see these QBs as the best bets to return QB1 value at QB2/3 pricing:
- Matt Stafford
- Eli Manning
- Joe Flacco
- Kirk Cousins
- Robert Griffin
- Alex Smith
- Marcus Mariota
As well as QBs who I feel will be a letdown at their current ADP:
- Ben Roethlisberger
- Dak Prescott
- Derek Carr
- Andy Dalton
- Blake Bortles
- Matt Ryan
Good luck in your drafts!
As always, if you have questions about the process, or want to challenge some of the projections, please feel free to find me on Twitter @FantasyADHD