Salvatore Stefanile recaps Week 16 of the 2016 NFL regular season in his weekly 2QB Things We Learned blog, discussing quarterback injuries and much more. …
Week 16 and fantasy football leagues are just about to wrap up, with only game left on the schedule (Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions). I hope your Week 16 Championship matches all went according to plan and you don’t have to sweat much during tonight’s game. Like any fantasy season, it’s been one long grind and we’re just a week away from it all being over. Most fantasy leagues end in Week 16 though, and with that mind let’s take a look at a few lessons I learned from the week that was.
2QB Things We Learned: 2016 Week 16
1. Quarterback Musical Chairs
With Tom Savage starting, Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr suffering season-ending injuries in Week 16, the number of unique starting quarterbacks this year will reach 53. That’s the same number of different quarterbacks who started at least one game last season. We might even see last year’s 53 number surpassed once the season comes to an official end.
The reason why I want to single that number out is because of how often I hear one major criticism against 2QB leagues being that there aren’t enough quarterbacks to go around. In a season that has seen 53 quarterbacks start a game and Dak Prescott vault from preseason backup to in-season QB1 and a week where former backups Savage, Matt Moore, Matt Barkley and Bryce Petty started it’s hard to keep arguing there’s not enough quarterbacks in 2QB leagues.
Raise your hand if you play in a 1QB league and started Sam Bradford or Alex Smith this week. Guess what? Those two undrafted quarterbacks in 1QB leagues were fantasy championship winners this week and outscored the likes of highly drafted signals callers Drew Brees and Cam Newton. If you play in a league of 12 teams or less and it’s not a Superflex or 2QB league you’re leaving a lot of wasted signal callers and their fantasy points on the waiver wire every week.
We also know how non-existent quarterback draft strategy is in 1QB leagues. Take a look at the fantasy landscape and consider giving 2QB/Superflex leagues a chance next year. The amount of fantasy viable quarterbacks and weekly/in-season turnover at the position means there are plenty of quarterbacks to go around.
2. Beware Week 17 Backups
For those of you crazy enough to play fantasy football in Week 17, and even crazier to do so in 2QB formats, you should study each team’s quarterback depth chart this week. Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota’s injuries mean the Raiders and Titans will head into the last week of the regular season with new signal callers.
If you were expecting to rely on Carr and Mariota in your fantasy league you might be forced to hit up the waiver wire and pick up a Matt, be it McGloin or Cassel. The Raiders and Titans might not be the only teams with new quarterbacks under center next week. One thing I like to do in 2QB leagues during the last week of the season of the season is study the playoff picture to see who might not have anything to play for. That includes teams that have clinched playoff berths or ones that have been eliminated.
A couple of examples include the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have been eliminated from the playoffs and played without AJ Green and Tyler Eifert this past weekend. If they are both held out the final week of the season would it be a shock if the team gave Andy Dalton the week off to give AJ McCarron another extended look? Regardless of what happens in Week 17, the Cowboys have clinched the #1 overall seed and have home field advantage in the NFC. Could Jason Garrett decide to rest up Dak Prescott and give Tony Romo one more start as a Cowboy? It wouldn’t be a complete shock if he did.
3. 2QB Leagues Suck
No, I don’t actually think 2QB leagues suck, but on more than one occasion I’ve been told by fantasy players they don’t want to play in a 2QB league because they don’t want to be stuck starting a crappy quarterback. Well, guess what, a “crappy” quarterback may have won you a fantasy championship this week.
Take a look at the top-12 scoring fantasy quarterbacks of Week 16 and you will see a few familiar elite faces: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Tom Brady. You’ll also find the likes of Tyrod Taylor, Kirk Cousins, Colin Kaepernick, Sam Bradford, and Alex Smith. Names you won’t see: Drew Brees and Cam Newton.
I’m not here to rub salt in any wounds you may have suffered by losing a fantasy championship because you started Brees over Smith (that was the right process). I just wanted to point out that fantasy points scored by “bad” quarterbacks count just the same as those scored by “good” quarterbacks. You don’t get bonus points from Aaron Rodgers touchdowns.
4. Alex Smith: Fantasy Football Champion
It’s been a rough season for Mr. Smith. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any fantasy analyst more of a Smith believer than yours truly, but even I’ll be the first to admit Smith disappointed this year. While he may beat out his offseason 2QB ADP of QB24 (he’s the current fantasy QB22 with one game to go), there wasn’t a whole lot of upside from Smith this year.
His 14.2 fantasy points/game average dipped by 2.5 points from last year (16.7). If we include Week 16, his top-12 weekly finishes this year will sit at five with one game to go. He had seven such performances last season. He was also a consistent QB2 producer last season, finishing as a top-24 fantasy QB in 14 of 15 games. He’s accomplished the feat 11 out of 14 games this season.
One thing noticeably missing from Smith this year was production on the ground. In his previous three seasons as a Chief, Smith ran for 498 yards (84 attempts), 254 yards (49 attempts), and 431 yards (76 attempts). This year he has rushed 42 times for 113 yards. However, his four rushing touchdowns are a career high and match his total from the previous three seasons combined.
Other than his 46 yards on the ground in Week 16, Smith didn’t run for more than 15 yards in any other game this season; a number he reached 31 times the past three seasons. Smith averaged 2.5 fantasy points/game on the ground this season, mainly thanks to his four rushing scores. He averaged 3.9 rushing fantasy points/game last year. The lack of running from Smith this year dampened his fantasy upside and he turned in a low-end fantasy QB2 campaign most pegged him for. Death, taxes, and an Alex Smith 2QB ADP of QB20 or worse are life certainties. Travis Kelce’s usage and the emergence of Tyreek Hill will most likely see me stump for Smith again this upcoming offseason.
5. Aaron Rodgers: Week 16 Fantasy God
One of my favorite ways to pass time to is to stroll through the quarterback fantasy scoring archives at FantasyData.com. Prior to the start of this week’s slate of games, I researched past Week 16 results to see who were some of the more obscure high scoring Championship Week fantasy signal callers.
There definitely were some fascinating names like Tyler Thigpen, Mike McMahon, and Chris Simms, to name a few. One name that unsurprisingly stood out was Aaron Rodgers. The Green Bay Packers QB is an elite fantasy QB and one you expect to routinely see at the top of each week’s leader board. Week 16 is no exception.
From 2008 to 2015, minus an injured 2013 season where he didn’t suit up in Week 16, Rodgers has finished as a Week 16 fantasy QB1 (top-12) five out of a possible seven times. His average QB finish during that span is QB10 and he averaged 22 fantasy points. Only thrice did he score fewer than 15 fantasy points. That dependability shouldn’t come as a surprise, but what truly made Rodgers stand out was the amount of times he was the highest scoring fantasy quarterback in Week 16 aka the most important week of fantasy football. Out of seven Week 16 outings, Rodgers finished as THE QB1 three times:
2010 – 34.76 fantasy points/QB1
2011 – 33.12 fantasy points/QB1
2012 – 32.78 fantasy points/QB1
That’s pretty astonishing. And guess what? With only Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford left to play, Rodgers is the current QB1 this week after scoring 37.18 fantasy points versus the Minnesota Vikings. I didn’t “learn” Rodgers is an elite fantasy QB this week, but I wanted to point just how clutch he has been when it has counted the most for fantasy players. He’s the current overall fantasy QB1 on the season, 27.8 fantasy points ahead of QB2 Matt Ryan, and it will be a shock if he’s not the first quarterback drafted in 2017 2QB leagues.
6. Bad Quarterbacks are People Too
It’s difficult to find anyone who thinks Blake Bortles is a good real life quarterback. It’s also hard to find anyone who thinks Bortles is a “good” fantasy quarterback (except Brian Malone). Yet, regardless of the amount of times we have laughed at or dismissed Bortles in fantasy circles this offseason and all year-long, here we are after 16 weeks and Bortles is a top-10 fantasy QB. He’s the current QB10, almost matching his offseason 2QB ADP of QB9. With injuries to Derek Carr (12.26 fantasy points back) and Marcus Mariota (3.98 fantasy points back) there’s a chance he could finish even higher after Week 17.
I’ll be one of the first to admit I did not see another fantasy QB1 season coming for Bortles following his overall QB4 (314.12 fantasy points) campaign from a year ago. The simple analysis from me was that it was a career year and he would regress from the 35 touchdowns he threw. That part did come true, as Bortles sits on 22 touchdown passes on the year. His passing yardage output also dropped, falling from 276.75 yards/game last year to 240.3 this year. What’s funny is that he has actually attempted more passes per game this year (39.1) than last year (37.9).
One area of his game where his stats have seen a boost over last year are rushing fantasy points. Bortles ran for 310 yards and two scores last year (43 fantasy points) and this year’s he’s at 338 yards and three scores (51.8 fantasy points) with one game to go. So, while Bortles isn’t going to finish the season as a top-five fantasy quarterback he will end the season as a QB1 and might find himself in the QB1 draft discussion again this offseason. I’ll most likely stay away, as I prefer to not spend high draft capital on the quarterback position.
7. Konami, Konami, Konami
If you view quarterback scoring based on points/game, nine of the top-15 (17.1 fantasy points/game or more) have ran for more than 200 yards this season. The only quarterback to run for over 200 yards and not in that category is Russell Wilson, who is the QB16 (16.9 fantasy points/game).
Quarterbacks who score fantasy points via the ground are valuable because they come with a safer floor than non-rushing quarterbacks. Seven of the current top-12 fantasy quarterbacks in overall scoring have ran for 200+ yards.
The five quarterbacks in the top-12 of rushing yards who aren’t in the top-12 of overall fantasy QB scoring are Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, and Blaine Gabbert. Stafford (QB13), Dalton (QB14), and Newton (QB16) are close and if you combined the fantasy points of Kaepernick and Gabbert (260.94) they would be QB8.
The areas of draft where I like to target rushing quarterbacks are in the mid-to-late rounds, as I’m looking to acquire quarterbacks with upside. For example, Tyrod Taylor was the QB14 in 2QB drafts this offseason and he’s the current fantasy QB6 in total points scored and QB8 on a points per game basis. If Tyrod remains with the Bills there could be a chance his draft stock drops because of uncertainty surrounding the team’s position on Taylor as a franchise QB. If the price is right I’ll bite thanks to his 6.3 fantasy points/game on the ground.
Another potential late-round quarterback target in 2017 2QB drafts is Kaepernick. If Chip Kelly remains the Head Coach of the 49ers and Kap is his starting QB from Day 1 it’ll be hard for him not to be a weekly starting fantasy quarterback. If you combine the rushing production of Gabbert and Kaepernick you get a quarterback who averaged 5.8 fantasy points/game on the ground. It’s hard to turn down that type of production.
*Stats used in this article courtesy of fantasydata.com