Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick are battling for the starting quarterback job in San Francisco, which has pushed rookie sixth-rounder Jeff Driskel to the side. …
The reason why so much virtual ink has been spilled on former first-round flame-out Gabbert and a quarterback in Kaepernick who was supposed to revolutionize the position is simple: Chip Kelly. The fantasy community has seen firsthand the production that comes from a quarterback throwing passes in a Chip Kelly offense.
A Brief Fantasy History of Chip Kelly QBs
Since entering the league in 2013, here’s how Chip Kelly quarterbacks have performed:
- 2013 – Nick Foles – 260.14 fantasy points – QB12 (Michael Vick – 100.10 fantasy points)
*Foles and Vick combined: 360.14 fantasy points – QB2
- 2014 – Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez combined for 258.74 fantasy points – QB13
- 2015 – Sam Bradford – 194.90 fantasy points – QB24
*Bradford and Mark Sanchez combined for 227.74 fantasy points – QB21
Bradford had three QB1 (top-12) weekly finishes in 2015, while he and Sanchez combined for 13 QB2 (top-24) weekly finishes. Based on his brief three seasons in the NFL to date, Kelly QBs have shown us the ceiling of the overall fantasy QB2 and the floor of a low-end QB2. That’s a wide range on the fantasy spectrum.
For a thorough breakdown of the potential impact Kelly will have on the 49ers’ passing offense check out TJ Calkins’ take on the situation. We also have a quarterback battle breakdown between Gabbert and Kaepernick by Anthony Amico. Now, let’s get back to this Driskel fella.
Who is Jeff Driskel?
We know who Chip Kelly is and the impact he’s had in fantasy circles so let’s figure out who Jeff Driskel is. The rookie signal caller was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft and is battling for the third-string QB job in San Fran. He started his collegiate career at the University of Florida and finished it at Louisiana Tech. Driskel was a full-time starter in one of his four years at Florida, and in that lone season he completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He also tacked on 413 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
After transferring to and playing at Louisiana Tech in his last collegiate season, Driskel completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 4,026 yards, 27 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He ran for an additional 323 yards and five touchdowns.
The rushing stats immediately drew my attention. And his speed. When researching Driskel’s scouting reports, the one thing that stood out to me the most was his athleticism. This is a snippet of a Driskel scouting report from Bleacher Report:
“Driskel is a big, strong, fast athlete for the position. His speed allows him to make plays in space as a designed runner on read-options and on quarterback leads from the shotgun. He’s also elusive when pressured in the pocket and can pull the ball down and scramble for big gains.
Rollouts and throws on the run are all in the game plan with Driskel at quarterback. He moves with speed and balance and is athletic enough to adjust his body to throw on the go. In the pocket, he’ll step up to deliver strikes over the middle of the field.”
You can read the rest of the report to see what his negatives are (arm strength and passing mechanics, for example). We can’t forget he was a sixth-rounder; there are going to be flaws in his game.
Let’s stick with the positive though. Driskel ran the 40-yard-dash in a time of 4.56 at the Scouting Combine, which was the fastest of any quarterback. It’s also the same 40-yard time of Cam Newton. Since 2000, 15 quarterbacks have ran a 4.56 or faster 40-yard at the combine. Of those 15, three were undrafted (Marcus Vick, Jarrett Brown, Jared Zabransky). Of the other 12, eight (Robert Griffin III, Tyrod Taylor, Vince Young, Jake Locker, Marcus Mariota, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton) went on to become relevant fantasy performers, be it long-term or just for a cup coffee.
Potential Cheat Code
The #KonamiCode and the impact of fantasy points scored on the ground by quarterbacks shows us the importance of rushing QBs. Take Tyrod Taylor for example. He ran for 40.6 yards per game last season, which is the equivalent of an added passing touchdown in standard leagues. His 568 rushing yards were second-most by a quarterback and he registered four scores on the ground. Taylor scored 5.77 fantasy points/game on the ground, which boosted him to a top-7 fantasy QB finish on a points per game basis.
Take away his rushing stats and Taylor goes from 19.3 fantasy points/game and a fantasy QB1 campaign to 14.23 FPs/g and a low-end QB3. This isn’t to say Driskel is the next Tyrod Taylor. But, if he were to start, what’s saying he can’t produce cheap fantasy points via his legs? If we were to translate his 2015 college rushing stats to the NFL they would equate to 4.8 fantasy points/game.
Rushing fantasy production plus playing in a Chip Kelly offense would put Driskel in the weekly QB2 streaming discussion if thrust into significant playing time. Who knows if that will happen, but if the 49ers give up on the 2016 season they come back from their Week 8 bye with three favorable matchups from Week 9 to Week 13, according to Pat Thorman’s strength of schedule analysis. If Driskel’s under center by that point the cushy matchups will make it easier to start him in 2QB leagues.
Should You Draft Jeff Driskel?
Driskel isn’t even guaranteed the QB3 job in San Fran, as he’s competing for the gig with veteran Thaddeus Lewis. And all indications point to Gabbert or Kaepernick starting the season as the team’s QB1. However, Driskel could become valuable later on in the year if he sticks around on the active roster.
Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat believes the 49ers will wind up starting all three at some point in the season. It’s not like a team hasn’t started multiple quarterbacks before. We saw 53 different quarterbacks start at least one game in the NFL last season; with 15 teams starting two quarterbacks, six teams being forced to start three quarterbacks, and three teams trotting out four different starting signal callers. The trio of Gabbert, Kaepernick, and Driskel could be next.
2QBers have mainly avoided 49ers quarterbacks in drafts this offseason because of the uncertainty surrounding the position. Our August 2QB ADP has Kaepernick with an ADP of 145 (QB32) and Gabbert right behind him at QB33 (145.3 ADP). Driskel has gone undrafted.
The move to make now is to bypass Driskel in your draft, unless it’s a super deep 2QB or Superflex league or you feel the need to draft all three 49ers to secure the services of whoever winds up starting (Warning: not an optimal strategy). He would make for a cheap dynasty stash though. For the time being keep tabs on the situation and be ready to pounce on The Drisco King (I did not come up with the nickname) if Kelly hints at playing him.