A TwoQBs Roundtable on Fantasy Sidekicks
Sidekicks and Butlers: Doing the Dirty Work for Our QB Heroes
In the seemingly infinite incarnations of Batman, one man has always been there for Bruce Wayne. His father. Kidding. It’s Alfred J. Pennyworth, Mr. Wayne’s dutiful butler, who is the true bat whisperer and emotional support structure behind the cowl. Plenty of heroes have sidekicks, but not many have someone like Alfred to clean up messes in both the real world and the crime-fighting world.
Bobby Koch kick-started our superhero-to-quarterback comparisons when he likened Blake Bortles to Batman. But who plays the role of Alfred for Blake Bortles? What about other signal-callers? Pick a quarterback and tell us who his fantasy butler is. What sort of things does he do behind the scenes to set his QB hero up for success?
Anthony Amico: Blake Bortles’ fantasy butler is offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett has been with the team for the past three years, starting as the quarterbacks coach, and seeing his first full year as the offensive coordinator in 2017. His first year with Bortles was 2015, the year in which he managed to be a top-five fantasy signal-caller (after a disastrous rookie year). Last year with Hackett as the OC, Bortles had the best season of his career in terms of Josh Hermsmeyer’s PACR and aPACR metrics. Hackett understands how to build gameplans around Bortles’ talents, including his ability to run. This was on full display against the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, when Hackett’s masterful play-calling had Jacksonville in great position to win the game (at least in the first half), while also putting together a quality stat line for Bortles.
When I think about fantasy butlers, there is no better example for a quarterback than Rob Gronkowski for Tom Brady. According to the RotoViz Game Splits App, Brady has averaged roughly four more fantasy points per game when Gronk is active. Furthermore, his yards per attempt sees an 18 percent increase to 8.06, and his touchdown rate sees over a 25 percent increase, up to about six percent. Both of those numbers are better than the overall numbers of ANY quarterback with at least 300 attempts since 2000. Brady is the greatest to ever do it, but Gronk is the guy to get him from being just a winner to a true statistical monster.
Geoff Doyle: Before picking the quarterback who best represents Batman, let’s first run through the list of character traits that has made the Caped Crusader one of the most famous superheroes of all time. When I think of the Dark Knight, I think about a man who is unrelenting/a bit of a sociopath in his quest for justice and his unwillingness to do anything else. I think about a man with expert levels of scientific knowledge whose entire life has been shaped by a traumatic childhood event. And, of course, is stupid rich. Aside from the whole murdered parents part, there is one quarterback who checks all the boxes. That quarterback is none other than Thomas Wayne Brady. (His middle name isn’t really Wayne, but that would have been cool). Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Brady has shown his sociopathic side many times by saying he wants to play until he is 45 years old and how winning Super Bowls is still the only thing that drives him. Between him and Gisele, they are upper-echelon levels of rich and have a combine outside Boston that rivals Wayne Manor. And while he might not have all the toys Batman has, his expert understanding of pliability has made him virtually indestructible. I guess that makes Alex Guerrero his Ra’s al Ghul?
And if Tom Brady is Batman, that would leave Josh McDaniels as Batman’s trusted butler Alfred J. Pennyworth. Alfred runs the day-to-day operations of Wayne Manor and maintains the equipment found in the Bat Cave. Like Alfred, McDaniels runs the Patriots offense and makes sure the equipment Brady has at his disposal is running optimally. Alfred also provides logistical support during battles and develops new strategies when assets have been eliminated. So when villains like TJ Ward, Bernard Pollard, or the Texans’ turf take weapons away from Brady, the onus falls on McDaniels to figure out a crafty way to get the win. They might be coming off a tough loss, but hell, even Batman lost to Bane. Then, with Alfred’s help, he came back to reclaim his throne. With McDaniels coming back to New England next season, there’s little reason to think Brady won’t treat AFC opponents like Batman treats the foolish criminals of Gotham. Some men just like to watch the world burn.
Matt Giraldi: The Jaguars’ offensive line is Bortles’ collective Alfred. Think Alan Napier as Alfred. He’s doesn’t mince words. He’s to the point and, most of all, loyal. He also has an uncanny ability to shield Blake Bortles from a wave of villains. That’s precisely what the Jaguars offensive line has done over the past two seasons, too. In Batman Begins, Sir Michael Caine as Alfred asked Bruce Wayne: “Why do we fall?” Bortles fell a lot his first two seasons in the NFL. He led the NFL in sacks taken in 2014 (55) and 2015 (51). Performance under pressure has not been a strong suit for Bortles in his career.
The answer to Alfred’s question: “To get back up.” Over the last two seasons, Bortles has only been sacked 34 and 24 times, respectively. The big guys up front are doing more than getting Bortles back up. They’re keeping him upright. Of quarterbacks with at least 400 passing attempts last season, Bortles had the ninth-most time to throw according to NFL NextGen stats. If the Jaguars can address the interior of their offensive line this offseason, Bortles might just transform into the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh (Super Batman).
Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld: Regardless which hero dawns his cape for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 season opener, they will have the necessary tools and training due to Doug Pederson. Pederson has turned a seemingly beaten team into a confident wrecking machine pulverizing the opposition using brute force and aerial weaponry. “If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, and if they can’t stop you, then you become something else entirely.” In the 2017 playoffs, Foles became much more than just a man. He became Super Bowl MVP and the hero Philadelphia needed.
Pederson turned both Wentz and Foles, who each had plenty of skeptics and critics (much like Batman), into elite caliber quarterbacks in 2017. Pederson’s tutelage has rivaled that of Ra’s al Ghul. Most importantly, Pederson demonstrated compassion and an understanding of an impossibly difficult identity crisis. Whomever the man behind the mask is under center, he will have all the help on and off the field from Pederson. After all, if Val Kilmer can be Batman, why can’t Sudfeld?
Sean Slavin: When thinking of a player who does behind-the-scenes work to help a QB, it’s hard not to think of an offensive lineman, and Kelechi Osemele came immediately to mind for me. If you don’t know who K.O. is, then please search “Robert Mays” + “Osemele” and he’ll fix that for you. A sampling below:
As a reward for rewwatching the Rams, I went back and watched Kelechi Osemele (70) bury dudes all game. It was fun. pic.twitter.com/kf2EeKFkD0
— Robert Mays (@robertmays) September 13, 2016
After beginning his career in Baltimore, Osemele’s been the starting left guard for the Raiders the past two years, with Pro Bowl appearances in each, plus a First-team All-Pro selection in 2016. Since Derek Carr was drafted in 2014, his 3.9 percent sack rate is the lowest of all 30 QBs with at least 1,000 attempts. A lot of that is tied to the Raiders’ offensive game plan, as they like to get the ball out quick on short throws. They mix in some deep throws obviously, but Carr’s average depth of throw has been in the 7.8-8.2 range throughout his career. However, the offensive line plays a big role in keeping Carr upright as well. Rodney Hudson and Donald Penn (both are also back-to-back Pro Bowlers) round out the left side of the Raiders line, but Osemele is my favorite of the bunch. On any given play, he’s a highlight reel waiting to happen, which is saying a lot for an interior lineman. Here he is taking care of Jadeveon Clowney in 2016:
While, he needs to connect with Amari Cooper on a more consistent basis, Derek Carr has a decent shot to bounce back to QB1 status in 2018 —especially if Osemele and company return to their 2016 form.
Bobby Koch: Blake Bortles’ fantasy butler is Leonard Fournette. Many have criticized the Jaguars for selecting Fournette with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, but what they didn’t realize is that it takes an immense amount of pressure of Bortles. This season the Jaguars ranked first in the league in rushing attempts. Last season? They ranked 24th. It does make a difference whether you’re winning or losing the game, but having a more balanced offensive scheme allowed Bortles to have one of the most balanced seasons of his career.
In terms of another butler, he probably wouldn’t like the term, but I truly think Odell Beckham Jr. fits the bill. I’m almost entirely convinced if it were not for Beckham turning into the superstar he has become that we would have been talking about Eli’s replacement seasons ago. The Giants would be wise to find a way to make sure their Jarvis sticks around for as long as possible.
Smith has been known to target a running back or two during his career. I cherry-picked a few receiving stat lines of running backs under Smith during his time in Kansas City:
Jamaal Charles: 104 targets, 70 catches, 693 yards, 7 TDs
Jamaal Charles: 59 targets, 40 catches, 291 yards, 5 TDs
Charcandrick West: 34 targets, 20 catches, 214 yards, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles: 30 targets, 21 catches, 177 yards, 1 TD (five Games)
Spencer Ware: 42 targets, 33 receptions, 447 yards, 2 TDs
Kareem Hunt: 63 targets, 53 receptions, 455 yards, 3 TDs
Based on Thompson’s three-year receiving averages of 54 targets, 41 catches, 366 yards, and 8 total TDs, it looks like Smith will find himself partnering up with a new Alfred in Washington’s offense.