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Rearview QB

  Posted 6/7 by Chase Stuart, Exclusive for Footballguys.com

I can't believe it, but this is now the fourth straight season that I've written my article on rearview strength of schedule analysis. If you're a first time reader, here's my argument in a nutshell: we should be using a different starting point for your quarterback projections/rankings than regular end of year data. When analyzing a QB, many look at a QB's total fantasy points or fantasy points per game from the prior season and then make some tweaks based on offseason changes and personal preferences. But a more accurate starting point for your projections is a normalized version of the raw stats.

First, we should use adjusted games (and not total games) to give a more precise picture of how often the quarterback played. Second, we must adjust for strength of schedule, because a QB that plays a really hard schedule should get a boost relative to those playing easy opponents most weeks.

Let me be clear on something: this should be merely the starting point for your QB projections. If you think a particular player carries significant an injury risk, or is going to face a hard schedule again, feel free to downgrade him after making these adjustments. (And of course, if you think a QB will improve or decline - or his supporting case will improve or decline - you must factor that in as well.) But those are all subjective questions that everyone answers differently; this analysis is meant to be objective. The point isn't to ignore whether a QB is injury prone or has a really hard or easy SOS; the point is to simply delay that analysis. First we see how the QB actually performed when he played last year, ignoring strength of schedule and missed partial or full games; then you could factor in those things when projecting the 2008 season. Ignoring partial games and strength of schedule is a surefire way to misjudge a player's actual performance.

Adjusted games are calculated by taking each QB's pass plus rush attempts in a game and dividing them by all of the team's passing and rushing attempts by quarterbacks in that game. Below is a list of how each QB ranked in fantasy points per adjusted game, with a minimum of eight adjusted games. (Note: the scoring system used is 6 point per passing/rushing TD, 1 point per 20 yards passing, -2 per INT and 1 point for every 10 yards rushing) The league average QB scored 18.3 FP/G.

Player
FP/AdjG
GP
FP
Drew Brees
26.5
16.0
423
Kurt Warner
25.3
15.1
381
Aaron Rodgers
24.7
15.8
389
Philip Rivers
24.4
16.0
391
Tony Romo
23.5
13.0
305
Jay Cutler
23.4
15.9
372
Matt Schaub
23.3
10.4
241
Peyton Manning
22.8
15.2
346
Donovan McNabb
22.8
14.9
339
Shaun Hill
22.2
8.5
188
Tyler Thigpen
21.9
12.4
271
Matt Cassel
21.2
15.5
328
Jeff Garcia
19.1
11.4
217
Chad Pennington
18.8
15.6
295
David Garrard
18.2
15.9
289
Kyle Orton
18.0
14.2
256
Ben Roethlisberger
17.9
14.5
260
Eli Manning
17.9
15.4
275
Seneca Wallace
17.6
8.2
144
Brett Favre
17.2
15.8
272
Trent Edwards
16.7
12.6
211
Matt Ryan
16.4
16.0
262
Jason Campbell
16.3
16.0
260
Jake Delhomme
15.4
15.9
244
Joe Flacco
15.3
15.6
239
Gus Frerotte
15.0
10.4
157
Ryan Fitzpatrick
14.4
11.7
168
JaMarcus Russell
14.0
14.4
202
Kerry Collins
14.0
14.1
197
Derek Anderson
13.3
9.4
125
Marc Bulger
13.3
13.6
181
  • The first name that pops out is Matt Schaub, who ranked seventh in fantasy points per adjusted game. Schaub ranked 21st overall in fantasy points but when he was on the field he was a stud fantasy QB - he was more productive per adjusted game than Peyton Manning.
  • Not far behind Schaub is 49ers sleeper Shaun Hill. Tyler Thigpen and especially Matt Cassel were getting all the rage as "come out of nowhere" guys last year, but Shaun Hill was more a more productive fantasy producer per adjusted game than both of them. With another year of seasoning and Michael Crabtree now on the roster, what's not to like about Hill? (Well, wait to the end of the article before you go out and draft him.)
  • The past three seasons, Eli Manning has never missed a game and ranked around QB12 each year. But he ranked just 18th in fantasy points per adjusted game, which shows that his good stats are more a product of him staying healthy than being an elite performer on the field. Similarly, Jason Campbell ranked 15th in raw fantasy points but outside of the Top 20 in FP/adjG.

With a partial games analysis out of the way, we need to take a look at each quarterback's strength of schedule. A positive number indicates a hard schedule.

Player
SOS
Derek Anderson
2.1
Joe Flacco
1.9
Ryan Fitzpatrick
1.8
David Garrard
1.6
Matt Schaub
1.1
Ben Roethlisberger
0.8
Tony Romo
0.7
Eli Manning
0.7
Kerry Collins
0.5
Philip Rivers
0.5
Kyle Orton
0.5
Drew Brees
0.4
Matt Ryan
0.2
Donovan McNabb
0.1
Aaron Rodgers
0.1
Peyton Manning
0.0
Jason Campbell
-0.1
Gus Frerotte
-0.3
Tyler Thigpen
-0.4
Kurt Warner
-0.4
Jay Cutler
-0.5
Matt Cassel
-0.6
Jake Delhomme
-0.6
Jeff Garcia
-0.7
JaMarcus Russell
-1.1
Brett Favre
-1.4
Seneca Wallace
-1.5
Shaun Hill
-1.5
Trent Edwards
-1.6
Chad Pennington
-1.7
Marc Bulger
-2.1

Let's put these two lists together and show the 2008 rankings in adjusted fantasy points per adjusted game.

Player
AdjFP/AdjG
FP/AdjG
SOS
GP
Drew Brees
26.8
26.5
0.4
16.0
Philip Rivers
24.9
24.4
0.5
16.0
Kurt Warner
24.8
25.3
-0.4
15.1
Aaron Rodgers
24.7
24.7
0.1
15.8
Matt Schaub
24.4
23.3
1.1
10.4
Tony Romo
24.2
23.5
0.7
13.0
Donovan McNabb
22.9
22.8
0.1
14.9
Jay Cutler
22.9
23.4
-0.5
15.9
Peyton Manning
22.8
22.8
0.0
15.2
Tyler Thigpen
21.5
21.9
-0.4
12.4
Shaun Hill
20.7
22.2
-1.5
8.5
Matt Cassel
20.6
21.2
-0.6
15.5
David Garrard
19.8
18.2
1.6
15.9
Ben Roethlisberger
18.7
17.9
0.8
14.5
Eli Manning
18.5
17.9
0.7
15.4
Kyle Orton
18.4
18.0
0.5
14.2
Jeff Garcia
18.4
19.1
-0.7
11.4
Joe Flacco
17.2
15.3
1.9
15.6
Chad Pennington
17.1
18.8
-1.7
15.6
Matt Ryan
16.6
16.4
0.2
16.0
Ryan Fitzpatrick
16.2
14.4
1.8
11.7
Jason Campbell
16.1
16.3
-0.1
16.0
Seneca Wallace
16.1
17.6
-1.5
8.2
Brett Favre
15.9
17.2
-1.4
15.8
Derek Anderson
15.4
13.3
2.1
9.4
Trent Edwards
15.1
16.7
-1.6
12.6
Jake Delhomme
14.8
15.4
-0.6
15.9
Gus Frerotte
14.7
15.0
-0.3
10.4
Kerry Collins
14.5
14.0
0.5
14.1
JaMarcus Russell
12.9
14.0
-1.1
14.4
Marc Bulger
11.2
13.3
-2.1
13.6
  • Matt Schaub continues to stand out. He ranks fifth in adjusted fantasy points per adjusted game. Interestingly, Sage Rosenfels (not listed) averaged 19.4 adjFP/adjG. This could either further reinforce the point that the Houston passing game is a fantasy goldmine, or that Rosenfels could be a sleeper in Minnesota. Either way, Houston had a really, really difficult schedule last season; if the Texans face an average schedule this year, and Schaub is healthy, he should put up monster numbers.
  • David Garrard looks like a fantasy steal. He had a difficult schedule last year (1.6 FP/G harder than average), a depleted offensive line and no weapons at wide receiver. After spending four picks on tackles and wide receivers in the NFL draft this year, Garrard could be headed for a huge 2009. If he was morally the 13th-best QB last year, imagine his ceiling with Torry Holt, Tra Thomas, Eugene Monroe, Eben Britton, Mike Thomas and Jarrett Dillard?
  • I said I liked Shaun Hill before, but you have to notice that he had a very easy schedule in 2008. Of course, his schedule was easy because of the Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams, and that might not change too much in 2009. I still really like him as part of a QBBC, and think he will definitely outperform his draft position this year. Hill and Crabtree could both surprise a lot of people this season.
  • The top QBs last year - Brees, Rivers, Warner, and Rodgers - all had relatively neutral schedules and didn't miss significant time.
  • Donovan McNabb may be a little underrated. He missed time in a few games and had a hard schedule. After drafting LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin and adding veteran lineman Jason Peters and Stacy Andrews, the Eagles offense should be even better in 2009. McNabb doesn't turn 33 until November, which means age isn't much of a concern with him yet.
  • Joe Flacco seems undervalued. He had a brutal schedule last year and Baltimore threw just 433 pass attempts last season. From 1990 to 2007, 29 teams with winning records threw between 400 and 450 passes in a season, with the group average being 429 attempts. The following year, they averaged 493 pass attempts. Projecting Joe Flacco to make big strides his second season is very reasonable; if he does that with another 60 pass attempts, he could be a sleeper QB in 2009.
  • Speaking of sleepers, I subjectively like JaMarcus Russell quite a bit. But it's hard not to look at the analysis above and get sour on the former No. 1 overall selection. Let me paint the picture in the best possible light, though: the Raiders were so bad last season that they weren't able to take advantage of the bad teams. Oakland ranked 31st in both plays run and passes attempted last season. If Oakland can improve, Russell should both improve on a per throw basis and throw more passes. Drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey should help the offense significantly, and Darren McFadden should do more in his second season. I wouldn't want to have to count on Russell in 2009, but if you had the roster room, I'd be excited to stash him on there just in case.
  • One more sleeper: Kyle Orton averaged 18.4 adjFP/adjG last year while in Chicago. It's not hard to see him breaking 320 FP if he plays a full season in Denver this year.

Team Defense Rankings

For those curious, I've included a table showing how the defenses ranked last year; i.e., which were the "hard" fantasy defenses to play against and which were the easy ones. Just like when we rank the QBs, you have to adjust for SOS when you rank the defenses. For example, the Raiders defense looked like an average fantasy opponent last season, but that's only because they faced Rivers, Cutler, Schaub and Brees six times; Oakland actually had a tough fantasy defense for opposing QBs. No surprises at the top of the list: the Steelers, Colts (just six passing TDs allowed), Ravens and Titans were the four toughest defenses last year, while the Cardinals were - by far - the easiest fantasy defense for opposing QBs.

Team Defense
AdjFP/AdjG
FP/AdjG
SOS
Pittsburgh Steelers
7.1
6.6
0.5
Indianapolis Colts
6.8
6.5
0.2
Baltimore Ravens
3.3
4.1
-0.8
Tennessee Titans
3.1
3.7
-0.7
Minnesota Vikings
2.7
1.4
1.3
Washington Redskins
2.6
1.7
0.9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2.5
2.3
0.2
Oakland Raiders
2.2
0.3
1.9
Philadelphia Eagles
2.1
2.9
-0.8
Cleveland Browns
1.8
1.6
0.1
Carolina Panthers
1.7
0.3
1.4
New York Giants
1.0
2.0
-1.0
Green Bay Packers
0.9
0.7
0.2
Chicago Bears
0.5
0.0
0.6
Buffalo Bills
0.3
0.7
-0.5
Dallas Cowboys
0.0
0.1
-0.1
Cincinnati Bengals
-0.3
-0.6
0.3
Miami Dolphins
-0.5
-0.6
0.0
Atlanta Falcons
-0.7
-1.9
1.2
St. Louis Rams
-0.7
-0.3
-0.4
Kansas City Chiefs
-1.2
-1.2
0.1
San Francisco 49ers
-1.2
-1.2
0.0
Denver Broncos
-1.5
-0.9
-0.6
New Orleans Saints
-1.7
-1.2
-0.5
Jacksonville Jaguars
-2.2
-2.2
0.0
San Diego Chargers
-2.9
-3.3
0.4
New York Jets
-3.0
-2.7
-0.3
Houston Texans
-3.1
-2.4
-0.7
New England Patriots
-3.2
-1.7
-1.5
Detroit Lions
-3.6
-4.1
0.5
Seattle Seahawks
-4.3
-4.3
0.0
Arizona Cardinals
-8.4
-6.5
-1.9