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True Fantasy Points: 2015 Quarterback Projections

A stats-based guide for identifying "true" quarterback talent in fantasy drafts.

Last season, I introduced a stat called "True Fantasy Points (TFP)," which was my attempt to apply information about the reliability of "NFL box score" stats to fantasy football strategy. Today's post is about quarterbacks, so the specific information I'm referencing is as follows:

Based on these standards, you can calculate a quarterback's "true" Y/A, TD%, and INT% by adding league-average performance over the above-listed number of attempts to each quarterback's actual Y/A, TD%, and INT% since he's been on his current team. As an example, here are the "true" stat calculations for Colin Kaepernick, who has spent his entire career with San Francisco:

  • He's thrown for 8,415 yards in 1,117 attempts, or 7.50 Y/A. If we add 396 attempts of 7.41 same-team, league average Y/A, then his "true" Y/A right now is 7.53.
  • He's thrown 50 touchdowns in 1,117 attempts, or a 4.48 TD%. If we add 1,059 attempts of 4.93% (i.e., the same-team league average), then his "true" TD% right now is 4.70%.
  • He's thrown 21 interceptions in 1,117 attempts, or a 1.88 INT%. If we add 1,681 attempts of 2.57% (i.e., the same-team league average), then his "true" INT% right now is 2.29%.

And from there, we can use David Dodd's projection of 455 pass attempts by Kaepernick in 2015 to calculate his "true" passing stat projections:

  • 7.53 Y/A over 455 attempts translates to 3,413 passing yards.
  • A 4.70 TD% over 455 attempts translates to 21 touchdowns.
  • A 2.29 INT% over 455 attempts translates to 10 interceptions.

In terms of standard Footballguys scoring, that stat line translates to 245.7 "true" projected passing points for Kaepernick. Comparing that to Dodd's projection of 238.2 points, there's a 7.5-point discrepancy. If we continue this mathematical exercise for all of Dodd's projected starting quarterbacks in 2015 that were on the same team in 2014, then we can get a guage of how said projections differ from those implied by TFP.

True y/a, td%, and int% for 2015

Below is a table showing "true" passing stats for the 26 starting quarterbacks that will be on the same team in 2015 as they were in 2014 (sorted by "True Y/A"). The columns with "Prev" in the label signify each quarterback's stats since he's been with his current team:

PlayerTmPrev AttPrev YdsPrev TDsPrev INTsTrue Y/ARkTrue TD%RkTrue INT%Rk
Aaron Rodgers GB 3475 28578 226 57 8.14 1 6.14% 2 1.94% 1
Peyton Manning DEN 1839 14863 131 36 7.96 2 6.32% 1 2.25% 4
Tony Romo DAL 4210 33270 242 110 7.86 3 5.58% 3 2.60% 15
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 4954 39057 251 131 7.85 4 5.04% 8 2.63% 17
Russell Wilson SEA 1252 9950 72 26 7.82 5 5.37% 6 2.36% 6
Philip Rivers SD 4678 36655 252 122 7.80 6 5.30% 7 2.60% 14
Drew Brees NO 5649 43685 316 141 7.71 7 5.49% 4 2.51% 12
Robert Griffin WAS 1063 8097 40 23 7.56 8 4.34% 22 2.41% 8
Colin Kaepernick SF 1117 8415 50 21 7.50 9 4.70% 13 2.29% 5
Cam Newton CAR 1923 14426 82 54 7.49 10 4.50% 19 2.70% 20
Tom Brady NE 7168 53258 392 143 7.43 11 5.40% 5 2.10% 2
Carson Palmer ARI 796 5900 35 25 7.41 12 4.70% 12 2.75% 21
Teddy Bridgewater MIN 402 2919 14 12 7.33 13 4.53% 18 2.65% 18
Matt Ryan ATL 3916 28166 181 91 7.21 14 4.69% 14 2.40% 7
Andrew Luck IND 1813 12957 86 43 7.19 15 4.81% 10 2.47% 10
Eli Manning NYG 5609 39755 259 185 7.11 16 4.67% 15 3.13% 25
Jay Cutler CHI 2651 18725 129 93 7.11 17 4.88% 9 3.14% 26
Andy Dalton CIN 2111 14758 99 66 7.06 18 4.77% 11 2.88% 23
Matthew Stafford DET 3099 21714 131 85 7.05 19 4.41% 21 2.68% 19
Geno Smith NYJ 810 5571 25 34 7.05 20 4.13% 25 3.10% 24
Joe Flacco BAL 3657 25531 148 90 7.02 21 4.24% 23 2.50% 11
Alex Smith KC 972 6578 41 13 6.95 22 4.59% 16 2.12% 3
EJ Manuel BUF 437 2810 16 12 6.90 23 4.56% 17 2.61% 16
Ryan Tannehill MIA 1662 11252 63 42 6.89 24 4.23% 24 2.55% 13
Blake Bortles JAX 475 2908 11 17 6.71 25 4.12% 26 2.79% 22
Derek Carr OAK 599 3270 21 12 6.24 26 4.41% 20 2.42% 9

Given the offseason hype, Ryan Tannehill ranks far lower than I thought he would be. Normally, I'd chalk that result up to a young quarterback not having enough attempts to get a clear indication of his "true" passing ability (a la EJ Manuel and Blake Bortles). That's not the case, however. With 1,662 pass attempts over the past three years in Miami's offense, we've seen enough of Tannehill to get a reliable indication of his "true" Y/A, TD%, and INT%.

True Fantasy projections for 2015

As I mentioned at the outset, we can carry the above "true" stats forward into 2015 via Dodds' projections for pass attempts this upcoming season. And if we do so, the result is the table below, which is sorted by the "Diff" column, i.e., the difference between Dodds' points projection and the TFP projection:

NameTmTrue YdsTrue TDsTrue INTsDodds YdsDodds TDsDodds INTsTFPRkFBGRkDiffRk
Andrew Luck IND 4482 30 15 4816 36 15 328.6 5 369.8 1 41.2 1
Eli Manning NYG 3981 26 18 4256 31 17 286.1 10 319.8 8 33.7 2
Matthew Stafford DET 4055 25 15 4198 30 14 288.7 9 315.9 9 27.2 3
Aaron Rodgers GB 4355 33 10 4467 36 10 338.7 2 357.4 2 18.7 4
Ryan Tannehill MIA 3929 24 15 3996 28 15 278.4 11 296.8 11 18.4 5
Matt Ryan ATL 4198 27 14 4359 30 15 305.0 8 323.0 6 17.9 6
Russell Wilson SEA 3463 24 10 3517 27 10 257.9 20 273.9 15 15.9 7
Jay Cutler CHI 3739 26 17 3756 29 16 273.2 13 287.8 12 14.6 8
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 4631 30 15 4602 32 11 335.0 4 347.1 3 12.1 9
Tony Romo DAL 4142 29 14 4037 33 12 311.1 7 321.9 7 10.7 10
Andy Dalton CIN 3641 25 15 3762 26 17 265.6 18 275.1 14 9.5 11
Joe Flacco BAL 3807 23 14 3816 25 14 268.8 15 276.8 13 8.0 12
Geno Smith NYJ 3025 18 13 2960 20 13 208.8 25 215.0 25 6.2 13
Teddy Bridgewater MIN 3777 23 14 3698 25 14 268.5 16 270.9 16 2.4 14
Tom Brady NE 3402 25 10 3270 27 10 259.4 19 261.5 18 2.1 15
Blake Bortles JAX 3367 21 14 3328 21 15 237.0 23 235.4 23 -1.6 16
Robert Griffin WAS 3380 19 11 3464 18 14 235.9 24 231.2 24 -4.7 17
Peyton Manning DEN 4419 35 12 4434 34 14 348.8 1 343.7 4 -5.1 18
Philip Rivers SD 4268 29 14 4086 30 15 315.2 6 309.3 10 -5.9 19
Alex Smith KC 3442 23 10 3341 22 10 252.4 21 245.1 21 -7.4 20
Colin Kaepernick SF 3413 21 10 3344 21 13 245.7 22 238.2 22 -7.5 21
EJ Manuel BUF 1551 10 6 1469 10 9 112.7 27 104.5 27 -8.3 22
Cam Newton CAR 3818 23 14 3611 23 12 268.9 14 260.6 19 -8.4 23
Drew Brees NO 4473 32 15 4402 30 15 336.4 3 325.1 5 -11.3 24
Derek Carr OAK 3573 25 14 3610 22 15 265.9 17 253.5 20 -12.4 25
Carson Palmer ARI 3876 25 14 3771 23 16 277.7 12 264.6 17 -13.2 26

Given the stats displayed in this table, projected TFP seems to have identified two potential outlers in your fantasy football rankings. Let's dicuss.

Eli Manning

Surprise! You thought I was going to go with Andrew Luck!

Nope. My vote for most over-rated is Eli Manning. Presumably because Eli is poised to enjoy 16 games of Odell Beckham, Jr. and Victor Cruz, Dodds projects him to have a Y/A 0.49 higher than his "true" rate, a TD% 0.87 percentage points higher than his "true" rate, and an INT% 0.09 percentage points lower than his "true" rate. Although my instinct is to always trust Dodds, the fact that Eli has thrown over 5,600 passes in a Giants uniform -- more than enough to gauge his "true" fantasy quarterback ability -- means that I (and TFP) are skeptical of 2015 Eli matching or exceeding the performance of 2014 Eli.

carson palmer

On the flip side, TFP suggests that Palmer will exceed Dodds' expectations. Why? Well, TFP suggests Palmer is likely to throw for more yards, more touchdowns, and fewer interceptions than expected. Specifically, Dodds projects Palmer to throw for

  • 7.21 Y/A, which is 0.20 lower than his "true" YPA as a member of the Cardinals.
  • 4.40 TD%, as compared to his "true" 4.70 TD% with Arizona.
  • 3.06 INT%, as compared to his "true" 2.75 INT% with Arizona.

Granted, Palmer's 36 years old and coming off of an ACL tear; only a fool wouldn't downgrade projections based on age and injury factors. That said, if his age and health concerns can be mitigated, Palmer's track record in three seasons with the Cardinals suggests he's a better fantasy quarterback than advertised.