What makes a quarterback a consistent fantasy producer? Is it a big arm? Mobility? Surrounding talent? Offensive system? This article is a list of the most consistent, high-performing fantasy quarterbacks since 2007.
Consistency can be measured a number of ways. Some use standard deviation. I prefer creating tiers based on the average value of fantasy production (fantasy points per game). Tiers don't punish players for production well above their average the way that standard deviation can.
My consistency tiers based on the span of seasons measured:
- Elite: Weekly performances that meet or exceed the average fantasy points per game of the No.1 overall QB.
- No. 1 QB: Weekly performances that meet the average fantasy points per game of starting quarterbacks.
- Sub Par: Weekly performances that are below the average baseline of the lowest-ranked starter spot in a league.
In this article, I'm measuring quarterbacks in 12-team leagues that field one starter. It means the No.1 QB tier spans the averages of the top-12 passers and the Sub-Par tier begins with performances below the 12th-ranked starter's average.
The averages at the bottom of the table below are the fantasy points that define each tier.
With the process explained, here's the quickest way to think of this information:
- The Elite tier measures the percentage of a quarterback's games between 2007-16 where he scored at least 25.3 fantasy points.
- The #1QB Tier measures the percentage of a quarterback's games between 2007-16 where he scored between 18.9-25.29 fantasy points.
- The Sub-Par tier measures the percentage of a quarterback's games between 2007-16 where he scored less than 18.9 fantasy points.
The players below are sorted by the lowest percentage of Sub Par games and the highest percentage of No.1 and Elite production. "Max" and "Min" are the highest and lowest fantasy performances during their decade of play.
Top 36 High-Performing Fantasy Quarterbacks (2007-2016)
2017 Fantasy Implications
Last month, I profiled quarterbacks behind fantasy-rich offenses. I'll use the same labels to classify the most consistent fantasy quarterbacks of the decade so we can develop usable profiles:
- Pocket: These quarterbacks are skilled at reading the defense and making tactical and creative decisions within the structure of the offense's design. The best pocket passers have enough knowledge to be unofficial coaches on the field. Think Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.
- Creator: These quarterbacks are skilled at creating outside the structure of a designed play. When a defense foils the offense's play design, these passers have the physical and mental tools to create openings in the passing game. Think Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Stafford.
- Mobile: These quarterbacks can earn big plays as runners and often require the defense to assign a player to them as a spy. Think Wilson, Rodgers and Tyrod Taylor.
The top tier of #1QB consistency is production above the 70 percent mark. It's not a surprise that Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady are in this tier. Dak Prescott's rookie year was one for the ages, but a 16-game sample isn't the greatest for discussing him in the same manner as the trio above. Andrew Luck roughly has only half the starts as this trio, but 71 games are enough proof to say he belongs in the top tier. While all four (five, if you insist on counting Prescott) possess the Pocket label, three of those four also have the Pocket-Creator combo.
If you're seeking the highest percentage of Elite games and the lowest percentage of Sub Par performances from this tier, Rodgers stands alone. However, he's not so far ahead of his peers in the top tier that early-round quarterback strategists have a strong argument to take Rodgers (ADP 22) 12 picks ahead of Brady (34), 16 ahead of Luck (40) and 17 ahead of (Brees).
Brees isn't far behind Rodgers in Elite Game Percentage and Luck and Rogers are nearly even in Sub Par Game Percentage. Since they're all in the same tier, and none of them are at a distinct disadvantage in terms of surrounding skill talent, taking the best value proposition from this top tier is a wise course.
If you're super cautious, Rodgers and Brees are the most proven and have better offensive lines and health history than Luck, who still manages to create at a high level without the benefit of a great cast. While I wouldn't recommend Prescott as a legit member of this tier, his ADP (81) is excellent value as the likely lead passer in a committee.
The next tier includes passers with #1QB Game Percentages between 60-69 percent. Of the seven on the list, only Matthew Stafford, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, and Russell Wilson are still in the league. All four possess the Pocket profile and three of the four have the Mobile-Creator combo.
Wilson has the track record with the greatest upside. In fact, his injury-riddled, 2016 season caused his Sub-Par Game Percentage to rise 4 percent and his QB1 Game Percentage to drop 4 percent. It's the difference between Wilson being in the middle and bottom of this tier.
Newton dropped from the top to the middle of the second tier based on last season. If he continues to run less and the offensive line and receiving corps suffer more growing pains, it could be another disappointing year. I expect another disappointing season despite Newton's potential to pilot a strong offense.
Mariota's production rose on the strength of his 2016 season and there's little reason to expect a regression. The offensive line is strong, the scheme is balanced, and Martita cut his Sub-Par Game Percentage 4 percent. Although one shouldn't expect more than modest gains from the rookies joining this offense, Mariota is a smart bet to maintain his position as a solid Tier 2 performer in these long-term consistency measurements.
Stafford is known among fantasy circles as an inconsistent player, but he's eighth on this list and sixth among active quarterbacks as a consistent QB1 performer. Where the inconsistency has some validation is his Elite Game and Sub-Par Game Percentages which are the best and worst in this tier respectively.
There have definitely been some up and down weeks to his seasons that have been maddening to fantasy owners who've experienced his down weeks during the most inconvenient moments. However, if you buy the argument that Stafford hasn't had a healthy and diversified receiving corps for most of his career, then there's hope that 2017 brings a change that could elevate him to top-tier consistency. As the QB15 in and the 99th pick in fantasy leagues, it's clear that fantasy owners have not only punished Stafford for his swings, they've been punitive with the harshness.
The final meaningful tier includes starters earning a No. 1 QB Game Percentage between 50-59 percent, and I'm seriously considering the cutoff at 55 percent because a QB1 shouldn't be a 50-50 proposition. Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, Cousins, Blake Bortles, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, and Rivers comprise this tier if your minimum is 55 percent. Palmer is included if you keep the cutoff at 50 percent.
Ryan emerged from a two-year trough thanks to improved offensive line play and greater command of Kyle Shanahan's system, but his value still scares me because we've seen Atlanta's offense suffer in recent years when Julio Jones wasn't healthy. There is no receiver the caliber of Roddy White to pick up the slack if Jones gets hurt and while I like Austin Hooper's talent, he'll need to emerge in a bigger way than I expect for the Falcons to avoid an offensive tailspin without Jones.
Ryan's QB5 value as pick 52 seems more in line with his performance ceiling after a QB3 2016 where his peers Luck Stafford, Rivers, Brady, and Wilson all dealt with injuries that neither Ryan nor his teammates experienced. I'd feel better about Ryan in the QB8-10 range, which means I'm unlikely to take him this year.
Roethlisberger always offers the allure of upside, but his health is a big issue despite excellent surrounding talent. As QB10, he's a fine lead committee option if you still want to believe he'll play enough games to deliver consistent QB1 production and potential for some of the most productive elite games you'll see.
I want to cringe when I say that I prefer Cousins to Roethlisberger, but it's the fantasy truth. Their consistency data is nearly identical, but Cousins has the slightest edge with Elite Game Percentage. Roethlisberger has the better talent on paper, but I'm not sure the turnover at receiver in Washington is as big of a deal as my colleagues are making it.
Pierre Garcon's route running will be missed, but he's not the playmaker that both Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson can offer Cousins. DeSean Jackson's deep speed will be offset by Pryor and Doctson's size and athletic ability at the catch point. The way this offense uses its tight ends and receivers in 2x2 alignments to create mismatches is something that will also make a lot of the transition easier.
Considering that Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder were the two most productive receivers in Washington last year and Pryor was a top-20 fantasy option in a similar offensive system, I like Cousins to repeat as a mid-tier QB1.
Last year, Cousins' No. 1 QB Games Percentage was 75 percent to Roethlisberger's 64. I expect we'll see similar production from both in 2017.
Rivers' Elite Game Percentage last year was 18.75—lowest among the 20 most consistent passers in 2016. However, Rivers points per game average placed him 11th among quarterbacks and his No. 1 QB Game Percentage tied for 9th. Considering that Keenan Allen and Danny Woodhead were lost for the season by the end of September and speedster Travis Benjamin was playing through a PCL tear, it's understandable that Rivers' big-game production was missing.
Winston is intriguing and his offense has exciting weapons. He appears primed for an emergence as a mid-tier QB1 with greater upside. It also appears that fantasy owners believe the same, picking him as QB9. While there's even greater upside for Winston if everything clicks, there's a worthwhile argument that fantasy owners can wait 2-3 rounds later for 5-7 other quarterbacks with similar floor-upside.