Those who know me know that I like to wait on QB (broken record if you’ve read my other articles) and it’s easy to find busts at the position. A bust at the QB position is anyone you have to spend real capital on (let’s say a pick in the first 12 rounds) that is likely to disappoint in terms of final value. When I dub someone a bust, I’m not necessarily commenting on their real life talent or how I think they’ll do this year. My favorite example of this is Patrick Mahomes; he’d be on my real life team in a heartbeat if I could get him there, but he won’t be on any of my fantasy teams this year. He’s just too expensive in my mind, and he is unlikely to live up to his huge cost. Before we take a look at our list of busts, let’s first check how things finished up these last few seasons:
|2018 Finish||Points||2017 Finish||Points||2016 Finish||Points|
Note: Scores in this table were calculated using Yahoo standard scoring.
Okay, so what do I gather from the data? Only three quarterbacks have stayed in the top-12 each of the last three years: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and of course Dak Prescott. This shouldn’t be held against Mahomes, Watson or Goff though–they haven’t yet played three full seasons. Another takeaway from the data is that none of these quarterbacks have started in 10+ games and finished outside of the top-18 that season. They are all relatively safe options. Finally, I looked back for seasons where a fantasy quarterback put up 400+ points (like Mahomes last year) and it hasn’t happened since 2013. In fact, only three other quarterbacks have done it since the 2001 season…Peyton Manning (420.0), Aaron Rodgers (403.4), and Drew Brees (401.6). They finished with 323.7, 350.0, and 364.6 points their following seasons. We aren’t here to talk about number one finishers though…we want some QBs to avoid. Let’s get into it!
Patrick Mahomes (ADP 3.03)
I tend to avoid the first quarterback off the draft board each year; it’s nothing personal though. I was a big fan of Peyton Manning, I think Aaron Rodgers could be the best quarterback of all time, and Patrick Mahomes might be in the playoffs every season for the next 10-15 years. However, the best quarterback tends to get there with some luck and he tends to be overly expensive. Here is a look at previous #1 finishers at quarterback along with their touchdown percentages (TD%, % of all attempts that end in a touchdown):
|Fantasy QB #1||TD%||Career TD%||% Difference|
Looking at the list, 12 of 17 quarterbacks since 2001 saw a jump in their TD% the season they led the league. A reasonable TD% we can expect for a career is somewhere in the 5s for elite quarterbacks. After all, Peyton Manning finished at 5.7%, Tom Brady is currently at 5.5%, Drew Brees is 5.3%, and Aaron Rodgers has an outstanding 6.2%. If we regressed Mahomes back to Rodgers’ numbers, he would have thrown 36 touchdowns in 2018 instead of 50. Do elite quarterbacks drop off like that though? Here is every QB on the list with a TD% of 6.5 or higher along with how they fared the following season:
|Quarterback||TD% (#1 season)||TD%,following season (finish)|
|Daunte Culpepper (2004)||7.5%||2.8% (34th, injury)|
|Tom Brady (2007)||8.7%||—- (injury)|
|Aaron Rodgers (2011)||9.0%||7.1% (2nd)|
|Peyton Manning (2013)||8.4%||6.5% (4th)|
|Cam Newton (2015)||7.1%||3.7% (15th)|
|Patrick Mahomes (2018)||8.6%||?|
Looking at this list, each quarterback on it dropped at least 1.9% the following year. For Mahomes, this would mean 11 fewer touchdowns last season. It’s also worth noting that this isn’t just a list of no-name players…there are 4 or 5 future Hall of Fame guys on this list. Still, they drop back off all the same. If we regressed Patrick Mahomes’ TD% to that of Aaron Rodgers (the career leader in the modern era), he would have lost 14 touchdowns and scored a nearly identical amount as Matt Ryan. I don’t see anyone paying up for Matt Ryan. Skip Mahomes and grab someone cheaper later on. You’ll be glad you did.
Andrew Luck (5.04)
So first I hate Mahomes, and now I’m selling on Luck too. I’m just a buzzkill, aren’t I? I honestly do love the influx of talent at the quarterback position, and I hope the league’s passing games continue to improve. Still, there are two reasons I’m selling on Luck: general regression and injury history. First, let’s look at Luck’s career numbers to date:
What catches my eye here are two things: TD% and pass attempts. Like Mahomes, Luck enjoyed a better than usual touchdown rate last season. If we regressed Luck’s TD% to his career number, he loses 6 touchdowns from last season’s excellent finish. This doesn’t even mention his attempts, which I also expect to go down. Why do I expect his attempts to go down? Luck has already been dealing with a calf injury this preseason, and we remember how he sat out 2017. I’m sure the Colts won’t take any chances with the face of their franchise. They improved their O-line as a first step, but I also expect a managed workload to help. Let’s say Luck loses 50 attempts, or about 3/ game. He just lost another 2-3 touchdowns. I’m going to pass on Luck at his expensive 5th round price.
Matt Ryan (7.04)
As far as quarterbacks who just finished top three the year before go, Ryan actually has a reasonable price tag. You could grab three running backs, three wide receivers, and last year’s #2 finisher. So why am I staying away? Let’s look at Ryan’s last 4 years–along with his career numbers.
I see two excellent seasons (2016 and 2018) and two pedestrian seasons (2015 and 2017). I also see a TD% and Int% that are cruising for regression. This regression alone would have dropped Matt Ryan’s touchdowns by six and increased his interceptions by six (coincidentally) as well. That would be a 36 point change in fantasy last year. In addition to Ryan’s regression, we see how hot and cold he can be. For those who are curious, 2014 and 2012 were also solid seasons while 2013 didn’t quite match up. Factor in an aging #1 receiver (Julio Jones), a running back who’s getting older and dealing with more injuries, little other talent in the running game, and a likely improved defense, and I see a less impressive season from Ryan this year.
Ben Roethlisberger (11.01)
Like Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger finished as a top-3 quarterback last season. Also like Ryan, he has a surprisingly cheap ADP on the surface. It starts to become clear, however once we dig into the numbers. First, there are the weapons that left in the offseason; the Steelers traded away mega-star Antonio Brown to the Raiders, and they let Le’Veon Bell leave in free agency. It’s possible that they just let the #1 wide receiver and running back in 2018 walk. Any team who sees that much firepower vanish is certainly going to drop off, right?
Well to be fair, James Conner held his own last season in the running back role; maybe all hope isn’t lost. Did Pittsburgh also replace AB? Well…James Washington and Donte Moncrief are going to try. Washington had 217 receiving yards last year and 1 touchdown in his rookie season. Moncrief has 21 touchdowns and 2,500 yards through five seasons, or an average of 500 yards and 4 touchdowns per year. This is a far cry from the 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns Brown had last season in only 15 games. I personally think almost no one in the league can do what Brown does, and his loss will be felt. Moving beyond position players, let’s look at Roethlisberger himself:
Big Ben has only completed 600 passes twice in his career–last year and 2014. He has only thrown 30+ touchdowns twice since 2008. He’s only completed 400 passes in a season twice, and last year he completed 452. He’s thrown 13 or more interceptions in 5 of his last 6 seasons. He is 36 years old and he has taken a beating over the length of his career. He lost possibly the best receiver and running back of the last five years in the same offseason. I’m sorry, but even an eleventh round pick is too much to spend on Roethlisberger.
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)