Expected Points Assessment: Quarterbacks

Justin Dunbar utilizes expected fantasy points to make key quarterback decisions ahead of this year's trading deadline.

What should we use to project future fantasy production? It’s one thing to create projections in the offseason, but to adjust in season is incredibly difficult. We wish we could just use previous fantasy production to guide us, but with how fluky touchdown production and other stats can be in such a small sample, it’s something we cannot afford to do.

That’s where expected points come into play. You’ve probably seen some form of expected points before, but the basis is that it judges players based on the opportunities they receive, in order to illustrate how many points they should score. Since it strips a lot of the “flukiness” that can come from individual games, it’s a terrific way to create the foundation for weekly projections.

Today, let’s utilize expected points to our advantage. However, I want to do it in a different way than you may be used to seeing. Rather, I want to utilize simple variables to create a very easy-to-use metric. Thus, for every position in this series, we will be using only one statistic that correlates strongly with fantasy football production to create this metric.

For quarterbacks, as discussed in our first edition of this assessment, that variable is total yards. Touchdowns ultimately move the needle, yet they’re quite unstable, while yardage is a much more reliable metric from one game to the next. However, not all yards are created equal; rushing yards earn more points than passing yards. In fact, based on my research, each rushing yard was about twice as significant when it comes to fantasy production as every passing yard.

Using weighted yardage, the coefficient of determination between expected fantasy points and actual points was 0.77. In other words, 77% of a quarterback’s fantasy points per game could be explained by their weighted total yards per game. That indicates a pretty strong relationship, and the type of reliability we’re looking for. There will be players that consistently score more or fewer touchdowns than others, which will allow them to overachieve or underachieve their expected fantasy output.

With that, let’s take a look at how each quarterback rates in terms of expected fantasy points:

Right now, it’s clear how much of a unicorn Lamar Jackson is compared to other quarterbacks. The gap between him and second place is the same between second place and 13th place, which is just absurd. No other quarterbacks can be in the Top 10 in passing yards while being the league’s leading rusher (600 yards) by a significant margin. Also, Derek Carr remains a starter-worthy player moving forward, and the same can be said about Joe Burrow, despite a slow start to the season. I’d also note that Tua Tagovailoa’s numbers are impacted by him leaving Week 2 early due to injury; he’s averaging over 18 expected points per game when you exclude that game.

 

Buy Low

 

By looking at players who are underachieving their expected points total, we can find some players to potentially buy-low on:

After a tough 14.3-point showing in Week 9, Derek Carr is certainly a player worth buying low on. In that game, he had 46 pass attempts and has exceeded 295 passing yards in all but two games this season. Should you be weak at the quarterback position, or need someone to fill in while they’re on a bye, he’s definitely someone who can help. If so, you’ll want to acquire him before a favorable matchup against the Chiefs.

Meanwhile, Daniel Jones and Taylor Heinicke each are worthwhile streaming options, as their yardage indicates they deserve better than their current production. Heinicke could lose the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick soon when the veteran quarterback comes back from injury, yet Jones remains a viable streaming option in the right matchup.

 

Sell High

 

Conversely, by looking at players who have overachieved their expected fantasy production, we can find players to sell high on:

Russell Wilson wasn’t someone you could sell high on previously, but with him returning from his thumb injury, now is the time to do so. He averaged just 27.25 pass attempts in the four games he started and finished but managed to produce at a very high level regardless. However, that likely isn’t sustainable over a longer period of time, starting in Green Bay on Sunday, where Aaron Rodgers also lacks the passing volume to have a very high floor.
Kirk Cousins has produced as a QB1 this year, but it’s looking like this isn’t completely sustainable. As such, I’d prefer Daniel Jones, Derek Carr, and several other streaming options (even Tua Tagovailoa) moving forward, especially with a tougher schedule up ahead. If you can flip Cousins for Carr, for instance, that’s a no-brainer trade.

Waiver Additions

 

Heinicke, Jones, and Cason Wentz were all featured in the previous expected points assessment, so let us focus our attention on Matt Ryan and Tua Tagovailoa. 

Quietly, Ryan has been a Top 10 graded quarterback from Pro Football Focus this season, recovering strongly from a poor start to the season. He’s fully acclimated to head coach Arthur Smith’s offense and has significantly increased his average depth of target. With that in mind, he’s someone you can stream in the right matchup.

The same can be said about Tagovailoa, though the Dolphins quarterback has opportunities on his side with 39 or more pass attempts in each of the three games he’s started since coming back from injury. He might not have the efficiency that Ryan has, yet when you pass the ball the amount that Miami does, it doesn’t matter; he’s also offering value as a rusher. If you need a high-upside streaming option with two games against the Jets up ahead, he’s worth a waiver addition should he be available.

Overview

 

There are a lot of flaws with using actual fantasy production to project future production, thanks to all the instabilities that can take place in any given game. That’s where expected points come into play. By utilizing this metric, we’ve been able to find players to buy low on, sell high on, as well as some waiver wire additions to help fill in for your starting quarterback. At the end of the day, it’s all a crapshoot, but it’s up to us to try our best to do the impossible, right? Hopefully, that’s what this version of expected points can do for us ahead of this year’s trading deadline.

 

(Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire)

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