Expected Points Assessment: Quarterbacks

Justin Dunbar creates an expected points metric for quarterbacks to find actionable takeaways for fantasy managers.

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 a 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 see. 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, 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 less 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:

For the rest of the season, it’s hard to argue with anyone who has Lamar Jackson as their top-ranked quarterback for the rest of the season. He’s passing the ball more than ever, and the results have been remarkable. Also, Aaron Rodgers’ middling production fantasy-wise is legitimate; the team isn’t giving him enough opportunities to air it out, and the lack of passing volume is hurting him. That was also the case with Russell Wilson, though that’s less significant now that he’ll miss significant time with a finger injury.

Buy Low

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

Jackson ranks second in points per game (PPG), so it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to buy-low on him. The same goes for Jalen Hurts, who has little difference between his expected and actual production.

Usually, I’d say Ryan Tannehill was a tremendous buy-low, but his numbers are skewed by two overtime games. At the same time, his passing efficiency should improve with AJ Brown and Julio Jones back healthy, so he’s still someone to buy low on as a quarterback streamer.

Right now, my ultimate buy low would be Daniel Jones. He’s only rostered in 40% of ESPN leagues, so he might just be available, yet it’s hard for me to understand why he’s not seen as a consistent streaming option. He’s not part of a great offense, but he’s also had 32 pass attempts in every game he’s finished, in addition to 27 carries in those four games. As he’s dealing with a concussion and set to face the Rams, now would be the time to check if he’s been dropped or acquire him via trade for a very cheap price.

Sell High

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

As mentioned previously, Russell Wilson would have been a perfect sell-high candidate given his reliance on big-play touchdowns (limited passing volume), but that’s no longer significant.
Until the Saints start passing the ball more, feel free to cut ties with Jameis Winston. He’s yet to throw for 300 yards in a game, yet somehow has managed to throw twelve touchdowns. I don’t see his 10.3% touchdown rate continuing, and the Saints schedule gets much tougher after their bye.
Ultimately, my favorite sell-high might be Dak Prescott. The 28-year-old has eclipsed 22 fantasy points in each of his past three games, yet the Cowboys have been one of the most run-heavy offenses in the NFL since their Week 1 shootout against Tampa. His 12.5% touchdown rate over this span is certainly going to regress negatively in the future, making now a good time to sell high on him.

Waiver Additions

We’ve already touched on Jones, who remains the ultimate waiver wire addition at the quarterback position. Meanwhile, there are some other quarterbacks providing more fantasy value than their “real-life” success would suggest. Taylor Heinicke has averaged 36 pass attempts per game since taking over for Ryan Fitzpatrick, and also has had five+ carries in each of his past five games. With a great matchup against the Chiefs this week, he’s someone you could definitely look to start if your quarterback is on a bye.
Carson Wentz has led a mediocre Colts offense, though he should at least be seen as a mid-tier fantasy quarterback. He’s averaging 9.4 yards/attempt over his past two games, which might be a sign he’s starting to get healthier and in sync with the offense, and Indianapolis’ upcoming schedule is soft, to say the least. Speaking of former top draft picks, Trevor Lawrence has six+ carries in each of his past three games, and might have enough volume in a fast-paced Jaguars offense to be the ultimate garbage-time fantasy producer. Hey, all points count the same!

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 comes 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.

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