In the fantasy football world, we spend a lot of time trying to divine the secret meaning found in the touch count for running backs. Reading target articles can be considered our weekly trip to Delphi. Conversely, less effort is spent examining quarterbacks, perhaps because most fantasy players still hold to the strategy of drafting a clear cut QB1 and playing him every week.
I make the case for the committee approach in the PFF Draft Guide and knowing efficiency trends can be hugely important in knowing who to start, who to pick up on waivers, and who to trade for. If you’re in a regular league, the lack of scarcity at quarterback makes QBBC a very legitimate strategy. And if you’re in a 2-QB format, then Advanced Drop Backs could the key to outperforming at the all-important QB2 position.
Unlike other advanced stats websites which largely boil down a quarterback’s performance to a single esoteric number, Pro Football Focus has a wealth of information that can directly inform your fantasy football decisions. In order to give you an idea of the type of weekly information that will be available if you subscribe to Fantasy Gold, this is an example article of Advanced Drop Backs that looks at Week 17 from 2011.
A Quick Primer on the Metrics
Drop backs – Drop backs give a better look at a team’s intention to pass than attempts. All numbers in this column will be in terms of ‘per drop back’ instead of ‘per attempt’.
True Air Yards Per Drop Back (TAY/DB) – While yards per drop back is the most important stat, Air Yards can help illustrate the quarterback’s ability to challenge the defense vertically. True Air Yards includes the air yards on dropped passes.
Accuracy % – PFF charts drops and throwaways. The accuracy percentage tells you the percentage of aimed passes that should be caught, a number which gives you a better idea of a quarterback’s actual accuracy.
Deep % – This is the percentage of passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air.
Pressure % – The percentage of drop backs on which the quarterback faces pressure. Some of this is on the offensive line, but quarterbacks who repeatedly face a high level of pressure are likely holding the ball too long.
Accuracy Under Pressure (Acc. UP %) – This stat shows which quarterbacks were able to maintain their accuracy in the face of the pass rush.
Passing Fantasy Points Per Drop Back (PFP/DB) – Although traditionalists may hate it, if you’re going to use a single number for quarterback efficiency, passing fantasy points per drop back might be the best. It’s certainly the most salient for our purposes.
Advanced Drop Back Splits – Week 17, 2011
|DB||Yds/DB||TD %||TAY/DB||Acc. %||Deep %||Press. %||Acc. UP %||PFP/DB|
|Alex D. Smith||34||6.3||2.9||2.1||80||6.7||44.1||42.9||0.37|
Drew Brees – Brees was dominant in all categories. One of two players averaging over 8 true air yards per drop back, Brees attacked deep on 14% of his passes. He faced very little pressure but was deadly accurate even in those situations.
Philip Rivers – Rivers averaged a whopping 11.9 yards per drop back but only finished with 26 drop backs, almost the same number as Tim Tebow.
Matt Flynn – This was the game that put Flynn on the path to starting for Seattle. Although he dropped back 47 times, the real key was his startling efficiency. Despite a weak arm, Flynn averaged 6.0 true air yards per drop back. He faced pressure on 25% of his drop backs but was accurate on a sterling 86% of those plays. These are the numbers of a Tom Brady type player.
Matthew Stafford – Stafford was far less efficient than Flynn but still averaged more than 8 yards per drop back. The Lion did not attack deep as often as you might think with those weapons, but that led to a low 13% pressure percentage. Limiting pressure was important, because Stafford’s accuracy was terrible in those situations (33%).
Tom Brady – Brady had a predictably solid game, but his low number of air yards (3.5 TAY/DB) helps to illustrate what was a season long trend. Brandon Lloyd should have a big impact in that area.
Michael Vick – This was a quintessential Vick game. He led the league in deep passing (25%) but faced a lot of pressure per drop back (29%) and was woefully inaccurate on those snaps (44%).
Carson Palmer – Palmer whetted appetites for 2012 by closing the season strong. He finished with the third best TYA/DB number on a healthy 44 drop backs.
Joe Flacco – This is the type of game that tempts Baltimore management and fantasy players alike. Flacco was uncannily accurate, showed off his deep arm, and avoided pressure. Unfortunately, he only dropped back 20 times and didn’t even average half a fantasy point per drop back.
Cam Newton – Although Newton attacked down the field on 16% of his passes, he struggled to complete those passes (2.8 TAY/DB).
Tony Romo – Romo struggled badly against the Giants’ pressure. Despite dropping back 44 times, the Cowboys failed to attack vertically. Romo’s 2.5 TAY/DB was lower than that of Blaine Gabbert.
Josh Freeman – Freeman demonstrated that even 48 drop backs will yield few fantasy points if you don’t throw touchdowns (4.2%) and don’t attack deep (8.9%).
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Perhaps illustrating the declining footwork he talked about in the offseason, Fitzpatrick’s accuracy plummeted from 74% in normal situations to 25% under pressure.
Ben Roethlisberger – Playing injured, Big Ben wasn’t able to challenge downfield (3.5 TAY/DB), nor was he accurate when pressured (29%).
Tim Tebow – Despite his heroics a week later, this was probably the game that sealed Tebow’s fate in Denver. He was accurate on a shockingly low 47% of his passes and invited pressure on more than half of his 25 attempts.