Correlation Between No. 1 Receiver and Quarterback Point Totals

Eli Nachmany breaks down whether or not there is a correlation between a No. 1 receiver's fantasy scoring totals and the team's quarterback's totals.

| 3 years ago

Correlation Between No. 1 Receiver and Quarterback Point Totals

Josh-Gordon-roasting-Jaguars-Getty-ImagesIn 2013, as Browns receiver Josh Gordon helped fantasy owners win their respective leagues, Cleveland’s quarterback trio fell into relative fantasy obscurity.

Based on that one example, it’d be easy to conclude that there is no correlation between a top wide receiver’s dominance and said receiver’s quarterback’s fantasy potential.

However, one example doesn’t validate a claim, so I decided to record the point total of each of the top 20 receivers in standard fantasy scoring from 2013 and pair their scoring outputs with their quarterback’s (or quarterbacks’, in some cases). I then looked at the data on a scatterplot.

The results were eye-opening.

Contrary to popular belief, there actually is a moderately strong linear relationship between No. 1 receivers and their quarterbacks’ scoring outputs.

Team No. 1 WR WR Point Total QB QB Point Total
CLE Josh Gordon 229 Hoyer/Weeden/Campbell 229
DEN Thomas/Decker 313.5 Peyton Manning 406
DET Calvin Johnson 212 Matthew Stafford 267
CIN A.J. Green 203 Andy Dalton 277
CHI Marshall/Jeffery 291 Cutler/McCown 291
PIT Antonio Brown 197 Ben Roethlisberger 248
DAL Dez Bryant 194 Romo/Orton 271
PHI DeSean Jackson 182 Vick/Foles 348
GB Jordy Nelson 173 Rodgers/Tolzien/Wallace/Flynn 262
HOU Andre Johnson 161 Schaub/Keenum 194
TB Vincent Jackson 156 Freeman/Glennon 180
WAS Pierre Garcon 154 Griffin III/Cousins 230
SF Anquan Boldin 153 Colin Kaepernick 253
ARZ Larry Fitzgerald 146 Carson Palmer 209
SD Keenan Allen 141 Philip Rivers 276
NE Julian Edelman 147 Tom Brady 241
BAL Torrey Smith 132 Joe Flacco 194
IND T.Y. Hilton 132 Andrew Luck 279


To rationalize the data, I accounted for the fact that Denver and Chicago both had two receivers in the Top 20 (two No. 1 receivers, so to speak). In said rationalization, I recorded Denver’s “No. 1” receiver total as Demaryius Thomas’ scoring output added to half of Eric Decker’s scoring output. I did the same for Chicago, recording Brandon Marshall’s numbers added to half of Alshon Jeffery’s.

The coefficient of determination for the data is .41, which means that the data is far from conclusive.

That said, we found that the ‘linear regression’ line’s equation is y=.681x+133.76, which means that we can find which quarterbacks outperformed having a poor No. 1 receiver and vice-versa. The ‘y’ value represents the expected total point output for the quarterback, while the ‘x’ value represents the receiver’s actual point total.

QB Actual Point Total Expected Point Total Difference
Vick/Foles 348 257.76 +90.24
Peyton Manning 406 347.35 +58.65
Andrew Luck 279 223.69 +55.31
Philip Rivers 276 229.83 +46.17
Cutler/McCown 291 268.66 +22.34
Colin Kaepernick 253 238 +15
Tom Brady 241 227.1 +13.9
Rodgers/Tolzien/Wallace/Flynn 262 251.63 +10.37
Romo/Orton 271 265.94 +5.06
Andy Dalton 277 272.07 +4.93
Griffin III/Cousins 230 238.68 -8.68
Matthew Stafford 267 278.2 -11.2
Ben Roethlisberger 248 267.98 -19.98
Carson Palmer 209 233.23 -24.23
Joe Flacco 194 223.69 -29.69
Schaub/Keenum 194 243.45 -49.45
Hoyer/Weeden/Campbell 229 284.33 -55.33
Freeman/Glennon 180 240.05 -60.05

The five teams whose collective quarterbacks performed the worst, considering the No. 1 receiver at their respective disposals, were Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Houston, Baltimore and Arizona.

Recall that Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Houston split their quarterbacking duties over the course of the season, so this article is not necessarily an indictment of Mike Glennon, Matt Schaub or any of the other individual signal callers on the 2013 iterations of the aforementioned teams.

That said, Baltimore and Arizona saw almost all of their snaps under center go to Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer, respectively. The two seriously underperformed their expected point totals, if one was to simply base expectation on the performance of the team’s No. 1 receiver.

The five teams whose quarterbacks outperformed their expected totals were, in order, Philadelphia, Denver, Indianapolis, San Diego and Chicago.

Recall that Philadelphia and Chicago each had two quarterbacks see meaningful snaps in 2013, so a wholehearted endorsement of Nick Foles, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler or Josh McCown isn’t necessarily realistic due to a somewhat small sample size.

Of course, the other three listed teams saw, for the most part, one quarterback take snaps. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers each did unreasonably well, considering the output of their respective No. 1 targets. Keep in mind that we adjusted the data to make Manning’s performance come closer to the average, which makes the signal caller’s numbers even more impressive. He, however, will lose Eric Decker and might see a dip in production as he regresses to his mean level of performance.

As for Luck and Rivers, their No. 1 receivers (T.Y. Hilton and Keenan Allen, respectively) are young and improving. Luck will get Reggie Wayne back, which can only help his point total increase.

To qualify the data, I didn’t include tight ends. As such, the paired data of Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham is omitted (Brees would outperform the expected total by more than all but one quarterback, Manning, by the way). The attempt was to simply evaluate quarterbacks and No. 1 receivers.

Though it’s tough to establish a strong correlation with a coefficient of determination less than .5, looking at how well quarterbacks performed relative to their expected totals is a good tool for inference.

Take a close look at Rivers and Luck in your fantasy draft this year, as all signs point to the two quarterbacks performing well in 2014, regardless of what they get from their receiving corps.

Conversely, be aware that having a legitimate No. 1 receiver can help a quarterback, if slightly. When picking between two similar signal-callers, it’s not a terrible idea to bet on the one throwing to a star top target.

  • Jaime Hudak

    This is awesome stuff. If only you were this good at Calculus