What do the modern massive QB numbers mean for fantasy?

Quarterbacks are growing more and more successful, leading to ever-increasing fantasy numbers. Dan Clasgens examines the trends.

| 3 weeks ago
(Elsa, Getty Images)

(Elsa, Getty Images)

What do the modern massive QB numbers mean for fantasy?


To say that the NFL has come a long way in the passing game is a major understatement. In fantasy football, production through the air has been on the rise for a number of years.

It is very difficult to compare eras in the NFL, especially when looking at passing numbers. Consider 50 years ago when Bart Starr led the Packers to a win in Super Bowl I. He had the league’s best passer rating, but only threw for 14 touchdowns and averaged just 161.2 passing yards per contest.

As the 20th century was coming to an end, we were introduced to Kurt Warner and the “Greatest Show on Turf.” The high-scoring Rams’ attack put points on the scoreboard like nothing we had ever experienced before. Still, the passing numbers aren’t as special when compared against the production of today’s elite fantasy signal callers.

Warner threw for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns during his MVP campaign in 1999. Since then a passer has only reached that passing touchdown mark six times. However, over the same period, Warner’s 1999 passing yardage total has been surpassed 57 times, including 44 times in the past eight years.

The last season where there were fewer TD passes than interceptions was 1992. Since then, there have been about an average of 11 more passing touchdowns added annually with interceptions dropping dramatically.

Fast forward to the current day and quarterbacks are reaching new milestones seemingly every season. There are many contributing factors to the change in the amount of passing production across the league over the years, including improvements in equipment, league rule changes, offensive schemes, player training and conditioning, more athletically-gifted receivers and easier travel.

Four of the league’s top 10 all-time passing yards leaders are currently active Drew Brees (third), Tom Brady (fourth), Eli Manning (eighth), and Ben Roethlisberger (10th). Two other current players are inside the top 14 all-time – Phillip Rivers (12th) and Carson Palmer (14th).

Tom Brady

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Dan Clasgens is a ranker/writer at Pro Football Focus. He will also return to airwaves in 2017 for sixth season as a host on SiriusXM Fantasy. Dan has been publishing his fantasy rankings online since 2003 and has been ranked among the top analysts in the industry by Fantasy Pros over the past few seasons for both his weekly and season-long rankings.

  • Todd

    I like what Jeff Ratcliffe said in one of his recent podcasts. My takeaway is that QB (and TE) are more scarce positions and it’s hard to replace elite production if you lose a player at either position due to injury. It would be similar to drafting a catcher early in baseball. That being said, it’s hard to ignore your stats on Aaron Rodgers. And GB is loaded offensively (Jordy, Davante, Cobb, Ty, Martellus). Rodgers may be the exception.

    The fantasy point comparison of QB1 and QB12 is interesting but doesn’t tell the whole story. I would be curious to see what happens when you pair an elite QB1-5 (round 2-5) with an RB35 or WR35 (round 7ish) and compare that to drafting a QB10 (round 7ish) with an RB10-25 or WR10-25 (round 2-5) with rank based on preseason ADP. I can say without looking it would support waiting on drafting a QB, refuting your argument for drafting an elite QB. And again, drafting scarce positions in a mid-later round protects against replacement risk if injury.