Fantasy Points Under Pressure

Nathan Jahnke examines how quarterbacks perform both under pressure and not under pressure.

| 3 years ago

Fantasy Points Under Pressure

joe-thomasThere are a number of factors that determine how a quarterback’s performance might change in 2014 compared to how they did in 2013. The starting point is last year’s data, and make assumptions such as Nick Foles will be a starter for the entire year rather than part of it, and chances are players like Aaron Rodgers and Sam Bradford will be healthy for more than just half the season.

From there, the biggest thing that can change is having new teammates. Of course players like Josh McCown and Michael Vick will have 10 new teammates on any given play. Less dramatic but still important are changes in receivers. Having Steve Smith should help Joe Flacco while his absence should hurt Cam Newton.

What is much less noticed but still very important are changes to the offensive line. If a team goes from having a poor left tackle one year to a great left tackle the following year, on the surface you would expect a quarterback to get sacked less frequently. This has a direct impact on their fantasy points assuming you are in a league that counts sacks against quarterbacks. However, the effect of the offensive line on quarterback’s fantasy points goes much deeper than that.

The better an offensive linemen is in pass protection, the less pressure they will allow. Even if the pressure doesn’t end up in a sack, pressure in general still has a major impact on the quarterback. For example, last year when quarterbacks attempted a pass without pressure, they completed the pass 67.3% of the time. When they were under pressure they only completed 47.0%. The touchdown to interception ratio for quarterbacks not under pressure was 629-289, while the ratio under pressure was 194-214. Those are all on plays where a pressure was given up and a sack wasn’t committed.

Two weeks ago our Jeff Ratcliffe took a look at how often quarterbacks were blitzed and pressured, as well as how often they were sacked in these situations. However, pressure affects each quarterback differently. For some quarterbacks it is completely devastating to their productivity. For others it isn’t much of a problem at all.

The best way to quantify this for fantasy purposes is looking at how many fantasy points a quarterback scores per dropback when they are not under pressure compared to when they are. Below is a chart of every quarterback with at least 70 dropbacks last year. It has how many dropbacks they had with no pressure (NP), their fantasy points scored when they weren’t pressured, and their points per dropback. On the right of the table is how each quarterback performed under pressure (P). Finally is how many fewer points per dropback a quarterback scores when he is under pressure compared to when he is not. This is using a standard scoring system that doesn’t include sacks.

NameNP DBNP PtsNP Pts/DBP DBP PtsP Pts/DBDiff.
Nick Foles237196.90.8312440.20.320.51
Brandon Weeden18690.40.4911510.00.090.40
Carson Palmer369203.00.5524944.50.180.37
Thaddeus Lewis12052.70.44646.90.110.33
Andy Dalton479266.50.5616136.70.230.33
Brian Hoyer7437.70.51305.80.190.32
Aaron Rodgers234145.60.629429.40.310.31
Sam Bradford18198.60.5410324.80.240.30
Geno Smith300144.80.4821742.40.200.29
Peyton Manning523364.30.7015464.80.420.28
Matt Flynn16676.50.467013.00.190.28
Tony Romo375212.20.5720360.20.300.27
Matthew Stafford475241.90.5119347.40.250.26
Michael Vick9556.50.597625.40.330.26
Jay Cutler236133.40.5715146.60.310.26
Kellen Clemens17377.60.459920.30.210.24
Drew Brees491296.10.6020875.10.360.24
Matt Schaub22391.90.4116028.90.180.23
Christian Ponder18189.60.5011029.30.270.23
Case Keenum15172.80.4812633.30.260.22
Joe Flacco436176.30.4024147.40.200.21
Russell Wilson282178.20.6322094.50.430.20
Ryan Tannehill439195.60.4522253.90.240.20
Mike Glennon265123.70.4720354.30.270.20
Alex D. Smith391191.70.4920259.40.290.20
Jake Locker13069.60.548328.70.350.19
Tom Brady452202.50.4521962.60.290.16
Matthew McGloin14465.80.467623.30.310.15
Matt Ryan413185.80.4529088.90.310.14
Philip Rivers393221.40.5619782.80.420.14
Terrelle Pryor17974.40.4215844.90.280.13
Robert Griffin III328144.90.4420263.10.310.13
Andrew Luck403201.00.5024290.50.370.12
Colin Kaepernick329172.50.5217571.80.410.11
Chad Henne356125.80.3519547.90.250.11
E.J. Manuel24497.30.4011437.50.330.07
Eli Manning356130.40.3724071.90.300.07
Jason Campbell21684.80.3913042.60.330.06
Matt Cassel18979.20.429233.70.370.05
Blaine Gabbert6212.10.19437.10.160.03
Ben Roethlisberger432196.40.4520788.90.430.03
Cam Newton350171.40.4920595.90.470.02
Kirk Cousins11831.70.274412.40.28-0.01
Ryan Fitzpatrick259106.80.4114062.10.44-0.03
Josh Freeman9619.80.216116.30.27-0.06
Josh McCown15382.70.549055.00.61-0.07
Scott Tolzien7123.20.332715.90.59-0.26

The top of the list includes some quarterbacks who are excellent without pressure, and are just brought down to earth some with pressure. Leading the way is Nick Foles, who dominated the points per dropback category without pressure, but when under pressure he was much closer to an average quarterback. Luckily the Eagles have invested heavily in their offensive line, so Foles should have a relatively clean pocket for the foreseeable future.

Also near the top are a number of players who you probably don’t want starting for your favorite team. Someone like Brandon Weeden scored over five times more fantasy points when not having pressure compared to when he did. If Weeden played behind a perfect offensive line that never allowed pressure and had 600 dropbacks last year, he would have been a top five fantasy quarterback. Unfortunately no offensive line is perfect and even the best allow pressure over 20% of the time.

On the flip side, there were some quarterbacks who were actually better with pressure than without it. For the most part this was likely a sample size issue, and were quarterbacks who weren’t great without pressure to begin with. One notable player is Ben Roethlisberger who year after year has struggled to have a strong offensive line in front of him but has learned to play well without it.

Over the next few weeks I’ll examine a few quarterbacks in particular who have changed teams or experienced a change in their offensive line, and how this will affect their fantasy value in 2014 compared to 2013. Once the draft hits, I’ll also look at how offensive lines will help or hurt their rookie quarterbacks, as well as how rookie offensive linemen will impact their new team’s current quarterback.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

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