2018 storylines: Jimmy Garoppolo, fantasy QB1
(With attentions turning forward across fantasy football, this week is 2018 Storylines Week on PFF Fantasy, with an article a day highlighting what our writers think are the biggest fantasy storylines we’ll see in the 2018 season.)
After years as a backup the name Jimmy Garoppolo is now one of the most recognizable names in fantasy football, let alone the real thing. From a promising-if-inexperienced backup to a personal seven-game winning streak, Garoppolo has drawn strong opinions on whether he can keep the good times rolling in San Francisco. It seems that everyone has an opinion (mostly positive) of Jimmy G, Jimmy GQ, or my personal favorite, Jimmy Geesus. But can he live up to all this hype? We don’t have much to go off but there are a few signs of things to come.
What’s Jimmy done?
As we know, Garoppolo doesn’t have a lot of experience, but in the few games he’s started, he’s been pretty good and won all seven. Those wins weren’t flukes — over the course of the seven games he’s started and 15 games he’s attempted a pass in his career, he’s thrown for 2,250 yards on just 272 attempts for an 8.27 yards-per-attempt average. That average would be tops among all quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (with at least 1,000 pass attempts, which Garoppolo obviously doesn’t have yet). He also has a 67.28 percent completion percentage, which would also best among quarterbacks. It makes perfect sense that Garoppolo was winning, since he was completing a lot of passes for long distances.
So he was super-efficient against some teams, but were those teams any good? Let’s first look at his brief stint as the starter in New England in 2016:
|Week||Team||Final Points Allowed Ranking||Garoppolo Fantasy Rank That Week|
In those two games, he completed 42 passes on 59 attempts for 496 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on the way to two wins, and thus the legend of Jimmy G began. But Garoppolo got injured in the third game in 2016 and never started another for New England. He was the subject of a lot of trade rumors last offseason but ultimately stayed put before being shipped off to San Francisco at the 2017 trade deadline for a second-round pick.
After an injury to rookie C.J. Beathard forced Garoppolo into the lineup, he and the 49ers never looked back. Over the course of his six appearances, including five starts, Garoppolo threw for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. All this while being with the team a mere three weeks. How did that look in fantasy leagues?
|Week||Opponent||Final Points Allowed Ranking||Garoppolo Fantasy Rank That Week|
So not only did Garoppolo perform well (not even including against a Rams team resting some of their starters) but this shows Garoppolo getting progressively better the longer he was in the San Francisco system. In Weeks 13-17, he was fantasy’s seventh-highest-scoring quarterback and ranked 11th in passer rating. Remember, it was just three weeks after he was traded before he started, and within that time he was turning in QB1 performances the last three weeks of the season — against three playoff teams.
The Shanahan effect
Garoppolo’s fantasy and NFL future are tied to head coach Kyle Shanahan who has a long history as an offensive coordinator and is now calling the plays in San Francisco. Unlike Garoppolo, we have several years of data to review when it comes to Shanahan. So what effect has Shanahan had on fantasy quarterbacks in the past?
|Quarterback||Tenure with Shanahan||Fantasy Points Per Game with Shanahan||Career Fantasy Points Per Game without Shanahan||Difference|
|Robert Griffin III||2012-2013||19.3||10.7||8.6|
Out of the six quarterbacks Shanahan worked with, half of them saw significantly better fantasy results under Shanahan’s tutelage than without and happen to be his three best fantasy quarterbacks. What they — Schaub, Griffin, and Ryan — had in common was they were in Shanahan’s offense for multiple seasons, something Garoppolo is guaranteed to do after signing a record-breaking contract this offseason.
As far as actual fantasy ranking, all three of the quarterbacks Shanahan worked with over multiple seasons were in the top 10 in fantasy scoring their second year, something Garoppolo will be in during the 2018 season. He also squeezed Pro Bowl seasons out of Schaub and Griffin and an MVP award out of Ryan.
|Year||Quarterback||Final Fantasy Ranking|
|2008||Matt Schaub (HOU)||17th|
|2009||Matt Schaub (HOU)||3rd|
|2010||Donovan McNabb (WAS)||19th|
|2011||Rex Grossman (WAS)||19th|
|2012||Robert Griffin (WAS)||5th|
|2013||Robert Griffin (WAS)||9th|
|2014||Brian Hoyer (CLE)||22nd|
|2015||Matt Ryan (ATL)||18th|
|2016||Matt Ryan (ATL)||3rd|
Even though it’s a small sample size, some of Garoppolo’s numbers have been very impressive. It’s not fair to expect him to continue to be so efficient but it bodes well for Garoppolo in the future. After all, if he continues to complete a high percentage of his passes — besides his high actual completion percentage, his adjusted PFF completion percentage ranked 11th during the weeks he played — and his yards per attempt remains high, that means lots of long passes completed. Another thing going for Garoppolo in 2018 is the return of 49ers receiver Pierre Garcon, PFF’s 19th-highest graded-receiver, who suffered a neck injury a month before Garoppolo started. And all this before any weapons are added in the draft or free agency.
The pairing with Shanahan should also lead to positive fantasy results when you consider Shanahan has a track record of producing QB1s in fantasy leagues every single time he’s seen a second year with them. For those reasons, I’m buying into the hype of Jimmy G and deeming him a QB1 in 2018.