Marcus Mariota was a fantasy roller-coaster in 2016
(“Today’s Crazy Fantasy Stat” is an occasional offseason offering from PFF that highlights something that catches our eye and aids in our preparation for the 2017 fantasy season.)
From Week 5 through Week 12 of last year, Tennessee Titans QB Marcus Mariota was fantasy’s overall QB1. He recorded 21 touchdowns, three interceptions, and 197 total fantasy points over those eight games. By fantasy points per dropback, he was also the leader, at 0.74. Basically, no matter how you sliced it, Mariota was the tops in the league, or close to it.
The other part of the year — Weeks 1–4 and 13–17 — Mariota was 31st in fantasy points per game (using per-game stats to account for both his bye and the game he missed due to injury). He recorded five touchdowns, six interceptions, and 73 fantasy points in those spans. Those per-dropback numbers dropped to 0.31. His competition was tougher then, to be sure, but the numbers are still the numbers.
Over the full season, Mariota was fantasy’s QB9 (tied with Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles), and would have been even better if not for his Week 16 injury. But he was really two different quarterbacks. For a portion of the season, Mariota was winning fantasy matchups single-handedly. Outside of that window, he was unusable.
Obviously, every quarterback has bad games and bad stretches. But I still found these two tidbits, working in concert, to be interesting:
- Mariota had the second-largest gap between his top five fantasy-scoring games and his bottom five, with a gap of 20.2 fantasy points (Drew Brees led the way, at 20.6, though with an overall season average of 21.25 compared to Mariota’s 18, his bottom five were superior). The only quarterbacks who recorded a higher best-five-games average than Mariota were Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan.
- Mariota recorded the second-most games with 0-9 fantasy points among the 30 quarterbacks to play at least 10 games. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick, with six, had more than Mariota’s five.
Mariota’s inconsistency wasn’t limited to his fantasy numbers, either; he was inconsistent in PFF grades as well.
It’s been said before, but looking at fantasy as only a season-long game is a risky plan; some players are relatively consistent, while others are far more boom-and-bust and can make for more frustrating options.
Mariota did this in 2015, his rookie year, as well, He had four games under 10 fantasy points and two of 30-plus; the gap between his top-five and bottom-five games that year was 19.0 fantasy points.
Adding WR Rishard Matthews in 2016 helped Mariota, particularly on the deep ball — Matthews recorded the sixth-most receiving yards on passes of 20-plus yards last season, a big part of the reason why Mariota went from the No. 24 passer rating on deep balls in 2015 to No. 12 in 2016. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry gave the team a much stronger run game in 2016 than Mariota had around him in 2015, as well. Add in the team’s additions this offseason of WRs Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor and TE Jonnu Smith, and the Titans have built a real offense around the promising young quarterback.
There is concern about Mariota’s recovery from his late-2016 broken leg, though the team has said it expects him back in some form for OTAs. And just because he has had the extreme highs and lows in his first two seasons doesn’t mean that’s what he’ll do in 2017. Mariota is firmly in the tier of fantasy quarterbacks that includes guys like Jameis Winston, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins. In a best-ball game, like MFL10s, it’s hard to go wrong with the third-year signal-caller. But in a regular fantasy league, playing weekly, usually one backup quarterback or zero, Mariota carries more risk than you might realize looking at just his fantasy points. Mariota has a huge ceiling, but his floor is lower than most who get drafted around him.