Narrative Street: Do rookie QBs lean on their tight ends?
It’s a narrative seemingly as old as fantasy football itself: Rookie quarterbacks throw to their tight ends more often because big-bodied tight ends act as a “safety blanket” to help the rooks get their feet wet.
Should you target a certain team’s tight end in fantasy just because they have a rookie quarterback under center? It makes sense in theory. After all, tight ends typically have a lower average depth of target and run “safer” pass routes.
But is it actually true? Let’s examine.
The narrative: Rookie quarterbacks throw to their tight ends more often than veteran quarterbacks.
Six years ago, we ran a study comparing passing distribution tendencies between rookies and veterans. In that study, we learned that rookie quarterbacks actually threw to their tight ends slightly less often than veteran quarterbacks.
But six years is an eternity in fantasy football. Trends from 2008 to 2010 don’t mean much as we head into the 2017 season. So I refreshed the data and looked at the past five seasons (2012-2016) to see if rookie quarterback distribution had changed in recent years.
I wanted to examine the distribution differences between rookies and veterans in four key categories: targets, yards, touchdowns and fantasy points. And then, from the tight end’s perspective, we examined fantasy points per target when targeted by a rookie versus a veteran.
Technically, the answer to this narrative can be found solely in the “targets” category, as it’s the only category that answers whether or not rookies actually threw the ball to tight ends more. But I delved into the other areas as well to discover the true relationship between rookie quarterbacks and their tight ends.