QB Accuracy and Fantasy Success
Accuracy may not be as important to a quarterback’s fantasy game as his running ability or propensity for throwing touchdowns, but there’s a clear correlation between accuracy and fantasy points scored.
This is common sense. The more accurate you are, the more chances you have to score points. If just 50 percent of the passes a quarterback throws are catchable, his ceiling is effectively cut in half.
But that’s looking at the topic from surface level only. Football isn’t so black and white. A quarterback with a low average depth of target (aDOT) would have a good chance of finishing the season with a better completion rate than a quarterback with a high aDOT, but that doesn’t mean he would score more fantasy points.
So, back to the original question — how much does accuracy matter? A 10 percent difference in accuracy equates to a 0.18 difference in fantasy points per aimed pass attempt.
That may not seem like much, but it adds up fast. For example, if Quarterback A is 10 percent more accurate than Quarterback B, he will, on average, score one more fantasy point every 5.5 passes. With many quarterbacks averaging between 30 and 40 passes a game, that could be a six or seven point difference every week.
Keep in mind we are talking about accuracy here, and not completion percentage. PFF finds a quarterback’s accuracy rate by eliminating throw aways, spikes, batted passes and passes when the quarterback was hit while thrown. Additionally, drops are counted as completions.
I only looked at aimed throws for this study (pass attempts minus throw aways, spikes, etc.) Doing so hurts players like Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick, but if we counted plays in which the quarterback ran, it wouldn’t give us an authentic read on how much throwing accuracy matters.
The above chart shows the clear relationship between accuracy and fantasy points. The chart speaks for itself, with the linear line (black) representing the average rate in which accuracy affects fantasy points.
I’ve broken down the above chart into four different groups: quarterbacks with 65-70 percent accuracy, 70-73 percent, 73-75 percent, and 75-plus percent. All data in this study is from the 2013 NFL season.
65-70 Percent Accuracy
The lowest tier in this study consists of quarterbacks who were accurate on 65-70 percent of their throws. Interestingly enough, this group of five includes two of the past three Super Bowl MVPs and one other Super Bowl starter. The other two quarterbacks in the group were rookies last season.
Kaepernick is the clear outlier here. His 0.50 fantasy points per throw (PPT) was in line with quarterbacks who were 73-75 percent accurate. His low accuracy rate, yet high PPT, can be attributed to his solid TD-INT ratio of 21-8. E.J. Manuel was the only other quarterback in this group with a positive TD-INT ratio, with 11-9.
Quarterbacks who were 65-70 percent accurate scored an average of 0.36 PPT.
70-73 Percent Accuracy
|Robert Griffin III||72.4%||428||168||0.39|
Of the 27 quarterbacks in this study, 12 of them fell into this category. The majority of players in this group are young guns — the Andrew Lucks and Cam Newtons and Russell Wilsons of the league.
With 0.58 PPT, Wilson is the outlier. Wilson was a top-10 quarterback option last season thanks in large part to his running game, but this stat gives Wilson’s arm merit and suggests he would remain an upper-level fantasy option if Seattle passed more and ran less.
Wilson had just 377 aimed throws in 2013 — low for a quarterback who played all 16 games. Within this group of 12 quarterbacks, only Matt Schaub (330) had fewer aimed throw attempts in 2013 than Wilson, and Schaub only played 10 games. Wilson was the third highest scoring fantasy quarterback last season on a per-throw basis, behind only Peyton Manning and Nick Foles, both of whom set NFL records.
Andy Dalton was the third highest scoring fantasy quarterback last season, and while your memories of Dalton playing are likely marred by “Bad Andy” moments — which nobody blames you for — “Good Andy” is an underrated quarterback and fantasy option. He scored an impressive 0.48 PPT, second most in this group behind Wilson. His accuracy rate of 72.8 percent was higher than the likes of Wilson, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Andrew Luck and others.
Quarterbacks who were 70-73 percent accurate scored an average of 0.42 PPT. That’s just over 15 percent higher than quarterbacks who were 65-70 percent accurate.
73-75 Percent Accuracy
The most unlikely of casts forms this tier, from maligned players such as Tony Romo and Jay Cutler, to a two-time Super Bowl winner in Ben Roethlisberger, and everyone in between. Despite the vast disparities in name recognition here, none of these quarterbacks scored fewer than 0.40 PPT.
Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Nick Foles each had relatively low pass attempts in 2013 for various reasons. It’s reasonable to think that if each of these three players had more pass attempts, their PPT would have dropped, Foles in particular.
Foles scored a ridiculous 0.75 PPT in 2013. He threw 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and all eyes will be on the Philadelphia quarterback to see if he can repeat the magic in 2014. Odds are he won’t put up the same figures, but he was so far ahead of the pack in terms of PPT that even a significant drop would leave him above average from a fantasy point of view.
Quarterbacks who were 73-75 percent accurate scored an average of 0.50 PPT. That’s just over 17 percent higher than quarterbacks who were 70-73 percent accurate and nearly 33 percent higher than quarterbacks who were 65-70 percent accurate.
75-plus Percent Accuracy
From an accuracy point of view, Matt Ryan’s season flew under the radar because of Atlanta’s dismal team record, but he only narrowly trailed Philip Rivers — who was hero-worshiped for his accuracy throughout the season — when it came to pinpoint throws.
Those two players are joined by Peyton Manning (0.65 PPT) and Drew Brees (0.55) to form this top tier.
With 0.41 PPT, Ryan is the only player in this group to have a PPT below 0.55. In fact, Ryan’s 0.41 PPT puts him below the average of the 70-73 percent accuracy group. The easiest explanation for this is that Ryan didn’t throw enough touchdowns and that his TD-INT ratio was poor. His 17 interceptions in 2013 were tied for seventh most in the league and were the most he’s thrown his entire career.
Had Aaron Rodgers played more snaps, he would have been the accuracy leader (79.3 percent). Rodgers scored .60 PPT, which would have been third most behind P. Manning and Foles, further underscoring the connection between accuracy and fantasy points.
However, Rodgers did not qualify for the list because he did not have at least 50 percent of the amount of drop backs as the position’s leader (Ryan, 703). Rodgers needed only 24 more drop backs on the season to qualify.
Quarterbacks who were 75-plus percent accurate scored an average of 0.54 PPT. That’s nearly 8 percent higher than quarterbacks who were 73-75 percent accurate, 25 percent higher than quarterbacks 70-73 percent accurate, and 40 percent higher than quarterbacks 65-70 percent accurate.