Quarterback Consistency Rankings

Joey Cartolano uses the standard deviation of weekly fantasy points from the 2012 season to see the consistency of quarterbacks.

| 4 years ago

Quarterback Consistency Rankings

While we all would ideally like to have the highest scoring players at each position, fantasy football is ultimately decided by week-to-week matchups. The 40 points that your stud quarterback puts up for you in the last week of the regular season isn’t going to mean anything if he subsequently puts up a goose egg in the first round of the playoffs.

It’s for this reason that, in addition to total point output, fantasy owners must also consider consistency when they are filling out their rosters and setting their lineups. The best way to quantify the consistency of a player’s weekly point production is to calculate the standard deviation of that production, which I have done for the top 25 quarterbacks, 30 running backs, 30 wide receivers, and 20 tight ends for the 2012 season.

This piece focuses on just the quarterbacks, as there are different aspects to the other positions (such as PPR vs. non-PPR, touchdown reliance, etc.) that deserve their own space. I will be discussing the other positions in detail in the coming weeks.

Please keep in mind that the following is by no means intended to be used as rankings. A low standard deviation of weekly output is not necessarily indicative of fantasy success, nor is a high standard deviation damning to a player’s outlook. A player who scores more total points inherently leads to higher deviations from the mean. Players can also be consistently bad.

However, this definitely could help decide between two players with similar total point production. I like to make my rankings in tiers, and this data can really help you differentiate between the values of players with comparable outputs. If you are choosing between say, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning, who were within two total points of each other in 2012, the choice becomes an easy one after looking at these numbers.


Player Tm G Pts Total Pt Rk STDEV
Peyton Manning DEN 16 324.0 6 4.74861
Philip Rivers SD 16 236.9 19 5.47594
Sam Bradford SL 16 237.3 18 5.72544
Tom Brady NE 16 348.3 3 6.07573
Ryan Tannehill MIA 16 199.9 24 6.17524
Josh Freeman TB 16 267.5 13 6.23244
Matthew Stafford DET 16 298.3 10 6.35808
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF 16 241.7 17 6.39108
Brandon Weeden CLV 15 185.5 25 6.40541
Andrew Luck IND 16 304.5 8 6.44096
Tony Romo DAL 16 300.0 9 6.50414
Drew Brees NO 16 366.6 1 6.57499
Jay Cutler CHI 15 206.6 23 6.64444
Andy Dalton CIN 16 274.8 12 6.85407
Matt Ryan ATL 16 322.9 7 7.13871
Christian Ponder MIN 16 214.7 22 7.25827
Carson Palmer OAK 15 244.3 16 8.07182
Eli Manning NYG 16 249.9 15 8.1079
Joe Flacco BLT 16 250.9 14 8.20971
Aaron Rodgers GB 16 357.7 2 8.36094
Matt Schaub HST 16 235.4 21 8.57282
Cam Newton CAR 16 340.9 4 8.67552
Russell Wilson SEA 16 291.6 11 9.11108
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 13 235.8 20 9.13732
Robert Griffin III WAS 15 326.3 5 10.1604

Right away we see why Peyton Manning and Tom Brady still reign supreme in the hierarchy of NFL quarterbacks. They are the kings of consistency, and their presence at the top of the list is a good indication that being a traditional pocket passer still goes a long way in this league. They are the only Top 10 total point getters at the position who also cracked the Top 5 in terms of consistency. Manning sticks out in particular, as he tops the list by a healthy margin and is the only quarterback with a weekly standard deviation below 5 points.

As I alluded to earlier, it’s for this reason that I would suggest taking the Broncos’ field general over anyone in his tier, especially with the addition of safety net Wes Welker. Based on his total point production from last year, this tier would consist of Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III, and Cam Newton. Despite being on par with studs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in terms of 2012 point output, I would also throw Brady into this tier given his significant loss of offensive weaponry in the offseason.

The main reason Manning and Brady are so much more consistent week to week than these younger players is directly tied to their style of play. While these sedentary pocket passers sit at the top of the chart, there is a clear trend of running quarterbacks having the highest fluctuations in weekly point output. Putting aside Ben Roethlisberger, whose weekly deviation is skewed from three missed games due to injury, Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson are in a tier of their own at the bottom of this chart. These three have by far the most rushing attempts of any quarterbacks on this list with 120, 127, and 94 attempts, respectively. The next closest quarterback in terms of rushes was Andrew Luck with 62.

There’s no doubt that the numbers shown above correlate with the boom-or-bust nature of these players’ style of quarterbacking. Points gained by a quarterback’s legs are difficult to predict for a myriad of reasons, thus making players who rely on these points hard to count on for week-to-week consistency. Going into this study, I expected there to be such a relationship, but not as pronounced as this.

I am not arguing that these rushing quarterbacks are not valuable fantasy assets. All three of these players finished in the top 10 at the position and any fantasy owner should be glad to own them moving forward. If you hit it big with one of these guys at the right time, they can single-handedly win fantasy championships.

That being said, I’m sure there are some Newton owners from this year who would attest to the pitfalls of his inconsistency. Many fantasy players who spent a high pick on the sophomore following his breakout rookie campaign were burned when they failed to make the playoffs due to his mediocre early season play, only to see him light it up come fantasy playoff time.

The decision of whether or not to invest significant draft capital in one of these rushing quarterbacks comes down to your personal level of risk aversion. Owning them is not for the faint of heart. In addition to huge fluctuations in weekly output, these guys are inherently more susceptible to injuries due to their style of play, as any Robert Griffin owner can tell you. The variability of rushing quarterbacks, along with Manning and Brady’s consistency, were the two main takeaways from this list, but there are also some other bits of information to be gleamed from this data:

1. Despite what seemed like a roller coaster of a follow-up to his breakout 2011 season, Matthew Stafford finished seventh in consistency and had another Top 10 fantasy season. Only Stafford, Brady, Manning, and Andrew Luck were in the Top 10 in both total point output and consistency. Calvin Johnson got tackled inside the 2-yard line an astounding six times.

The second-through-fourth options on his wide receiver depth chart were either hurt or mentally unstable for half the year. Reggie Bush brings a dimension that the offense has missed without Jahvid Best. In the six games Best was healthy during 2011, Stafford put up numbers that would have resulted in 4,610 yards, 40 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions (to go along with eight rushing touchdowns) over a 16-game slate. His mobility is underrated. Ryan Broyles appears to be healthy. Given his upside, I think Stafford is the biggest bounce-back candidate in fantasy football.

2. I really can’t say enough about Andrew Luck, who along with Stafford was in the Top 10 in both consistency and total points. He put that team on his shoulders last year and this year he has a good shot at doing the same thing for fantasy teams. If you miss out on Brees or Rodgers, I would have no problem stockpiling talent at other positions and waiting on Luck and Stafford, who both currently have ADPs in the sixth round.

3. While Aaron Rodgers’ presence towards the bottom of the list is easily explained by his enormous ceiling, the same cannot be said of Eli Manning and Joe Flacco. These are two players who fantasy owners historically complain about being inconsistent, and the proof is in the pudding here. If you are in a 10- or even 12-team league, there are better starting options.

As I said before, this list is a useful tool for differentiating between players with similar total point outputs. If you are torn on two guys come August when your draft rolls around, this might be a good bookmark to have. Fantasy football championships are won by week-to-week matchups. If you are a gambler, you probably would love to have any of Robert Griffin, Cam Newton, or Russell Wilson on your team this year, especially in dynasty leagues due to their youth. In redraft, though, I will usually always trade a bit of a ceiling for a higher floor, particularly with quarterbacks.

Follow Joey on Twitter @PFF_Joey

Joey Cartolano has been contributing dynasty, redraft, developmental and DFS content since 2013. He also makes regular appearances on PFF Radio's Dynasty Slant.

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