By the Numbers

Mobility Tiers for Every Starting NFL QB

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: March 19, 2020, 5:35 pm ET

Rushing QBs are a bit of a cheat code when it comes to fantasy football. This ability to rack up production as both a rusher and passer is essentially the same advantage that pass-catching RBs boast over their one-dimensional peers.

Of course, not every dual-threat QB is created equal. Some are used as a legit spark plug of their team's run game, while others are featured more sparingly in high-leverage red zone or third-down situations. Either way, even a moderate rushing role has historically produced nothing except fantasy goodness for the QB position.

Rushing QBs

From 2000-2015 there were just three seasons that featured double-digit QBs racking up at least 50 rush attempts. That's occurred in each of the last four seasons.

Teams have been more and more willing to embrace non-statue QBs in recent years. Part of this is the reality that it's easier to move an offense with a QB that has some semblance of mobility. Another side of the story is that college football's embrace of spread offenses has naturally produced more dual-threat signal callers.

And yet: very few QBs actually make a habit of carrying the ball on designed rush attempts. Only Lamar Jackson (135), Kyler Murray (65) and Josh Allen (63) had at least 50-such attempts in 2019. Note that these designed rush attempts include both QB runs as well as kneel downs.

Scramble rates paint a more clear picture in regards to which QBs actually make a habit of moving and which don't. Only Gardner Minshew (9%), Lamar Jackson (8.8%), Josh Allen (8.4%) and Deshaun Watson (8.1%) took off and scrambled on at least 8% of their dropbacks in 2019, while Case Keenum (1.1%), Philip Rivers (0.9%), Eli Manning (0.7%), Tom Brady (0.5%) and Drew Brees (0%) were the only signal callers to post a mark under 1.5%.

Not every QB needs to worry about picking up yards on the ground. Still, the ability to provide some mobility is incredibly useful in preventing defenses from simply pinning their ears back and attacking the same stationary QB play after play. Obviously having the ability to escape the pocket has also proven plenty useful for when things break down.

What follows is a quick tier breakdown of NFL QBs as it pertains to their mobility and rushing usage. I'll also include the consensus top-four QBs listed in mock drafts from Rotoworld's Josh Norris and Hayden Winks. Note that Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts would be an incredibly fantasy-friendly asset thanks to this rushing ability and usage if he rises up draft boards and finds a believer.

Historically-ridiculous rushing workloads

We are literally experiencing the most-productive rushing QB the game has ever seen.

  • Lamar Jackson: Has set the NFL record for carries by a QB in back-to-back seasons. Jackson is arguably the league's most-exciting player with the ball in his hands, regardless of position.

Massive rushing roles

These players rack up designed QB rushes and serve as a key part of their respective rushing attacks.

  • Kyler Murray: Only Jackson had more designed carries and overall rushing yards than Murray among all QBs in 2019. Rumored to have run the 40-yard dash in just 4.3 seconds at Oklahoma, the consistent threat of Murray getting the edge helped the Cardinals average a league-best 3.3 yards before contact per rush (Pro Football Reference).
  • Cam Newton: Responsible for 7-of-29 seasons that a QB racked up at least 100 rush attempts in NFL history. The only thing that has held Newton back during his career is health. Regardless of what the future holds, he'll be known as one of the league's most-revolutionary QBs thanks to his goal-line rushing efficiency.
  • Tyrod Taylor: Ranked second, first and third in rush attempts among all QBs as the Bills starter from 2015-2017, respectively. The artist formerly known as TyGod has legit speed to threaten the defense on both scrambles as well as designed runs. The Chargers sure do have a lot of shiny offensive weapons.
  • Josh Allen: Joined Jackson as the only QBs with at least 100 rush attempts in 2019. Allen is tied for eighth among all players with 17 rushing touchdowns since entering the league. Even if it's not always pretty, there's an at-times overwhelming amount of athleticism here.

True dual-threat QBs

These QBs each possess a level of athleticism and willingness to run that is rare at the position.

  • Deshaun Watson: Few are more elusive than Watson in both the pocket and open field. He's one of 12 QBs in NFL history to average at least 30 rushing yards per game (minimum 16 starts). While Watson does take some "unnecessary" sacks due to his tendency to hold the ball, he also (probably) leads the league in avoided sacks.
  • Russell Wilson: Joins Watson on that aforementioned list. The ability has always been there, but recent usage is concerning. Overall, Russ totaled *seven* yards on designed runs in 2019 after averaging 151-such yards per season from 2012-2018. It seems unwise for the Seahawks to so severely limit their franchise QB as both a passer and rusher.
  • Gardner Minshew: Nobody took off to scramble more often in 2019 than Minshew, who ultimately ran for more yards than everyone other than Jackson, Murray, Allen and Watson. He also displayed a penchant for avoiding pressure before making something happen outside of the pocket. There's more of a Tony Romo-feel to Minshew's rushing ability, but he was plenty willing to take off and run as a rookie.
  • Dak Prescott: The Cowboys have usually refrained from putting too much on Prescott's plate as a rusher aside from high-leverage situations despite his overwhelming success: he has a position-high 21 rushing scores since entering the league in 2016. There's never been a first down market that Prescott didn't believe he could get to, regardless of how many defenders are in his path.
  • Mitchell Trubisky: The Bears' former franchise QB joined Allen, Jackson, Newton and Watson as the only QBs to average at least 30 rushing yards per game in 2018. Then Trubisky curiously ran the ball 20 fewer times while playing one additional game last season. Failure to utilize Trubisky as a runner is failure to cash in on literally his best ability as a football player.
  • Ryan Tannehill: The college WR-turned-QB has always been a great athlete for the QB position. Only Jackson averaged more yards per scramble than Tannehill last season among all QBs with at least 10 scrambles. There are plenty of QBs with twitchier agility, but TanneThrill is a serious problem for defenders if left unaccounted for.
  • Patrick Mahomes: Two of his three career games with over 50 rushing yards occurred during the Chiefs' 2019 Super Bowl run. In reality, this talent has always been there: Mahomes racked up 22 rushing scores in 25 games during his final two seasons at Texas Tech. The man is a legit threat as a rusher.

Can and do run

These QBs always look to pass first, but they're capable of picking up yards on the ground in a hurry if unaccounted for.

  • Carson Wentz: The Eagles' franchise QB makes a few extended plays a week that are truly incredible to watch. He's scored just three rushing touchdowns in 56 career games, but has averaged a healthy 14 rush yards per game and remains one of the league's better signal callers at creating something out of nothing.
  • Jameis Winston: Mr. 30/30 had more rushing touchdowns as a rookie (6) than he's scored in 2016-2019 combined (4). Still, Winston has averaged a solid 14.5 rush yards per game during his career, regularly functioning as one of the league's most-entertaining QBs to watch (for better or worse).
  • Daniel Jones: The No. 6 overall pick of the 2019 draft is sneaky athletic (57th-percentile SPARQ-x score) and posted a season-long 45-270-2 rushing line as a rookie. Jones managed to utilize this plus mobility to his advantage on occasion, although a league-worst 18 fumbles were hardly what the Giants hoped for.
  • Drew Lock: While Lock's 18-72-0 rushing line in five games as a rookie was hardly enlightening, the rookie did show a penchant for avoiding pressure. Overall, the 86th-percentile SPARQ-x athlete averaged a league-high 4.3 seconds before being sacked, topping each of Murray (4.1), Watson (4.09) and Jackson (4.05).
  • Joe Burrow: The presumed No. 1 overall pick allegedly ran the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-4.8 second range in high school. Either way, Burrow's exceptional ability to create something out of nothing, combined with a plenty-solid 243-767-12 rushing line in 25 games at LSU, paints the picture of a QB that's not afraid to use their legs.
  • Tua Tagovailoa: The Alabama QB never rushed for even 50 yards in a game, although his ability to improvise in the pocket has drawn comparisons to Wilson for a reason. This plus athleticism is what makes Tua's hip injury so concerning for his promising NFL future.
  • Justin Herbert: The Oregon QB boasts plus size (6-foot-6 and 236-pounds) as well as underrated speed (4.68-second 40-yard dash). He didn't make a habit of taking off in college, but did show potential in his final game with three rushing scores in the Ducks' Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
  • Jordan Love: The Utah State QB is rocketing up draft boards reportedly in large part due to his ability to create plays off script. He's not an overwhelmingly talented athlete, but does possess a smoothness to his game that could lead to more production in a different offense.
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick: Perhaps the 2019 Dolphins' leading rusher is too low on this list. Fitzpatrick has never averaged more than 23 rushing yards per game as a starter, but possesses the type of "I don't give a F" attitude that has made for more than a few memorable moments over the years.

Restricted primarily to the pocket

These QBs aren't necessarily incapable of beating defenses with their legs, although they almost always use their feet to buy time and throw instead of scrambling.

  • Aaron Rodgers: The long-time Packers QB was one of the league's more underrated rushing QBs for a good portion of the 2010s, but his average of 11.4 rushing yards per game in 2019 was easily a career low. The Packers drafted Rodgers in 2005 when Brett Favre was entering his 15th season and was 36 years old. 2020 will be Rodgers' 16th season and he's currently 36 years old.
  • Matt Ryan: A late-season ankle injury didn't help Ryan's mobility at the end of 2019, but either way we're talking about a QB that's never averaged even 10 rushing yards per game. Ryan has never been confused with someone who creates magic off script, but he's also not devoid of moving in and out of the pocket when healthy.
  • Sam Darnold: Perhaps the hoopla from the entire mono situation impacted Darnold's willingness to run, as he averaged fewer than half as many rushing yards per game in 2019 (4.8) as he did in 2018 (10.6). There's always been a fun-playground nature to Darnold's game; he's just not all that great of an athlete or productive runner.
  • Kirk Cousins: The eight-year veteran ran for at least four touchdowns in each of his three seasons as a full-time starter in Washington, but Cousins has found the end zone on the ground just twice in 31 games with the Vikings. He was one of just 10 QBs to scramble on fewer than 10% of their dropbacks in 2019.
  • Baker Mayfield: The much-maligned former No. 1 overall pick has averaged a stellar 9.1 rush yards per game with three scores on the ground over the past two seasons. Still, Mayfield struggled to replicate the sort of broken-play magic that we saw so consistently during his rookie season, as he limped to below-average marks in most metrics denoting performance under pressure.
  • Derek Carr: The Raiders' franchise QB has averaged 5.3 rushing yards per game after six seasons under center. Carr's general reluctance to both throw in the face of pressure and/or test defenses downfield hasn't gone hand-in-hand with many moments showcasing his theoretical mobility.
  • Matthew Stafford: A broken back certainly won't help matters for Stafford as he continues to progress through his 30s. He's averaged double-digit rushing yards per game just once over the past 10 seasons, regularly taking his chances with dump offs or downfield prayers as opposed to scrambling.
  • Dwayne Haskins: Stephen A. Smith might say otherwise, but Haskins has never made a habit of winning with his legs. While he picked up seven first downs on 20 rushing attempts in 2019 and isn't completely immobile, it's hard to be too complimentary of a man that failed to run 40 yards in under five seconds.
  • Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben is perhaps best known for his ability to stand tall in the pocket and deliver the pass despite taking any number of hits from nearby defenders. He's never quite been a true rushing threat, but 19 rushing scores over the years, along with an endless supply of off-script highlights, makes it hard to call the man a sitting duck in the pocket.

Complete statues

These QBs are both immobile and reluctant to leave the pocket, making them sitting targets if the ball doesn't come out quickly.

  • Tom Brady: The GOAT finally topped 1,000 career rushing yards in 2019 and remains one of the best QB sneakers to ever suit up. Of course, Brady has never won due to his athleticism, and it was more of an issue than ever last season. He scrambled on just 3-of-632 (0.5%) dropbacks, and his average of 4.1 yards per pressured attempt was higher than only Mason Rudolph (3.7) among 35 qualified QBs. Nobody had more throwaways than Brady (40) in 2019.
  • Philip Rivers: Rivers is another QB on this list who never exactly made a living with his legs, but things also haven't gotten any better in recent seasons. The man hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since 2011. The good news? The Colts offensive line is full of world-beating talents.
  • Drew Brees: 390 dropbacks in 2019 ... and Brees didn't scramble once. Sure, the 41-year-old QB still looks elusive in the pocket at times and remains a threat to leap over the top from the one-yard line, but he's totaled 64 rushing yards in 73 games since 2015.
  • Jared Goff: The four-year veteran is averaging four rush yards per game through 54 starts. Goff has literally never gained more than 25 rushing yards in a game. His performance in 2019 tanked after the Rams failed to surround him with an elite offensive line.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo: Perhaps things will change in 2020 when Jimmy G is a full season removed from knee surgery. Still, it's tough to ever see him resemble a dual-threat talent considering he's averaged 2.8 yards rush per game since 2014. It's painfully obvious at times that Garoppolo's inability to make anything happen outside of the pocket is the one key factor holding back this offense.
  • Nick Foles: The Super Bowl hero has totaled zero rushing yards in six career postseason starts. Foles hasn't made a habit of using his legs since that one weird 2013 campaign with Chip Kelly and company. His inability to escape pressure is worrisome behind the Bears' shoddy offensive line.
  • Teddy Bridgewater: The five-year veteran has posted a miserable 39-36-0 rushing line over the past two seasons with the Saints. Bridgewater's tendency to unload the ball as quickly as possible doesn't really lend itself to many scramble attempts or opportunities for off-script goodness.
Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.