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Offseason Analysis

The Rushing QB and How They Impact WRs & TEs in Fantasy

by Zachary Krueger
Updated On: May 31, 2022, 4:37 pm ET

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Last week I took to the spreadsheets in hopes of discovering the impact high-volume rushing quarterbacks have had on their respective running backs.

The results were jarring.

I spent most of Monday crying when the spreadsheets indicated my hopes of J.K. Dobbins as a top-12 back in 2022 were futile. I was devastated to learn Bills rookie James Cook, who the fantasy folks tell me will "catch a lot of passes" in fact may not because Josh Allen has never met a running back he deemed worthy of a target.

While most of my findings left me devastated, I found solace in knowing that all signs pointed to running backs still not mattering.

Upon realizing this, my spirits were renewed. I pressed on in my research on high-volume rushing quarterbacks in hopes of finding out more about their impact -- this time on receivers and tight ends.

You'll be happy to know, I found such information. Which I look forward to sharing below.

Notes: Advanced stats and metrics courtesy of Pro Football Reference, RotoViz and RBSDM.com This article is based on full-PPR scoring.

Pass Catchers and Fantasy Finishes

Before getting too deep into this article, please be sure to check out last week's article where I explain the thresholds used to weed out high-volume rushing quarterbacks. I also touch on their rush rate's over the years and explain how we've seen a drastic increase in this type of quarterback play since 2018.

Nevertheless, here are the high-volume rushing quarterbacks since 2000.

 

Player

Team

Season

paATTS/gm

ruATTS/gm

Kordell Stewart

PIT

2001

27.69

6

Daunte Culpepper

MIN

2002

34.5

6.6

Michael Vick

ATL

2002

28.13

7.5

Michael Vick

ATL

2004

21.4

8

Michael Vick

ATL

2005

25.8

6.8

Michael Vick

ATL

2006

24.31

7.6

Vince Young

TEN

2007

25.53

6.2

Michael Vick

PHI

2010

31

8.3

Cam Newton

CAR

2011

32.31

7.9

Cam Newton

CAR

2012

30.31

8

Robert Griffin III

WAS

2012

26.27

8

Cam Newton

CAR

2013

29.56

6.9

Russell Wilson

SEA

2013

25.5

6

Robert Griffin III

WAS

2013

35.08

6.6

Colin Kaepernick

SF

2014

29.88

6.5

Russell Wilson

SEA

2014

28.38

7.4

Cam Newton

CAR

2014

32

7.4

Cam Newton

CAR

2015

31

8.2

Russell Wilson

SEA

2015

30.25

6.4

Tyrod Taylor

BUF

2015

27.14

7.4

Cam Newton

CAR

2016

33.93

6

Tyrod Taylor

BUF

2016

29.13

6.3

Cam Newton

CAR

2017

30.81

8.7

Deshaun Watson

HOU

2018

31.56

6.2

Cam Newton

CAR

2018

33.64

7.2

Josh Allen

BUF

2018

26.67

7.4

Josh Allen

BUF

2019

28.81

6.8

Lamar Jackson

BAL

2019

26.73

11.7

Josh Allen

BUF

2020

35.75

6.4

Kyler Murray

ARI

2020

34.88

8.3

Cam Newton

NE

2020

24.53

9.1

Lamar Jackson

BAL

2020

25.07

10.6

Josh Allen

BUF

2021

39.53

7.2

Jalen Hurts

PHI

2021

30.53

9.3

Kyler Murray

ARI

2021

36.57

6.3

Justin Fields

CHI

2021

25.5

6

Lamar Jackson

BAL

2021

35

11.1

 

One popular strategy in fantasy drafts is stacking a quarterback and his receivers/tight ends in hopes of maximizing points when said players enjoy productive weeks.

If you're applying this strategy to best ball drafts, we can see through RotoViz's best ball tools that teams that stacked Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase in 2021 enjoyed an 18.2% win rate over on Fanball, which uses full-PPR scoring. This is well above the average win rate of 8.3%, indicating that a Burrow/Chase stack made for some very powerful rosters.

 

Burrow/Chase Best Ball Stack 2021

 

Knowing the upside stacking can provide, it's only natural that we'd still want to stack pass catchers with our quarterbacks, even if they are high-volume rushers.

The question, however, is should we?

For a stack to be effective, we need the right blend of player ADP and fantasy production. We'll focus on the fantasy production for today.

Of the 37 quarterbacks above, only 16 supported a top-24 wide receiver (43.2%) while six (16.2%) supported a top-12 receiver.

The six top-12 receivers tethered to a high-volume rusher include Randy Moss (2002), Steve Smith (2011), DeAndre Hopkins (2018 & 2020) and Stefon Diggs (2020 & 2021). It may be a coincidence that these receivers are current/future Hall of Famers -- or it may be an indicator that only the best receivers are capable of earning significant targets from these quarterbacks.

Looking at the body of receivers as a whole, below is each quarterback's top receiver in points per game (min. 8 games).

 

WR PPG 2000-2021

 

It's worth reminding that of the 37 receivers tied to these quarterbacks, almost 57% finished 25th in points per game or worse. Receivers tethered to Michael Vick had a particularly brutal stretch with the Falcons from 2004 to 2006, when his WR1 topped out at 8.1 points per game. 

Of the 16 receivers who finished top-24 in points per game, their PPG totals averaged out to 16.2 points per game. The overall group of 37 receivers averaged 13.3 points per game, but it's also worth noting that we had almost as many top-24 receivers (16) as we did receivers (15) finish below 12 points per game in their respective seasons. 

A high-volume rushing quarterback has never supported the overall WR1 in PPG but has twice supported the overall WR3 -- the best finish within our 22-year dataset.

With wide receiver looking rough with these Konami Code quarterbacks, let's see how their tight ends fare.

 

TE PPG Finishes 2000 - 2021

Because most fantasy leagues only start one tight end a week, I broke this position down by top-5 and top-12 finishes. Top-5 finishes imply more elite production from a tight end, while top-12 still gives a sense of who was consistently entering your lineup.

Of the 37 tight ends in this group, we see 17 providing top-12 seasons (46%) while seven (19%) turned in top-5 finishes.

 

TEs with Top-24 PPR finishes 2000-2021

 

While the top-5 finishes sound good in theory, it's worth noting that those seven finishes are centralized to three different tight ends -- Alge Crumpler (2004, 2005 & 2006), Greg Olsen (2014 & 2016) and Mark Andrews (2020 & 2021). Without these three individual players, we have zero TEs turning in top-5 seasons with high-volume rushing quarterbacks.

Crumpler, Olsen and Andrews also make up 12-of-17 top-12 seasons (70.6%), suggesting that a top-12 tight end with a high-volume rushing quarterback is more uncommon than the 46% rate would lead us to believe.

If we remove Crumpler, Olsen and Andrews -- who appear to be exceptions rather than the rule -- we are left with just five top-12 tight end seasons (20%) among 25 high-volume rushers.

Andrews had a special 2021 with Lamar Jackson (and Tyler Huntley to a lesser degree). The veteran tight end finished as the overall TE1 last season, averaging 17.5 points per game while posting a receiving line of 107-1361-9 on 153 targets. He is the only tight end to finish as the TE1 with these rushing quarterbacks.

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Applying What We Know to 2022

Of the list of 37 quarterbacks we have, there are seven who appear to be locked into starting roles in 2022.

Considering what we know, let's take a look at how these receivers and tight ends are being drafted in Fanball best ball leagues, which uses the full-PPR scoring format of this article.

 

FanBall WR/TE ADPs with high-volume rushing QBs

 

The two players with the highest capital in this group are Buffalo's Stefon Diggs and Baltimore's Mark Andrews. Despite their high capital, they're two players I feel are safest to return value at ADP. Each player has already turned in WR1 and TE1 seasons under their current quarterbacks as recently as 2020 and 2021.

Philadelphia's A.J. Brown makes for an interesting case given the elite upside he displayed in Tennessee, but Jalen Hurts ranked 31st amongst quarterbacks in pass attempts per game last season at 30.53 (min. 8 games). The Eagles also ranked 22nd in early-down pass frequency and had a pass frequency over expected of -5%. It's likely Philly will increase its overall passing aggressiveness in 2022, and Brown has proven to be one of the league's more efficient receivers since. He ranked top-5 in fantasy points over expectation in each of his first two years in the league -- and led all receivers in FPOE as a rookie (75.8).

Amari Cooper makes this list thanks to the one season Deshaun Watson was a high-volume rusher, but a looming Watson suspension makes Cooper's 2022 tough to predict. He could feast on targets with no established WR2 currently in Cleveland, but I wouldn't rule out rookie David Bell (WR77) as a potential second-half breakout. 

For Denver, Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are both being drafted as high-end WR3s as they enter year one with Russell Wilson. Once a high-volume rushing quarterback, Wilson has dialed back his rushing attempts as of late. He was last considered a high-volume rusher in 2015 and has helped lead eight receivers to top-24 PPG seasons over the last six years. Both Jeudy and Sutton could turn in top-24 seasons in 2022, and it wouldn't be surprising to see one flirt with a near top-12 finish.

Athletic maven Albert Okwuegbunam (TE18) looks like an excellent buy in his first year as a starter in Denver. While Dallas Goedert and Dawson Knox are both coming off strong seasons for their teams in 2021, historical numbers suggest they're more likely to finish outside of the top-12 unless their quarterbacks dial back their rushing attempts.

The Bears' Cole Kmet (TE15) is another interesting player at his current range. Kmet looks like one of the more predictable positive regression candidates at tight end in 2022 after finishing 2021 with a receiving line of 60-612-0, ranking top-12 or better in targets, receptions and receiving yards. His zero touchdowns on 91 targets make him one of just four TEs since 2000 to draw 70+ targets and fail to find the end zone. Over that span, TEs to see 70+ targets have actually averaged 5.1 touchdowns per year.

I would simply draft Kmet.

Zachary Krueger

Zachary Krueger is a college football fantasy/DFS analyst for NBC Sports EDGE, and hosts his own live stream “Roster Locked: A Best Ball Show” in the offseason. He will proudly tell anyone that he was the first to believe in Darren Waller’s elite upside as a tight end - and has the article to prove it.