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“Off the Matt”: Rookie Quarterbacks – Hope you Can Run

Going back to 1998, quarterbacks coming off the board 1 and 2 in the same draft has occurred three times.  The results have been mixed to say the least.

1998 – #1. Peyton Manning.  #2. Ryan Leaf.

Before I go any further this gem needs to be shared…

1999 – #1. Tim Couch.  #2.  Donovan McNabb

2012 – #1. Andrew Luck. #2. Robert Griffin III

It has been a mixed bag of results.  Manning is a lock to have his bust in Canton, while Leaf and Couch appear on quarterback bust lists.

Joining this group is the 2015 duo of Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.  Before trying to predict the future, take a look at the results of rookie quarterbacks going back to 2006.


What Did We Learn?

– 24 quarterbacks played in 10+ games.

– 15 quarterbacks played in 15 or 16 games.

– 3 quarterbacks threw for 3500+ yards.

– 6 quarterbacks threw 20+ touchdowns.

– Russell Wilson’s 27 is the most by a rookie.

– 8 quarterbacks threw 17+ interceptions.

– 12 quarterbacks threw more interceptions than touchdowns.

Fantasy Perspective?

1 point / 20 yards passing: 4 points / passing touchdown

1 points / 10 yards rushing: 6 points / rushing touchdown

– ***5 rookie quarterbacks finished in the top 15 at their position.***

– 16 rookie quarterbacks finished 20+ at their position.

– 2012 was a good year for rookie quarterbacks having 3 of the top 11.

– 1 quarterback has finished in the top 5 – – Cam Newton 2011.

Now lets take a look at the 5 rookies who finished in the top half of the league.

2006 – Vince Young (12th)

2011 – Cam Newton (4th)

2012 – Russell Wilson (11th)

2012 – Robert Griffin (9th)

2012 – Andrew Luck (8th)

What do they all have in common?




The X factor when it comes to quarterback play in the fantasy game – – RUSHING STATS.

2006: Vince Young – 552 yards / 7 touchdowns – 97 points

2011: Cam Newton – 706 yards / 14 touchdowns – 155 points

2012: Russell Wilson – 489 yards / 4 touchdowns – 73 points

2012: Robert Griffin – 815 yards / 7 touchdowns – 124 points

2012: Andrew Luck – 255 yards / 5 touchdowns – 56 points

Now I am about to turn this into a science experiment…

Hypothesis: IF a rookie quarterback fails to accumulate 50+ points in rushing statistics THEN they will have a < 5%* chance of finishing the season as a top 10 quarterback.

* Cam Newton would have finished 10th in 2012 by accumulating only 38 points via ground statistics.*

Why are rookie quarterbacks so dependent on rushing statistics to make them a valuable fantasy commodity?  At the end of the day, they do not produce enough yards or touchdowns through the air.  In this study that went back to 2006, there were 3 rookie quarterbacks who topped 3500 yards passing.  Over that same period of time 114 other quarterbacks topped that pedestrian number.

What about touchdowns?

Again, going back to 2006 there were 6 rookie quarterbacks to throw for 20+ touchdowns.  The rest of the league produced 130 quarterbacks who threw for 20+ touchdowns over that span.

Forget about the doom and gloom of the rookie quarterback as I try to shed some positive light on the situation.

Can Jameis Winston be a top 15 fantasy quarterback?

Mad Dog Ron McCleese presented a very solid write up on Winston post draft.  My favorite trait about Winston is the competitive edge he plays with.  He refused to lose, and for his first 25 NCAA starts he did just that.  As Ron mentioned in his article, the biggest advantage that Winston has coming into the NFL is that he played in a pro style offense that called for pro style throws.

BIG ARM (check)

BIG ARM (check)

Notice the down and distance.  3rd and 20.  This particular play highlights the arm strength that Jameis has in his arsenal.  That is 40 yards on a rope to the corner.  This play also highlights some terrible defense.

TOUCH (check)

TOUCH (check)

The definition of “open” changes when going from the college ranks to the NFL.  Receivers rarely run wide open and accuracy/touch is a must.


PLAY-MAKER (check)

Jameis Winston is not much of a runner, as he only exceeded 50 yards rushing twice in his college career.  However, he has enough strength, mobility, and athleticism to extend the play and make bigger plays down the field.

The tools are there.  The problems are as well.  Aside from his off the field immaturity, there is plenty to worry about with his on field performance as well.  The game that is permanently burned in my brain is his 125 yard and four interception effort against Florida this past season.  When the smoke cleared from the 2014 season, having a touchdown/interception ratio of [25:18] is far from impressive.

Some first overall selected quarterbacks end up in a football wasteland, thus making it nearly impossible for success.  This is not the case for Jameis Winston.  He heads to Tampa Bay which has two excellent receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.  Last year Jackson put together his fourth consecutive 1000 yard season and Evans burst onto the season putting up 1051 and 12 touchdowns in 15 games.  There is also some positive buzz that tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is going to have a break out year, giving Winston another weapon in the passing game.

It is a good thing that they have these aerial weapons because the ground attack was non-existent in 2014.  The 86 yards per game they averaged put them 29th in the league.  With no obvious upgrades to the ground game, all signs point to them riding the arm of Winston as far as he can throw them.

Playing in the NFC South has its advantages.   Trying to predict year to year defensive performance is usually useless.  However, it is worth noting that he will play four games against the Saints and Falcons who ranked 25th and and 32nd against the pass in 2014.

Last year the duo of Josh McCown and Mike Glennon combined for 3623 yards 21 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.  Toss in the 110 yards and 1 touchdown they combined for on the ground and this would have added up to the 21st ranked fantasy quarterback for the 2014 season.  To answer the original question, No I do not think Jameis Winston will be a top 15 quarterback this season.  Expecting a similar line to what McCown and Glennon combined for in 2014 seems about right for Winston’s rookie season.  Keep in mind that for him to exceed 3500 yards would be quite an achievement, as only three rookie quarterbacks have eclipsed that number over the past decade.

Can Marcus Mariota be a top 15 fantasy quarterback?

The transition from the Oregon spread to the NFL might be smoother for Mariota than expected.  Landing in Tennessee, Mariota will have plenty of opportunity to play from the shotgun.  In 2014 the Titans ran 65% of their offense from the shotgun formation.

One part of Mariota’s game that I am not worried about transitioning to the NFL is his ability to rack up yards on the ground.  A guy who Mariota stacks up with almost identically is Robert Griffin III.

Tale of the tape

Griffin: 6’2”, 222 pounds – 4.41 40 yard dash

Mariota: 6’4”, 220 pounds – 4.52 40 yard dash

Simulcam 40 yard dash: RG3 vs. Kaepernick vs. Wilson vs. Mariota

Final college season rushing statistics

Griffin: Attempts: 179 Yards: 699 Touchdowns: 10

Mariota: Attempts: 135 Yards: 770 Touchdowns: 15

Let me refresh your memory on what Griffin was able to accomplish in his rookie season.

Passing Yards: 3211 Touchdowns: 20 Interceptions: 5

Rushing Attempts: 118 Yards: 833 Touchdowns: 7

Add all of that up and it comes out to the 9th best fantasy quarterback for the 2012 season.

Predicting a quarterback to rush for 800+ yards seems a bit absurd…

….On second thought, it’s not that crazy.  Robert Griffin was able to achieve his 800+ yards on carrying the ball just an average of 8 times per game.  With Mariota measuring up to Griffin in size, speed, and college stats, there is no reason to think he can’t achieve similar numbers, which would put him comfortably in the top 15 fantasy quarterbacks.

Under the Radar…

graysonIf you are playing in a dynasty league keep an eye on Garrett Grayson of the New Orleans Saints.  At 36-years-old, Drew Brees’s Hall of Fame career is winding down.  Grayson drew high praise from Mike Mayock upon being selected by the Saints.  Grayson landed in a good spot being afforded the opportunity to learn from Brees, as well as one of the top offensive minds in the league in head coach Sean Payton.  It won’t happen this year, but in two or three years Garrett Grayson could be a coveted name on fantasy draft boards.

For this season, the debate is all about Winston vs. Mariota.  Please remember the dangers of selecting a rookie quarterback who will rely solely on passing production to accumulate fantasy points.  With that said, if your on the clock trying to decide between Winston and Mariota, you know what to do.

Comeback next week to check out if there any rookie tight ends worth giving a roster spot.


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Major League Fanatsy Sports Radio Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D. Roberts on Sunday June 7th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports radio sponsored by The Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in at 646.915.8596 This week’s topics are the A.L. Central, and N.L. West.

Our guests this week are Joe Iannone, Joe Ciccone, and Marc Foster. Joe Iannone is handling the A.L. East, A.L. Central, and his articles publish every Monday. Joe Ciccone is our chief editor, league participant, and the A.L. West & N.L. West writer who’s articles publish every Wednesday. Marc Foster is a former MLFS writer, a 2 time baseball champ and 1 time football champ. This is Marc’s 7th year with us. Come join a spirited debate.

A/S/ the old school AOL instant messenger days... 31/M/PA Elementary Physical Education by day, chasing around my 1 and 2 year old boys by night. I started playing fantasy football when I was 9 years old (94'). My older brother let me be a co-owner on his team. We had one of those giant C-Band satellite dishes and had heard that there was a way to get every football game through a new package called "Sunday Ticket." My first memory was watching Terry Allen run around for the Vikings and I have been hooked ever since. I don't know what the world record is for most consecutive Sundays watching a minimum of seven hours of football, but I have to be on my way to achieving it.



  1. Pingback: “Off the Matt”: Quarterback Rankings 2015, 30-21(Part 1 of3) |

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