For every pass, rush, or target a player receives, there is an expected fantasy value based on the game scenario at the time of the play. When all this is quantified, one can see how many fantasy points a player should have obtained on average. A comparison of this to actual results will show who is consistently over or underperforming their expectation. Fantasy football is about opportunity, first and foremost. It will be much better to have a player underperforming but with a lead role. However, those who continue to outperform expectations will continue to see opportunity, while those who underperform may see their roles cut back.
Leveraging the data from Tan Ho and Joe Sydlowski, I have quantified the prior year’s fantasy points against expectations on a per-game basis. I have also calculated the same value but for yardage only to remove scoring variance. Mostly, this data should line up, but a few outliers may greatly under or overperform their expected touchdown numbers. Since touchdowns can vary greatly from year to year, it’s important to factor this into consideration.
With this data, we can see which players may be breakout or regression candidates. Some players may have not seen significant playing time but outperformed their expectations. This could lead to more opportunities in the future. Conversely, a player may have put up decent fantasy numbers but was well under expectation. Their role may diminish as they move forward.
A couple of things to note on these variations. A single-season value may be an outlier, so it’s best to see a few years of data. This also helps to see trends, such as when a veteran player may begin falling in efficiency, which could lead to a fall in value. It can also be used for rookies with limited data, albeit at less of a weighting. Data may be skewed if a player only played a few weeks of the year. With that said, let’s jump into the data by position.
Note: Data is sorted by 2022 fantasy points per game. A minimum of three games in 2022 qualifies a player.
PAE – Fantasy points above or below expectation (left side of the chart)
YAE – Fantasy points above or below expectations for yardage elements only (right side of the chart)
The QB position is skewed more due to higher scoring and TD dependency. Therefore, looking at YAE as opposed to PAE is likely a more valuable metric. In addition, stats are muddied due to the passing and rushing ability of these QBs being combined into a single metric. Compared to the other positions, these numbers are likely less value. However, we can hopefully tease out some meaningful data nonetheless.
Hurts led in scoring on his first year of above-average PAE and second year of above-average YOE. He remains relatively neutral or slightly positive overall.
Allen appears one step higher with three positive years of YAE in a row.
Mahomes is coming off his best season since 2018 in YAE. He has been the most consistently positive QB at the top.
Dropping down a bit, we move to Burrow, who had a rough 2020 and a massive bounce back in 2021. He settled in a more realistic positive range in 2022 that is likely sustainable.
Looking at the only real run-first passer on the list, Fields bounced back from a dreadful 2021 rookie season and put up massive numbers from his feet. He tops the list in YOE. He could be a top QB if he can develop his passing attack. Otherwise, it may be a short career with way more fantasy upside than real-life potential.
Lamar is the next passer on the list, who has finally settled on a contract with the Ravens. He had the highest YAE of any top passer back in 2019 and showed pretty strong numbers in 2022 as well. With injuries the biggest risk for him, his upside remains high. Only 2021’s YAE was negative in the last four years.
Murray will likely miss time in 2023. He has put up some pretty poor numbers over his four-year career, failing to go positive in YAE or PAE in any of them.
Herbert finished his third season and, while a dynasty darling to start, has shown less effective than anticipated. He had the worst YAE after Murray in 2022 and was relatively neutral to slightly positive in the first two years. It will be interesting to see if his injury caused the setback in 2022 or whether his ceiling may not be as high as we once thought.
Geno, who came into the year in a battle with Lock for the starting role, went on to dominate and finish eighth in PPG and fourth in YAE of the top starting QBs. This is two years in a row of very solid performance from a YAE perspective. With his strong receiving core back, there is no reason to assume any regression.
Danny Dimes posted his first strong season after three seasons of neutral to negative performances. The WR position continues to be addressed in the draft. The addition of Waller at TE could help further his case. After locking into a long-term deal that many feel was unwarranted, he now has security. We’ll see if he can sustain this or regress back to what we saw over the first three seasons.
Lawrence had high expectations coming out of college and has yet to live up to the expectation. His first year was brutal, but he bounced back last year to get into positive territory. His upside remains, but he must get further into positive territory to reach elite levels.
Similar to Jones, Tua has popped in 2022 with his loaded receiving core helping him reach new heights. With the head injuries a concern, the upside remains if he can stay on the field.
Cousins, Dak, Carr, and Goff all performed under par. This is somewhat surprising with the seasons they had. One may assume they have higher ceilings than each showed in 2022.
Conversely, Russ Wilson was actually positive in what appeared to be an abysmal year. I am unsure if that means we saw his ceiling with the Broncos last year. He had massive 2018 and 2019 campaigns, so that remains in his range of outcomes. A rebound could take him into the top five from a YAE perspective. With a new coach, hopefully, the offense can improve.
Purdy put up a very strong rookie season from both a YAE (+.47) and PAE (+1.72) perspective. While unexpected, he may have earned himself the starting job over Lance and could be on track for a successful career.
Flipping back to the first QB off the draft board, Pickett had a poor season with a large negative YAE (-.53). His PAE of -3.51 was dreadful due to the lack of scoring on the Steelers’ offense.
Zappe Hour may have some juice, as his YAE of +.68 was tops among rookies, albeit on a very limited sample.
Ridder was the worst in this group checking in with a whopping -1.61 YOE.
Not far behind him was Willis’ -1.34 YOE.
Tannehill had a strong 2022 from a YAE perspective. The volume likely can’t support a high ceiling as his receiving core is poor. The Titans are run-heavy, with little of that coming off his legs to enhance his value.
Garoppolo is the only QB with five years in a row of positive YOE. He has increased in YAE almost every year, and 2022 was the highest over the five years.
Note: Mariotta’s 2020 season is off the charts, and his five-year average is the highest among all QBs. That season wouldn’t qualify for minimum starts, so his five-year average is effectively much lower.
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