Fantasy Football: Peyton Manning and quarterback consistency

Peyton Manning
peyton manning

Peyton Manning’s consistency helped lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2013 (via DenverPost.com)

Consistency is king in fantasy football — at least in my book — and Denver Broncos’ QB Peyton Manning was the most consistent signal caller on a week-to-week basis in 2013 (admittedly I didn’t think he was when I thought up the idea for the article).

Having a fantasy team that is consistent from week to week is like having that long time best friend who is always there for you through all the highs and the lows. You spend a lot of time with them on weekends and the you time spend together is fairly simple, you know, a few drinks and maybe playing some Madden — just good times. You might have a wild night with them here and there, but you largely know what you’re getting into when you see that friend.

When you get a fantasy football team that is largely a roller coaster, it’s like that one friend you have who shows up one week and wants to spend $1,000 at the club and wake up in the middle of the street the next morning, and then the next week all they want to do spend the weekend napping and laying on the couch. They’re all over the place, and the worst part of it is that they may not be there when you need them to be.

That’s not the fantasy football team that I like, especially from my QB. I want my QB to be as consistent as possible. I want to know that I can get a nice week out of them every week with a sprinkling of huge weeks where they finish in the top three at the position for that week. I am going to look at last year’s week-to-week finishes for the top 15 QBs by using their average draft position (ADP) on FantasyFootballCalculator.com. I wanted to find out how often those QBs finished in the top three, six, and 12 for a week last season, removing games that the QBs did not start, play in or finish, as these would skew the stats a bit. I also omitted any Week 17 stats since a lot of fantasy leagues finish in Week 16. I first came across a study like this when J.J. Zachariason (@LateRoundQB on twitter) featured it in his 2013 E-book The Late Round Quarterback. His study is more math-based and more in-depth, but I will keep it simple in this article.

QB Average Top 3 Top 3 % Top 6 Top 6 % Top 12 Top 12 % Games
P. Manning 6.27 7 46.67% 10 66.67% 12 80.00% 15
Brees 9.00 4 26.67% 5 33.33% 11 73.33% 15
Rodgers 9.71 1 14.29% 2 28.57% 4 57.14% 7
Stafford 12.33 2 13.33% 6 40.00% 9 60.00% 15
Luck 13.67 2 13.33% 2 13.33% 8 53.33% 15
Brady 15.80 2 13.33% 2 13.33% 6 40.00% 15
Foles 11.27 3 27.27% 5 45.45% 7 63.64% 11
Griffin III 14.38 2 15.38% 4 30.77% 5 38.46% 13
Ryan 14.33 0 0.00% 2 13.33% 7 46.67% 15
Newton 13.33 4 26.67% 5 33.33% 7 46.67% 15
Romo 15.20 1 6.67% 1 6.67% 7 46.67% 15
Cutler 12.22 0 0.00% 2 25.00% 6 75.00% 8
Kaepernick 16.80 1 6.67% 3 20.00% 6 40.00% 15
Rivers 13.07 3 20.00% 4 26.67% 7 46.67% 15
Wilson 14.87 2 13.33% 4 26.67% 7 46.67% 15

Top 3/6/12 refers to the number of times that the QB ranked in the top 3/6/12 in a given week and Top 3/6/12 % refers to the number of times they finished in the top 3/6/12 out of the number of games that they played last year. Weekly scoring stats are from FFToday.com.

As we can see, Manning was the most consistent in terms of both absolute occurrences finishing in the top 3/6/12 as well as the percentage of times he finished among the top 3/6/12. It’s not all that surprising given that he had the greatest statistical season for any QB in the history of the NFL.

peyton manning

Cool Brees (Via paneraimagazine.com)

Drew Brees was next in line in consistency, finishing tied for second in top three finishes, tied for third in top six finishes, and finished second in top 12 finishes. Brees and Manning are exactly what you want in terms of consistency when you invest in a QB in the early rounds. All QBs will have their big scoring weeks, so I want to focus a little more on top 12 finishes since on a week to week basis you want your QB to be in that top 10-12 range in points among QBs.

Looking to top-12 finish percentage, the No. 2 QB was Jay Cutler. Yes, he only played eight full games, but in six of those eight he finished in the top 12. I believe this is part of the argument that some around the fantasy football industry have made for Cutler easily finishing inside the top 10, and potentially inside the top five among QBs if he stays healthy. If I have Cutler as my QB this season and if he stays healthy and gives me a top 12 score 75 percent of the games, I’m laughing all the way to a fantasy championship. Compare that to Peyton Manning, whose was 80 percent for top 12 finishes. Yes, Manning had the higher scoring potential, but the cost to get Manning is very high and the cost for Cutler allows you to build depth at other positions and absorb injuries/busts of your players — an important factor in winning in fantasy football.

Aside from Aaron Rodgers, most of the QBs had a similar amount of top 12 finishes during the season. On a percentage basis, Nick Foles was fantastic last season when he came in for Michael Vick. This season, you can likely expect some regression as it seemed everything went right for him, but seven of 11 games inside the top 12 is consistency that is tough to find. He does not carry the same injury risk as Jay Cutler or Robert Griffin III and was the next best consistent QB of 2013. With the addition of Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz, and another year in the Chip Kelly offense, Foles could be a consistency king once again in 2014. The best part of Foles was that not only was he consistent on a top-12 basis, but on a percentage basis he was the second-most consistent QB in terms of top three and top six finishes. His cost is a little bit higher this year than last, but if you’re looking for a middle-round QB that can be as consistent as they come, Foles is your guy.

The last QB I want to discuss is Matt Ryan. He had zero top three finishes and only two top six finishes last year, but he was without Julio Jones for most of last year and I could have been a more effective WR than Roddy White was while playing with an injured ankle. With Jones returning, and hopefully staying healthy, and with White being back to 100 percent health, you can expect Ryan’s stats to improve. I believe that his offensive line is still a little suspect, but I also believe his defense is going to be poor again this season. I can see the Falcons being in a lot of high scoring games this season and he will be leaning on his wide receivers to score points. He still had seven top 12 finishes last year without his best weapons at full strength, so I could  see that number jumping up to 10 or 11 top 12 finishes and significantly improving his consistency.

The top QBs may end up scoring more points over the course of the year, but you can get QBs later on in drafts who will give you similar consistency to those early-round QBs. This information should really help you if you plan on running a QB-by-committee approach or streaming QBs on a weekly basis. You just have to be good at picking the right QBs in the right matchups every week!

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