If you can pick out the next elite passer before your leaguemates, you stand a great chance of establishing yourself as a contender for the next decade.
In the last few years, the NFL has seen a dramatic rise in variety among the elite QBs. The common assumption is that you can take a shot on the latest athletic signal-caller in the hopes of having his rushing yards carry you to victory. I wanted to test that theory and see what has made a top 10 quarterback over the last five years.
I took averages from every season between 2009 and last year to see what sort of numbers quarterbacks are putting up in the modern NFL. I wanted to see what threshold a young quarterback would need to reach to break into the next tier.
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What Makes a Top 10 Quarterback?
If you look at the average stats for a top 10 quarterback from 2009 to 2013, you begin to see patterns:
To become a top 10 quarterback, you need 4,000 passing yards, more than 500 pass attempts, and more than 25 passing touchdowns. The elite guys hit around 65% completion rate, but you can make the top 10 numbers without accuracy that high.
So if you’re looking to find a top 10 quarterback this year, focus on three stats: pass attempts, pass yards, and passing TDs.
You can take a look at expert projections for the next year, but you can also take your own guess. Will your favorite sleeper get close to 4,000 yards? Does his offense pass enough to get him to 500 attempts?
How About the QB2s?
The top 20 quarterbacks have a minimum of 3,000 passing yards, 400 pass attempts, and 15 passing Touchdowns.
The 400 pass attempts is non-negotiable. There is a 40-attempt gap between the worst QB2 and the best QB3 in terms of pass attempts. 3,000 pass yards is a near-requirement for QB2 status. The best yardage for a QB3 is 2664, a far cry from 2923, the lowest QB2 average.
Hardly Worth a Roster Spot
These are the guys you aren’t rostering in shallow leagues. Unless you’re in a 16-team league or — my favorite — a 2QB or Superflex league, you probably won’t be touching quarterbacks with these stats.
If you look at the numbers, a few trends stand out: low pass attempts and sub-60% pass accuracy. The pass attempts, like several of the stat categories, are more indicative of injuries than anything. Several QBs finish in the top 30 every year, despite playing fewer than 16 games. So what should stand out the most is the low pass accuracy. Beware of the quarterbacks who can’t break 60%. They’re destined for the waiver wire.
A Disclaimer on Averages
It should be clear that this article is based wholly upon averages, and averages have inherent limits. There will always be outliers, and I do not mean to suggest that it is impossible for a quarterback to break into a specific tier without certain stats.
Instead, these averages should help those of you who see fantasy football as a numbers game. If your goal is to take the highest probability path to success, these numbers should help you identify targets at the quarterback position.
If you target players capable of putting up 4,000 passing yards, 500 pass attempts, and 25 passing touchdowns, you have the best odds of drafting a top 10 quarterback. Sure, you may bust on your prediction, and you might miss out on the next rushing quarterback to break into the top tier. But this provides your best probability for striking gold.
Use these numbers at your own risk.