Poor Quarterback Play Leads to Quiet Fantasy Week Across the League
- Whether it was Russell Wilson in Green Bay or Tom Brady against the Chiefs, big-name quarterbacks fell short of expectations in Week 1. The effects reverberated throughout the fantasy landscape, and could foreshadow further struggles at the quarterback position this season.
The stars did not show up for the first week of the 2017 NFL season, at least from a fantasy standpoint. Scoring was down across the league, and that was reflected across the fantasy landscape. This is, of course, anecdotal, but I’m in four leagues in which projected scores are available. Across those four leagues, just 12 of 48 teams, or 25%, are going to match or exceed their projections.
The list of top-10 non-quarterback point scorers in Week 1 doesn’t exactly look like the first couple rounds of a typical fantasy draft. Kareem Hunt, Mike Gillislee and Tyreek Hill are the top three, while Kenny Golladay, Tarik Cohen, Austin Hoper and Jesse James all played their way into the top 10. Among marquee non-quarterbacks, only Antonio Brown (11 catches, 182 yards), Leonard Fournette (100 rushing yards, 24 receiving yards, one touchdown) and LeSean McCoy (110 rushing yards, 49 receiving yards) lived up to expectations.
All of these struggles among running backs, receivers and tight ends can be traced back to the quarterback position. Put simply, it was not a good week collectively for the 32 players who lead offenses across the league. Heading into the two Monday Night Football games, there were 29 passing touchdowns in Week 1. Last year, there were 48 passing touchdowns in Week 1. The year before that, there were 50. Quarterbacks threw 786 touchdowns all of last season, which comes out to an average of 46.2 per week. Unless Drew Bees, Sam Bradford, Philip Rivers and Trevor Siemian explode on Monday night, the signal callers as a whole will fall well short of that mark in Week 1.
Few fantasy owners walked away from their Week 1 matchups pleased with their quarterback play. Tom Brady and Russell Wilson both scored fewer than 11 points in standard-scoring leagues. Kirk Cousins and Cam Newton failed to reach 15 points. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan topped 300 yards, but both also had just one touchdown, and Rodgers threw an ugly interception. Marcus Mariota saved his day with a rushing touchdown, but threw for just 6.24 yards per attempt. The only starting quarterbacks Eli Manning outscored were Brian Hoyer, Scott Tolzien and Andy Dalton, who had arguably the worst game of his career (four interceptions, one lost fumble). All that poor play trickled down to backs, receivers and tight ends, and led directly to Week 1’s low fantasy scores.
What does all this mean? First, it shows how strongly fantasy production is tied to quarterback play. It’s hard for any skill position player to succeed if his quarterback isn’t playing well, and that fact was laid bare across the league in Week 1.
Second, it’s a problem that could plague multiple teams all season. As defenses have put a premium on getting faster, especially in their front sevens, offensive lines have failed to keep up. Eight teams had four or more sacks on Sunday, led by the Jaguars getting to Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson a combined 10 times. As defenses put more pressure on the quarterback with greater consistency, offenses have more trouble establishing a rhythm, converting third downs, and getting up and down the field. It was just one week, but offensive lines in Seattle and Cincinnati could be significant problems, while quarterback play in Houston, San Francisco and Indianapolis could undermine those offenses all year.