Every year, football fans wait what feels like an eternity for football to return. Now, in the blink of an eye, the halfway-point of the season has arrived. For fantasy football players, the off-season was spent studying potential draft picks in hopes of finding studs and break-out players while avoiding busts. As many fantasy owners could have predicted, this season has been completely unpredictable. The NFL has provided us with historic performances, surprise contributors, and complete duds. Here are the most surprisingly successful, most reliable, and worst fantasy quarterbacks at the half-way point of the football season.
Patrick Mahomes Headlines Mid-Season Fantasy Football Surprises
Patrick Mahomes‘ appearance in this article is no surprise, but his nine-week tear to start this year has been. Coming into his first season as the starter, fantasy owners were wary of Mahomes. Though, through nine games, Mahomes paces the league in passing yards (2,901), passing touchdowns (29) and fantasy points (301.7) while leading the Kansas City Chiefs to an 8-1 record. Gifted with incredible arm strength, athleticism, and talented skill position players, Mahomes has taken the Chiefs’ offense to a new level. Kansas City currently averages the third-most yards per game, the most yards per play, points per game, and the second-highest points per drive.
Andy Reid and the Chiefs were ready to name Mahomes their starter, but fantasy managers were not on board, yet. The results from the off-season show that Mahomes was, on average, the 16th quarterback taken in fantasy drafts. His average draft position (ADP) typically put Mahomes as the 110th selection. Now, being the league’s leading passer, touchdown-maker, and fantasy scorer, fantasy owners are questioning what they were doing with the other 109 picks. Mahomes has taken control of the league, fantasy teams, and possibly the MVP race in fantasy football and reality.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Perhaps one of the most unpredictable fantasy players in the league, Matt Ryan has once again shined in 2018. Prior to the departure of former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, Ryan finished as the second-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy while on his way to NFL MVP. With high expectations and no Shanahan heading into 2017, Ryan disappointed with a QB15 finish in fantasy. This season, it appears the Atlanta Falcons‘ offense has found its groove again and Ryan has been the main beneficiary.
Ryan was the first backup drafted in 12-man fantasy leagues during the off-season as QB13 and the 100th overall selection. Fantasy owners who selected the 2016 MVP have been rewarded with the second-most points scored among quarterbacks. Heading into Week 10, Ryan also leads the league in passing yards per game with 335.5 along with 21 total touchdowns to only three interceptions. Since Atlanta’s disappointing season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Ryan has averaged 347.6 yards per game and has scored multiple touchdowns in five of the last seven games. With an injury-riddled defense and high-octane offense, Ryan has been a bright spot this fantasy season.
Matt Ryan is having a pretty solid fantasy season. Most points by a QB through eight team games of any season since 1950:
221.7 Tom Brady, 2007
219.5 Aaron Rodgers, 2011
218.1 Steve Young, 1998
216.9 Patrick Mahomes, 2018
216.2 Peyton Manning, 2013
204.3 Tom Brady, 2015
— Tristan H. Cockcroft (@SultanofStat) November 4, 2018
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There may not be another NFL player that receives as much love and sincerity than Ryan Fitzpatrick. As one of the most appreciated humans in the league, “Fitzmagic” has returned the favor to fantasy owners with his gun-slinging performances. Despite only starting six games this year, Fitzpatrick has been a top-15 quarterback in fantasy. With 18 total touchdowns and 1,800 yards in six games, Fitzpatrick is second in fantasy points per game with 29.4 points. The 35-year-old veteran has successfully scored over 20 points in every game that he finished, including four games with 30 or more points. Despite going undrafted during the off-season in fantasy drafts, Fitzpatrick has become a starting quarterback option. After losing and regaining the starting job from Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick looks to be in control of the Buccaneers’ offense for the rest of 2018.
Quarterback Studs of 2018
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
The NFL has welcomed back Andrew Luck with open arms and so have fantasy owners. There were concerns over Luck’s health until week four of this season, but those worries have quickly ceased. While his recent success could be analyzed in the prior section, this is not the first time Luck has been a top fantasy quarterback. On the season, Luck is among the top-five quarterbacks in fantasy points (213.8) and touchdowns (23). Most importantly, Luck has remained on the field and off the injury report. Coming into the season, Luck was being drafted as QB9 (83rd overall) due to his time spent on the sidelines.
The hiring of head coach Frank Reich has changed Luck’s game without hurting his production in reality and fantasy. While Luck is top-five in pass attempts, he currently sits 15th in passing yards this season. The key to the Colts’ offense has been to get the ball out of Luck’s hands and reduce the number of hits taken. That has resulted in the reemergence of Luck as a top fantasy quarterback and his 26.7 fantasy points per game have resulted in fantasy wins.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
There are very few quarterbacks in fantasy football that accumulate points the way Cam Newton does. Newton has never been a high-volume passer that generates all his points using his arm (21st in passing yards). He also uses his legs. Heading into Week 10, Newton is 31st in rushing yards among all NFL players with 342 yards. Rushing yards are the easiest way for quarterbacks to score fantasy points and the former Auburn Tiger has been the best at doing just that since his arrival in 2011.
This off-season, Newton was the fifth-highest quarterback drafted and he has not disappointed. Currently sitting as the fourth-highest scoring quarterback with 215.9 fantasy points (27 per game), Newton has actually out-performed his ADP. Since Week One, Newton has 20 or more points in every game, including three games with more than 30 fantasy points. With the luxury of three divisional games left in the fantasy season, Newton has the makings of a league winner thus far in 2018.
Cam Newton is currently on pace for the 2nd most rush attempts of his career (137). Here are his upcoming matchups Weeks 13-16 w/ where the team ranks in giving up fantasy points to QBs:
13 @ TB (1st)
14 @ CLE (18th)
15 NO (2nd)
16 ATL (3rd)
— Matthew Betz (@TheFantasyPT) November 8, 2018
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
Coming into the season, Jared Goff was among the most underrated fantasy quarterbacks after a break-out sophomore season under then first-year head coach Sean McVay. Despite finishing top-10 in scoring in 2017, Goff was the 18th quarterback selected (108th overall) in this year’s fantasy drafts. Thus far, Goff has easily out-performed his ADP on his way to being the third-highest scoring quarterback in 2018. Compared to his first nine games last season, Goff is scoring over four more points per game and throwing for nearly 60 yards more per game. The Rams offense has scored 30 points or more in seven of their nine games and if Goff continues to grow as a young quarterback, there should be no worry in his fantasy impact.
Mid-Season Quarterback Busts
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Highlighted earlier was the impact that quarterbacks rushing the ball can have in terms of fantasy points. For Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, that aspect of his game has been non-existent. After being the fourth quarterback taken (48th overall) in fantasy drafts because of his passing and rushing ability, Wilson has less rushing yards than New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill. Not only is Wilson rushing for a career-low 14.8 rushing yards per game, but his passing attempts have also dramatically decreased. From 2016 to 2017, Wilson averaged 34.3 passes per game and in 2018, that number has dipped to 27.6 attempts.
The Seahawks have made a conscious effort to limit Wilson’s workload and create a more balanced offense. While Wilson has been more efficient by completing 66.1 percent of his passes for an above-average 8.1 yards per attempt, the lack of volume has limited his fantasy impact. Wilson sits as the 14th-ranked quarterback in points scored and has not thrown for more than 250 yards in a game since Week One. While Wilson has been productive, fantasy owners have been disappointed after selecting him as QB4 during the off-season.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been as consistent as they come in past seasons in fantasy football. Stafford has scored 325 points or more in six of his last seven seasons, but 2018 has directed him on another path. Currently ranked as the 18th-highest scoring quarterback in fantasy, Stafford is on pace for only 317 fantasy points this season. Since his strong start to the season, in which Stafford scored 77 points in weeks two through four, Stafford has only scored 68.4 points (17.1 points per game). Though Stafford’s attempts, yards, and touchdowns are similar to last year, his scoring is not reflecting his play. Despite throwing multiple touchdowns in six of eight games, Stafford has not broken the 22-point barrier in 75 percent of his games. Stafford has underperformed after being the 10th quarterback taken and the loss of Golden Tate will only hurt his future performances.