Nick Foles Has a Shot at Being Fantasy Football's #1 QB
It brings real physical pain to say this: The fantasy football quarterback market, for all its hideous flaws, is not completely broken.
Yes, we can stream to championships and find every-week starters on ye ol’ waiver wire. Yes, we can use various 4for4 tools to find the week’s best quarterback matchups and reap the benefits of apples to apples comparisons. Yes, the quarterback market is rife with inefficiency.
Whatever do I mean by charging that the valuation of quarterbacks isn’t completely broken? I only mean that the only signal callers who have QB1 – fantasy’s top quarterback spot – in their range of outcomes are the first three quarterbacks off the draft board.
That would be Peyton Manning (with an average draft position of 2.04), Aaron Rodgers (2.12 ADP), and Drew Brees (3.07). This is a subjective assertion, of course, since those three quarterbacks are the only ones with QB1 in their range of outcomes by my estimation – my projections.
But wait. Wait just a minute...
FPAT and Elite Quarterbacks
There’s another signal caller who, on the very outskirts of his 2014 range of outcomes, has the vaunted QB1 spot as a possibility. It’s Nick Foles, the captain of Chip Kelly’s offensive scheme from outer space coming off of a season in which he posted numbers so brutally efficient that I’ve (almost) run out of adjectives to describe its majesty.
Foles, in 13 mostly fantastic 2013 outings, posted an otherworldly fantasy points per attempt (FPAT) of 0.69, well above that of fellow elite signal callers. See below for how last year’s top-10 quarterbacks fared in FPAT.
2013 Top 10 Fantasy QBs - FP Per Attempt
Only Peyton was in the neighborhood of Foles’ per-aimed throw efficiency, and just barely. Even half of a tenth of a point difference, over the course of an NFL season, will add up to quite a few fantasy points.
Foles, it can be said, is the anti-Stafford – thriving despite a dearth of opportunity, while tacking on very useful rushing production along the way.
Consider this: Foles attempted only 28.7 passes per contest started in 2013 after Michael Vick once again succumbed to injury. That would add up to 459 pass attempts over the course of a full season at the helm of Chip Kelly’s offense. 459 pass attempts in 2013 would have been good for the 18th most by a quarterback, or right around what Robert Griffin III totaled in 13 starts.
And how did Foles fare in games that saw the Eagles throw more than usual, when game script went awry and Foles had to sling it? Was it just Foles’ lack of attempts that kept his FPAT so ridiculously high? Did his efficiency vanish when he had to force the issue?
That’s right: Foles’ FPAT, despite the jump in opportunity, would’ve still led all quarterbacks. Behold, fantasy footballer.
Then there’s this tidbit: Foles was QB4 from the time he took the Eagles’ starting gig until the end of the season. He finished two fantasy points behind Andy Dalton, who attempted 164 more passes than Foles during that stretch.
The question, quite naturally, is what would happen if Foles saw a marked opportunity spike in 2014, with a year of experience in Kelly’s offense under his proverbial belt.
If we listen to the Philadelphia quarterback, and perhaps we should, it would seem that he “might not ever” reach the spectacular stats of 2013, when he tossed 27 touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Now, I might not ever reach those [statistics] again ... I hope I do,” Foles said in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I want to get better and I want to be a better player. But if you're just looking primarily at statistics, you might not ever."
Then there are reports out of Philly saying Foles is in “total control” of the complex Eagles’ attack, grasping concepts that even last year he didn’t quite understand.
The question, I think, is not whether Foles can be more efficient this season – posting an ever gaudier FPAT – but rather if he’ll be able to stay somewhere in the range of the 0.69 FPAT.
Foles, as John Paulsen has pointed out, averaged the third most fantasy points per game during his incredible 11-game run, posting 23.1 point per contest.
He’s lost DeSean Jackson, who piled on 1,332 yards and nine scores in 2013, but he has even more talent in his pass catching corps this year with the arrival of Darren Sproles and Jordan Matthews and the potential emergence of Zach Ertz, with whom Foles shares a reportedly great connection. That was seen on the field in 2013, as Ertz proved to be one of fantasy’s most efficient tight ends on a per-route basis.
Foles’ Probable Range of Outcomes
Perhaps that’s all reason enough to believe Foles can remain in the range of 0.69 FPAT, though a look at his pre-Chip career might cast some doubt. This was the same guy who notched a horrifying .40 FPAT during his rookie campaign. During his most productive three-game stretch in 2012, Foles posted a 0.51 FPAT – hardly eye opening.
There’s some reason to believe that the Eagles will let Foles throw the football more in 2014 than he did in 2013 as the 25-year-old quarterback masters Kelly’s system. Foles is almost guaranteed to see a jump in pass attempts this season if Philadelphia is able to run more offensive plays, as they were 13th in that category last year.
And offense that runs the no-huddle attack -- as the Eagles did two-thirds of the time during Kelly's first season -- could very well see an uptick in plays from scrimmage, even though they'll remain one of the NFL's run heaviest squads. Another reason I think Foles will see an opportunity bump: Philly's pass defense looks as vulnerable as any while their run defense -- which was less than good in 2013 -- could see marked improvement. This means less clock-eating drives by opponents.
Below is a range of outcomes that shows, however unlikely, Foles has a shot at being fantasy football’s No. 1 quarterback at season’s end. Stafford, Luck, Newton, Romo, Ryan, Dalton, Griffin III – none of those guys have that in their range.
In 2013, the Eagles as a team attempted 507 passes (Foles 317, Vick 141, Barkley 49), so even the high end of the table below is fairly conservative.
I’ve added in a rushing projection for Foles, which I have at 268 yards and four touchdowns. He had 221 yards and three rushing scores last season. QB# indicates where Foles would stand in our 2014 QB rankings given each scenario. Our actual projection is 308 fantasy points, or QB4 numbers.
Nick Foles Range of 2014 Outcomes
|FPAT||400 attempts||420 attempts||440 attempts||460 attempts|
|0.70||331 (QB4)||345 (QB3)||359 (QB2)||373 (QB1)|
|0.65||311 (QB4)||324 (QB4)||337 (QB4)||350 (QB3)|
|0.60||291 (QB7)||303 (QB4)||315 (QB4)||327 (QB4)|
With 460 passes – which would’ve ranked 18th in 2013 – at just a smidge over his prior year efficiency, Foles would project as our #1 quarterback. There are three more scenarios in which Foles projects as a top-3 quarterback. All but the bottom left corner put Foles firmly in the top-5.
Does this cover every possible scenario for Foles? Of course not. If he dips below .60 – a major decrease from 2013 – then we have problems and he might not meet his draft day asking price.
Foles is the sixth quarterback off the draft board, going at the end of of the sixth round in 12-team leagues. I’m no advocate for the set-it-and-forget it approach to fantasy quarterbacking, but if you are, Foles is your guy.