How Often do Top-12 PPR Tight Ends and Quarterbacks Repeat in the Following Season?
With each new draft season, way too many managers behave like Pavlovian dogs that are conditioned to trust that a player’s fantasy points from the previous season will be there again this time around. That salivation for success results in drafting without proper context. There are various ways to seek context in fantasy prognostication: targets, fantasy points per touch, yards per attempt, etc.
In this article, we’ll attempt to not just use success in previous fantasy seasons as a barometer for future success, but to uncover exactly how often success in a previous season has translated to success after that. Specifically, we’ll cover top-12 quarterbacks and PPR tight ends.
The chart below is a broad look at how many top-12 fantasy players repeat as a top-12 performer at his position the following year:
Note: QB fantasy points are calculated using 0.25 points per passing yard, 4 points per passing touchdown and [-2] points per interception.
Each of the past five seasons at least half of the top-12 quarterbacks repeated as such, and top-12 quarterbacks over the past five seasons have repeated the following season more often than other positions by a significant margin:
This data alone, though, does not provide enough information to form a draft strategy for quarterbacks. The top few QBs from the previous season will almost always cost a top-50 pick, while the others can be had as late as the double-digit rounds. Let’s dive deeper so we can come up with a more educated opinion on when to select one.
In every season since 2011, at least half of top-six quarterbacks finished in the top 12 the following season. However, that was also the case each of the past four seasons for the QB7 through QB12. That means QBs 1-6 aren’t significantly more likely than QBs 7-12 to finish in the top 12 the following season.
I expected a far higher success rate for QBs 1-6 considering we live in the golden age of passing in the NFL, with many future Hall of Famers currently active at the position. But if the same number between QB1-6 and QB7-12 finished top 12 the next season, it’s hard for me to justify spending a high pick on one.
But something interesting is happening with last season’s top-six quarterbacks:
(Not pictured: Dak Prescott, May 23rd MFL10 ADP = 110.9)
Only two top-six quarterbacks from 2016 are being selected in first five rounds of 12-team leagues in 2017: Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. We should expect Tom Brady to rejoin the top-12 quarterbacks again in 2017 based on his elite FP/game output last year, but that means three of last year’s top six signal callers are priced cheaply.
Last year’s QB2, Matt Ryan, may have lost offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but still has all his weapons returning. His ADP is currently at the top of the eighth round. Kirk Cousins and Dak Prescott were QB5 and QB6, respectively, last year, but have 10th-round ADPs, where there is very little risk of them not providing value even if they do not repeat in the top six.
If your draft strategy is to select a quarterback early, there’s one name that is an extremely safe investment:
Drew Brees has been incredible. Not only has he posted a top-12 season every year since 2011, but each of those seasons were actually top-six finishes. Considering his ADP is sitting in the sixth round, a strong argument can be made that Brees is undervalued.
Russell Wilson is also a perfect five-for-five in his career in posting top-12 seasons, which surprised me considering how poorly it felt like he played last season while struggling through various leg injuries. That’s encouraging for Wilson's prospects in 2017, especially if he can get better protection than he did last year behind what was a terrible offensive line. Wilson’s seventh-round ADP is enticing.
Stafford was QB7 last year, and while Rivers and Manning weren't, they are both candidates to bounce back considering their track record and heir respective team's offensive upgrades this offseason.
Let’s switch gears now and review how top-12 PPR tight ends have fared in repeating over the last five seasons.
The tight end position has been trending upward in year-to-year consistency since 2014, when seven members of the top 12 repeated from 2013. Like quarterbacks, top-12 tight ends have repeated their success more consistently on a yearly basis than running backs and wide receivers. However, like the quarterback position, more context is required to develop a draft strategy about when to select a tight end.
Over the past five seasons, the top six tight ends were significantly more consistent than those who finished in the 7-12 range in terms of repeating in the top 12 the following season. The 20-percent difference in top-12-repeat rate for TEs 1-6 versus TEs 7-12 is twice as large as that between QBs 1-6 and QBs 7-12 (shown earlier).
Which tight ends have been most consistent year-to-year?
Antonio Gates has had an incredible fantasy career. He’s the only tight end to finish in the top 12 at his position in PPR every year since 2011. If you want to roll the dice on him again, he offers almost zero risk with an ADP hovering around the 17th-18th round in MFL10s.
As for the other six active players listed above, we all know Rob Gronkowski will always go early. This year is no different. Despite injury concerns, he’s still going mid-to-late-second round.
As for the others...
Travis Kelce (ADP 39), Greg Olsen (59), and Delanie Walker (93) all finished in the top six last season and have been consistent on a yearly basis. Walker provides the most value of the three, as he is being selected in the eighth round, on average, while Kelce and Olsen are going in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
Martellus Bennett is an interesting case. He finished as the TE9 last season, but his new team, the Green Bay Packers, have had two tight ends finish top-12 since 2011 (Jermichael Finley in 2011 and Richard Rodgers in 2015). Rodgers is still around, but combine Bennett’s three top-12 seasons since 2011, the fantasy success of Packers TEs, and Bennett’s ADP outside the top 100, and you get a gamble worth taking.
The Bottom Line
- Top-12 quarterbacks and top-12 PPR tight ends are more consistent on a yearly basis than top-12 PPR running backs and wide receivers.
- Last season's QBs 1-6 are not significantly more consistent than last year's QBs 7-12. The one exception to this trend is Drew Brees.
- If you’re looking for a repeat performance from a tight end, TEs 1-6 are 20 percent more likely than TEs 7-12 to finish in the top 12 again.
- How Often do Top-12 PPR Running Backs & Wide Receivers Repeat in the Following Season?
- When Should You Draft Your Quarterback?
- 2017 Initial Rankings: A Closer Look at Kyle Rudolph, Martellus Bennett, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle
- 2017 Initial Rankings: A Closer Look at Tyrod Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger and Marcus Mariota