Predicting 2012 fantasy stud QBs

Want to peg good fantasy QBs for 2012? Start by looking at a stat that can help

Originally Published: November 9, 2011
By Peter Keating | ESPN Insider
Matt RyanAP Photo/John AmisMatt Ryan looks to be a good bet for a fantasy football quarterback in 2012.

Keep the faith when it comes to Matt Ryan, and pick up Matt Hasselbeck. But dump Alex Smith, and sell high on Mark Sanchez.

As fantasy trade deadlines approach, that's Total Quarterback Rating's advice, particularly if you are in a keeper league.

As you know, QBR evaluates quarterbacks based on their play-by-play contributions to advancing their teams' chances of winning games. This offers a better picture of quarterbacks' overall production than traditional stats, but when I first started looking at QBR's possible fantasy implications, I wasn't sure it would have much to say. On one hand, QBR incorporates a number of factors that help determine whether players stay on the field and score both real-life and fantasy points, like rushing yards, sacks and fumbles. On the other hand, most fantasy scoring systems are tied directly to traditional statistical categories, such as passing yards and touchdowns. It's also not clear just how much quarterbacks' success in high-leverage situations, where QBR awards extra credit, carries over into future fantasy seasons.

As it turns out, QBR is an even better predictor of fantasy value than traditional stats or fantasy stats.

Suppose we look at all quarterbacks who have stayed good enough -- and healthy enough -- to qualify for the NFL passer rating title both last season and this season. Among this group of 25 starters the correlation, or strength of the statistical relationship, between the number of yards they threw for in 2010 and the number of fantasy points they have scored in 2011 is 0.42, or moderately strong.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.