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14 Aug 2003

Quarterbacks and Favorite Receivers

by Aaron Schatz

If you drafted Plaxico Burress for your fantasy team last year, you started off the season pretty disappointed. 11 yards in week one, 10 yards in week two -- was this a joke?  How was Burress so invisible, when on the other side of the field Hines Ward had turned into a fantasy stud? 

Then, in week four, Kordell Stewart went down with an injury, and Tommy Maddox came in.  All of a sudden, Burress was getting the ball again.  Over the next seven weeks, he had at least 55 yards each week with six touchdowns -- a streak ended week 11 when Maddox went down in mid-game and Stewart returned. 

The saga of Plaxico Burress, 2003, is only one example of how changing quarterbacks can seriously change usage of receivers.  A switch in quarterbacks might mean that a new receiver is getting the first look and the majority of passes.  It can change how often the team throws to running backs.  These changes affect not only fantasy points, but also the actual value of a player in helping his team get points and first downs, as measured by our statistic Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). 

So let's take a look at the teams that employed more than one quarterback last year, for at least a couple of games.  Since in most of these cases one of those quarterbacks is still the started, it should tell us something about which receivers might improve or drop in value in 2003, both in real terms and for your fantasy teams. 

We're not going to look at teams where this year's starter wasn't one of last year's quarterbacks.  That means no Denver, and no Chicago.  We're also not going to look at Carolina because, frankly, that team's QB position is a mess and you aren't going to draft a Carolina receiver in your fantasy league anyway unless you are Al Bogdan and have a strange obsession with Mushin Muhammad. 

We'll write a bit on each team, and then present the numbers for the major receivers.  If you are unfamiliar with our methods, DVOA is described on this page.  Our method for counting fantasy points/game is 1 point for every 10 yards, 6 points for a touchdown, and -2 for a fumble.  If a quarterback is listed with a fractional number of games, the fantasy points per game number is adjusted to take that into account.  Running back fantasy points here are receiving only.  Players where the change in quarterbacks made the biggest difference have stats with their favorite quarterback in bold. 

BALTIMORE  -- Blake 10 games, Redman 6 games 

When Blake took over for Redman midway through the season, there was a massive switch in the Baltimore passing game away from Brandon Stokley and towards Travis Taylor.  Taylor went from a fantasy scrub to averaging double digits over the last 10 games; Stokely disappeared off the fantasy map and went into the toilet in DVOA.  Many people are talking up Taylor as a hot third receiver in fantasy drafts this year because of his hot second half, but if Chris Redman goes back to old habits, a lot of people will be disappointed. 

As for the other two Raven mainstays, Todd Heap looks to get whacked by the return to Redman as far as actual value, but his fantasy points won't take a hit since he'll still be a hot TD target.  Jamal Lewis had a much better DVOA with Redman, another in the many signs that he'll have a good season in 2003. 


Blake Redman
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes FantasyPts/Game
Heap Todd 4.0% 29% 7.0 -18.1% 27% 8.2
Lewis Jamal -12.3% 10% 3.0 16.6% 19% 3.0
Stokley Brandon -39.2% 8% 0.9 14.4% 19% 6.4
Taylor Travis 3.3% 29% 10.1 -14.7% 24% 3.7

CINCINNATI -- Kitna 13 games, Frerotte/Smith 3 games 

With only three games before Kitna took over, the differences here could be just random chance.  You don't need me to tell you how Chad Johnson broke out after Kitna became the quarterback.  Nearly everyone was better with Kitna, with the exception of Corey Dillon, whose receiving DVOA tumbled.


  Kitna Frerotte/Smith
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes FantasyPts/Game
Dillon Corey -17.6% 12% 1.6 41.3% 11% 3.0
Dugans Ron -2.1% 15% 3.0 -52.2% 12% 1.1
Houshmandzadeh T.J. 2.2% 13% 3.4 -4.2% 14% 3.5
Johnson Chad 21.7% 28% 10.4 -52.3% 20% 3.9
Warrick Peter 5.5% 15% 6.7 -14.5% 16% 3.0
Westbrook Michael -22.7% 3% 1.3 -60.8% 14% 1.4

CLEVELAND -- Couch 13 games, Holcomb 3 games 

There's so much of a quarterback controversy in Cleveland it is hard to remember that Kelly Holcomb only played two full games and two half games last year.  Most Cleveland receivers had a better DVOA rating with Holocomb, with the exception being Quincy Morgan.  When it comes to fantasy points, Dennis Northcutt and Kevin Johnson both had significantly more with Holcomb at the helm. 


  Couch Holcomb
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Campbell Mark -42.6% 8% 2.3 -16.9% 12% 2.2
Davis Andre' -15.1% 13% 4.4 2.7% 16% 7.1
Green William -47.4% 6% 0.6 -36.9% 4% 0.4
Johnson Kevin -20.6% 23% 4.9 0.0% 25% 10.3
Morgan Quincy -7.1% 18% 7.8 -24.7% 19% 8.0
Northcutt Dennis 69.1% 9% 4.4 44.8% 11% 11.0
White Jamel -6.3% 18% 3.0 32.2% 10% 2.1

DALLAS -- Hutchinson 9 games, Carter 7 games 

Although Hutchinson started more games, nearly every Dallas receiver was better with Quincy Carter throwing the passes.  The one exception was Antonio Bryant, who had a lower DVOA with Carter even though he was a much larger part of Carter's offense.  Both Bryant  and Joey Galloway saw their fantasy points per game drop when Hutchinson took over.  Combine that with the NFC East's difficult schedule, facing hot-quality pass defenses like Tampa Bay and Miami, and I would stay far, far away from these guys in 2003. 


  Carter Hutchinson
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Bryant Antonio -9.5% 27% 7.9 3.4% 19% 5.8
Galloway Joey -3.7% 28% 8.7 -20.2% 29% 7.1
Hambrick Troy -82.1% 5% 0.2 -96.8% 7% 0.7
McGee Tony 34.1% 6% 2.3 12.5% 9% 2.1
Rambo KenYon -42.1% 8% 1.0 0.8% 8% 1.6
Scott Darnay -13.6% 10% 2.5 -2.8% 7% 1.1
Smith Emmitt 22.1% 7% 1.1 -78.3% 5% 0.1
Whalen James 15.2% 6% 1.1 -48.3% 8% 0.8

DETROIT -- Harrington 11.67 games, McMahon 4.33 games 

Bill Schroeder is probably wishing Joey Harrington could just start the year injured.  After being mostly invisible all year, Schroeder exploded in weeks 15-17 with McMahon at quarterback, with 13.3 fantasy points per week and a 63% DVOA.  He stole value in those games from Az-Zahir Hakim, who should be a big part of the offense again this year with Harrington back.  Another interesting note - with McMahon at QB, running back passes switched from James Stewart to Aveion Cason, who had 78% DVOA with McMahon and averaged a surprising 6.5 fantasy points a game, not even counting rush yards.  Cason's gone now, playing second fiddle to Troy Hambrick in Dallas, and could be a late-season sleeper if Bill Parcells decides to be fickle. 


  Harrington McMahon
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Anderson Scotty -7.8% 10% 1.8 -32.5% 17% 3.9
Cason Aveion -4.0% 5% 1.1 78.4% 13% 6.5
Crowell Germane -17.4% 11% 2.2 -82.2% 7% 0.2
Hakim AzZahir -9.0% 18% 5.5 -19.1% 13% 1.7
Ricks Mikhael -26.8% 14% 3.5 -5.2% 13% 2.4
Schlesinger Cory -33.2% 12% 1.7 -32.4% 9% 1.4
Schroeder Bill -20.1% 15% 4.2 62.8% 19% 9.4
Stewart James -9.2% 16% 3.1 -13.8% 9% 2.0

MIAMI -- Fiedler 10.5 games, Lucas 5.5 games 

Danger, James McKnight fans!  McKnight's significance really increased when Lucas became QB, as he received twice as many passes and had a much higher DVOA and fantasy value.  With Fiedler at the helm, those fantasy points went to Chris Chambers instead.  It's also worth nothing that Fielder meant a higher DVOA and more fantasy points for both Randy McMichael and Rob Konrad -- although if you are drafting Rob Konrad, your league goes way too deep.  With most receivers, Lucas had about the same completion percentage as Fiedler, but when throwing to McMichael, Fiedler completed 68% of his passes, Lucas only 39%.  Ricky Williams, oddly enough, was a smaller part of the passing game with Fiedler and had a lower DVOA -- but more touchdowns, meaning more average fantasy points from receiving. 


  Fiedler Lucas
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Chambers Chris 4.5% 25% 6.8 0.7% 22% 3.7
Gadsden Oronde 8.9% 11% 3.7      
Konrad Rob 26.8% 159 2.7 18.5% 74 2.4
McKnight James -26.2% 9% 2.6 22.1% 16% 6.1
McMichael Randy 0.8% 16% 5.0 -20.6% 17% 3.2
Ward Dedric -30.3% 9% 1.3 -55.2% 10% 0.7
Williams Ricky 1.6% 13% 2.9 14.6% 17% 2.2

NEW YORK JETS -- Pennington 13.33 games, Testeverde 2.67 games 

Everyone was better with Pennington at the helm, right?  Wrong.  Anthony Becht's value took a huge hit after Pennington took over.  The running backs, Curtis Martin and Richie Anderson, also dropped in DVOA with Pennington, although the fantasy drop was minimal.  Instead, Pennington threw one out of every three passes to Laveranus Coles, who skyrocketed to 11.3 fantasy points a game.  Bummer for Pennington he's not here anymore, but us Patriots fans aren't too upset about it.


  Pennington Testaverde
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Anderson Richie -12.5% 11% 1.8 8.4% 19% 2.8
Becht Anthony -9.2% 9% 2.7 30.4% 13% 7.1
Chrebet Wayne 11.3% 16% 7.3 4.5% 26% 8.1
Coles Laveranues 41.5% 32% 11.3 -13.0% 16% 2.2
Martin Curtis 19.4% 12% 2.2 33.8% 14% 2.6
Moss Santana 7.5% 12% 4.7 -3.6% 8% 1.9

PHILADELPHIA -- McNabb 10 games, Feeley/Detmer 6 games 

The biggest difference between the Eagle offense with McNabb and the Eagles offense with his backups was a switch from James Thrash to Todd Pinkston as the number one receiver.  With McNabb back in charge, Thrash should be a bigger part of the offense in 2003, with more fantasy points and a higher DVOA.  Duce Staley was also a larger part of the McNabb offense, with a slightly higher fantasy average despite a lower DVOA.  Chad Lewis was equally disappointing with all three quarterbacks. 


  Detmer/Feeley McNabb
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Freeman Antonio -17.6% 16% 4.8 14.1% 16% 5.5
Levens Dorsey -31.7% 6% 0.8 7.1% 5% 1.4
Lewis Chad -15.5% 14% 4.0 -33.2% 13% 3.0
Pinkston Todd 3.7% 26% 8.8 -4.0% 20% 6.0
Staley Duce 56.5% 10% 3.5 47.5% 15% 5.1
Thrash James -42.5% 17% 3.1 -11.8% 23% 7.9

PITTSBURGH -- Maddox 11 games, Stewart 5 games 

XFL baby!  XFL!  The numbers here prove what we all know, that Plaxico Burress woke up from a deep slumber when Tommy Maddox took over the Pittsburgh offense and became one of the league's top receivers.  Some of that value came from Hines Ward, who went from astonishingly kickass to just regular ol' kickass.  ($1 in our fantasy auction last year, and I rode him to second place.)  Third and fourth receivers Antwaan Randle-El and Terance Mathis both had lower value with Maddox at QB, but not by too much, and running back Amos Zereoue had a higher value, at least as a receiver.  If you are looking for Jerome Bettis, he had only one game with more than one reception in 2002, so running his numbers is pointless. 


  Maddox Stewart
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Burress Plaxico 33.2% 30% 14.0 -40.1% 23% 3.6
RandleEl Antwaan -11.4% 12% 4.0 -0.3% 15% 3.0
Ward Hines 12.4% 30% 11.2 19.8% 33% 15.8
Zereoue Amos -6.2% 9% 1.9 -20.2% 10% 1.4

SEATTLE - Hasselbeck 10.5 games, Dilfer 5.5 games 

This will probably surprise you, but the beneficiary of Matt Hasselbeck taking over the Seattle QB job was not Darrell Jackson but rather Koren Robinson.  Robinson passed Jackson as Seattle's most common pass target, and his DVOA went up while Jackson's went down.  Both players had more fantasy points with Hasselbeck, but Robinson's average went up to double digits.  Perhaps an even bigger fantasy sleeper than Robinson would be the Seattle tight end, if only they could decide on one guy and then keep that guy away from alcohol.  Both Jerramy Stevens and Itula Mili were a bigger part of the Hasselbeck offense, both shot up in DVOA value, and their combined average fantasy points per game tripled.  Unfortunately, the important word there is "combined."  As for Shawn Alexander, his DVOA went up with Hasselbeck, but his receiving fantasy points went down.  Of course, you aren't drafting Alexander because he can catch the ball, are you?  That's why the Almighty created Charlie Garner.


  Dilfer Hasselbeck
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Alexander Shaun 4.4% 17% 4.7 11.7% 13% 3.0
Engram Bobby 22.6% 14% 3.8 15.7% 12% 3.7
Jackson Darrell 0.8% 26% 6.0 -19.7% 17% 7.1
Mili Itula -35.1% 8% 2.1 26.6% 13% 4.9
Robinson Koren -26.6% 23% 6.8 22.1% 26% 11.1
Stevens Jerramy -53.5% 5% 0.6 8.0% 8% 3.8

ST. LOUIS -- Warner 6 games, Bulger 5 games, Martin 5 games 

Boy, is this a mess.  If you don't believe me, ask Ian, who took Warner, Bruce, and Holt in our fantasy auction last year and got clobbered.  This is why they play the game on the field, and not in your computer.  With three quarterbacks, roughly equal playing time last year, and Warner's health still a bit iffy, let's take this receiver by receiver. 

· Torry Holt had a higher DVOA and fantasy value with Bulger than with Warner or Martin. 
· Isaac Bruce had  a higher fantasy value with Bulger than with Warner or Martin, but actually had a higher DVOA with Warner. 
· Marshall Faulk's DVOA was far better with Warner, though his receiving fantasy points were roughly the same (disappointing) across the board. 
· His backup, Lamar Gordon, was pretty much the same with all three. 
· Both Ricky Proehl and Ernie Conwell took big DVOA hits with Martin at QB, but neither of them are still here. 


  Bulger Martin Warner
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Bruce Isaac 7.3% 23% 11.4 5.3% 18% 8.1 11.9% 25% 7.2
Conwell Ernie 40.3% 10% 4.5 -19.2% 10% 3.4 35.5% 5% 2.1
Faulk Marshall -33.9% 15% 5.8 -16.6% 19% 3.4 15.1% 18% 4.3
Gordon Lamar 45.6% 8% 2.8 54.3% 4% 3.7 37.6% 8% 1.7
Holt Torry 24.3% 24% 11.0 18.5% 27% 8.1 8.9% 31% 9.1
Proehl Ricky 14.1% 11% 5.1 -19.5% 15% 2.8 38.8% 11% 5.2

TAMPA BAY -- Brad Johnson 12.75 games, Rob Johnson/King 3.25 games 

Passes to running backs, especially Michael Pittman, went down when Brad Johnson was out of the lineup last year.  Of course, if Pittman can't get a good lawyer, passes to him will really go down this year.  Keenan McCardell fans should also hope Johnson stays healthy, since his DVOA and fantasy value took a big hit with the backups.  Keyshawn Johnson's DVOA actually went up with the backups, though his fantasy value dropped a little.  Rickey Dudley was the better tight end when Brad Johnson was healthy, Ken Dilger was the better tight end when he was not. 


  B. Johnson R. Johnson/King
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Alstott Mike -4.5% 10% 2.5 21.1% 8% 0.9
Dilger Ken -6.2% 9% 2.8 10.0% 11% 2.7
Dudley Rickey 4.6% 5% 2.7 -28.5% 6% 0.9
Johnson Keyshawn 2.8% 27% 8.9 16.8% 28% 7.8
Jurevicius Joe 33.8% 9% 4.3 17.6% 15% 3.6
McCardell Keenan -8.0% 20% 7.4 -24.6% 18% 2.2
Pittman Michael 9.6% 18% 3.5 -50.3% 9% 0.9

WASHINGTON -- Matthews/Wuerffel 9.5 games, Ramsey 6.5 games 

Ramsey's the starter now, which is why I combined the other two quarterbacks despite the fact that Matthews played the most.  Rod Gardner took a bit of a hit when Ramsey took over, while Derrius Thompson went up in both DVOA and fantasy points.  Of course, he's gone now and Laveranus Coles is here in his place.  Also of note: Tight end Zeron Flemister was a bigger part of the Ramsey offense, but had fewer fantasy points and a much lower DVOA. 


  Matthews/Wuerffel Ramsey
  DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game DVOA % Team Passes Fantasy Pts/Game
Davis Stephen -16.2% 12% 1.6 142.6% 1% 0.1
Doering Chris -25.2% 8% 1.7 -25.8% 11% 2.4
Flemister Zeron 10.1% 4% 2.3 -23.6% 7% 0.7
Gardner Rod 15.7% 32% 10.1 -15.0% 31% 8.1
McCants Darnerian -27.7% 7% 2.1 -22.9% 12% 2.4
Thompson Derrius -16.5% 19% 4.7 9.8% 22% 8.1
Watson Kenny -0.9% 12% 1.7 -29.2% 7% 2.4

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 14 Aug 2003

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