## Most Dominant Fantasy Players Since 1950: Quarterbacks

What was the most dominant fantasy season of all time? You might think Peyton Manning 2013, but let me throw out another candidate: Steve Young, 1998.

I am using the following scoring system throughout this series: 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing/receiving, 4 points per passing TD, 6 points per rushing/receiving TD, 0.5 points per reception.

In 2013, Manning threw for 5,477 yards and 55 TDs with just 10 interceptions, while rushing for -31 yards but with one TD. That comes out to 486.75 fantasy points. In 1998, Young threw for 4,170 yards with 36 TDs and 12 INTs, but also ran for 454 yards and 6 TDs. That is equal to 421.90 fantasy points. So, advantage Manning.

But we measure fantasy dominance “not by the number of points he scores[, but] by how much he outscores his peers at his particular position.” Those are the words of Joe Bryant in his famous VBD article, and I’ll make an appendix to that for historical purposes: the key is how much a player outscores his peers at his particular position in that particular year.

When calculating VBD scores, the standard is to use the 12th-ranked quarterback. In 2013, the 12th=-ranked QB scored 309.2 fantasy points, which means Manning outscored him by 177.55 fantasy points (or we could say that Manning produced 178 points of VBD). In 1998, the 12th-ranked quarterback scored just 235.6 fantasy points, which means Young finished with 186.3 points of VBD. So, advantage, Young.

But there’s another piece of the puzzle that tips the scales even more towards the 49ers quarterback. In 1998, Young missed one game. For fantasy purposes, it’s more valuable to have a quarterback produced X points in 15 games than it is for him to produce X points in 16 games, because you can play someone else during that 16th game.

So here’s what I did (I am open to other methods, as there are several ways to skin this cat). For each quarterback season since 1950, I calculated the number of fantasy points scored by all quarterbacks. Then, I measured how many FP were scored by QB 121 and divided that by 16.

So for 1998, the baseline is 14.73 FP/G, which means Young — who averaged 28.13 FP/G — finished with 13.4 FP/G above average. We multiply that by his number of games played (15) to get his VBD score of 201 fantasy points.2 As it turns out, 201 points is the highest VBD season by any quarterback since 1950, just narrowly edging out Dan Marino in 1984.

Let’s use that season to guide you through the table below, which shows the top 200 seasons by a quarterback in fantasy history. That year, Marino threw for 5,084 yards, with 48 TDs and 17 INTs. He rushed for -7 yards and 0 touchdowns, which comes to 428.5 fantasy points. He played a full 16-game slate, so he averaged 26.78 FP/G. The baseline in 1984 (i.e., QB12) was 14.25 Fp/G, so Marino averaegd 12.53 FP/G above the baseline. Multiply that by 16 (the number of games he played), and Marino had a VBD of 200.5 in 1984.

RkPlayerYrTmPYDTDINTRSHRSHYDRSHTDFPGFP/GBaseDiffVBD
1Steve Young1998SFO41703612704546421.91528.1314.7313.4201
2Dan Marino1984MIA5084481728-70428.51626.7814.2512.53200.5
4Randall Cunningham1990PHI346630131189425404.51625.2813.611.68187
5Warren Moon1990HOU468933135521523871525.813.612.2183
6Tobin Rote1956GNB2203181584398112731222.7511.3411.41182.5
7Aaron Rodgers2011GNB4643456602573449.91529.9917.8812.11181.6
8Steve Young1994SFO39693510582937399.81624.9813.811.18178.9
9Peyton Manning2013DEN5477551032-311486.81630.4219.3311.1177.6
10Drew Brees2011NOR5476461421861458.41628.6517.8810.77172.3
11Johnny Unitas1959BAL28993214291452285.51223.7913.1810.61169.8
12Daunte Culpepper2004MIN47173911884062433.51627.0916.7410.35165.6
13Dan Marino1986MIA4746442312-303901624.3814.2610.12161.9
14Brett Favre1995GNB44133813391813395.81624.7314.6510.08161.3
15Brett Favre1996GNB38993913491362363.61622.7212.789.94159.1
16Kurt Warner1999STL4353411323921383.91623.9914.429.58153.2
17Daunte Culpepper2000MIN39373316894707401.91625.1215.559.57153.1
18Randall Cunningham1988PHI38082416936246368.81623.0513.669.39150.2
19Peyton Manning2004IND4557491025380417.71626.116.749.36149.8
20Randall Cunningham1987PHI27862312765053288122412.3311.67149.4
21Johnny Unitas1960BAL30992524361950250.51220.8711.589.3148.7
23Vinny Testaverde1996BAL41773319341882352.71622.0412.789.26148.2
24Steve Beuerlein1999CAR44363615271242375.21623.4514.429.03144.6
25Jeff Garcia2000SFO42783110724144393.31624.5815.559.03144.5
26Cam Newton2011CAR4051211712670614427.41626.7117.888.83141.3
27John Elway1987DEN31981912663044278.31223.1912.3310.87139.1
28Daryle Lamonica1969OAK3302342513361285.71420.4111.748.66138.6
29Steve Young1993SFO40232916694072355.11622.1913.618.58137.4
30Ken Anderson1975CIN31692111491882262.31320.1710.999.19136.5
31Steve Young1992SFO34652577653743441621.512.978.53136.5
32Michael Vick2010PHI30182161006769350.51229.2117.8411.36136.4
33Neil Lomax1984STL46142816351843363.11622.6914.258.44135.1
34Scott Mitchell1995DET43383212361044367.31622.9614.658.3132.9
35Joe Montana1987SFO30543113351411283.81321.8312.339.5131.8
36Jim Kelly1991BUF3844331720451317.71521.1812.528.66129.9
37Mark Brunell1996JAX436719208039633321620.7512.787.97127.5
38Ken Anderson1974CIN26671810433142238.81318.379.898.47125.9
39Bert Jones1976BAL3104249382142275.61419.6911.917.78124.4
40Don Majkowski1989GNB43182720753585369.71623.1115.347.77124.3
41Warren Moon1991HOU4690232133682324.31620.2712.527.75124
42Neil Lomax1987STL33872412291070264.1122212.339.68123.9
43Brett Favre1994GNB38823314422022344.31621.5213.87.72123.5
44Matthew Stafford2011DET5038411622780407.71625.4817.887.6121.6
45Fran Tarkenton1975MIN29942513161082259.51418.5410.997.55120.8
46Dan Fouts1981SDG4802331722560360.71622.5415.027.53120.4
47Peyton Manning2006IND439731923364362.51622.6515.137.52120.3
48Dan Fouts1982SDG28831711981208923.1115.627.49119.8
49Dan Marino1987MIA3245261312-51258.81221.5612.339.24118.2
50Y.A. Tittle1963NYG3145361418992309.21323.7815.97.88117.1
51Drew Brees2013NOR5162391235523425.31626.5819.337.26116.1
52Greg Landry1972DET20661817815249264.71418.9111.667.25116
53Joe Montana1982SFO26131711301181205.5922.8315.627.21115.4
54Drew Brees2008NOR5069341722-10372.41623.2716.087.2115.2
55Aaron Rodgers2009GNB4434307583165396.31624.7717.647.13114.1
56Roman Gabriel1973PHI32192312121012481417.7110.67.11113.8
57Steve Young1991SFO2517178664154251.41122.8512.5210.33113.6
58John Elway1996DEN33282614502494305.31520.3512.787.58113.6
59Joe Montana1989SFO3521268492273312.81324.0615.348.72113.3
60Kurt Warner2001STL4830362228600369.51623.0916.057.04112.7
61Roger Staubach1975DAL26661716553164240.91318.5310.997.55112.1
62Roman Gabriel1969RAM2549247351565262.11418.7211.746.97111.6
63Bobby Layne1951DET24032623612901236.21219.6812.726.96111.3
64Lynn Dickey1983GNB4458322921123341.11621.3214.386.94111.1
65Steve Young1995SFO320020115025032721124.7314.6510.07110.8
66Sonny Jurgensen1961PHI3723322420270292.91420.9214.016.91110.6
67Dan Marino1994MIA4453301722-61331.11620.6913.86.89110.2
68Johnny Unitas1957BAL25502417421711229.61219.1312.266.88110
69Randall Cunningham1998MIN37043410321321330.61522.0414.737.32109.7
70Andrew Luck2014IND47614016642733427.41626.7119.96.81109
71John Brodie1970SFO2941241092922481417.7110.926.79108.7
72Sonny Jurgensen1967WAS37473116154623121422.2815.576.71107.4
73Drew Brees2012NOR517743191551418.41626.1519.476.68106.9
74Daryle Lamonica1968OAK3245251519981263.11320.2313.077.17106.5
75Peyton Manning2000IND44133315371161355.31622.215.556.65106.5
76Roger Staubach1973DAL24282315462503241.41417.2410.66.65106.3
77George Blanda1961HOU333036227120288.61420.6114.016.61105.7
78Steve Grogan1976NWE190318206039712258.91418.4911.916.58105.3
79Ken Stabler1976OAK273727177-21233.71219.4711.917.56103.7
80Greg Landry1971DET22371613765303233.91416.710.236.48103.7
81Joe Montana1990SFO39442616401621307.41520.4913.66.9103.4
82Warren Moon1995MIN4228331433820337.61621.114.656.45103.2
83Jeff Blake1996CIN36242414723172306.91619.1812.786.4102.5
84Brett Favre1997GNB38673516581871342.11621.3815.036.35101.6
85Rich Gannon2000OAK34302811895294349.41621.8415.556.29100.6
86Don Meredith1966DAL28052412382425278.51321.4214.736.6999.4
87Ken Anderson1982CIN249512925854196.3921.8115.626.1999
88Donovan McNabb2004PHI3875318412203349.81523.3216.746.5898.6
89Otto Graham1952CLE28162024421304233.81219.4813.336.1598.4
90Joe Montana1983SFO39102612612842327.91620.4914.386.1297.9
91Fran Tarkenton1970NYG27771912432362238.51417.0310.926.1197.8
92Roger Staubach1978DAL31902516421821267.71517.8511.336.5297.8
93Sonny Jurgensen1969WAS31022215171561249.71417.8411.746.0997.5
94Tony Romo2007DAL42113619311292360.51622.5316.446.0897.4
95Daunte Culpepper2002MIN3853182310660910362.61622.6616.586.0897.2
96Danny White1983DAL3980292318314327.11620.4414.386.0797.1
97Bernie Kosar1987CLE303322915221238.91219.912.337.5897
98Rich Gannon2002OAK46892610501563362.11622.6316.586.0496.7
99Bert Jones1975BAL2483188473213238.31417.0210.996.0396.5
100Dave Krieg1984SEA36713224461863324.21620.2614.256.0196.2
101Jim Everett1988RAM39643118341040314.61619.6613.66696
102Dan Fouts1980SDG4715302423152345.31621.5815.65.9895.7
103Drew Bledsoe1996NWE40862715242703001618.7512.785.9795.6
104Brett Favre1998GNB42123123401331330.91620.6814.735.9695.3
105Drew Brees2009NOR4388341122332359.81523.9917.646.3595.2
107Ken Stabler1974OAK2469261212-21221.31415.89.895.9194.6
108Jeff Blake1995CIN382228175330923291620.5614.655.9194.6
109Fran Tarkenton1969NYG2918238371720247.11417.6511.745.9194.5
110John Brodie1965SFO3112301615601271.61320.8914.546.3694.4
111Dan Marino1991MIA3970251327321294.71618.4212.525.994.4
112Al Dorow1960NYT27482626904537302.71421.6215.735.8994.2
113Randall Cunningham1992PHI27751911875495288.71519.2412.976.2794.1
114Joe Montana1985SFO365327134215333111520.7314.476.2693.9
115Daunte Culpepper2003MIN34792511734224329.21423.5116.836.6993.6
116Warren Moon1987HOU28062118341123235.51219.6312.337.393.4
117Boomer Esiason1987CIN33211619522410235.21219.612.337.2793
118Fran Tarkenton1974MIN25981712211202209.91316.159.896.2592.9
119Donovan McNabb2002PHI2289176634606258.51025.8516.589.2692.6
120Babe Parilli1964BOS34653127341682299.11421.3615.615.7592
122Jeff Garcia2001SFO35383212722545348.31621.7716.055.7291.4
123Ken Anderson1981CIN37542910463201331.71620.7315.025.7191.4
124Kordell Stewart1997PIT302021178847611331.61620.7315.035.6991.1
125Roger Staubach1977DAL2620189511713229.11416.3610.685.6991
126Donovan McNabb2000PHI33652113866296339.71621.2315.555.6890.9
127Tobin Rote1954GNB23111418673018231.71219.313.655.6590.5
128Dan Marino1988MIA4434282320-1703091619.3113.665.6590.4
129Elvis Grbac2000KAN41692814301101323.51521.5615.556.0190.2
130Joe Theismann1983WAS37142911372341320.11620.0114.385.6390.1
131Bill Kenney1983KAN4348241823593319.81619.9914.385.6189.8
132Aaron Rodgers2012GNB4295398542592401.11625.0719.475.689.6
133Daryle Lamonica1967OAK32283020221104296.41421.1715.575.689.6
134John Elway1993DEN40302510441530306.81619.1813.615.5789.1
135Aaron Rodgers2010GNB39222811643564356.71523.7817.845.9489
136Boomer Esiason1988CIN35722814432481307.41619.2113.665.5588.8
137Aaron Rodgers2008GNB40382813562074345.61621.616.085.5388.4
138Jim Zorn1978SEA32831520592906269.21616.8211.335.588
139Y.A. Tittle1962NYG322433201710822961421.1415.675.4787.5
140Fran Tarkenton1967NYG30882919443062294142115.575.4386.9
141Aaron Rodgers2014GNB43813854326924051625.3119.95.4186.6
142Billy Kilmer1975WAS2440231611341207.41217.2810.996.386.4
143Donovan McNabb2006PHI2647186322123237.61023.7615.138.6286.2
144Milt Plum1960CLE229721517-242203.51216.9511.585.3886.1
145Mark Rypien1991WAS356428111561285.81617.8612.525.3485.5
146Rich Gannon1999OAK384024144629823161619.7514.425.3385.4
148Dan Marino1992MIA4116241620660292.41618.2812.975.3184.9
149Archie Manning1972NOR27811821633512237.21416.9411.665.2884.5
150Peyton Manning1999IND4135261535732315.11619.6914.425.2884.4
151Drew Bledsoe1994NWE4555252744400304.81619.0513.85.2483.9
152Norm Van Brocklin1960PHI2471241711-130201.31216.7711.585.283.1
153Jay Cutler2008DEN45262518572002340.31621.2716.085.1983.1
154John Elway1994DEN349016105823542761419.7113.85.9182.8
155Vinny Testaverde1998NYJ3256297241041288.21420.5914.735.8682.1
156Michael Vick2002ATL29361681137778330.11522.0116.585.4281.3
157Steve Grogan1978NWE28241523815395262.11616.3811.335.0680.9
158Randall Cunningham1989PHI340021151046214325.11620.3215.344.9879.7
159Joe Montana1984SFO36302810391182307.31619.2114.254.9679.3
160Jim Kelly1987BUF27981911291330222.21218.5212.336.1979.2
161Bert Jones1977BAL26861711281462217.91415.5610.684.8978.2
162Jim Everett1989RAM4310291725311323.61620.2315.344.8878.2
163Jim Hart1974STL241120810212206.71414.769.894.8777.9
164Kurt Warner2008ARI4583301418-203351620.9316.084.8677.8
165John Elway1995DEN39702614411761312.11619.5114.654.8577.7
166Bobby Douglass1972CHI12469121419688231.11416.5111.664.8577.6
167Roger Staubach1974DAL25521115473203205.81414.79.894.8176.9
168Philip Rivers2008SDG4009341131840333.91620.8716.084.7976.7
169Brian Sipe1979CLE37932826451782305.51619.0914.324.7876.4
170Chris Miller1991ATL31032618322290264.11517.612.525.0876.3
171Steve Grogan1979NWE32862820643682305.11619.0714.324.7576.1
172Jim Plunkett1974NWE245719223016122051414.649.894.7575.9
173Dan Fouts1983SDG2975201512-51219.31021.9314.387.5575.5
174Drew Brees2006NOR4418261142320317.11619.8215.134.6875
175Brian Sipe1980CLE4132301420551324.11620.2615.64.6674.5
176Jim Plunkett1973NWE25501317442095213.41415.2410.64.6574.3
177Y.A. Tittle1957SFO21571315402206202.91216.912.264.6574.3
178Fran Tarkenton1968NYG25552112573013247.91417.713.074.6474.2
179Joe Ferguson1975BUF2426251723821218.51415.6110.994.6273.9
181Erik Kramer1995CHI3838291035391307.81619.2414.654.5873.3
182Roman Gabriel1967RAM27792513431986281.81420.1315.574.5572.9
183Fran Tarkenton1976MIN296117827451218.61316.8111.914.972.8
184Roger Staubach1971DAL1882154413432196.41315.1110.234.8872.5
185Dan Fouts1978SDG2999242020432242.31516.1511.334.8372.4
186Steve Young1996SFO2410146523104225.51218.7912.786.0172.2
187Steve McNair1999TEN2179128723378230.71120.9714.426.5572.1
188Dan Marino1985MIA4137302126-240303.51618.9714.474.572
190Peyton Manning2001IND41312623351574327.31620.4516.054.470.4
191Steve McNair2001TEN33502112754145310.91520.7316.054.6770.1
193Len Dawson1962DTX27592917382523280.21420.0115.674.3469.4
194Boomer Esiason1986CIN39592417441461297.61618.614.264.3469.4
195Tobin Rote1955GNB19771719743325211.11217.5913.264.3369.3
196Daunte Culpepper2001MIN26121413714165245.71122.3416.056.2869.1
197Cam Newton2012CAR386919121277418380.21623.7619.474.2968.7
198Rich Gannon2001OAK3828279632312325.51620.3416.054.2968.7
199Frank Ryan1966CLE29742914361560266.31419.0214.734.2968.6
200Joe Namath1967NYJ400726286140277.81419.8415.574.2768.3

Young’s dominance really stands out in the above table, with 6 seasons in the top 65. In fact, only one other quarterback has even five seasons in the top 100 — and that’s, surprisingly enough, Joe Montana. Dan Marino and Randall Cunningham are the only other players with four seasons in the top 70, but neither of them have four in the top 65, making Young’s dominance even more impressive.

However, when it comes to career VBD, Peyton Manning stills beats Young — and everyone else — based on longevity. Below are the career VBD ratings, which are simply the sum of the single-season grades (but seasons with a negative VBD are discarded).

RkPlayerFirst YrLast YrVBD
1Peyton Manning199820141243
2Dan Marino198319991194
3Brett Favre199120101032
4Fran Tarkenton196119781027
5Steve Young19851999998
6Drew Brees20012014903
7John Elway19831998892
8Warren Moon19842000882
9Randall Cunningham19852001872
10Joe Montana19791994871
11Dan Fouts19731987757
12Johnny Unitas19561973711
14Roger Staubach19691979679
15Aaron Rodgers20052014676
16Daunte Culpepper19992009579
17Donovan McNabb19992011577
18Ken Anderson19711986573
19Jim Kelly19861996527
20Sonny Jurgensen19571974509
21Roman Gabriel19621977498
22Boomer Esiason19841997483
23Kurt Warner19982009476
26Steve Grogan19751990411
27Jim Everett19861997395
28Daryle Lamonica19631974390
29Tobin Rote19501966390
30Dave Krieg19801998381
31Bert Jones19731982377
32Drew Bledsoe19932006376
33Neil Lomax19811988374
34Michael Vick20012014374
35Rich Gannon19872004368
36Vinny Testaverde19872007366
37Y.A. Tittle19481964365
38John Brodie19571973357
39Tony Romo20042014348
40Steve McNair19952007344
41Jeff Garcia19992011329
42Joe Namath19651977323
43Mark Brunell19942011317
44Bobby Layne19481962306
45Jim Hart19661984294
46Philip Rivers20042014287
47Ben Roethlisberger20042014287
48Jeff Blake19922005280
49Brian Sipe19741983278
50Ken Stabler19701984275
51Greg Landry19681984274
52Phil Simms19791993269
53Cam Newton20112014269
54Otto Graham19461955263
55Trent Green19972008250
56Tommy Kramer19771990249
57Danny White19761988244
58Jim Plunkett19711986238
59Joe Theismann19741985236
60Jim Zorn19761987236
61Archie Manning19711984236
62Bob Griese19671980232
63Jeff George19902001232
64Marc Bulger20022009229
65Len Dawson19571975227
67Mark Rypien19882001207
68Matthew Stafford20092014201
69Billy Kilmer19611978200
70Doug Williams19781989197
71Scott Mitchell19912001193
72Joe Ferguson19731990193
73Charley Johnson19611975190
74Norm Van Brocklin19491960186
75Bernie Kosar19851996180

Have at it!

1. Well, QB12 for every year since 1968. In 1966 and 1967, I used QB10 as the cut-off, since there were fewer than 26 teams that year. From ’61 to ’65, I used QB8, as there were 22 professional teams. 1960 was handled uniquely, since the AFL and NFL played a disparate number of games. I used QB3 for 8-team the AFL and QB4 for the 13-team NFL. For the years from 1950 to 1960, I used QB4 as the baseline. []
2. Note: At this step, I pro-rated the VBD number for every NFL season with fewer than 16 games, but that’s obviously not an issue when it comes to Young/Manning. []
• Kibbles

If I’m aiming for optimal instead of merely “quick and close enough”, I like to calculate VBD on a per-game basis. After all, start/sit decisions are not made on a season-long basis, so I see no reason why value should be calculated on one. It helps account for the fact that a lot of top-12 quarterbacks miss time, forcing teams to start guys from further down the rankings. It also helps account for situations like the 2013 Bears, where neither Cutler nor McCown was a top-12 QB individually, but the combination of the two certainly was. With that said, calculating per-game involves a lot of extra steps, and the results are almost always really close to calculating per-season, anyway.

Also, if I’m aiming for really, really optimal instead of “quick and close enough”, it’s better to have a weighted average baseline instead of merely a worst starter baseline. If you have 10 QBs who score 100, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93, 92, and 50 points, and another 10 QBs who score 100, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51, and 50 points, a “worst starter” baseline would suggest both top QBs were equally valuable. In reality, the other 9 quarterbacks in the first league averaged 90.4 points, while the other 9 quarterbacks in the second league averaged 54 points, which means the second quarterback provided a substantially larger advantage over his peers. But, again, it’s a lot of extra steps and it winds up being largely pretty similar to the much simpler “worst starter” method.

Using both of those steps, my list of most dominant fantasy seasons looks pretty similar to yours. The biggest difference seems to be Michael Vick’s 2010 season with the Eagles, which ranks outside the top 25 seasons of the last 30 years according to your method, but finishes as the 7th-best season of the last 30 years according to mine. That was a weird year in that it had a pretty high “worst starter” baseline, but pretty much no one anywhere near Vick’s zip code at the top. (The same thing happened in 2007, resulting in Brady’s 2007 topping my list.)

The other neat thing about comparing to the average starter is that, for my career rankings, (career in this case meaning “since 1985”), Steve Young leapfrogs Manning for the top spot. He was just that ridiculously dominant against his peers. Manning sits at #2, and would probably be a lot closer to #1 if Dungy hadn’t sat him so much at the end of seasons and tanked his per-game averages. Then Randall Cunningham checks in at third and Aaron Rodgers at fourth, which seems a lot more fun than that Brett Favre and John Elway stuff.

• From 1991-98, Young had a 130 ANY/A+. Marino was second in that time frame with a 116 ANY/A+. Young’s worst ANY/A+ in that time frame was 116 (in 1995).

• As always, great points.

• I know it doesn’t make a difference because of the way fantasy football is scored, but Marino actually had ~16 rushing yards in 1984 after you account for his 16 kneels for ~-23 yards. I say about 23 yards because his week two game has two kneels in the logs that are recorded as “Marino takes two snaps and accepts the losses to run out the clock,” which isn’t super helpful.

I bring up this point simply because I once saw a comment making fun of Peyton Manning’s 2012-2014 rushing yards and thought it was odd not to exclude kneels. Comment was here http://www.reddit.com/r/nfl/comments/35aicj/20122014_qbs_ranked_by_total_adjusted_yards_per/

• Yeah, unfortunately, just about every fantasy site does not exclude kneels.

• Perhaps if a major player in the fantasy market excluded kneels, others would follow suit. Now if you only knew of a guy with connections to a major fantasy site.

• Kibbles

You’re barking up the wrong tree. You’d need to petition the league management industry, not the fantasy advice industry. And even if league management sites included the ability to exclude kneels, that would merely be an option rather than the default. You’d still have to overcome fantasy players’ own resistance to change, even obvious change like this.

A good analogy would be fantasy leagues that award points to defenses based on how many points they allow. The first site I know of to distinguish between points actually allowed on defense and silly things like pick sixes and punt returns was The Sporting News, back in 2004 or so. The option has slowly trickled through the industry to the point where many other league management sites make it possible now. Despite the (very slowly) spreading availability, though, most fantasy leagues I have seen don’t take advantage. Why not? Because it’s a minor issue with minimal impact, and most fantasy players rarely think about it. Inertia is a big deal.

• Richie

Another example of the strangeness of NFL stats, and how it was decided 60+ years ago to lump similar play types together, even though they may really be different things. And then they just stick with it.

To me, the 2 biggest historical mistakes are:
1) Lumping all passing/receiving yards together, instead of splitting it up into air yards and run yards. (Though I have taken stats for high school games for 15 years, and trying to separate the 2 while watching a game live would be tough.)
2) Counting hail mary interceptions the same as all others. In fact, air yards of interception thrown should probably be relevant.

• Kibbles

I don’t know how much of a value-add it would be to separate out the yards before the catch from the yards after the catch. If an offense passes for 12 yards, does it matter if it was a 0-yard screen with 12 yac or a 12-yard out with no yac? Kneels and rushes are fundamentally different plays because they have categorically different goals. The goal of a rush is to gain yards. The goal of a kneel is *NOT* to gain yards. By lumping them together, you impair the ability to properly measure the effectiveness of a team. Was a player bad at gaining yards because he was bad at gaining yards, or was he bad at gaining yards because he wasn’t even trying to gain yards?. Screens and out routes have slightly different goals, but it’s a difference of degree and not type. Both are attempts by the offense to gain yards and a new set of downs through the forward pass.

The ones that always bugged me are how the NFL handles spot fouls. I think if pass interference and intentional grounding are going to be “spot of the foul” penalties, then the receiver or pass rusher should be rewarded for drawing them. Personally, I’d just credit all “pass interference drawn” yardage in with receiving yards and I’d count “intentional grounding drawn” plays as sacks for the defender who drew them.

• Richie

I think of Steve Smith as a guy who caught a lot of short passes and broke tackles to turn them into big gains. I think of Randy Moss as a guy who was catching tons of passes 30 yards downfield. I have no idea if the facts back up my perception.

I can look at their career yards per reception (Smith: 14.5, Moss: 15.6), and it seems to back up my perception a bit, but those averages are pretty close. And over 900 receptions, what does a 1.1 yard difference really mean? So it would be interesting to have their air yards and run yards broken out. Or, maybe, it’s the kind of thing that just ends up balancing out over the long run.

• James

“If an offense passes for 12 yards, does it matter if it was a 0-yard screen with 12 yac or a 12-yard out with no yac?”

To overall team effectiveness? Probably not. But Brian Burke did some good research a long time ago that if you want to split up credit essentially all YAC should go to the receiver and none to the QB. There’s almost no year to year consistency in QB YAC, but a surprisingly high correlation for WR YAC. Which makes sense as different types of routes get different amounts of YAC, and receivers generally run the same types of routes (underneath, intermediate, deep).

• Also, I’m positive you stopped at 1950 solely to snub Spec Sanders. You rapscallion!

• Duh

• James

“Then, I measured how many FP were scored by QB 121 and divided that by 16.”

But isn’t there a good chance that QB12 is QB12 because they did *not* start 16 games that year? Or at least there might be a different QB12 if it were based on points per start? Maybe it doesn’t make that big of a difference in the end, but it’s seems unfair to give per game credit to the top QBs but not the baseline.

• Yes. But from a methodology perspective this was the easiest thing to do, and I think a more advanced system probably isn’t worth the trade off. But ymmv.

• Kibbles

As someone who has spent the better part of his free time over the last week creating a more advanced system, I can confirm that the gains are pretty small and almost certainly not worth the tradeoff for a quick look like this. The correlation between my results and Chase’s is pretty high.

With the caveat that (A) I used a slightly different scoring system than Chase, (B) I used a slightly lower baseline than Chase, and (C) my list only goes back to 1985, here’s my top 45 (i.e. everyone over 100 VBD):

186.45 Rodgers 11
184.65 Young 98
184.16 Young 94
178.08 Cunningham 90
172.80 Brees 11
166.08 Culpepper 04
160.48 Peyton 13
150.88 Peyton 04
150.00 Moon 90
148.48 Cam 11
147.04 Culpepper 00
143.04 Garcia 00
139.52 Favre 95
138.72 Young 92
134.08 Favre 96
133.76 Marino 86
132.64 Warner 99
130.72 Young 93
130.56 Cunningham 88
129.60 Rodgers 09
129.72 Vick 10
128.60 Peyton 06
121.55 Montana 89
120.64 Favre 94
120.48 Majkowski 89
120.48 Stafford 11
118.40 Testaverde 96
116.16 Beuerlein 99
114.88 Mitchell 95
113.25 Kelly 91
108.15 Montana 85
106.80 Culpepper 03
106.68 Cunningham 87
106.40 Brees 12
106.24 Brees 13
104.64 Gannon 00
104.48 Rodgers 12
103.50 Garcia 01
103.44 Elway 87
102.56 Manning 00
101.70 McNabb 04
101.30 Brees 08
100.64 Marino 94

And here’s my top 25 in career value (Career, of course, meaning “since 1985”):

1 Peyton Manning 1236.16
2 Steve Young 953.14
3 Brett Favre 936.29
4 Drew Brees 852.57
5 Dan Marino 779.54
6 Randall Cunningham 776.31
7 John Elway 767.27
9 Aaron Rodgers 716.07
10 Warren Moon 685.83
11 Donovan McNabb 651.38
12 Daunte Culpepper 552.59
13 Joe Montana 510.46
14 Kurt Warner 408.17
15 Jim Kelly 408.49
16 Michael Vick 394.60
17 Jeff Garcia 384.88
18 Steve McNair 368.58
19 Tony Romo 366.72
20 Boomer Esiason 379.67
21 Rich Gannon 351.69
22 Jim Everett 346.88
23 Ben Roethlisberger 306.62
24 Cam Newton 294.44
25 Vinny Testaverde 286.70

Not like my list is perfect, either. Changing the baseline will impact the rankings. As will using a weighted average baseline instead of a worst starter baseline. Changing the scoring system will shuffle the list. There’s not really a “perfect” list of the best fantasy seasons of all time, but there are a number of different methodologies that are all going to get us pretty close to the same place. Maybe my method is a bit more accurate for recent seasons, but Chase’s method was quick enough that he could expand his list all the way back to 1950, (ain’t no way I’m extending this back any further than I already have). It’s all a question of what we want to emphasize and the tradeoffs we are willing to make.

• Thanks for posting those lists. And yes, we are completely on the same page here.

• Waiting for someone to argue that Steve Young was better than Joe Montana. Any reason to think Young couldn’t have matched and maybe exceeded Montana’s production if we swap them in those early Montana 49er years? Also waiting for someone to argue that someone like Elway would have done the same in that system with those players. And yes, I’m too lazy at the moment.

• sn0mm1s

Yes, Young wasn’t great in his one year in the USFL and wasn’t good on the Bucs. He was able to mature playing behind the GOAT. He took over a loaded team, and while he did put up great regular season numbers, he regressed quite a bit in the postseason.

• Richie

” he regressed quite a bit in the postseason.”

Oh no, here we go again!

• Fine, I’ll take this on.

So, I don’t think he was better than Montana, but (and these can all be found in the thing I wrote):

1. He wasn’t good on the Bucs, although they managed to go 3-16 when he started and just 1-12 when DeBerg did. (DeBerg had better passing numbers, but worse rushing numbers.) And Young’s development by ANY/A (3.00-3.73) was actually pretty close to Aikman’s (3.09-3.88) for their first 2 seasons.
2. His overall 1987-90 numbers are actually slightly better than Montana’s, so there was no maturation needed in that sense. But there probably was some involved, given that…
3. his numbers as a starter weren’t just “great;” they crushed every contemporary. Brad Oremland’s ranking makes this case pretty convincingly too.
4. And yeah, he didn’t do as well in the postseason. (Neither did Unitas or Brady, statistically.) You probably won’t buy the “excuses” I offer, so I’ll just go with this here: Young’s teams were 8-6 (8-5.5 really, given he got hurt very early against the ’96 Packers, but that was a great team and they did lose) in the playoffs. So that’s almost a .600 winning percentage in the playoffs if that’s what you care about. We’re not talking about, say, a Marino- or Manning-type experience, going by winz.

I would not make a Montana-Young comparison as simple as 4-1.

• sn0mm1s

1&2) Yes, but the initial hypothetical was whether or not Young would match or exceed Montana’s play on those early 49er teams. My stance is that it took a while for Young to mature so my answer would be “no”. Montana was winning a SB and making a pro bowl in his 3rd year of professional football. Young was going 2-12 on the Bucs.
3) Yes, and Montana’s were nearly as impressive – with years playing with less offensive talent.
4) It isn’t about buying excuses. Montana retired #1 all time in rating – and got better in the postseason. Young was handed the keys to a Ferrari and, while he did win a ring, he underachieved with the teams he led.

Postseason performance is generally more of a tie breaker with me. I am not solely about winz or ringz. I don’t think Dilfer, Williams, Rypien, Johnson, Eli etc. etc. etc. are better than HOF QBs – not even close. But, when you are comparing two guys that are near the absolute top of QB performance and one guy puts up better postseason numbers and wins while the other regresses, I will side with the guy that puts up the better postseason numbers.

• 1/2. Okay, got it. Fair. (I still think them being about equal from ’87-90 does mean something.)

3. Well, from ’81-90, you have Marino at a 124 ANY/A+, Montana at 123, and the next guys at 119. From ’87-90, it’s Montana 1st at 124 and Moon 2nd at 120. Neither of those are anything like Young from ’91-98 (130, next highest at 116).

4. Guess what, this is why I prefer Montana to Young also! I’m just hoping to possibly moderate some of your views. In the 92 game, does Dallas still win if it’s they, not SF, who lose 2 fumbles (by a RB and KR) and get a long TD called back on a penalty?

• I can’t bring myself to do that, but I did bring myself to finally write about Young after 10 years of arguing his case online. It only took me 2,500 words:

http://hscer.blogspot.com/2015/07/an-appreciation-of-steve-young.html

• Richie

“For fantasy purposes, itâ€™s more valuable to have a quarterback produced X
points in 15 games than it is for him to produce X points in 16 games,
because you can play someone else during that 16th game.”

…provided you know he’ll miss that game in advance!

“For the years from 1950 to 1960, I used QB4 as the baseline.”

My 4-team league in 1958 was boring.

• Well, after the fun 1957 season, I could see that.

• Richie

For many years I have considered the idea of trying to do a “historical” fantasy football season. Pick some random year, and then draft players for that year. And then week by week calculate the results. Even allow people to make in-season trades despite being able to look up how many points their players are going to score in the future.

Can’t decide if it would actually be fun.