The NFL's Most and Least Cost-Effective Quarterbacks of 2016

Which passers provided the most points above expectation at bargain prices?

Overpaying for quarterbacks in the NFL is just a given nowadays.

With so few difference-makers to choose from, any player resembling an above-average option tends to get a generous deal for his services.

Plus, it's hard to drum up fan excitement if Blaine Gabbert is your opening-day starter, so throwing money at a guy like Matthew Stafford makes sense in a way.

But at the end of the day, the contract needs to result in performance, and that's where our Net Expected Points (NEP) comes into play. By combining a player's salary cap hit (via Spotrac) and our expected points model, we can see who provided the most points per dollar for his team among quarterbacks in 2016.

2016 Quarterbacks

Just in case you're new to NEP, know that scores can fall below zero. In some cases, they can fall far below zero.

In fact, Jared Goff recorded a Total NEP (which combines passing, rushing, and receiving) of -63.43 this season and had a cap hit above $5 million.

So, because we want to see how players performed relative to their salaries, we're going to set Goff's last-place Total NEP as the baseline, meaning Goff added no points above expectation for our purposes, and we're using him as the measuring stick for the 39 other passers with at least 100 total touches this season.

Here are the bottom 22 of the 40 (because there's a natural break) in terms of expected points per $10,000 of salary cap hit (to make the values more aesthetic).

PlayerTeam Cap Hit NEP+ per $10,000
Jared Goff LA $5,079,577 0.00
Jay Cutler CHI $17,000,000 0.03
Cam Newton CAR $19,500,000 0.04
Eli Manning NYG $24,200,000 0.04
Joe Flacco BAL $22,550,000 0.04
Brock Osweiler HOU $12,000,000 0.05
Colin Kaepernick SF $16,765,753 0.06
Carson Palmer ARI $18,375,000 0.07
Ben Roethlisberger PIT $23,950,000 0.08
Alex Smith KC $17,800,000 0.08
Russell Wilson SEA $18,542,000 0.08
Philip Rivers SD $16,500,000 0.08
Ryan Tannehill MIA $11,640,000 0.09
Matthew Stafford DET $22,500,000 0.09
Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ $7,000,000 0.09
Andrew Luck IND $18,400,000 0.09
Kirk Cousins WAS $19,953,000 0.11
Robert Griffin III CLE $5,234,375 0.11
Josh McCown CLE $5,041,666 0.12
Matt Ryan ATL $23,750,000 0.12
Andy Dalton CIN $13,100,000 0.12
Case Keenum LA $3,635,000 0.12

We already knew that Goff was going to be at the bottom (well, top) here, but really, he wasn't that much less of a help than some guys with massive contracts, such as Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Eli Manning, and Joe Flacco. That's what happens when passers with massive deals have disastrous seasons.

And, yes, part of this is obvious: it's hard to have record-breaking seasons in NEP, which is what it'd take for someone making roughly $20 million to contend with the best values of the year by this measure.

Still, even with -- for example -- Matt Ryan's 223.51 Total NEP (before adjusting for the Goff-line) being one of just two marks above 175, he was certainly no bargain.

But that doesn't mean he wasn't worth the money or that he was just as valuable as the Cleveland Browns' duo of Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown.

It just suggests that quarterbacks are easily overpaid relative to their production, which is understandably preferable to trotting out McCown and Griffin on Sundays.

How do the 18 most cost-effective passers fare? We'll reverse the order so that we can focus in on the best bargains of the season.

PlayerTeamCap HitNEP+ per $10,000
Dak PrescottDAL$545,8484.32
Trevor SiemianDEN$538,1951.81
Cody KesslerCLE$616,1971.48
Matt BarkleyCHI$595,5881.41
Derek CarrOAK$1,465,0371.21
Bryce PettyNYJ$663,4240.60
Brian HoyerCHI$2,000,0000.51
Paxton LynchDEN$1,722,9630.38
Jameis WinstonTB$5,761,6540.28
Marcus MariotaTEN$5,503,1760.28
Blaine GabbertSF$2,300,0000.23
Sam BradfordMIN$7,000,0000.23
Carson WentzPHI$4,850,2430.22
Tyrod TaylorBUF$6,919,5730.22
Tom BradyNE$13,764,7050.16
Blake BortlesJAC$5,633,1300.16
Drew BreesNO$17,250,0000.15
Aaron RodgersGB$19,250,0000.13

Well, this one isn't even close. But first, let's note that these values are taken from a player's total contribution, so Tom Brady's four-game suspension limited his Total NEP. Also, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were second and third in Total NEP, respectively, among quarterbacks, and they weren't stellar values. They were just marginally more cost-effective than Matt Ryan.

But a clear pattern emerges: the best values tend to be the cheapest options.

Trevor Siemian and Dak Prescott had the two smallest cap hits in this group, and they returned great value on these deals. Prescott finished fourth in Total NEP (172.23) behind Ryan (223.51), Brees (193.63), and Rodgers (193.47).

Siemian finished 25th in Total NEP (34.15) but was productive enough (relative to someone like Goff) to show up near the top of the list.

As you'll see, the top of the list isn't riddled with names you'd want to have under center on opening day of 2017, but from a simple production standpoint, it's clear that replacement-level passers can provide significant returns on investment in today's NFL climate, where passing efficiency is increasingly easy to come by.

And while teams are willing (and typically justified) to shell out eight-figure deals for passers, ending up with a Joe Flacco performance rather than a Matt Ryan season at a similar price can really alter the trajectory of a team in a given year.