A Review of the 2013 Fantasy Football Season: Quarterbacks

How accurate were numberFire's preseason quarterback rankings?

Our algorithms get a lot of things right. Maybe not everything, but a lot of things.

And as any reasonable human being would realize, 100 percent accuracy isn’t really achievable when predicting what’s going to happen in sports. We have no Grays Sports Almanac from the future, though, admittedly, sometimes it feels like we do.

When we published our preseason fantasy football rankings, the expectation wasn’t that they’d be perfect. Rather, it was that the rankings would be better – hopefully much better – than everything that’s out there. And that’s not because we’re pompous. It’s because we use math, not letting emotion get in the way of what’s actually happening.

But we won’t be able to get any better without seeing where we messed up, right? That’s what these review articles are for – to show you, the reader, where we were wrong this year in fantasy football, where we were right and why we thought the way we did at the beginning of the season. These articles are for absolute transparency.

So let’s take this position by position. The first stop? Quarterback land.

Where We Goofed

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

This is probably common across all fantasy football websites, but Philip Rivers was our top miss of 2013. Entering the season, we had him as our 19th-ranked quarterback, behind guys like Sam Bradford and Matt Schaub (more on him later). Exiting the year, the Chargers passer was the sixth-best signal-caller in fake football, besting players like Russell Wilson and Tony Romo.

Rivers also finished the season with the third-best Passing Net Expected Points total in the league, up from his ranking of 20th a year ago.

Funny enough, even though the algorithms averaged Rivers out to be a low-end QB2, we did write a sleeper article on Rivers before the season began, showing that the numbers saw some potential in Number 17 this season.

Nonetheless, he wasn’t high enough in our rankings at the beginning of the year to justify a season-end accuracy celebration, which is why we find him on this list.

Matt Schaub, Houston Texans

Do I really have to talk about this one? Really? Look, the metrics saw that Schaub was an efficient passer over the years (especially in 2012), and the Texans had just drafted DeAndre Hopkins during the offseason. Things were looking up, and Schaub actually started the season off with two straight three-touchdown games. And then, well, you know the rest.

The beauty of the quarterback position is that, even if you missed one of these late-rounders, you knew there were plenty available once the season started. Hence the reason drafting quarterbacks late works in fantasy football.

In truth, Schaub was our 15th-ranked quarterback entering the season. And, well, he finished as the 147th best one or something.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Perhaps it’s not fair to say that we got this wrong given the amount of injuries this offense faced throughout the season, but we had Brady as our third-best quarterback option entering the season, only behind Aaron Rodgers (I won’t mention him because of the injury) and Drew Brees. In the end, Brady was the 14th-best fantasy quarterback, though he did finish with just as many top 12 weekly performances as Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.

Brady led the league in Passing NEP in 2012, and finished 2013 with the ninth-best total. Not bad, but certainly not Tom Brady.

Where We Looked Smart

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

The algorithms weren’t very high on Palmer, as he was listed as a mid- to low-end QB2 in our preseason rankings. Fortunately enough, that’s exactly where he finished the season.

Palmer had plenty of ups and downs this season, and ended the year with just two weekly top 12 performances, excluding Week 17. Two. That’s as many as Brian Hoyer had, people.

Palmer was consistently mediocre, typically only able to perform against soft defenses in fantasy. He had just one game with three or more touchdowns, and it came against one of the worst secondaries in the league this year, Philadelphia.

A lot of folks were certain that this was the year he'd come back to form given his weapons and being in Bruce Arians offense, but that clearly never came to fruition. Perhaps in 2014?

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

While many people dropped Big Ben after the first couple weeks of the season, patient fantasy owners were rewarded with some monster fantasy games down the stretch. Ben entered the season as numberFire’s 13th-best quarterback – and if you recall, there was a clear “top 12” before the season started. We had him pegged for just five fantasy points less than the 11th-ranked quarterback this year, too.

Ben completed the season as the 12th-best signal-caller, despite seeing fewer than 17 fantasy points in each of his first seven games. He ended up 11th in the league in Passing NEP, and finished with the same number of weekly top 12 games as Cam Newton. The algorithms got it right, while some ranked Ben lower in the teens.

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

You’ll notice that a lot of these quarterbacks aren’t top ones, and that’s simply because the top passers were so consistent from site to site and analyst to analyst this season. As I mentioned with Roethlisberger, the top 12 at the position was nearly set in stone, so there’s not a whole lot of differentiation to talk about.

Flacco, however, was a favorite by many after his Super Bowl run, regardless of him losing Anquan Boldin in free agency. Dennis Pitta’s hip injury didn’t help matters, but even still, Flacco struggled to stay fantasy relevant in 2013, accumulating just four top 12 weekly finishes and a cumulative quarterback ranking of 19th, exactly where we had him.