Fantasy Football: Should You Drop Jimmy Garoppolo?
Jimmy Garoppolo was one of the most-hyped quarterbacks coming out of the 2017 season. After taking control of the San Francisco 49ers' offense in Week 13, he led the team to five straight wins to close out the season. He was truly superb in that run, playing like one of the league's best passers, per our metrics, so the hype was understandable.
That wave carried into draft season for fantasy football. In the weeks leading up to the start of the year, fantasy drafters were taking him earlier and earlier. Per Yahoo's average draft position data, Garoppolo came off the board as the QB10 (75th player overall), which is a fairly significant investment in one-quarterback formats. For reference, this placed him ahead of Ben Roethlisberger and just behind Kirk Cousins among signal callers.
That draft position was pretty surprising, especially considering his Week 1 matchup was a brutal one on the road against the Vikings. Understandably, he struggled in that game, posting just 12.04 fantasy points and tossing 3 interceptions to only 1 touchdown. The opposition was a little friendlier in Week 2 as Jimmy G had strong matchup at home against the Detroit Lions, who own a bottom-10 defense, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics.
But Garoppolo posted only 16.64 fantasy points despite the sweet matchup. The Jets, with rookie Sam Darnold at the helm, had great success against the same Lions team on the road the week before, but Garoppolo threw for just 206 yards and 2 scores.
What's going on with Jimmy G? And how should we handle him in fantasy football?
Frankly, we were probably expecting too much from Garoppolo. Looking back at his amazing run at the end of 2017, Garoppolo played only one strong team: the Jaguars. Outside of the Jags, he faced the 5-10 Bears, the injury-ravaged Texans, the mediocre Titans and a Rams team that benched its starters in Week 17. His small sample size of success came against less-than-great competition.
Now through two games in 2018 -- which is an admittedly small sample, with one of the games coming against the elite D of Minnesota -- Garoppolo is grading out as one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. He's currently posting -0.11 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, meaning he is taking away 0.11 expected points for the Niners each time he drops back to pass. It's a huge drop from his elite clip of 0.35 Passing NEP per drop back in 2017.
His -0.11 mark ranks fifth-worst among all quarterbacks with at least 30 drop backs through Week 2. In addition to that, his 44.12% Passing Success Rate, or the percentage of his passes that add positive NEP, ranks 10th-worst among that same subset. NFL quarterbacks have typically averaged Success Rates around 46.91% since 2010, so Garoppolo is playing a good bit below the league average right now.
First to Worst
How does a quarterback go from one of the more promising starts to a career to having a season like this? There are many factors contributing to the change in trajectory, but the sacks he's been taking are one of the primary reasons. Sacks are massively negative plays for an offense, as you might expect. In a study, Derrik Klassen found that sacks killed drives 83.99% of the time in 2016
In 2018, only Russell Wilson (12) and Tyrod Taylor (10) have taken more sacks than Garoppolo (9) has. Unlike those quarterbacks, Jimmy G doesn't add much value to his team's offense with his legs. His 74 yards lost on sacks rank behind only Wilson's 80 yards, and that's a huge reason for San Francisco's struggles. He's losing big yardage every time he takes a sack, and he's not mitigating that with successful rushes like Taylor or Wilson.
And it's not like he took these sacks against one really tough defense, and that game is swaying the numbers. The Lions' sacked Garoppolo six times, compared to the Vikings' total of three sacks. He took more sacks against the weaker defense than he did against the great one.
Per NFL.com's Next Gen Stats, Garoppolo has a time to throw value of 2.68 seconds. That's roughly average, but it also excludes the time taken to throw on sacks. Many of the names appearing behind him on that list are considered mobile quarterbacks, as well; Jimmy G is not. Based on these numbers, it's very possible that he's hanging onto the ball too long.
Another reason for Garoppolo's regression are his issues in the red zone. Last year, his 55.56% red-zone completion rate ranked eighth-best among quarterbacks with at least 20 attempts in that area of the field. Through two weeks of 2018, his red-zone completion rate has dropped to 41.18%, fourth-worst among quarterbacks with 5 or more attempts.
Fantasy Bottom Line
All of this leads to the sad truth: you should be willing to drop Jimmy Garoppolo. But not this week!
We should start treating him like a weekly streaming option going forward, but Week 3 presents him with pretty juicy spot. The 49ers will be visiting the Chiefs, who this year have allowed a league-leading 860 passing yards to opposing quarterbacks while generating only two sacks, second-fewest in football. If there was ever a spot for a quarterback like Garoppolo -- as we described above -- to succeed, it's this one.
If you've held onto Garoppolo through his rough start, this is your moment. Fire him up against a Chiefs defense allowing 34.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Then drop him or trade him ahead of a rough Week 4 clash at the Chargers, and stream quarterbacks the rest of the way.