Is Jimmy Garoppolo Going to Be a Worthwhile Waiver Wire Pickup in Fantasy Football?
To the dismay of Patriots fans and the joy of each of the 31 other NFL teams, Tom Brady's four-game suspension was upheld today. Last year, Brady threw for 33 touchdowns and 4,109 yards as the Patriots drove through the playoffs and defeated the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Brady was also fifth in our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which shows how many points a quarterback contributed over the course of the season when throwing the ball -- in 2014, contributing 123.69 points.
This, in turn, makes him very hard for the Patriots to replace for the season's first four games.
Brady was also a top-12 quarterback in fantasy last season, posting 278.06 fantasy points.
Now, fantasy owners drafting him this year will have to wait on him until Week 6. So is it worth picking up his replacement, Jimmy Garoppolo? Let's see if we can draw any conclusions from Garoppolo's limited action last year and the first four defenses he will face.
The New England Patriots offense in 2014 was pretty good. We can look at the Adjusted (for schedule) NEP per play for each team's offense, and the Patriots came in at 0.13 NEP per play, good for fourth in the league. From a passing perspective, the Patriots offense ranked fifth in the league, posting 0.20 Adjusted Passing NEP per play. But Jimmy Garoppolo didn't do so well when he took over the Patriots' offense in limited action last year.
|Pass NEP||vs. KC||vs. CHI||vs. BUF|
Garoppolo first saw action in Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, when the Patriots were down 41-7. He played for two series and passed the ball seven times, completing six of them for 70 yards. One of those passes was to Rob Gronkowski for a 13-yard touchdown.
Garoppolo to the rescue?
Garoppolo did end up with a 4.25 Passing NEP for the limited action he saw, barely above average for Week 4. But as a quick fill-in for two series he did his job. However, when he played again in a blowout win against the Bears in Week 8, his Passing NEP was below average for the week (-1.99). He did complete all three of his passes, but one was for -1 yards and he was also sacked for 11 yards.
Week 17, however, was not a great performance for Garoppolo. It was an ugly win for the Patriots, but with the team wanting to rest Brady for the playoffs, Garoppolo got a whole half to showcase himself. The results were not great, as he went 10 for 17 for just 90 passing yards and no touchdowns. Granted, the Bills had the second-best passing defense according to our metrics, but Garoppolo lost 9.55 Passing NEP during the second half, and lost another 1.13 expected points on the ground despite 4 rushing attempts for 16 yards.
Garoppolo wasn't the most efficient quarterback out there in his limited action, but that was just fill-in work and a small sample size. With some practice and game planning, things could be different. And in fantasy football, a quarterback doesn't have to be overly efficient to be start-worthy -- sometimes you just need the right matchups.
41 different quarterbacks had a startable week last year in fantasy football, so if you're into streaming your quarterback, you just have to find the right matchup to stream a quarterback against, which is usually a team with a weak passing defense. How did Garoppolo's first four opponents (Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas) all fare last season?
|Team||Adj. Def. NEP||Rank||Adj. Def. Pass NEP||Rank|
The teams that could give Garoppolo his biggest challenges are Bills and possibly, yes, the Jaguars. Buffalo, according to the table above, was the second best defensive unit in the league, led by their passing defense. According to our schedule-adjusted pass defense analytics, the Bills pass defense saved nearly 52 points versus expectation through the course of the season (which is even more impressive considering not many teams prevented points through the air), including limiting Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning to a combined -14.28 Passing NEP in Weeks 14 and 15.
Jacksonville is the odd ball of the bunch, as they only held four opponents to under 20 points in 2014. But they only allowed 24 passing touchdowns throughout the season, the 12th-fewest in the league. And according to our Adjusted Defensive NEP data, they were a middle-of-the-road unit with 42.37 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP, 5.2 expected points fewer than the league average.
The two easier opponents for Garoppolo could be the Steelers and Cowboys, as both teams were in the bottom 10 in passing defense in 2014. Both teams have suspect secondaries, and did little to shore that up in the offseason.
Is He Worth Picking Up?
The nice thing about Jimmy Garoppolo is that he has Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman at his disposal -- both were top-16 receivers within our Target NEP (number of expected points added on all targets) metric last season. The bad thing is that he's proven to be inconsistent when leading the Patriots, so will he be able to get it to his two main targets? He might show his inconsistencies or Belicheck may decide to use more of his running game in their first four games.
Then there's the opponents. Garoppolo won't likely bring any fantasy value to the table in Week 2 against the Bills. Jacksonville could provide scoring opportunities for the Patriots, but if they're anything like last year, they'll be easier to score on through the running game, not the passing game.
Weeks 1 and 5 may be the best bet to take a flier on Garoppolo. Don't expect much, though, even against weak passing defenses. We barely have Garoppolo in the top-30 in our projections for Week 1 -- we're more confident in Derek Carr and Blake Bortles. We should expect more of the same against the Cowboys as well, though we'll know more about how he'll be playing by then.
In short, Garoppolo's not likely worth starting on the deepest of fantasy teams. Even for the hardcore quarterback streamers.