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So what's the best way to judge a quarterback's fantasy value?
Is it completion percentage? Touchdowns? Yards? How many interceptions a player throws?
How about one stat that combines everything I just mentioned?
Coming right up, Boss.
Passer rating isn't exactly a new invention. It's been around since 1971. And that might be the problem with it.
Though passer rating might be the best determiner we have when it comes to comparing QBs, it's far from perfect.
First off, the numbers it uses are absolutely bizarre. Seriously, who thought it would be a good idea to make 158.3 the perfect quarterback rating? A zero to 100 scale would have been a thousand times easier (ESPN recently created Total QBR, which does go from zero to 100, but that system has just as many flaws as this one).
Though the numbers are less than ideal, over time we've come to accept certain truths about them. For the most part, 90 is a pretty good rating while anything less than 70 is awful. And if you're at 158.3, well, you must be playing Cleveland or Kansas City.
Last season, the league's average QB rating was 83.8. Simple enough, right?
Well if 83.8 is our new standard for average, that leaves us with a lot more questions than answers. For example, how is Blaine Gabbert closer to perfect than Colts phenom Andrew Luck?
Last season Gabbert finished with a passer rating of 77.4, almost a full point higher than Luck's 76.5.
How could that be? No one in their right mind would consider Gabbert the better quarterback out of those two.
In fantasy, the difference between them is even more pronounced. Luck finished the season ranked ninth in QB fantasy points while Gabbert didn't even make the top 30 (32nd).
The flaw in the system is that quarterbacks are over-penalized for throwing interceptions. Luck, one of the game's more adventurous down-field passers, was picked off 18 times as a rookie. But he made up for his miscues by gaining over 4,000 yards through the air. Gabbert, meanwhile, threw fewer interceptions (only six) but was manhandled by Luck in just about every other statistic including yards (1,662 versus Luck's 4,374), yards per attempt (6.98 for Luck, 5.98 for Gabbert) and touchdowns (23 to nine in Luck's favor).
Luck isn't the only player who's being misrepresented. Cam Newton was the sixth-most productive player in fantasy last year, yet his 86.2 QB rating would suggest that he's barely above average. Drew Brees, who finished first in fantasy points last season, was a distant eighth when it came to QB rating (96.3).
Sometimes we see the opposite effect happen. Matt Schaub and Philip Rivers both posted solid passer ratings last season (90.7 for Schaub, 88.6 for Rivers) but neither was among the league leaders in fantasy points (ranked 17th and 21st, respectively). Ben Roethlisberger is another player whose fantasy production didn't match his high rating (seventh in passer rating, 16th in fantasy).
But let's go back to Newton for a second. Cam's low rating highlights another one of the stat's many shortcomings: it doesn't take into account rushing numbers. Among quarterbacks, only Robert Griffin III had more rushing yards than Newton last season and even RG3 couldn't match Newton in the touchdown department (seven scores for Griffin III, eight for Newton). Overall, 115 of Newton's 337 points last season came from running the football (34.1 percent). Without his feet, Newton would have fallen somewhere between Rivers (230 points) and Christian Ponder (198).
Brees, who I mentioned earlier, is another player who was done in by a high interception total. Though he did lead the league in picks last season (he threw 19 of them), Brees also produced the league's highest touchdown total (43) and his 5,177 passing yards were the third-most in NFL history. But somehow in the warped world of passer rating, he still finished four points behind Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson.
That's not to say that passer rating is completely outdated. Often times, they get it exactly right. Aaron Rodgers, for example, led all QBs in rating last season (108.0) while Peyton Manning finished second (105.8). You won't see too many people arguing about that one.
Another example of the system's impeccable accuracy? Mark Sanchez (66.9 QB rating) finished second to last in passer rating last season. In fantasy, he was equally horrendous (31st in QB fantasy points).
So the lesson, if there is one, is that passer rating can be useful but it's definitely not foolproof. Don't take shortcuts and assume just because a player has a high quarterback rating he'll be a productive fantasy player. The opposite is true as well.
Of course, if you own Tom Brady in your keeper league like I do, you won't have to worry about any of this.