News & Analysis

2018 storylines: Jimmy Garoppolo, fantasy QB1

By Michael Moore
Feb 22, 2018

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Dec 24, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) smiles on the sideline during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

(With attentions turning forward across fantasy football, this week is 2018 Storylines Week on PFF Fantasy, with an article a day highlighting what our writers think are the biggest fantasy storylines we’ll see in the 2018 season.)

After years as a backup the name Jimmy Garoppolo is now one of the most recognizable names in fantasy football, let alone the real thing. From a promising-if-inexperienced backup to a personal seven-game winning streak, Garoppolo has drawn strong opinions on whether he can keep the good times rolling in San Francisco. It seems that everyone has an opinion (mostly positive) of Jimmy G, Jimmy GQ, or my personal favorite, Jimmy Geesus. But can he live up to all this hype? We don’t have much to go off but there are a few signs of things to come.

What’s Jimmy done?

As we know, Garoppolo doesn’t have a lot of experience, but in the few games he’s started, he’s been pretty good and won all seven. Those wins weren’t flukes — over the course of the seven games he’s started and 15 games he’s attempted a pass in his career, he’s thrown for 2,250 yards on just 272 attempts for an 8.27 yards-per-attempt average. That average would be tops among all quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era (with at least 1,000 pass attempts, which Garoppolo obviously doesn’t have yet). He also has a 67.28 percent completion percentage, which would also best among quarterbacks. It makes perfect sense that Garoppolo was winning, since he was completing a lot of passes for long distances.

So he was super-efficient against some teams, but were those teams any good? Let’s first look at his brief stint as the starter in New England in 2016:

Week Team Final Points Allowed Ranking Garoppolo Fantasy Rank That Week
1 Arizona 14th 17
2 Miami 19th 11

In those two games, he completed 42 passes on 59 attempts for 496 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on the way to two wins, and thus the legend of Jimmy G began. But Garoppolo got injured in the third game in 2016 and never started another for New England. He was the subject of a lot of trade rumors last offseason but ultimately stayed put before being shipped off to San Francisco at the 2017 trade deadline for a second-round pick.

After an injury to rookie C.J. Beathard forced Garoppolo into the lineup, he and the 49ers never looked back. Over the course of his six appearances, including five starts, Garoppolo threw for 1,560 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. All this while being with the team a mere three weeks. How did that look in fantasy leagues?

Week Opponent Final Points Allowed Ranking Garoppolo Fantasy Rank That Week
13 Chicago 8th 25
14 Houston 32nd 17
15 Tennessee 19th 11
16 Jacksonville 3rd 3
17 LA Rams 12th 8

So not only did Garoppolo perform well (not even including against a Rams team resting some of their starters) but this shows Garoppolo getting progressively better the longer he was in the San Francisco system. In Weeks 13-17, he was fantasy’s seventh-highest-scoring quarterback and ranked 11th in passer rating. Remember, it was just three weeks after he was traded before he started, and within that time he was turning in QB1 performances the last three weeks of the season — against three playoff teams.

The Shanahan effect

Garoppolo’s fantasy and NFL future are tied to head coach Kyle Shanahan who has a long history as an offensive coordinator and is now calling the plays in San Francisco. Unlike Garoppolo, we have several years of data to review when it comes to Shanahan. So what effect has Shanahan had on fantasy quarterbacks in the past?

Quarterback Tenure with Shanahan Fantasy Points Per Game with Shanahan Career Fantasy Points Per Game without Shanahan Difference
Matt Schaub 2008-2009 17.2 13.4 3.8
Donovan McNabb 2010 13.4 15.1 -1.7
Rex Grossman 2011 12 14 -2
Robert Griffin III 2012-2013 19.3 10.7 8.6
Brian Hoyer 2014 11.3 15.1 -3.8
Matt Ryan 2015-2016 18.4 16.3 2.1

Out of the six quarterbacks Shanahan worked with, half of them saw significantly better fantasy results under Shanahan’s tutelage than without and happen to be his three best fantasy quarterbacks. What they — Schaub, Griffin, and Ryan — had in common was they were in Shanahan’s offense for multiple seasons, something Garoppolo is guaranteed to do after signing a record-breaking contract this offseason.

As far as actual fantasy ranking, all three of the quarterbacks Shanahan worked with over multiple seasons were in the top 10 in fantasy scoring their second year, something Garoppolo will be in during the 2018 season. He also squeezed Pro Bowl seasons out of Schaub and Griffin and an MVP award out of Ryan.

Year Quarterback Final Fantasy Ranking
2008 Matt Schaub (HOU) 17th
2009 Matt Schaub (HOU) 3rd
2010 Donovan McNabb (WAS) 19th
2011 Rex Grossman (WAS) 19th
2012 Robert Griffin (WAS) 5th
2013 Robert Griffin (WAS) 9th
2014 Brian Hoyer (CLE) 22nd
2015 Matt Ryan (ATL) 18th
2016 Matt Ryan (ATL) 3rd

Conclusion

Even though it’s a small sample size, some of Garoppolo’s numbers have been very impressive. It’s not fair to expect him to continue to be so efficient but it bodes well for Garoppolo in the future. After all, if he continues to complete a high percentage of his passes — besides his high actual completion percentage, his adjusted PFF completion percentage ranked 11th during the weeks he played — and his yards per attempt remains high, that means lots of long passes completed. Another thing going for Garoppolo in 2018 is the return of 49ers receiver Pierre Garcon, PFF’s 19th-highest graded-receiver, who suffered a neck injury a month before Garoppolo started. And all this before any weapons are added in the draft or free agency.

The pairing with Shanahan should also lead to positive fantasy results when you consider Shanahan has a track record of producing QB1s in fantasy leagues every single time he’s seen a second year with them. For those reasons, I’m buying into the hype of Jimmy G and deeming him a QB1 in 2018.

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