News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Breaking down strength of schedule by position - quarterback

Strength of schedule has traditionally been viewed as a power ranking of teams’ schedules based on their opponents' prior-year record. This method has been shown to not be very predictive of a team’s true strength of schedule (SoS). Instead, PFF harnessed the power of our grading system and its year-over-year predictability to produce an easily digestible SoS tool. The PFF Strength of Schedule Tool uses current rosters to provide a more insightful look at fantasy matchups for the coming season.

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This is the first in a series of articles breaking down strength of schedule by position. Note: The values found in the live tool are subject to change, since they’re based on current rosters and can be affected by injuries, opt-outs and trades. The values in this article will not be updated after publication.

Top 3 Overall Schedules

1. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Murray certainly has room to grow as an NFL passer — last year he graded out as 32nd in the league on passing plays among quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks. On the other hand, he quickly showed his running prowess as a rookie. In 2019, Murray had the second-most designed rushing plays behind only Lamar Jackson. On these plays, he compiled 341 rushing yards and all four of his rushing touchdowns.

Enter 2020. Murray gets the PFF SoS seal of approval for best matchups at key points of the season. After a tough season opener in San Francisco, he gets an easy slate of opponents for the next four weeks, not to mention two cake games during Weeks 14 and 15 — fantasy playoffs for most leagues — against the Giants and Eagles, respectively.

With DeAndre Hopkins (fourth-best graded receiver in 2019) and Kenyan Drake (seventh-best graded running back after being traded) ready to contribute full seasons, Murray could be blasting off in his sophomore season.

2. Ben Roethelisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

As we know, Roethelisberger missed most of the 2019 season with an elbow injury that required surgery. Without him, the Steelers struggled greatly to get any kind of effective passing game going. Only the Washington Football Team‘s 3,202 passing yards were less than the the Steelers' 3,214. That being said, Roethlisberger threw for 5,129 yards in 2018. The pendulum is likely to swing back in that direction for 2020.

The Steelers are tied with the 49ers for the fewest matchups below the 50th percentile mark (below-average matchups) at four: Ravens x2, Titans, Cowboys. And while these teams have good defenses, they also all happen to be top-10 scoring teams in 2019, which means potential positive game scripts for increasing Roethelisberger’s passing percent.

3. Jimmy Garappolo, San Francisco 49ers

Just look at that early season lineup for the handsome one. If Garappolo wasn’t going to be on this list, he’d be among the strong season starters below. His first six matchups are all rated at 8.4 or higher by our SoS model.

The big question for Garappolo is how prevalent the 49ers passing game will be. The 49ers had the fourth-fewest passing attempts last year, and now with Raheem Mostert’s contract squared up, Shanahan will likely deploy the same rushing-focused offense as last year. Additionally, Deebo Samuel’s status appears to be highly questionable for the beginning of the season. If Garappolo can overcome these hurdles, however, there is a lot to like.

Bottom 3 Overall Schedules

1. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Ryan will have no issues being fantasy relevant. The Falcons were the top team in passing attempts last year with 684, and no one else came close. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league, Todd Gurley was signed to be their top running back and Hayden Hurst will fill the gap left behind by Austin Hooper. Ryan might not have top-five upside this year, but the PFF fantasy football staff have him ranked QB10, which is more than fair.

2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Brees is currently the 10th quarterback off the board in FFPC best balls. He is projected to be the ninth-highest-scoring quarterback by PFF’s model. He scored 20-plus fantasy points in eight of his 11 starts last year — and that includes a game that he left due to injury.

Don’t overthink it. Draft Drew Brees and don’t look back.

3. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

The only quarterback among these three that might actually be affected by a tough schedule this season is Watson. Losing his top offensive weapon in DeAndre Hopkins in conjunction with a tough schedule could be the final nail in the coffin at his current draft price for me. Watson and Dak Prescott are going in the mid-fifth round right now, and I would much rather have Prescott.

Watson has just one matchup valued above 7.5 in our SoS through the regular fantasy season, and his only other positive matchup is during the championship week — if you make it there. Watson will not be on many of my rosters this season.

Strong Season Starters

1. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Not that Jackson is a streamer target, but it’s worth noting that his early season is probably going to be just as explosive as 2019. After Week 6, things could get much tougher until the fantasy playoffs.

Jackson is due for regression from his ridiculous 2019 stats — a 9% passing touchdown rate and even his rushing totals will almost certainly come down. However, he’s still the top fantasy scoring quarterback in our projections. He can be drafted with confidence.

2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Looking at Allen’s schedule, one idea comes to mind: If you draft him, trade him before your league’s trade deadline. Not a single matchup after the Bills’ Week 11 bye looks appealing, including a nightmare game against the Steelers at the start of fantasy playoffs.

Early in the season, though, Allen will likely be a strong performer. His rushing will sustain his floor — he only had two games with less than 17 fantasy points last year sans his planned benching in Week 17. And adding Stefon Diggs to his receiving corps will improve his upside against bottom-feeding defenses early in the year.

3. Dwayne Haskins, Washington Football Team

Easily my favorite target as my a quarterback in superflex leagues this season, Haskins has mostly good matchups through the first 11 weeks of the year. In fact, Haskins has the third-easiest schedule in our model during the fantasy regular season.

In 2019, Hasksins didn’t fully get the reins until Week 9. After that, he showed steady improvement through the end of the season. Washington didn’t pass very often, but with the full offseason for Haskins and his young group of receivers under new coach Ron Rivera, there is a chance Haskins opens the season swinging.

Tough Early Matchups

1. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

The one positive about drafting Tannehill is that there is definitely risk baked into his price right now. He is going as QB20 in FFPC best ball drafts. The risk, of course, is regression from his incredible finish to the 2019 season after taking over for Marcus Mariota.

That being said, in redraft leagues I will not be drafting him — the early schedule is ugly. If someone in your league drafts him to be their starter, he will almost certainly be dropped to the waiver wire before Week 5.

2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

Rodgers has the same issue as Tannehil, except he’s still being drafted as a low-end QB1. 

Another problem for Rodgers is the utter lack of receiving weapons. Outside of Davante Adams, the next-best receiver in terms of PFF grade is Allen Lazard, and he ranked just 55th among wide receivers with at least 50 receiving snaps last season. They added Devin Funchess during the offseason, but he opted out of the 2020 NFL season — he would have provided only marginal help anyway.

With the Packers drawing the Vikings, Saints and Buccaneers in their first five games, I am out on Rodgers this year.

3. Drew Lock, Denver Broncos

I really want to like Lock for fantasy, but I just can’t — at least not right away. He ended 2019 as our 34th-ranked quarterback by passing grade among quarterbacks with at least 150 dropbacks. Not to mention, only one of his five starts netted more than 14 fantasy points.

At the start of the 2020 season, Lock will have some tough matchups with a young receiving corps behind Courtland Sutton. Rookies Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler will likely be good receivers in the long-run, but the Titans/Steelers/Buccaneers start coupled with shortened offseason programs could cause issues for the Broncos offense early.

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