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NFL: Preseason-Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running quarterbacks are inherently unfair. They give a huge edge to the fantasy player that realizes that fantasy football isn’t real football. Tim Tebow is basically an abomination in all regards of real quarterbacking, but when he starts, he is a top 12 fantasy quarterback. Starting QB’s that are runners raises your week to week floor and makes their passing ability a mere bonus.

Consider Colin Kaepernick. Last year, he was on every waiver wire in every league, redraft or dynasty, it doesn’t matter. After running a few wildcat plays, Kaep was forced into action against Rams in week 6 after Alex Smith was injured. If you had the mind to spend your FAAB on Kaep before his week 7 performance against the Chicago Bears, you were rewarded with top 12 QB play the rest of the way. Each of the last 3 seasons, we’ve seen some variation of running quarterbacks take fantasy leagues by storm. Whoever drafted Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton, or the person who picked up Tim Tebow or Kaepernick took advantage of the broken system of quarterback scoring.

Until your league changes the value of quarterback rushing yards, picking up rushing quarterbacks with new found opportunity is going to provide excess value 100% of the time. The Kaepernick Index is simply a group of backup quaterbacks who are one injury away from being involved in weekly consideration as a top 12 starter.

Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore Ravens

Height (in) Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score College Rush Yards College YPC Rush Tds
73 217 4.47             108.71 37.5 126 4.09 6.78 10.87 2196 4.4 23

Tyrod is the cream of the backup running quarterback crop. If I had to choose anyone on this list to win leagues down the strech in 2013, it would probably be Taylor. He’s an elite athlete and was a true dual threat in college, averaging 8.7 A/YA his senior season at Virginia Tech. In each of his 3 preseason games in 2013, he rushed the ball 5 times at 4.4 yards a carry. If Joe Flacco goes down for any amount of meaningful time, I’m fully comfortable spending a considerable amount of FAAB or burning a #1 waiver priority to acquire Taylor. I believe in Torrey Smith as a #1 wide receiver and the lack of talented supporting options just makes it more likely that Taylor is used as a rusher as would be needed. Similar to the namesake of this index, he’ll be thrust into a very run heavy offense that has its’ best talent in the backfield. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce are both far above average talents and if the Ravens coaching staff gets as creative as the Seahawks, 49er’s, Panthers and Redskins coaches did last year, the rushing upside of Taylor could even approach Kaepernick-ian levels. It is because Taylor is an adequate passer and above-average runner that he is the most important name on this list.

Josh Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals

Height (in) Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score College Rush Yards College YPC Rush Tds
75 213 4.53 101.16 33.5 110 4.42 7.56 11.98 1770 5.9 20

Coming out of college, Johnson was a very explosive rusher. He was on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster before being picked up by the Bengals this offseason and in his NFL career has rushed 37 times for 6.9 yards per carry. His agility and speed scores aren’t as impressive as his production would indicate, but the numbers show that he has always been an effective runner. If Dalton were to be injured, Johnson would most likely be a weekly borderline top 12 play. He doesn’t have the passing chops of Taylor, but what we really care about is the rushing yards. As the Douche discussed, quarterback scoring is effectively broken, meaning that a QB that throws for 150 yards and a touchdown but rushes for 80 yards and a touchdown is easily a top 10 in a given week. The offense that Johnson would be at the helm of features many talented pass catchers. He would have the potential of spreading the defense out with AJ Green, Giovani Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Mohammed Sanu and Jermaine Greshem, all of whom are above average at their positions. I wouldn’t prioritize Johnson the same way I would Taylor, but he’ll be worth a speculative add, especially in deep leagues.

Dominique Davis, Atlanta Falcons

Height (in) Weight (lbs) 40 Yard Speed Score Vert Leap (in) Broad Jump (in) Shuttle 3Cone Agility Score College Rush Yards College YPC Rush Tds
75 221 4.56             102.23 38.5 128 4.16 6.89 11.05 313 1.8 14

How can a guy with a 1.8 yards per carry in college be considered a ‘running quarterback’? I hear your skepticism, so let me explain. The most positive sign, when just looking at the college numbers is the 14 rushing touchdowns. Even if they are sneaks, it shows that either his college coaches trusted him around the goalline, or that he has the Aaron Rodgers/Andrew Luck/Geno Smith type athletic ability to run touchdowns close to the endzone. Additionally, in his 4 preseason performances, Davis’ has ran the ball 12 times in 94 dropbacks (12% scramble percentage) for 8.2 yards per carry. Additionally, his combine numbers suggest a player who should run the ball more and would be effective. An agility score of 11.05 is good for a running back or wide receiver, much less a quarterback. The combine metrics aren’t the end all, be all, especially for quarterbacks, but he is athletically capable of making positive plays happen when he tucks and runs. Again, imperfect, but this video shows several athletic rushing plays.

Most importantly, is who Davis takes the field with. Anyone throwing the ball to the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez is going to look good. His theoretical ability to run the ball in the open field combined with those weapons intrigues me as a speculative add, should Matt Ryan be derailed by injury. He’s easily 3rd on the list behind Taylor and Johnson, as he hasn’t shown over a large sample that’s he capable of gaining the yardage needed to be considered a running quarterback, but he has the athletic ability to do so.

Deep Diving: These are 3rd strings that probably aren’t ever going to see the field in an NFL game, but if they do, could help you. In regards to Pat White, the brilliant Sigmund Bloom remarked on Twitter that he was a broken clock that just happened to be right for today’s NFL. Couldn’t agree more with that statement. As the 3rd stringer in the Redskins read-option offense, White is a low-cost, disposable replacement should RG3 take too much of a beating and Kirk Cousins/Rex Grossman prove athletically incapable of running the system. I wouldn’t ever say he is a top 12 guy, but that offense the Shanahan’s created is beyond effective. Tarvaris Jackson isn’t a spectacular runner, or even above average, but he did win the backup job behind Russell Wilson and we know that offense has incorporated elements of the zone read. Jackson has 159 career rushing attempts and in his one good Minnesota season, had 3 touchdowns and better than 5 yards a carry. If RW3 goes down, it’s unlikely that Jackson is even 80% as effective as Wilson but if they let him run 5 times a game or use the read option near the goalline he could be a value in 16 team or 2-QB leagues.

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Davis Mattek is a 21 year old English Major at Kansas State University. He can be found most days writing about fantasy sports for www.sportswunderkind.com , FantasyInsiders, RotoAcademy and Rotoviz.

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