The Running QB Cheat Code
Six years ago, Rich Hribar wrote one of the most famous fantasy football articles ever: "Terrelle Pryor, Tim Tebow and Running Quarterback History," which showed that running quarterbacks are basically a fantasy cheat code.
Years later, fantasy owners still aren’t taking full advantage of the running quarterback. According to current DRAFT Best Ball ADP, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Dak Prescott are all being drafted as QB2s despite ranking in the top five in quarterback rush attempts last year.
Hribar’s article is aging, but the numbers still hold up. According to The Action Network’s Ian Hartitz, there have been 20 quarterbacks since 2000 to run the ball at least 100 times in a season. All but one finished as a top 17 quarterback in fantasy, 13 finished in the top six, and 10 finished in the top three. That’s right: Half of the quarterbacks to attempt at least 100 runs have finished as a top three quarterback. It didn’t even matter if they were effective runners; simply running the ball was enough to vault them up the fantasy ranks.
This makes sense, as running the ball is more lucrative on a per-attempt basis than passing. In 2018, the average quarterback rush attempt yielded 0.66 fantasy points, while the average pass attempt yielded only 0.44 points (this stat excludes fumbles because I couldn't differentiate between rushing fumbles and passing fumbles. I assume the rushing number would be affected more by including fumbles, but it likely wouldn't change it significantly). The average quarterback rush attempt was worth 1.5 times as much as the average pass attempt. Over the course of a season, that discrepancy can make a big difference.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Jackson is the most undervalued player in Best Ball drafts right now. He had the most rush attempts of any quarterback in NFL history, and he only started seven games. He’s a must-draft at his current QB16 ADP because he’s a lock for triple-digit carries if he stays healthy.
In the final seven weeks of the season (i.e. after he became the starter), Jackson was seventh in the NFL in carries per game among all players. Over that same stretch, he was the QB7 in fantasy leagues. He has the potential to shatter every single quarterback rushing record in the book this year.
The Ravens added speedy wideout Marqise Brown in the draft and veteran running back Mark Ingram in free agency, so Jackson will be dealing with a (slightly) better receiving corps this year. Still, you’re mostly banking on Jackson’s legs by drafting him, but that’s a good bet to make. If he gets running back-esque rushing volume again this year, he has a great chance to be a league-winner.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Allen ran the ball 89 times in twelve games, a 119-carry pace over a full season. Only 10 quarterbacks in NFL history have topped 119 rush attempts. Last year, Allen ranked second among quarterbacks in carries per game behind only Jackson.
Unfortunately, he’s going to experience some regression this year, as he likely won’t be able to replicate his 7.8 yards per carry average (first among quarterbacks with at least 30 carries by more than a yard) and 9.0% rushing touchdown rate (fourth). Allen leaves a lot to be desired as a passer, but he’s worth a gamble at his QB18 ADP because of his rushing volume.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
QB10, QB10, QB6. Those are Prescott’s finishes over the last three seasons. He’s been a consistent QB1 since coming into the league (and now he has Amari Cooper to throw to), but his Best Ball ADP is all the way down at QB20. Prescott’s rushing attempts jumped in a big way last season, as the Mississippi State product totaled 75 carries in 2018 after recording just 57 in each of his first two seasons. Prescott ranked fourth among quarterbacks in red zone rush attempts, so he has touchdown upside to go along with stellar rushing volume.
Dallas also added Amari Cooper around the trade deadline last year and Prescott had the seventh-most fantasy points among quarterbacks after the Cowboys acquired the 24-year-old wideout. He’s a safe bet at his current ADP.