Prior to the 2022 season, we’ll break down the performance of each position group and how they fared in 2022 compared to expectations, determining who is a likely regression candidate. First up is the quarterback position. For expected production, we look at the average number of touchdowns scored by yardage. For rushing touchdowns, it’s important to note our data is based off rushing yards that doesn’t include sack yardage. It makes it easier to project quality rushers independent of potentially poor offensive line play.
In this article, we’ll also review positive and negative regression.. Regression isn’t a dirty word it can apply in both directions and is, statistically speaking, “directionless”. We’ll review who we expect to revert to average based on outperforming expectations and vice versa. The quarterbacks included here are players who are returning to school and are likely starters.
Here is how the quarterback position breaks down:
Yards Per Touchdown: Quarterbacks
|Position||Pass Yards/TD||Rush Yards/TD||Rec Yards/TD|
Quarterbacks Passing – Negative Regression (Bad)
Quarterbacks are the most likely player to overperform in passing touchdowns given variance, especially when looking at Group of 5 Conferences.
What the above chart means is that on average, a quarterback is expected to score a passing touchdown every 140.5 yards passing. The same applies to rushing and receiving yards. However, the caveat to make with rushing yards is that it removes sack yardage, thanks to the calculation from Pro Football Focus.
Quarterback Passing Touchdown Overperformance
The list above removes quarterbacks who are no longer in school but there are still interesting takeaways. First, the best quarterbacks at the best schools will likely always overperform in this metric. Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud both rank top three. The receiver talent on those rosters and quality of quarterback play means they are likely to repeat an above expectation season again. They are not in “average” situations compared to their peers.
So what quarterbacks should we be concerned about? I think there’s a good chance both North Carolina State QB Devin Leary and Utah State’s Logan Bonner underperform. I like Leary and believe he’s a quality quarterback, but he loses his best player in Emeka Emezie and, while they return both Devin Carter and Thayer Thomas, 11 touchdowns over expectation isn’t doable. (I want to make sure people also understand that he could still score 35 touchdowns – but likely only if he has higher passing volume, given expectation.) Logan Bonner could take a step back for similar reasons. Losing Deven Thompkins to the NFL is massive for this offense. Bonner is a fine quarterback but he’s more of a volume passer and I envision him seeing a significant step back in 2022.
A few other names that stand out on this list are Miami (OH) QB Brett Gabbert, Texas A&M’s Max Johnson, Georgia State’s Darren Grainger, Central Michigan’s Daniel Richardson, and UCF’s Mikey Keene. Each of these quarterbacks are a handful of things. First, they’re not above average compared to their respective conferences. Second, their weapons are in the same situation. Gabbert loses Jack Sorenson. Grainger loses Sam Pinckney, and Richardson loses JaCorey Sullivan and Kalil Pimpleton.
Quarterbacks Passing – Positive Regression (Good)
On the other side of the coin are players who were productive but failed to live up to expectations. Most threw for a substantial number of yards but couldn’t connect in the endzone for multiple reasons.
Quarterback Passing Touchdown Underperformance
An interesting note from the list above is that eight of the top 20 underperforming quarterbacks in touchdowns transferred this year. I openly wonder if that’s a coincidence but – is there something there with the quarterback’s not living up to expectations statistically and being run out of town? Evaluating this group becomes more difficult in new situations but I think there’s reason to think we see more production from this group.
For the quarterbacks staying in their role, Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei sticks out. The talent Clemson has at receiver should be among the best in the conference. Uigalelei has the physical talent in the world but I’m not betting on a rebound given his conservative approach and struggles in 2021. UTEP’s Gavin Hardison was among the most efficient quarterbacks in the FBS last season but still managed to score five touchdowns below expectation. He’ll likely be less efficient this year and without leading receiver Jacob Cowing, it’s hard to sell the upside here.
One player on this list I expect to rebound in 2022 is Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald is on the other end of the spectrum for me. He has three quality passing game options in explosive downfield weapon Tyrone Broden, a reliable short-yardage option in Austin Osborne, and an All-MAC tight end, Christian Sims. McDonald becomes a sneaky option in this scenario. Old Dominion quarterback Hayden Wolff is another. In their last five games of the season, the Monarchs averaged 36 points per game – all in-conference matchups. With his best receiver, Ali Jennings, and elite tight end Zack Kuntz back in 2022, Wolff should rebound.
Quarterbacks Rushing – Negative (Bad)
The most valuable quarterbacks on a week-to-week basis are generally those with rushing upside. Like with passing touchdowns, we see players outperform their statistical expectations often. The calculations below are based on the rushing yardage of players subtracting their sack yardage.
Quarterback Rushing Touchdown Overperformance
The biggest takeaway by far is Louisville QB Malik Cunningham outperforming his expectation by 8 full rushing touchdowns. He’s the best rushing quarterback in college football but it would be foolish to expect another 20 touchdowns on the ground. That elevated him to an elite season and while he will be incredibly productive overall in 2022, repeating 2022 will be hard. That’s part of why the CFF team has moved him down in their rankings.
Another player likely to disappoint is Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman. Hartman ran for 541 yards minus sacks and is a quality rusher in his own right but 2021 was far above expectation. Prior to 2021, his career-high in rushing touchdowns was 2. Hartman also overperformed in passing touchdowns by nine. He is clearly a player to be skeptical on in drafts. In six-point per passing touchdown leagues, his total overperformance accounts for 84 fantasy points or 6 points per game.
Although neither are big fantasy options, both Iowa’s Spencer Petras and Wisconsin’s Graham Mertz had under 100 rushing yards (minus sacks) and outperformed their expectation by 4 and 3 touchdowns respectively. Stanford’s Tanner McKee has mobility but slightly overperformed his expectation but with only 2 touchdowns, that’s within acceptable variance. Marshall’s – now Virginia Tech quarterback – Grant Wells fits in a similar bucket with McKee of mobile enough, but he outperformed by over 5 touchdowns. With Wells, he also underperformed in passing touchdowns so it’s not unreasonable to think his 2022 with North Texas might find the mean of his expectations. Will Levis returns to his Kentucky for his (likely) final season but was more productive than he likely will be in 2022. Also losing his top receiver, Levis might struggle on the ground as well.
Quarterback Rushing – Positive (Good)
Quarterback Rushing Touchdown Underperformance
The number one player below expectation was Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister. Burmeister moves to San Diego State and withing rushing ability he’s shown thus far, I think he has a higher ceiling than he’s displayed in 2021. He’s a player worth keeping an eye on despite his move to the Mesa. Georgia State’s Darren Grainger is another quarterback who I expect to outperform in 2022. He’s an excellent rusher and while he outperformed in passing touchdowns, he should see an improvement overall.
Hendon Hooker was excellent in 2021 for Tennessee and might have an even higher ceiling for the Josh Heupel offense this season. He performed three touchdowns under expectation last year. He’s an excellent rusher and there’s a chance we haven’t even seen his ceiling. DJ Irons from Akron falls in a similar bucket. A player who split time last year, Irons might be an improving player this year under new Head Coach Joe Moorhead. Quarterback Todd Centeio transferred to James Madison, but his rushing upside is higher than the public thinks. Last year he had 565 rushing yards (minus sacks) and was four touchdowns below expectation. If he scores four more or even exceeds expectation, this could be an incredibly valuable player in Campus2Canton leagues.
Ultimately, the quarterbacks that underperformed are underperforming to a lesser extreme, compared to their above-expectation counterparts. Meaning negative regression is more likely. Cunningham is the most significant standout but on average, the top twenty is underperforming by an average of 3.0 touchdowns versus the overperformance of 3.9 touchdowns. The overperformance being more extreme indicates a higher likelihood of those, on average, reverting to the expectation.
Given what happened in 2021, there are multiple quarterbacks who exceed expectations. Our statistical average, based on what we saw across FBS, is how we measure this data. Using this data, we can project potential pitfalls in ADP and rankings. Overall, this is simply a guide based on average but given certain situations, it should be actionable content. The next version of this series will focus on running backs.