The Value of the Running Quarterback

Tuesday, Jul 25, 2023 at 9:19 pm ET

Most fantasy football leagues award one point for every 10 rushing yards and one point for every 25 passing yards, meaning rushing yards are 60% more valuable.  With that in mind, it’s easy to see why quarterbacks who rank near the top of the league in rushing yards are more valuable than similar passers who don’t run.  Rushing touchdowns are worth 50% more than passing touchdowns (six points versus four points), so the benefits of a quarterback who uses his legs are clear.

I looked at the top five quarterbacks in rushing yards over the past five seasons and how their rank in passing yards compared to their rank in fantasy points to see how much MORE valuable these players were than their passing output would suggest.  Let's start by looking at each season between 2018 and 2022 to see who these players were and the difference in their production, then I will look at this year's top projected rushing quarterbacks and what we can expect based on recent history.


Player Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Justin Fields 27th 6th 21
Lamar Jackson 26th 14th 12
Josh Allen 7th 2nd 5
Jalen Hurts 10th 3rd 7
Daniel Jones 15th 9th 6
Average 17 6.8 10.2

Last season saw the second-highest difference between passing yard and fantasy point rankings, meaning the impact felt by quarterback rushing was very strong.  Fields is tied for the largest difference in our sample, but he was a full-time starter while Jackson back in 2019 (his rookie season) didn't start until the end of the year and worked mainly as a runner and gadget player before that point.  Every player here fits the "running quarterback" style and should be expected to have a similar impact on the ground this season.  Only Jones doesn't show up again as we continue through the past.


Player Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Jalen Hurts 21st 9th 12
Lamar Jackson 25th 15th 10
Josh Allen 8th 1st 7
Kyler Murray 14th 10th 4
Justin Fields 31st 31st 0
Average 19.8 13.2 6.6

Fields is an outlier here, finishing 31st in each category. He played only 11 games as the starter, and in those games he averaged under 6.5 carries and 38 yards per game.  In 2022, when he broke out as a rusher, he averaged 10.7 carries and 76.2 yards over 15 games, doubling his output.  The system put around Fields was tailored to his skills in 2022 which is a good lesson moving forward.  Jalen Hurts lost his offensive coordinator this offseason, but Anthony Richardson will be the benefactor as Shane Steichen stepped in as head coach in Indianapolis.  I don't think Hurts will suffer much, but I do see Richardson benefitting greatly.


Player Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Lamar Jackson 22nd 10th 12
Kyler Murray 13th 2nd 11
Cam Newton 24th 16th 8
Russell Wilson 9th 6th 3
Deshaun Watson 1st 5th (-4)
Average 13.8 7.8 6

Watson is the only player in our sample to have a "negative" difference, meaning he ranked higher in passing yards than total points.  This makes sense when you see that he was at the top of the league in passing yards.  Watson shows up on the next two lists as well with differences of seven and eight spots, so this also sits as an outlier.  This was Watson's last full season before missing over a year-and-a-half, and this gives me a new view on his 2023 possibilities: while 2022 was a struggle, he finished Week 17 as the eighth-highest scoring quarterback and Week 18 sixth, and his previous work as a top quarterback in both real life and fantasy give hope that he can recapture some of that prior production.  Watson is ranked 10th among quarterbacks by Fantasy Nerds, and that is a fair assessment, but he has shown in the past he can reach higher levels.


Player Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Lamar Jackson 22nd 1st 21
Kyler Murray 15th 7th 8
Josh Allen 23rd 6th 17
Deshaun Watson 13th 5th 8
Gardner Minshew 20th 20th 0
Average 18.6 7.8 10.8

While Minshew gained fans by making plays and having a killer mustache, he was a middling quarterback who looks like a high-level backup.  This was Jackson's first year as full-time starter, and he shocked the world by finishing first in fantasy points and winning a unanimous MVP award.  Jackson is the best example in our sample of a quarterback seeing added value with his legs to the point that his passing output is truly secondary.  His 21-spot difference in ranking is tied with Fields in 2022 as the largest difference over these five seasons.


Player Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Lamar Jackson 37th 29th 8
Josh Allen 32nd 21st 11
Deshaun Watson 11th 4th 7
Cam Newton 19th 12th 7
Mitchell Trubisky 20th 15th 5
Average 23.8 16.2 7.6

Jackson is the only quarterback to rank in the top five in quarterback rushing yards over each of the five seasons, and Allen shows up for the fourth time.  Seeing similar results in 2023 seems almost guaranteed, and, in kind, I see them as two of the top options at the position in fantasy.  Trubisky showing up at fifth on the list has a lot of similarities to Daniel Jones sitting at the same position in 2022.  They are both seen as below-average quarterbacks (though some will argue for Jones as an improved player; time will tell), but their ability to run the ball, while nowhere near as effective as Jackson or Allen, makes them starting options in fantasy some weeks.  Other players with similar passing stats aren't seen as realistic starting options most weeks.


Let's make sense of these tables with clean numbers at the end.  The average player in these tables ranked 18.6th in passing yards and 10.36th in fantasy points, making for an average difference of 8.24 spots.  That means players who ran the most outplayed their passing production by more than eight spots in fantasy rankings, showing their added value to fantasy owners.  Touchdowns are a big part of scoring as well, but touchdowns can vary more from year to year, so I wanted to focus on yardage in this examination.  That being said, players who run the ball more will score more rushiing touchdowns, so their boost is even greater than we might see here.

What does it mean for 2023?

The top five projected QB rushers in the upcoming season (according to Fantasy Nerds) are Fields, Jackson, Hurts, Richardson, and Allen, but I'm going to include the sixth and seventh-ranked players, Jones and Watson, because they are projected over 450 yards.  Murray ranks eighth, but his injury status makes for a lot of uncertainty, and the players below him start to fall into similar numbers.  Here is what that table looks like with projections and total rushing yards included:

Player Projected Rushing Yards Passing Yards Rank Fantasy Points Rank Difference
Justin Fields 1,044 29th 6th 23
Lamar Jackson 860.8 17th 4th 13
Jalen Hurts 766.1 15th 2nd 13
Anthony Richardson 740.7 28th 17th 11
Josh Allen 653.6 5th 3rd 2
Daniel Jones 595.9 20th 10th 10
Deshaun Watson 454.9 13th 8th 5
Average 730.9 18.1 7.1 11

The average expected difference is higher than any previous year's top five, and it's even higher when looking at only the top five in 2023 (12.4).  There are two ways to look at this: first, the quarterbacks who run most are going to dominate fantasy football this season.  I agree with this assessment, as most of the top fantasy players at the position show up here.  The only player outside the top 10 in total points, Richardson, might be the most deadly with his legs when he does see the field.

The second point of view, which I hadn't anticipated until seeing the results, is that these players might be ranked a little too high among quarterbacks.  We can expect Jackson, Hurts, and Allen to be near the top of the league in fantasy at the end of the year, but Fields and Richardson are raw when it comes to passing and might struggle overall, Jones was a middling quarterback until last year, and Watson hasn't shown much in two full seasons.

Players like Aaron Rodgers (who ranked 13th in points last year), Jared Goff (9th), and Derek Carr (16th) are ranked outside the top 15 at the position (along with Richardson at 17th), and each has a chance to outplay their projections.  Rodgers has been a top performer in the past, and while he declined last year, he won the previous two MVP awards and is moving to a new team with motivation to prove people wrong.  Goff isn't changing teams, but he came on last year to post his third-most yards and second-most touchdowns in his career, and he finished top-10 in scoring among quarterbacks in six different weeks, with four of those in the top five.  Carr can be frustrating (trust me as a Radiers fan), but he will post good weeks.

Even so, I still lean toward the quarterbacks with more rushing ability.  They generally set a higher baseline than other quarterbacks, as bad passing stats can be offset with rushing yards and more chances to run in touchdowns.  I see Richardson, in particular, regularly finishing weeks in the top-12 in scoring, and he is currently available at the end of drafts or for $1 in auctions. 

Target these running QBs higher than non-rushers, but don't overreach.  Good quarterbacks are available throughout fantasy drafts, and your team will be better served stacking up running backs and receivers while others scoop up early quarterbacks, but target players who add value with their legs when you do decide to fill the position.

Join the Discussion

mrock CommentedJul 27, 2023 9:21 pm

This was awesome. I just drafted Justin Fields with Anthony Richardson as my backup.

Daniel Hepner CommentedAug 17, 2023 8:16 pm

That might be my favorite quarterback combination right now in fantasy.

BallinBelu CommentedJul 28, 2023 1:31 pm

We get one keeper in our auction draft ppr league.
Given the prices I paid last season, the top two candidates for me to keep are Justin Fields ($5) or Chris Olave ($2). Who would you keep?

Daniel Hepner CommentedAug 17, 2023 2:13 pm

Hey I hope this isn't too late, but I would keep Fields. Olave for $2 is a great value, but you can find more receivers than quarterbacks. Unless you have another guy you're targeting, like Richardson, I would lock in the QB.

Daniel Hepner CommentedAug 19, 2023 2:53 am

You know, the more I thought about this, $2 for Olave is too good to pass up. I'd keep him, then use that as an opportunity to really build up your depth, then you can pay a few more dollars for Fields if you want to get him back.

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