2023 Fantasy Bounce Backs | The Quarterbacks

by Connor Donald · Draft Strategy

2022 Letdowns

In the dead of the NFL offseason awaiting training camps, it is time to look at some bounce back candidates who let fantasy gamers down in 2022. The first in this four-article series will look into three QBs who finished with high negative Expected Fantasy Points Per Game differentials last season. Who is looking to outperform their output from last season? Lets dive in! 

Bounce Back Candidates

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG Differential: -2.68

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG: 15.61

2023 FantasyPros Expert Platform ranks: QB23

No team had a greater fall from grace than the Los Angeles Rams from 2021 to 2022. While injuries played a major role, the Rams were also extremely inefficient on offense. Football Outsiders offensive DVOA measures a team’s efficiency comparing success on every play versus a league average based on situation and opponent. The 2021 Rams ranked No. 8 in the NFL in offensive DVOA performing 10.6-percent better than the average offense. In 2023, they fell to No. 23 performing 8.1-percent worse than the league average. Their offensive passing DVOA suffered the most falling from +26.6-percent in 2021 to -0.8-percent in 2022.

Matthew Stafford did not help the offense’s ineffectiveness. For fantasy gamers, it was downright ugly. Stafford delivered only one top 12 quarterback performance in 8 fully healthy weeks. Even worse, he managed more than 15 fantasy points in only two of those eight games. It is no wonder he finished 2.68 points below his Expected Fantasy Points.

Fantasy quarterback rankings Matthew Stafford

Matthew Stafford Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Matthew Stafford was still one of the more accurate quarterbacks by True Completion Percentage. That metric factors out unpressured throwaways and dropped passes. He ranked No.7 with a true completion of 72.5-percent. In addition, his Catchable Pass Rate ranked No. 5 among quarterbacks with an 81.2-percent rate.

One major concern was the Rams’ offensive line. Hit by retirement, free agent losses and injuries in 2022. Stafford’s Protection Rate (defined as hurries forcing a throw in less than three seconds) also regressed. His Protection Rate went from No.10 in 2021 (13.6-percent) to No. 33 in 2022 (17.7-percent).

While an eventual dropoff in performance is expected for Stafford, the regression that occurred in 2022 was too extreme and too quick. With regression already baked into his ADP, he is worth buying ahead of an impending bounce back season.

Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG Differential: -1.54

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG: 18.67

2033 FantasyPros Expert Platform ranks: QB7

Justin Herbert has spent three seasons as an NFL quarterback and has had two different offensive coordinators. He enters his fourth season and gets Kellen Moore, his third offensive coordinator. We would do well to more often consider the impact of new offensive schemes on quarterbacks.

One thing was certain last year: the Joe Lombardi experiment wasn’t working. In 2021, his first season as offensive coordinator, the Charges ranked top three as a passing offense. Herbert ended up having a monster season, finishing as QB2 with 23.3 PPG. He ranked top three in: Pass Attempts, Passing Yards, Air Yards and Touchdowns. Those are all stats with a huge influence on fantasy production. His ADP and expectations exploded.

Looking back to 2022, Herbert’s Pass Attempts and Passing Yards were still top three. However, he saw significant fantasy regression. His Protection Rate, Touchdowns and Air Yards all dipped. This was all due, in large part, to an extremely ineffective run game that ranked No.30 in yards per game. Herbert’s Pressured Throws exploded from 104 in 2021 to a position-leading 156 in 2022. He ended the season as QB15 in points per game and fell 6.3 fantasy PPG below his 2021 production. Despite great support from his pass catchers, who both ranked inside the top 15 in Target Separation and Yards After Catch per Target among quarterbacks. The offense wasn’t as effective finding the end zone or pushing the ball down the field like in 2021.

An Offensive System Upgrade

Now, Herbert’s expectations seem to be leveling off based on early expert ranks. This is despite an aggressive offensive play caller entering the picture. As the offensive coordinator since 2019 in Dallas, Kellen Moore helped Dak Prescott average over 20 fantasy points per game in three of four seasons. 20 point-per-game output is a near lock for a top 12 fantasy QB. Moore ensures Herbert will best his QB15 PPG and return to his 2021 production.

Moore marries an effective run game with a high-octane passing game. This will take pressure off Herbert and open up the field for the offense. In addition, the Chargers added first-round receiving weapon Quentin Johnston. How can you not love the setup for Herbert to return to top five in fantasy relevancy?

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG Differential: -1.12

2022 Expected Fantasy PPG: 16.22

2023 FantasyPros Expert Platform rank: QB9

Deshaun Watson is the only choice of these bounce back quarterbacks that lines up with the consensus. His current Fantasy Pros Expert Platform Dynasty Ranking is higher than his Dynasty ADP from last offseason. It all makes sense, given the limited time he played last year. When Watson finally returned to game action, it had been nearly two years since playing in his last NFL game.

It was just a short couple seasons ago that Watson wrapped up his third straight top five fantasy finish in PPG. This is to say nothing of his rookie season when he played only seven games, but his 24.7 PPG pace would have been good for QB1. Watson returned slow in his first four games returning from suspension in 2022, averaging 12.25 points per game. Over that span, he produced just three total touchdowns and three interceptions. Watson wrapped up the final two weeks of the season with top ten fantasy performances with 21.9 and 19.6 points. He found the end zone five times and threw only two interceptions. This is a foreshadowing of a return to form for Watson as he adjusts to his offensive weapons and scheme.

With a fully guaranteed contract, that ensures the 27-year-old’s job is secure for the next four years. The Cleveland Browns have also shown a willingness to add weapons around him. They traded for Amari Cooper last offseason and Elijah Moore this offseason. Things are setting up to be a lock for Watson to take his place again as a top ten fantasy QB. His ceiling is top five, where he made a living for three years prior to his suspension.

The Bounce Back

Every year managers are left with players who let them down. While the players above may have been on that list in 2022. It is time to turn the page on last season.

The ceiling is sky high for Deshaun Watson and Justin Herbert. For Matthew Stafford, a return to form would provide value to managers. It is time for their bounce back in 2023.