Every NFL player will eventually have a narrative attached to their name. Draft position, on-field performance or merely having a great public relations team on their side are just some of the factors that can play a role in that narrative: a nutshell synopsis that, for better or worse, clings to them. The fraternity of NFL quarterbacks is no different and not unlike a high school popularity contest. Some are the cool kids, guys that can seemingly do no wrong despite their missteps, while others are destined to be picked last for dodgeball every day in gym class. By focusing on advanced stats, metrics and analytics player profiles, we can use these (often faulty) narratives to our advantage and add value to our fantasy rosters.
As the title suggests, the two players up for comparison here are Jameis Winston and Blake Bortles. Bortles has been regarded as the “garbage time king,” the butt of every joke and the epitome of the errant practice pass. Meanwhile, Jameis Winston is the talent-oozing young gunslinger who merely needs a weapons upgrade to become Tampa Bay’s elite franchise signal caller. Before the 2017 season, the average draft position (ADP) for these two players in dynasty fantasy football could not have been further apart.
In one quarterback leagues, Winston was typically the fifth quarterback off the board, with an ADP of 5.04 per FantasyFooballCalculator.com. Bortles was the 25th quarterback selected on average, usually around the start of the 14th round (14.03 ADP). In two quarterback or superflex leagues, the needle barely moved, as Winston was chosen as the 11th quarterback on average in the fourth round (4.04), and Bortles was the 26th quarterback plucked from the draft in the 11th round (11.07). For two players who are nearly identical in so many statistical aspects, it begs the question. Are there really 15-20 QBs or seven to nine rounds of draft stock separating these two players?
Who Are They Really?
Quarterbacks with such a stark difference in fantasy draft capital must be separated by a massive talent chasm, right? That is what their storylines would lead you to believe, but it’s just not true. While quickly glancing at their workout metrics, these two players have eerily similar athletic profiles.
The similarities don’t end when the stopwatch is put away. From 2015 to 2017, among the 24 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts, Blake Bortles and Jameis Winston are joined at the hip in numerous categories. Their touchdown percentages ranked No. 17 and No. 18 respectively and their completion percentages ranked No. 21 and No. 22 respectively. Bortles and Winston also boast the third- and fifth-worst interception percentages over the past three seasons. In 2017, both quarterbacks finished in the top five in Interceptable Passes, with Winston totaling the second-most (32) and Bortles at fourth (28). Both players also struggled throwing the ball downfield, evidenced by Deep Ball Completion Percentages outside the top 30 in 2017. Despite these two rubbing elbows in numerous statistical departments, Winston is still regarded in many circles as a supreme “arm talent” and gifted passer, whereas Bortles is the inaccurate author of the airball.
Konami Code: Facts vs. Fiction
Shout out to Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, who coined the term Komani Code as short hand for discounted running quarterbacks whose rushing production provides a bankable source of cheap fantasy points. And beyond the Bortles-Winston passing game comparables, the area in which Bortles separates himself from Winston is rushing production.
Blake Bortles: 1,410 career rushing yards in four seasons (352.5 yards/season average)
Jameis Winston: 516 career rushing yards in three seasons (172 yards/season average)
After making a splash during his rookie season with six rushing touchdowns, Jameis Winston has seen that total dwindle to merely two over the last two seasons. Winston has coincidentally also watched his rushing attempts and rushing yards dip every season to a paltry 33 attempts and 135 yards which both ranked 18th among quarterbacks. To further put this in context, SPARQ “phenom” Trevor Siemian amassed 127 rushing yards on 31 carries and matched Winston’s single rushing touchdown. When Winston has tucked the ball into his side, he has not provided any greater efficiency or big play ability to offset the diminished volume or red zone involvement.
In contrast, Blake Bortles has displayed a high floor regarding rushing production, notching at least 310 yards and two touchdowns in each of the past three seasons. The rushing volume for Bortles has remained steady, despite working with three different offensive coordinators, as he has quietly ranked no lower than seventh in rushing yards among quarterbacks in any season. The fantasy boost that he has received from running consistently and efficiently is tangible, as he has outscored Winston in fantasy points per game in each of their three seasons in the league together.
The common sports media narratives do not fully reflect their intrinsic fantasy football values. In terms of age, their value should be linear because while Bortles is two years older than Winston (age 26 compared to 24), that is a far cry from considering a player to be ancient, especially at the quarterback position in dynasty. Blake Bortles has had moments of elite fantasy production as a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2015 with his floor settling in as a high-end QB2 over the last two seasons.
While it’s true Jameis Winston has never recorded a top 12 overall finish, seasons in which players miss games due to injury, i.e. Winston’s 2017, can be misleading when merely glancing at the end of the year results. During the 11 games Winston played fully, he averaged 19.2 fantasy points per game, which in season-long rankings would place him fifth among quarterbacks. Winston has shown intermittent flashes of fulfilling the promise that many have forecasted since his draft.
Considering his overall track record, could Winston reach the upper echelon of fantasy elite? Yes, it is within his range of outcomes, but for all of his potential, the current price tag Winston carries in startups or dynasty trades outweighs his value. Other quarterbacks that offer a similar mix of youth and upside, as well as the insulation of a long-term contract (like Derek Carr) carry a lower draft and trade cost. Staring down free agency in 2020, and possibly sooner if his fifth-year option is not picked up, the Buccaneers could decide to move on from Winston if he does not start “eating some more Ws” and end their playoff drought. The time to cash in on Winston could be now.
Check out Blake Bortles & Jameis Winston on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Dynasty Rankings:
Blake Bortles is not the terrible fantasy one-liner we have been led to believe. Bortles is an underrated fantasy asset given his youth (age 26), later round ADP, upgrades to his offensive line in the signing of Andrew Norwell, and the overall addition of talent for the passing game with additions of Donte Moncrief and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Does the loss of Allen Robinson help his outlook for the 2018 season? No, but Blake Bortles was the seventh-ranked quarterback in fantasy over the second half of the 2017 season without Robinson. With the improvements made to the offense around him, Bortles can maintain his status as a low-end QB1/high end QB2 that can be attained cheaply in trades and the middle rounds of dynasty drafts.