By Nick Wier

With the football season right around a pandemic-sized corner and most rookie drafts in the books, we begin to turn our attention to the regular season and actual football (hopefully) beginning. In fantasy sports, one of the most satisfying moves is finding that hidden gem of a player. The player that is undervalued or not as sought after for various reasons. 

Today, we are going to look at one of my favorites under the radar players in Superflex dynasty leagues: Jimmy Garoppolo.

Garoppolo’s career with the 49ers has been a bit of a mixed bag before the 2019 season. In 2017, he was traded mid-season and started the final five games of the season for the 49ers. During that stretch, he led the 49ers to a 5-0 record. While those wins looked meaningless outside of destroying the Niners draft position, it gave the franchise a taste of what could be with Garoppolo under center. That off-season, the 49ers rewarded Garoppolo with an extension making him the highest-paid QB in the NFL at the time. When 2018 came along, and the worst possible scenario happened – Garoppolo tore his ACL and missed over 13 games. Following the ACL tear, it was difficult to know what to expect. In 2019 Garoppolo played a full season and put up the following notable stats:

  • 12th in pass yards with 3,978 
  • 6th in pass touchdowns with 27 
  • 4th in completion percentage at 69.1
  • 8th in QB rating at 102
  • 3rd in yards per attempt at 8.4
  • 19th in pass attempts with 476  

For his first year being a full-time starter, that is better than good. In total points scored, Garoppolo was QB14 on the year, and in average scoring, he was QB22. 

Okay, we can see that Garoppolo had an excellent first full season, but why exactly should we be excited going forward?

The Swiss Army Knife WR Effect:

From Week 8 on, Deebo Samuel had either a touchdown or over 100 rushing+receiving yards in 7 of 9 games. Shanahan finally figured out (or trusted) how to deploy Deebo in this offense, which was very simple: just put the ball in his hands. Quick slants or sweeps – whatever it takes. When Deebo was producing, so was Jimmy. From Week 8 until the end of the season, Garoppolo was QB8 in total scoring and QB12 in average scoring. His per 16 game stats over that stretch: 4,425 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 10.6 interceptions. 

In Deebo’s second full season as a starter, I think this entire offense will benefit from his swiss army knife skill set. The real scary part is that the Niners may have drafted a similar guy in Brandon Aiyuk this year. His speed and measurables could make him a dream fit in this offense – that at times feels like a modern NBA team because it’s positionless at the skill positions. Add in Kittle and whoever the heck Shanahan likes at RB, and this offense will be a matchup nightmare. Given how efficient Garoppolo was with middle-of-the-road pass attempts, I think the passing game continues to grow and becomes more heavily relied upon as Shanahan’s trust in Garoppolo grows.

Second full season after ACL Tear:

The ACL tear used to be a death sentence in sports, but due to modern medicine, it’s more of an inconvenience than anything else. Players are recovering quicker and seeing results faster than ever before. When players suffer a significant injury nowadays, the biggest thing you are looking to see them accomplish isn’t getting that part of their body stronger, it’s having the confidence you can do what you used to do with no limitations or hesitations.

Let’s look at some of the recent QBs who have torn their ACLs and didn’t rely massively on their legs to succeed in the run game, to begin with (Sorry RG3):

We see that nearly all the players took a step forward in their second-year post-ACL surgery. Both Carson Palmer and Deshaun Watson are notable exceptions, but in fairness, both QB’s showed to be top 10 QBs in their first two years post-ACL surgery. I think it’s natural to assume Garoppolo can continue that trend of performing better in year two.

Second (healthy) year in Shanahan offense:

Kyle Shanahan’s offense is one of the more difficult offenses in the game to learn. While this is technically his 4th year as part of the 49er’s organization, this will be Garoppolo’s 2nd year after a full season of action. During Shanahan’s coaching career, the starting QBs he has had yearly have been inconsistent, but in the stretches where he has had the same QB start 10+ games in back to back years, the results are damning. 

In 2008 Matt Schaub started 11 games for the Texans and averaged per game: 277 yards, 1.4 TDs, and .91 Int. In 2009 Schaub started 16 games, and those stats per game became: 298 yards, 1.81 TDs, and .94 INTs. Of note, Schaub led the NFL in passing yards in 2009.

In 2015 Matt Ryan started 16 games for the Falcons and averaged per game: 287 yards, 1.3 TDs, and 1 Int. In 2016 though Matt Ryan exploded over 16 games for 309 yards, 2.4 TDs, and .44 INT. Notably, Matt Ryan was MVP this season.

(There was a third QB that fit the criteria of 10 games in back to back seasons as a starter for Shanahan: Robert Griffin III. RG3’s second season was after the playoff ACL tear, and unfortunately, he was just never the same player.)

It’s a small sample size, but I would bet that Garoppolo follows Schaub and Ryan’s path and sees a jump in production in year two. I don’t think it will entirely be the Matt Ryan levels, but even if we see a Schaub level jump that would put Garoppolo in fringe QB1 territory. If we try to extrapolate stats based on what Schaub did, we might get a 2020 season for Garoppolo like 4,298 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 14 int. For fun, if he sees a Ryan level jump, that would mean a 2020 season of 4,314 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 8 INTs. Either one of those outcomes would be very appealing for a QB that is viewed as a low-end QB2. 

Closing:

In fantasy pros consensus rankings, Garoppolo is checking in as QB19, and his ADP per mizelle.net in leagues is QB20. I know we all want the new shiny toy or young QB, but I am a firm believer that 2019 looked like Garoppolo’s floor in a Shanahan offense. I would be buying him with confidence in any Superflex league that I could, and if I was about to have a startup draft, I’m trying to grab him a round or two sooner than his current ADP. Get Garoppolo now for cheap or miss your opportunity to have a set-and-forget high-end QB2 with QB1 ceiling for the next 5+ years.

2020 Prediction: 

4,216 yards passing, 35 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Good enough for a QB11-14 range finish.

Nick Wier – Dynasty/Redraft
Ride or Dynasty

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