On this week’s RB1 Podcast, we took a deep dive into the quarterback position and talked potential busts, sleepers, bold predictions, and the like. At the end of the show, we each gave a quarterback who we’re targeting in all of our drafts. I picked my boy Matthew Stafford who’s long been one of my go-to fantasy quarterbacks, but we’d talked plenty about him during the pod, so I quickly threw out Jimmy Garoppolo’s name. I hadn’t done too much research on it but I saw he was being drafted as the QB19 after finishing 14th in 2019 which seems like pretty good value.
Hours after we stopped recording, I found myself becoming more and more infatuated with the idea of taking a flier on Garoppolo this year as my starting fantasy QB. Not only is the guy really attractive—something I think 100% should matter when it comes to drafting your fantasy team—but he’s also playing under one of the best offensive minds in football right now in Kyle Shanahan. That’s a situation you certainly want to take advantage of. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Jimmy Garoppolo has all the makings of a top 10 fantasy quarterback yet is currently going in the 10th round.
Top 10 shouldn’t sound like a huge leap of faith for Garoppolo as he was almost a top 10 guy last year, finishing 14th among quarterbacks after tossing 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He finished top 10 in just about every major quarterback stat, including completion percentage (4th), touchdowns (t-5th), adjusted air yards per pass attempt (7th), quarterback rating (8th), and he finished 12th in yards. He also had the highest pass percentage on balls thrown 20+ yards. He did all this on 476 pass attempts, 19th in the NFL last year, fewer than Mitchell Trubisky, Derek Carr, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Kyle Allen.
I have a feeling the pass attempts are the biggest hang up with people in terms of Jimmy G’s fantasy potential in 2020.
The San Francisco 49ers rode their rushing attack all the way to the Super Bowl last year and there were multiple games in which Kyle Shanahan actively took the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands and force fed the ground game. Obviously, taking the ball out of the quarterback’s hands is not what you want to see as it stunts fantasy production. Kinda hard to score points when you don’t have the ball.
However, I’m not worried about the pass attempts in 2020 for two reasons. Firstly, between 2015 (when Kyle Shanahan first took over as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator) and 2018, Shanahan offense has averaged 572 pass attempts per season. That’s a full 100 more attempts than what Garoppolo threw last year. It’s not as though Shanahan is against throwing the football.
Secondly, last year was the first full year of Garoppolo in San Francisco. He started the final five games in 2017 after getting traded to the 49ers and only three games in 2018 before tearing his ACL. 2019 was the first time Garoppolo was able to play more than five games in Shanahan’s offense. It makes sense for there to not only be some bumps in the road, but also some feeling each other out. Now with a full season and a deep playoff run under their belt, I’d fully expect Shanahan to have a little more confidence in Garoppolo to operate the offense as he designs it and open the passing game up a little bit and create situations for Jimmy G to succeed in.
And let me tell you, those 100 extra attempts would make a world of difference in fantasy. If Garoppolo had even thrown 24 more passes, to make it a clean 500 attempts last year, he would’ve finished with 4,178 yards (8.4 yards per attempt) and 28 touchdowns (5.7 TD%), which would’ve bumped him up to QB12. That’s just with 24 more attempts. Imagine if Garoppolo gets to sniff 570 attempts in 2020.
#49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo did plenty of damage in the 4th quarter of the regular season:— Fourth and Nine (@fourth_nine) May 27, 2020
• 6/1 - TD/INT
• 3rd down Comp% that went for a first down - 50% (1st in #NFL)
• 3rd down overall Comp% - 70.1 (4th)
• 4th quarter QBR - 107.1 (5th)
via @YacovoneRick #NinersAtNoon pic.twitter.com/iVe4MFc6jk
The 49ers have already sprinkled some breadcrumbs this offseason as to their plans for the offense this year. They put a second-round tender on wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and then used one of their first round picks on Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk while simultaneously trading running back Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins. Pair Aiyuk with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle, both of whom are fantasy studs in their own right, and you see the makings of a passing game that could explode this season.
I have the utmost faith that as he’s sitting at home in quarantine, Kyle Shanahan is drawing up all kinds of new, creative, and arguably insane ways to move the football this year and the biggest beneficiary of this in my eyes will be Jimmy Garoppolo. His value going as the QB19 is too good to pass up for a guy who is a lock for a top 10 fantasy quarterback in my mind and could even sneak into the top 5 this year. Personally, I’ll be drafting his big, beautiful smile in every one of my leagues.