QB Fantasy Bargain: Jared Goff

Is Jared Goff one of 2022’s six worst fantasy QBs? The last time he finished as bad as 27th – either in overall fantasy scoring or in fantasy points per game – was in his 2016 rookie campaign. That year a pre-prime, 22-year-old Todd Gurley averaged only 3.2 yards per carry while running behind a bottom-tiered offensive line that pressured Goff day and night (and presumably in his dreams).

Goff’s receiver corps was among the league’s worst, featuring Kenny Britt in what would be his final season as a full-time starter. The next-most-targeted receivers were Tavon Austin, Lance Hendricks, and Brian Quick. Collectively these four pass-catchers accounted for 87% of Rams receivers’ receptions and 90% of their receiving yards. They also accounted for 13 of the team’s 14 total receiving TDs.

In other words, Goff’s worst campaign was a rookie season in which he was inexperienced, overmatched, and lacking in playmaking receiving talent. And now, the fantasy market believes Goff is headed toward his worst fantasy season since that ugly NFL debut.

More pointedly, the fantasy universe believes Goff will be worse than last year, when he was the overall QB24 (while missing three games) and the QB23 in fantasy points per game (or the QB22 if we don’t count Nick Foles’ one start for Chicago). His starting RB, D’Andre Swift – one of the league’s top pass-catching backs – played in only 12 full games. Goff’s experienced No. 2 RB, Jamaal Williams, missed four contests. The team’s preseason No. 1 WR, Tyrell Williams, was knocked out for the year in Week 1. The de facto No. 2 WR, Quintez Cephus, endured a season-ending injury in Week 5. Stalwart TE T.J. Hockenson missed five games.

Too often last season, Goff’s surrounding talent consisted of up-and-coming rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown – unexpectedly elevated to the No. 1 receiver role – and a smattering of tertiary options including Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, and Brock Wright. While Swift and Williams were sidelined, the three backup RBs the Lions employed had a combined one NFL rushing attempt coming into the season.

And yet, the fantasy universe insists Goff will be worse in 2022. St. Brown is poised for another strong campaign. Rookie first-round pick Jameson Williams should make an immediate impact once healthy. Offseason addition D.J. Chark possesses a ceiling higher than any 2021 Lions WR not named Amon-Ra, reinforced by the fact that the 25-year-old’s best fantasy season (2019) was better than any other 2021 or 2022 Lions RB/WR/TE except (barely) St. Brown. Additionally, the backups forced to step up last year are now back to being tertiary options, buried behind five prime/pre-prime playmakers whose collective talent exceeds any combination of starters Goff enjoyed last year.

Is Jared Goff a top-20 fantasy quarterback?
Dec 19, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff (16) passes the ball during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Now let’s examine Goff, who (deservedly) has taken heat for being an underwhelming NFL QB after breaking out in 2017 and 2018. But entering last season, he was one of only nine QBs who’d averaged 15.5+ fantasy points per game in each of the previous four years. Last season he posted the best completion percentage of his career. But a lack of healthy talent limited his upside. It also didn’t help that he averaged fewer pass attempts per game than in 2020 and 2019.

Additionally, Goff was 30th in red zone fantasy points among QBs. While one might assume that an active backfield was to blame, D’Andre Swift was merely 34th in RB red zone fantasy points, while Jamaal Williams was 56th. No other Detroit RB finished in the top 100. And while one might guess that Goff simply wasn’t trusted inside the red zone, he was 15th in pass attempts, with approximately 40% of those attempts targeting previously mentioned tertiary options, who today are mere backups (or out of the NFL).

In other words, give him better talent, and he should convert more scoring opportunities.

And when we consider how many “good” performances Goff had even in a down year, we can see how the overall numbers don’t tell the whole story. He had two or more TDs in half of his starts – a higher percentage than Derek Carr had. The problem is that Goff’s bad games were really, really bad. Five times he finished with single-digit fantasy points. For context, he’d done that only 13 times the previous four seasons.

In a 4.6 fantasy point effort against the Steelers, 44% of his pass attempts went to Raymond, Benson, and Wright. In a down game later in the season against the Bengals, 69% of Goff’s targets went to preseason backups (all of whom remain backups today).

This does not mean Goff will return to top-12 form. There are a solid 22-24 QBs with strong top-12 potential if things break right. Goff is one of them. But he continues to face obstacles that some other QBs don’t. His status atop the depth chart is not safe; another down year could spell the end of Goff’s time as Detroit’s starting QB. Swift and Hockenson are higher-than-normal injury risks. The rookie Williams might not be 100% healthy until well into the season. Chark is coming off a season-ending injury of his own.

So this isn’t a time to be overly optimistic. In fact, when it comes to fantasy football predictions, it’s never a good time to be “overly” anything.

But a sober, objective reading of Goff’s talent, surrounding talent, schedule (easier than last year’s), and other fantasy-relevant factors bring us to a firm conclusion that Goff is primed to comfortably outperform his QB27 ADP. If last year were a sign of things to come – if Goff delivers comparable numbers – then he should be better than QB27.

However, we’re taking this a step further. Last year likely was an anomaly. Numerous conditions suggest a rebound. If the rebound is about two points per game, he should finish in the top 20. If it’s closer to three points, then he’ll be startable more often than not. Both of these scenarios are very realistic.

103 of 106 experts compiled by Fantasy Pros (97%) rank him outside the top 20. 65 (61%) place him at or below his QB27 ADP.

If you’re in a two-QB league, Goff is a likely steal. In deep one-QB leagues, he’s a solid, little-to-lose snag with your last pick in the event he remains the streamer he was last year – only with a much higher floor.

Jared Goff, DET (QB27 ADP)
Contrarian Prediction: Top-20 QB

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