Vick. Tebow. Newton. Griffin III. These are just a few quarterbacks who electrified the NFL and fantasy football leagues early in their careers. What did they have in common? They used their legs to accumulate highlights as well as fantasy points. Quarterbacks often struggle to break through as passers their first year in the league, so let’s explore just how much rushing statistics can buoy a rookie quarterback who may be limited in the passing game. To do this, I looked at all the rookie (or sophomore in Vick’s and Tebow’s case) quarterbacks who have rushed for 250+ yards in a season since 2000 and dubbed them “mobile” rookie quarterbacks.

“Mobile” Rookie Quarterbacks Passing Stats


It is a common conception that rookie quarterbacks tend to struggle in the NFL- it is undoubtedly the hardest position to learn. Here are the passing statistics of quarterbacks who rushed for over 250 yards in their rookie year since 2000- there are only nine of them:

Passing StatisticsYearGames StartedComp. %Pass YdsPass TDIntPasser RatingY/AY/GFantasy Finish
Russell Wilson20121664%311826101007.93194.9QB11
Andrew Luck20121654%4374231876.56.98273.4QB8
Cam Newton20111660%4051211784.57.84253.2QB3
Robert Griffin20121566%3200205102.48.14213.3QB5
Geno Smith20131656%3046122166.56.88190.4QB20
Vince Young20061352%2199121366.76.16146.6QB9
David Carr20021652%259291562.85.84162QB24
Michael Vick*20021544%7852362.76.9598.1QB3
Tim Tebow*20111147%172912672.96.4123.5QB19

*Used sophomore statistics for larger sample size


Notice the disparity? They average severely mediocre numbers across the board. Even though they average 15 games per season, they can barely muster a passing touchdown per game while throwing nearly as many interceptions. That is an average of 160 fantasy points per 16 games- good enough for a QB27 finish in 2013. With a completion percentage under 55% and a passer rating a shade over 77, how exactly did over half of these players turn in a top-10 fantasy finish their rookie season? The answer: rushing statistics.

Rushing Stats of “Mobile” Rookie Quarterbacks


As all of the fantasy owners of these players can attest, rushing statistics can buoy even the poorest of passing performances. This data will help explain their high fantasy finishes despite mediocre passing stats:

Rushing StatisticsYearGSRush AttRush YdsY/ARush TDY/GFantasy Finish
Russell Wilson201216944895.2430.6QB11
Andrew Luck201216622554.11515.9QB8
Cam Newton2011161267065.61444.1QB3
Robert Griffin2012151208156.79754.3QB5
Geno Smith201316723665.08622.9QB20
Vince Young200613835526.65736.8QB9
David Carr200216592824.78317.6QB24
Michael Vick*2002151137776.9851.8QB3
Tim Tebow*2011111226605.4647.14QB19

*Used sophomore statistics for larger sample size


Incredible: with their rushing statistics alone, these quarterbacks rush for about the equivalent of RB50 in a PPR league (that goes up to top-40 in standard). Combine even just top-50 rushing stats with top-27 passing statistics, and you’ve got yourself a starting quarterback for the price of a double-digit round pick.

As those who rode RGIII’s and Cam Newton’s rookie seasons to fantasy glory, there is plenty of room to surpass those thresholds. Although we cannot count on such historic performances to be repeated often, even above average rushing totals can go a long way toward a quarterback’s fantasy value giving him a little bit of leeway in the passing statistics department.

Percentage of Fantasy Points Via Rushing


Just to cement the idea into your head, let’s take a look at what percentage of their fantasy points these “mobile” quarterbacks gained from rushing their rookie season:

Percentage of Fantasy PointsYearFrom PassingFrom Rushing
Russell Wilson201274%26%
Andrew Luck201281%19%
Cam Newton201159%41%
Robert Griffin201262%38%
Geno Smith201366%34%
Vince Young200655%45%
David Carr200271%29%
Michael Vick*200256%44%
Tim Tebow*201149%51%

*Used sophomore statistics for larger sample size


Again, the stats show you don’t have to be even an average passer to make a fantasy impact as long as those rushing statistics keep coming. While these numbers differ greatly from the Peyton Manning’s (0.7% of his 2013’s fantasy points came from rushing), Drew Brees’s (6%) and even Aaron Rodgers’ (never higher than 18% in his career), rookie quarterbacks come with a small fraction of the price tag.

In Conclusion: 2014 Implications


Rookie quarterbacks have proven time and time again they can support or even carry a fantasy team at a late-round price. This year, the most obvious candidate for this phenomenon is Johnny Manziel with Kyle Shanahan calling the shots on offense in Cleveland. Granted, he lost Josh Gordon which will drastically lower pass attempts- but this may not even matter. When RGIII registered his sensational QB5 finish, the Redskins finished 30th in pass attempts. Their coordinator? You guessed it: Shanahan.