Last season, 8 of the 10 highest-scoring quarterbacks in fantasy football had at least 200 yards rushing:
Aaron Rodgers, despite having one of the greatest passing seasons of all time with 48 TDs and just 5 interceptions, finished second in fantasy scoring behind Josh Allen, and this was largely due to the fact that Allen had 421 rushing yards and 8 rushing TDs compared to Rodgers’ 149 yards and 3 rushing TDs.
Lamar Jackson only passed for 2,757 yards last season but was still able to finish in the top-10 among QBs because he had 1,005 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs. That’s an extra 142 fantasy points he got purely due to his running ability. Without his rushing numbers, he would’ve only posted 190 fantasy points, which would have placed him at #23 among QBs, just behind Carson Wentz and just ahead of Drew Lock.
Kyler Murray finished 3rd among QBs in scoring. He was only 5 points behind Aaron Rodgers despite throwing for 22 fewer TDs (26 vs. Rodgers’ 48) and 7 more INTs (12 vs. Rodgers’ 5). That comes out to a +102 fantasy point advantage for Rodgers over Murray just based on TDs and INTs (4pt. passing TDs). Murray more made up the deficit by running for 819 yards and 11 rushing TDs (148 fantasy points), which gave him a net of +115 fantasy points over Rodgers in the rushing category.
Even Patrick Mahomes, who is primarily known as a passer, still managed to bolster his fantasy point total with 308 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs (60.8 fantasy points).
Ryan Tannehill, who surprisingly finished 7th in fantasy scoring among QBs, did so largely because of his 7 rushing TDs and 266 yards (68.6 fantasy points from runs).
Fantasy football is different now: you need a quarterback who can run. It gives you a scoring floor that QBs who rely primarily on passing simply don’t have.
It used to be that you would allow the impulsive guys in your league to spend high draft picks on the top QBs, while you, the savvy fantasy drafter, knew you could find a solid contributor way later in the draft–or even on the waiver wire.
You used to be able to basically stream the QB position and be just fine, quite honestly.
That’s what I did for a long time. I would load up on RBs and WRs for like the first 10-12 rounds and not even think about drafting a QB (or a tight end) until the last few rounds of the draft. I got away with streaming these positions for years. I was the king of drafting Tom Brady or Big Ben late in the draft and winning because of my superior skill position players.
You can’t do that anymore. Top QBs are so valuable now, and the teams that have them possess a major inherent advantage over the teams that don’t. No longer can you get by with 17-19 points out of your QB when the top QBs are consistently putting up 24-27ppg. Even if you have better RBs and WRs, you start at a deficit because of your QB.
The teams that have Allen, Mahomes, Murray, Russ and Lamar are going to start each week at an advantage. That’s why it’s imperative to grab one of those 5 in your draft. I drafted Kyler this year in the 4th round; it’s by far the earliest I’ve ever drafted a QB. And it’s because I saw how valuable the running QBs were last season.
In 2020, I didn’t draft a QB until the 15th round (Matt Stafford). In 2019, I drafted my QB in round 6; in 2018, I drafted my QB in round 16. I’ve never drafted a QB in round 4.
But things are changing nowadays. These QBs with rushing upside are taking over fantasy football, and if you don’t realize the trend, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.
I justified it to myself this way: Kyler Murray is both a QB and a running back at the same time. So while, sure, I might have been able to draft a guy like Chris Carson or Myles Gaskin instead of Murray, if you take just Murray’s rushing stats alone in 2020 (819 yards, 11 TDs for 148 points in total), he would’ve ranked as the #31 running back–and that’s in PPR! In a standard league, he would’ve been the RB18 based just on his rushing numbers alone. So drafting Kyler or Lamar is like drafting a QB and an RB combined.
Even if you have Aaron Rodgers this year, you’re not guaranteed to get the same kind of production that the QBs with running ability offer: Rodgers’ stats last season were probably an outlier and unlikely to be repeated. The odds that Rodgers throws 48 TDs and only 5 INTs this season are low, it’s more likely his numbers regress towards the mean somewhat.
Now, I would still take Rodgers if I were someone who missed out one of the Big Five, but not until like the 7th or 8th round.
The good news is, there are a lot of young running QBs to target if you miss out on one of the Big Five: you can target Jalen Hurts, who will rack up a ton of points due to his running ability. Trey Lance will probably take over as the 49ers starter before long. Justin Fields will be the Bears’ starter within the first 2-4 weeks of the season.
And Trevor Lawrence is even a very underrated runner who will probably surprise a lot of people with how many rushing yards and TDs he picks up this season. I strongly believe Lawrence will absolutely be a startable fantasy QB option this season–maybe not from the very start, but definitely by mid-season.
And don’t forget about Dak Prescott, who was averaging 27 points per game last season before he got hurt. Dak puts up huge numbers and can run it. I’d probably put Dak in the same category as Mahomes, Allen, Kyler, Lamar and Russ.
So there are 6 QBs with rushing upside to target in the first half your draft. Rodgers and Brady are of course going to be good options, but not elite options.
If you don’t end up with Mahomes, Allen, Kyler, Russ, Dak or Lamar, you should try to target Jalen Hurts, Trey Lance, Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence. It’s imperative to have at least one QB on your roster with rushing upside. And even if you do get one of the Big Six, it might not be a bad idea to spend a late pick on Hurts, Lance, Fields or Lawrence in order to deprive other people in your league of them. Because if you don’t have a top-10 QB, you’re just screwed:
Running quarterbacks are no longer a luxury in fantasy football; they’re a necessity.