Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives.
You can scream, cry, beg, and fight it all you want, but Jimmy Garoppolo will join the ranks of the elite fantasy quarterbacks by this time next year. For those reading on, there are only very minor spoilers ahead (all information that could’ve been gleaned from the trailers) if you haven’t had a chance to see the new Avengers: Infinity War movie. Incidentally, if you haven’t yet watched this phenomenal film, I’d highly recommend going to see it in theaters before it’s too late. Likewise, there is a limited amount of time for you to buy Garoppolo at his current price in dynasty leagues before it’s too late.
Coming out of Eastern Illinois University, Garoppolo was a somewhat raw quarterback prospect. He had a quick delivery and strong mental acumen for the position, but there were some concerns about his footwork and poise in the pocket under duress. Since then, he has cleaned up his footwork and developed his skills under the tutelage of Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and Josh McDaniels. While the sample size of games played is small during his time with the Patriots, Garoppolo flashed his ability to make reads and make the throws.
The talent is there, but quarterback success is often tied to coaching and offensive scheme. Note the quick development and success of sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz last year with Doug Pederson and Frank Reich. Another instance is the startling turnaround for Jared Goff transitioning from a stagnant offense under Jeff Fisher in 2016 to leading the league in scoring last season in Sean McVay’s explosive offense. Fantasy-wise, Wentz is now a consensus top-five quarterback and the dynasty QB1 for some, and while Goff isn’t valued quite as highly, he has jumped from almost being on waiver wires to at least a low-end QB1 or high-end QB2 in most dynasty rankings.
Now Garoppolo is poised to make that same jump with Kyle Shanahan. While staying in New England would certainly have been conducive to his continued development, San Francisco was an ideal landing spot. Much like Spider-Man, Garoppolo already has smarts and natural ability. While Spider-Man’s strengths are science and web-slinging, Garoppolo’s are dissecting a defense and making throws to all areas of the field. Shanahan’s coaching and offensive scheme can unlock Garoppolo’s full potential, much like Iron Man enhanced Spider-Man’s performance with the Iron Spider armor.
While Shanahan sadly can’t provide Garoppolo with a nanotech armored suit on the field, he can do the next best thing–provide his quarterback with an efficient and high-powered offense that is tailored to his quarterback’s strengths. The track record of success that Shanahan has had with his quarterbacks in recent years is stunning.
In 2015, Shanahan was the offensive coordinator for a Cleveland Browns team that was treading water. In seven full games played, Josh McCown, a then thirty-six-year-old journeyman, averaged 294 yards, 1.7 touchdowns, and 0.6 interceptions per game (63.8 completion percentage and a 3.0 TD to INT ratio). Compare this performance to his career average of 180 yards, 1.0 touchdowns and 0.8 interceptions per game (60.4 completion percentage and a 1.2 TD to INT ratio), and McCown’s 19.4 fantasy points per game (PPG) during this stretch would’ve made him the QB7 that season.
Then in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in large part due to having the highest-scoring offense in the league that season. Matt Ryan had a career year with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, averaging 309 yards, 2.4 touchdowns, and 0.4 interceptions per game (69.9 completion percentage and a 5.4 TD to INT ratio). Compare this performance to his career average of 265 yards, 1.6 touchdowns, and 0.8 interceptions per game (64.9 completion percentage and a 2.1 TD to INT ratio). Ryan was fantasy’s QB2 that season, averaging 21.7 fantasy PPG.
Enter Garoppolo. Despite the fact that Shanahan runs a notoriously complex offensive scheme that is difficult for quarterbacks to learn (Matt Ryan was reportedly “overwhelmed” when Shanahan first joined the Falcons in January of 2015), Garoppolo picked up the playbook quickly last season. Quarterbacks generally need months, if not more, to fully grasp an offense. Garoppolo won all of his first five starts as a 49er last year, just weeks after joining the team midseason.
The most remarkable was his Christmas Eve win against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 16. The Patriot-turned-49er proceeded to decimate the top defense regarding DVOA last season per Football Outsiders. Garoppolo led the 49ers to score 44 points against a Jacksonville defense that held opposing offenses to an average of 16.8 points per game in 2017. Keep in mind that the Jaguars were still competing for higher seeding in the AFC against the Patriots and Steelers at this point, so this was in no way a meaningless game.
Impressive doesn’t even begin to describe how profound Garoppolo’s 2017 performance was. Per Pro Football Focus, Garoppolo was the tenth-highest graded quarterback last year. He accomplished this despite playing behind the 18th-best offensive line regarding pass protection per Football Outsiders, and his leading receivers were Marquise Goodwin and rookie tight end George Kittle.
Garoppolo not only came through for his NFL team but his fantasy owners as well. Using the sample size of his three games from Weeks 14 to 16, Garoppolo averaged 319 yards, 1.3 touchdowns, and 0.7 interceptions per game (67.6 completion percentage and a 2.0 TD to INT ratio). His 18.8 fantasy PPG during this stretch would’ve made him the QB8 last season. Note that for the analysis above, I gave Garoppolo a mulligan for his first start on a new team in Week 13 against the Bears. I also excluded his Week 17 stats in a matchup where the Rams had nothing to play for.
Did you see what I just said though? Garoppolo would’ve been the QB8 in fantasy last year despite having only a couple of weeks to learn the playbook before being thrown into the starting role. With the additions of Jerick McKinnon (who is also still undervalued in fantasy) through free agency and the return of a healthy Pierre Garcon on offense, there’s no reason Garoppolo can’t produce elite fantasy QB1 numbers with Shanahan at the helm.
Now, this is your last chance to buy Garoppolo in dynasty leagues at somewhat reasonable prices before his 2018 fantasy production forever raises his market value to a near-unattainable premium. Thanos and the rest of the NFC West had better watch out. There’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Jimmy Garoppolo.