Fantasy Football Stat of the Day: The perks of play action


(Leading up to the 2021 NFL season, FTN’s Tyler Loechner will dive into the fantasy football numbers to bring you his Fantasy Stat of the Day, five days a week.)

Play action passing is discussed as a Holy Grail of sorts in the NFL world. All of the data supports the notion that play action passes are typically more successful than regular drop backs.

But which QBs saw the biggest jump in efficiency when utilizing play action last season? Today’s Stat of the Day article will answer that question. 

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Jalen Hurts, Tom Brady benefit the most from play action

The chart below shows last season’s QB leaders sorted by the difference in yards per attempt on play action passes versus all passes (minimum 150 dropbacks).

Player Total Atts. Total Yds. Total Y/A PA Atts. PA Yds. PA Y/A Y/A Difference
Jalen Hurts 122 774 6.34 26 287 11.04 4.69
Mike Glennon 148 772 5.22 31 300 9.68 4.46
Tom Brady 489 3,381 6.91 121 1,235 10.21 3.29
Kyler Murray 413 2,602 6.30 145 1,369 9.44 3.14
Nick Mullens 237 1,567 6.61 89 867 9.74 3.13
Baker Mayfield 342 2,198 6.43 144 1,362 9.46 3.03
Ryan Tannehill 311 2,171 6.98 170 1,646 9.68 2.70
Dak Prescott 174 1,356 7.79 48 499 10.40 2.60
Nick Foles 250 1,357 5.43 62 496 8.00 2.57
Deshaun Watson 467 3,952 8.46 78 849 10.88 2.42
Sam Darnold 294 1,651 5.62 70 557 7.96 2.34
Justin Herbert 448 3,019 6.74 147 1,317 8.96 2.22

Jalen Hurts topped the list on this study, averaging a whopping 11.04 yards per attempt on play action passes versus 6.34 Y/A on all passes. Granted, Hurts has the smallest sample size of all players on this list (just 26 play action passes last season), but it’s encouraging figure. It’s another stat that supports the popular notion that Hurts could be this year’s league-winning late-round QB.

Of QBs that played all season, The Ancient One, Tom Brady, saw the biggest bump in efficiency when using play action. Brady reached 10.21 Y/A on play action passes. Up from an already-good 6.91 Y/A on all passes. There’s really no reason to think Brady won’t be a fantasy QB1 again 2021.

One interesting name on this list is Sam Darnold. The New York Jets were essentially RB-less last season, but Darnold was still able to see a notable bump in Y/A when turning to play action. With deep threats D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, and ultimate RB weapon Christian McCaffrey behind him, Darnold could put up impressive numbers if the Panthers utilize play action next season. Darnold is one of the more interesting streaming QB options heading into 2021.

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