With the NFL Draft and free agency having come and gone, we’ll break down all sorts of fantasy-relevant questions entering the 2018 season. Up next is a look at how seriously we should weight the small-sample success of the San Francisco 49ers’ new franchise quarterback.

Only six active quarterbacks have a contract worth over $100 million, and five of them have started at least 62 games. Jimmy Garoppolo‘s ability to command such a contract with just seven career starts to his name is indicative of the league’s ever-present search for the next generational quarterback. While Garoppolo’s sample size is undoubtedly limited, it’s hard to blame 49ers general manager John Lynch for taking a chance on what looks like one of the NFL’s best quarterback prospects in years.

Undefeated Quarterbacks Don’t Fall Off Trees

The battle for Garoppolo’s services started shortly after he led the Patriots to consecutive victories to start the 2016 season in wake of Tom Brady‘s four-game Deflategate suspension. Ninty-four career pass attempts with New England was hardly a large sample size, though the former second-round pick also flashed in four years of preseason work with a 11:4 touchdown/interception ratio.

In the end, Garoppolo was traded to San Francisco for only another second-round pick. He proceeded to lead the 1-10 49ers to five consecutive wins to end the season.

His quick release and ability to identify mismatches before the snap has already helped make him one of the league’s most-efficient quarterbacks ever in a limited sample size.

Per our NFL Trends tool, Garoppolo ranked in the top 10 in fantasy points per game, average Plus/Minus, and Consistency Rating on both DraftKings and FanDuel last December (minimum two starts). His upside is evident, as five of his seven career starts have included either multiple touchdown passes or 330-plus passing yards.

Garoppolo’s early success is even more impressive after considering his competition.

Road Games, Pass Rushers, and Lockdown Corners, Oh My!

Some critics of Jimmy GQ have theorized his success through seven pro starts is a result of weak competition, which simply isn’t true even dating back to his time with New England:

  • Road games: 4/7
  • Eventual playoff opponents: 4/7
  • Top-10 defenses in pass DVOA (Football Outsiders): 3/7
  • Top-10 pass rushes in Adjusted Sack Rate(Football Outsiders): 4/7
  • Top-10 scoring defenses: 3/7
  • Top-10 fantasy defenses vs. quarterbacks: 3/7

Garoppolo has emerged victorious while going against the likes of cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey, generating an average of 28.3 points per game. He wasn’t exactly surrounded by the best supporting casts considering Rob Gronkowski missed Garoppolo’s two starts with the Patriots and Pierre Garcon had already suffered a season-ending neck injury by the time Garoppolo took over in San Francisco.

The 49ers have attempted to help Garoppolo by selecting offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey and receiver Dante Pettis in the first and second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon also presents a friendlier passing-game option than the departed Carlos Hyde.

These additions are great, but the biggest positive working in Garoppolo’s favor remains his playcaller.

Fantasy Life is Great with Kyle Shanahan Calling the Shots

Shanahan has guided the likes of Matt SchaubRobert Griffin III, and Matt Ryan to top-five fantasy finishes during his nine years as an offensive coordinator. While the Shanahans (Kyle and his father, Mike) are often lauded for their innovative zone rushing schemes, Kyle has directed a top-10 offense in pass attempts during seven of the last 10 seasons compared to just two such rushing attacks.

Only the Giants threw the ball more often than the 49ers in 2017, and while the former failed to score 30 points in an absurd 33 consecutive games, Shanahan managed to coax four such performances out of the 49ers last season, two of which came courtesy of Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard.

The offense took off once Shanahan had Garoppolo under center, averaging an additional 11.8 points per game in his five starts. Overall, the 49ers joined the Chiefs, Jaguars, Steelers, Rams, and Ravens as the only teams to average at least 28 points per game over the final five weeks of the season. Garoppolo was the fantasy QB9 during this span, which also doubles as his current ADP at the time of this writing.

2018 Outlook

The public’s infatuation with Garoppolo doesn’t make him the biggest value of the draft, but he’s worthy of his current top-10 position. As of this writing, FantasyLabs experts Chris Raybon, Matthew Freedman, and Sean Koerner ranked Jimmy GQ sixth, seventh, and 11th in their 2018 fantasy football quarterback rankings.

BetOnline has set the 49ers’ 2018 win total at 8.5 with a -130 lean on the over. While the Rams are certainly not an endearing opponent to have to face twice, the Seahawks and Cardinals don’t appear to be the same monsters they’ve been in years past.

Garoppolo’s status as the NFL’s only undefeated quarterback didn’t happen by accident. He’s already demonstrated the ability to slice up some of the league’s best pass defenses, and an entire offseason of tutelage under one of the league’s premier offensive minds to go along with a better supporting cast suggests the best of Jimmy GQ is still yet to come.

You can use our tools to research more player- or team-specific questions for yourself, and be sure to check out The Action Network for more in-depth NFL analysis.

Pictured above: Jimmy Garoppolo
Photo credit: Gary A. Vasquez – USA TODAY Sports