A Quarterback Test: Pass Happy, Efficient and Reasonable ADP

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter of the NFC Championship game at the Georgia Dome Matthew Emmons USA TODAY Sports

Relying on a glut of pass attempts is by no means a rock solid strategy in selecting your fantasy signal caller. It’s an unstable predictor of fake football success that’ll give you moderate to severe ulcers.

Game plans change, some game scenarios dictate run-heavy approaches, and quarterbacks who throw 40 times a game face defenses tailored to defend the pass, dropping more defenders in coverage, waiting and baiting the quarterback to try to squeeze one of those 40 — sometimes 50 — attempts between a duo (sometimes a trio) of ball hawks.

For evidence, see replays of 2012 Lions games, when Matthew Stafford dropped back seemingly every play in the second half as the team entered all-out comeback panic mode. It worked, sometimes. Stafford finished the year as the 10th highest scoring fantasy quarterback, which doesn’t sound exceedingly awful, but proved an epic disaster for anyone who paid the hefty second round price to secure Stafford in August.

It seems obvious, but instead of simply mining for pass volume, we should also test a quarterback’s efficiency, and, of course, whether they’re undervalued or overvalued by our league mates.

Stafford, above all, was wildly inefficient during his 747-throw 2012 season, a league record. He averaged 6.8 yards per attempt, which put him in the less-than-excellent company of Chad Henne and Philip Rivers.

I’d rather have an efficient, high-volume thrower at a low draft price, and so far, there is really only one prime target who combines the best of Stafford (throw volume), efficiency (Colin Kaepernick), and good draft value (Russell Wilson).

Let’s take a quick peak at the most efficient quarterbacks of last year.

Colin Kaepernick – 8.3 yards per attempt

Robert Griffin III – 8.2 YPA

Peyton Manning – 8 YPA

Cam Newton – 8 YPA

Alex Smith – 8 YPA

Russell Wilson – 7.9 YPA

Aaron Rodgers – 7.8 YPA

Drew Brees – 7.7 YPA

Matt Ryan – 7.7 YPA

Tom Brady – 7.6 YPA

Perhaps Kaepernick’s YPA would’ve dropped if he had played an entire season, or even a few more games, but I don’t suspect he would’ve fallen off this stop-10 list. The 49ers offense is predicated on safe throws, and Kaepernick is anything but reckless with the football.

I’m partial to a guy on this List of Efficiency who was among the most pass-happy quarterbacks of 2012 and maintained stellar YPA and a reasonable average draft position. By testing those three criteria, I’m looking for a quarterback who does a lot with a lot — posting efficient numbers not just because doesn’t throw a ton of passes.

I’m going to ignore Griffin here because I think his current fifth round ADP is a bit  of a mirage, and because he doesn’t meet the high pass attempt qualification. His ADP will jump by upwards of 20 spots if and when Griffin is cleared and ready to start Week 1 (And if he’s not expected back until October, take him at a major discount).

Matt Ryan is the only guy from the above list that meets all three criteria. Only six quarterbacks posted more fantasy points than Ryan in 2012, and I’d suspect the addition of Steven Jackson to Atlanta’s backfield will only boost Ryan’s 2013 prospects. Defenses didn’t have to defend the run against the Falcons last season, knowing that the Ghost of Michael Turner and the unimpressive Jacquizz Rodgers posed no vital threat.

Ryan’s 7.7 YPA is impressive if only because he threw the football 615 times, sixth most in the league, and more than Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Ryan also scored highly in Pro Football Focus’s adjusted yards per throw, a measure using only aimed passes, not batted balls, throw aways and the like.

He deserves special mention here because his ADP is so delectably low — he’s going in the middle of the fifth round of MyFantasyLeague mock drafts, ninth among quarterbacks, and well behind Andrew Luck, who I see as the most over-drafted quarterback in fantasy football.

Ryan, who was drafted in the early fourth round last summer as an ascendent sleeper fantasy quarterback, could have a lower ADP in 2013, even after posting a career-best 4,719 yards and 32 touchdowns. That speaks to the incredible depth of the quarterback position, if nothing else.

Keep a close eye on Ryan’s perceived value and ADP over the next few months. His high YPA and pass attempts, along with his reasonable ADP, make him a borderline fantastic value in 2013.

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C.D. Carter Fantasy Football Analyst
C.D. Carter is a reporter, author of zombie stories, writer for The Fake Football and XN Sports. Fantasy Sports Writers Association member. His work  has been featured in the New York Times.