I’ve been posting over at Roto Experts for a couple months now and with the NFL draft over, I will turn my focus toward fantasy football analysis. Starting today, I will be posting a Monday blog called “The Xtra Point.” In it, I will take an in-depth look at fantasy football draft strategy, player projections, and so on.
Today’s post is on Philip Rivers. For fantasy owners, I think Rivers is one of the more undervalued players in drafts this season. I recently projected Rivers to throw for the second-most yards in the NFL in my quarterback YPA regression at Pro Football Focus. He’s currently getting selected over a round behind Tony Romo, even though I think Rivers actually possesses more fantasy upside and less risk. Rivers could potentially throw the ball nearly 600 times this season; Romo is highly unlikely to do that.
Here are a couple of other reasons why I like Rivers this season:
Rivers' YPA Will Be Much Higher
I recently did a post on quarterback yards-per-attempt. In that article, I regressed quarterbacks’ YPA to match their average over the previous three seasons in order to obtain a number that was more representative of their true ability than 2011 stats alone. Rivers was one of the biggest risers.
In 2011, Rivers threw for 7.9 YPA. He threw for 8.7, 8.8 and 8.4 YPA the previous three seasons, however, meaning he really underachieved last year. With 8.5 YPA in 2012, Rivers would likely finish in the top two or three for quarterbacks in terms of total passing yards. Yes, that takes into account Rivers’ probable drop in attempts.
Rivers’ Completion Percentage Will Be Higher
Like his YPA, Rivers’ completion percentage of 62.9 percent was below his career mark. Over the three prior seasons, Rivers completed 65.5 percent of his passes. If we project Rivers to attempt just 520 passes in 2012—62 fewer than last season and 21 fewer than in 2010—he’d still connect on 341 passes with a completion rate of 65.5 percent.
Rivers’ yards-per-completion over the past three seasons has been 13.1. Even with 4,624 passing yards last year, Rivers’ YPC was only 12.5. With an increase in completion percentage and YPC toward “normality,” Rivers figures to throw for nearly 4,500 yards, even assuming a larger dip in attempts. If Rivers is closer to his 582 attempts from 2011, he could approach 5,000 yards and lead the league in passing.
Overall, I think Rivers is one of the few players with an extremely high ceiling and minimal risk. That’s really what fantasy football owners seek, but rarely find, with every pick.
Jonathan Bales is the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft. He writes for the New York Times and DallasCowboys.com.