Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Cassel both turn 30 years old this year, both were seventh round draft picks that had to work their way to a starting position, and both have had uneven careers over the last three years. Neither is likely to excite you as you select your backups in fantasy football. Still, there is one that I think is at least worth a late round flier with upside based on his profile.
Which one is it? Well, the one that has several guys who had big years at age 30 after seasons where they had high interception totals. If you look at football history, the predictive stats like yards per attempt, completion percentage and sack rate are far better to focus on, rather than interception rate. In Fitzpatrick’s case, he led the league in interception rate last year, and while his yards per attempt was below average, his sack rate was well above, despite injuries on the offensive line that contributed to his poor play down the stretch.
Let’s put the two up against each other:
Matt Cassel got hurt last year, and the Chiefs could have brought competition in to challenge him for a starting position for the first time in his four years in Kansas City. They picked up Kyle Orton late in the year, and Orton helped them give the Packers their only loss of the season and stabilize the position after Cassel was hurt (Tyler Palko was nothing short of a disaster). Instead, it is Ricky Stanzi and Brady Quinn behind Cassel, so he would appear safe.
However, his list of comps doesn’t engender confidence. They averaged only 7 games started at age 30, through a combination of continued mediocre play, injuries, and being replaced. Only Elway and Harbaugh started more than half the team’s games, and Cassel is no Elway, despite Elway’s numbers taking a brief dip at ages 28 and 29. Guys like Zorn, Aaron Brooks, and Campbell are more realistic comps.
Jamaal Charles will be back, and the Chiefs hope that Jon Baldwin develops as a legitimate #2 option opposite Dwayne Bowe. The pieces are there to duplicate 2010. However, that 2010 season came at the expense of an extremely easy passing schedule, as Cassel thrived on the NFC West and AFC West. This year, it’s the AFC North and NFC South. While his outlook should be a little better than last season, Cassel still is not a dynamic passer and the Chiefs will likely rely on defense and running.
Matt Cassel comps at ages 28-30: Jim Zorn, Aaron Brooks, Jim Harbaugh, Jason Campbell, Joey Harrington, John Elway, Vinny Testaverde, Bubby Brister, Marc Wilson, Pat Ryan
Cassel’s projection: 12 Games Started, 226 of 380 (59.5%), 2510 yards (6.6 YPA), 14 TD, 11 INT
25 rushes, 90 yards, 1 touchdown, 30 Sacks Taken
Ryan Fitzpatrick started off last year great, then really struggled as the Bills lost 9 of their last 10. Some of that was him coming back to earth, but a fair amount of it was also injuries around him, including key losses like Eric Wood at center and Fred Jackson at running back. The offensive line really was decimated over the second half of the season, and it showed. In addition, the defense could not stop anyone unless they got turnovers, and that put pressure on to make plays. As a result, Fitzpatrick closed with 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in the last 9 games, and led the league in INT’s.
His comps show guys that bounced back, so the main concern with Fitzpatrick is whether he gets that opportunity, as the fans may clamor for Vince Young if he gets off to a slow start. With an improved defense, better health on offense, and a much better passing schedule (we don’t know how it will turn out, but last year’s was tough), Fitzpatrick presents a decent late round gamble at the position if you wait for your backup.
Ryan Fitzpatrick comps at ages 28-30: Elvis Grbac, Vinny Testaverde, Eli Manning, Stan Humphries, Vince Ferragamo, Jon Kitna, Kerry Collins, Jim Everett, Aaron Brooks, Jay Fiedler
Fitzpatrick’s projection: 12 GS, 252 of 410 (61.5%), 2910 yards (7.1 YPA), 18 TD, 14 INT
36 rushes, 180 yards, 1 touchdown, 23 Sacks Taken
[photo via US Presswire]