Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers finished right next to each other last year in fantasy points, situated at 8th and 9th. In draft parlance, they are both #1 QB’s but not among those that are going to go early. These are the choices you will be facing if you didn’t go for a quarterback in the first four rounds. My recommendation is that you target Matt Ryan if you are embarking on such a strategy in the 6th round, and avoid Rivers at that price.
That recommendation is based on both looking at historically comparable players, as well as their team and teammate situations in 2012. Matt Ryan looks poised for a breakout season at 27 this year, especially with Julio Jones entering year two and Roddy White still in his prime. Philip Rivers had an off year by his standards but still a pretty good one at age 30. He looks to rebound while Vincent Jackson is elsewhere, Antonio Gates hits age 32, and the offensive line looks to rebound.
To get my historic comparables, I used league-adjusted data (to account for differing completion rates, interception rates and such over time) and compared each to similar players at age 26 and 30, respectively. I also used the two years prior as part of the similarity comparison, with emphasis on the most recent year.
Matt Ryan’s top three comparables are Tom Brady, John Elway, and Drew Brees. That’s interesting company, considering the first two had reputations for clutch playoff performance by age 26, while Ryan has yet to win a game. A couple of years ago, I played off the confluence of Matt Ryan’s early career and Tom Brady’s career in reverse when I wrote the Tale of Paddy Ice. Though their playoff careers may be dissimilar, the regular season results are eerily so. Elway shows up second and won MVP at age 27 while taking Denver to a Super Bowl; Brees went to New Orleans and took the Saints to a big turnaround.
Ryan, meanwhile is entering an age when some notable quarterbacks made a statistical leap, and does so with an offense now built around him. Michael Turner is not going to carry the ball 350 times. Julio Jones is ready to continue his breakout in year two after a pretty good rookie year. Roddy White is still going strong. He may have one of the best situations to succeed in the league.
Matt Ryan’s comparables at age 24 to 26: Tom Brady, John Elway, Drew Brees, Tommy Kramer, Jeff Blake, Jim Zorn, Drew Bledsoe, Peyton Manning, Jim Everett, Troy Aikman
Matt Ryan’s 2012 Projection: 15 GP, 335 of 530 (63.2%), 4,200 passing yards (7.9 YPA), 28 TD, 11 INT
40 rush attempts, 80 rushing yards, 1 touchdown, 24 sacks taken
Rivers led the league in yards per attempt for three straight years, and has consistently been among the top 10 quarterbacks over the last several years. Last year, those numbers fell off, to a still well above average 7.9 yards per attempt. It was the interceptions, though, a career high 20, that generated the most negative outlook. Rivers was undoubtedly comparable to better quarterbacks through age 28 and 29. The issue is what last year means. Plenty of guys with healthy YPA’s that saw some decline at age 30 continued to drop, enough so that Rivers outcome in 2011 is a wild card. Rivers’ comps are a bunch of guys who generally had better YPA versus completion percentage numbers, and had a somewhat down, but still solid year, at age 30. Brett Favre is a good case, as he went through a down stretch before personnel improved again, between 1999 and 2001. Boomer Esiason saw his lofty YPA totals drop off as he entered his thirties.
The Chargers seem like they have always underachieved, but the door on this particular group may be closing. Vincent Jackson is out; Robert Meachem is in. Antonio Gates turns 32, an age where plenty of tight ends have declined- see Dallas Clark. I am not suggesting that Rivers is done or anything, or that he can never rebound. I’m just worried that the supporting cast will not support the kind of numbers he was putting up from 2008-2010.
Philip Rivers’ comparables at age 28 to 30: Brett Favre, Jake Delhomme, Kerry Collins, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Plummer, Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, Steve Bartkowski, Ron Jaworski, Dan Fouts
Philip Rivers’ 2012 Projection: 14 GP, 305 of 500 (61.0%), 3,600 passing yards (7.2 YPA), 23 TD, 13 INT
21 rush attempts, 40 rush yards, 1 touchdown
Previous QB Projections:
[photo via US Presswire]