Tony Romo, the Perry Como of Fantasy

Almost as handsome as Como. Almost.

Despite five Emmy's, a Grammy, and 14 number one hits, Perry Como is often overshadowed by contemporary crooners such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, and Bing Crosby. He was an underrated talent who consistently put out great music, TV, film, and, later in life, radio broadcasts. Present day, there is a guy in Dallas who has followed the NFL version of Como's career arc. He is consistent, nearly elite, and always overshadowed. Tony Romo is the Perry Como of fantasy football.

Ask your average numberFire reader how he feels about Romo and they will probably mention that he is always in the top 10 or how he is perennially undervalued in drafts. Despite the generally positive opinion of Romo among more educated fantasy fans, a quiet bias remains against the Cowboys’ signal caller. Need proof? Ask yourself this: Is there a player in fake football who you can acquire more fairly in a trade than Romo? Completely made up research suggests that he is a part of 57 percent of all trade offers made in fantasy. The only player in more offers is Chris Johnson (106 percent).

Just because I’m aware of bias does not mean I’m immune to it (I love Sinatra and never listen to Como). When I sat down to research this column, I thought I was going to prove that Romo had a three or four game stretch every year where he was bad. I was going to talk about how we were in the middle of that stretch, and even advise looking at streaming options against a surprisingly stout Lions defense in Week 8 (they allow only 14.9 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, good for 10th in the NFL). But then something strange happened: I found out I was wrong.

Till the End of Time

The foundation of our football analytics at numberFire comes in the form of net expected points (NEP). NEP is a measure of how many real world points a player contributes to his team’s bottom line. With every down, distance, and game situation prescribed a value, how a player performs on a given play will either positively or negatively affect their NEP. When all the math is done, we use this metric to see how players stack up against one another. For example, since 2006, the only quarterbacks to play at least five full seasons and have a higher average NEP/Pass ranking than Romo are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. If you were making a list of best the fantasy quarterbacks for the last seven years, it would probably look pretty similar.

Romo's NEP/Pass Rank Among Quarterbacks with at Least 200 Attempts

YearRankQualifying QB’s

For 2013, I used quarterbacks with 100 or more attempts.

This chart affirms what we already knew: Tony Romo is a top-10 fantasy quarterback; the NEP numbers do correlate nicely to fantasy success. Unfortunately this info is limited in that it only shows season-to-season consistency. We want to find out how Romo fares game-to-game.

Don't Let Stars Get in Your Eyes

As I said above, I began my research for this column thinking Romo would prove to be streakier than the average NFL passer. To prove my point, I undertook the fascinating task of reviewing game logs. For the ten subjects I chose, I looked for streaks of two or more consecutive games where they scored at least 25 percent fewer fantasy points than their season average (for the rest of this article I will refer to these as bad games). I also singled out the total number of times they accomplished this feat of underperformance.

In the following data table, the "Bad Game - Streak" column represents the total number of bad games a player had as part of a consecutive run of two or more games. For example, if the data says "12", they could have had two streaks of six consecutive bad games, six streaks of two consecutive bad games, or any other combination that adds up to 12. Please note that the overwhelming majority of bad streaks were two or three games in length.

NameBad GamesBad Games - StreakGames PlayedBad Game RatioBad Games - Streak Ratio
Tony Romo221210321.4%11.7%
Matt Ryan1928422.6%2.4%
Philip Rivers291011924.4%8.4%
Tom Brady502618227.5%14.3%
Peyton Manning491417727.7%7.9%
Jay Cutler2879928.3%7.1%
Drew Brees492517128.7%14.6%
Ben Roethlisberger411713330.8%11.8%
Matt Schaub28108632.6%11.6%
Matt Stafford1785232.7%15.4%

Games where the player did not start or play the majority of offensive snaps were omitted.

None of the players researched have a lower ratio of bad games than Romo. Am I surprised? To say the least. He is middle of the pack (6th of 10) in terms of how many of his bad games are part of a streak of two or more, which also debunks my theory that he is streakier than most.

Catch a Falling Star

Como once sang, "Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Save it for a rainy day." I'm pretty sure he was singing about Romo (he does have a star on his helmet, after all). So, if Romo is your star, and your roster is your pocket, then what is the rain? Oh, it's actual rain? Quick, grab an umbrella before you get soaked. Back? Let's continue.

Romo is clearly undeserving of bias. He is consistent, productive, capable of huge games, and, compared to others, rarely has a bad day on the field. From a team perspective, Terrance Williams is emerging as a legit threat, Joseph Randle is filling in reasonably at running back, the offensive line is miles better than we expected (fourth in run blocking and 11th in pass protection according to Pro Football Focus), and Dez Bryant is Dez Bryant. Considering the overall state of the Cowboys and all the above data, there is little reason to believe Romo’s streak of two bad games will continue. And as Tony goes, so do the Cowboys.