Fantasy Football: Matt Ryan Is Being Drafted Too Early

The reigning MVP finished second among quarterbacks last season, but he is due to regress in 2017.

It seems like it was just yesterday when the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. For fans of the ATLiens, it was the equivalent of being hit with the Blue Shell right before the finish line on Mario Kart only to be passed by a red, white, and blue Bowser cackling his way to a victory.

It was a tough way to finish for league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Matt Ryan. Ryan finished second among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring in 2016 and is currently being drafted fifth among quarterbacks for 2017. That seems like a decent value, right?

I don't think so, Tim.

Career Year

Before we dig into why Matty Ice is being drafted too early, it's worth noting that I like him as a player. The talent is obvious, and he's coming off of a career year. That being said, value is what I shoot for in drafts, and Ryan's current price is high based on his career averages.

StatYearly Average From 2008 to 20152016
Completion Percentage64.3%69.9%
Yards 4,0954,944
Touchdown Rate4.5%7.1%
Interception Rate2.5%1.3%

Ryan did everything right in 2016. All of the stats above were better in 2016 than his career averages, but some were alarmingly better.

Ryan only had one season of 30 or more passing touchdowns before this past year, and then he racked up 38 scores. This was even more impressive because he did it on just 534 pass attempts, his lowest in a season since 2009. His 2016 touchdown rate of 7.1% is higher than the career touchdown rate of players like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees.

On top of that, TJ Hernandez over at 4for4 found that touchdown rate has a very weak correlation in terms of year-to-year consistency.

The Mattural

Unsurprisingly with that kind of touchdown production, Ryan also produced a career high in fantasy points in 2016.

We are only one season removed from Ryan scoring just 231.94 fantasy points and finishing as QB19 in 2015. While I don't expect Ryan to struggle that badly in 2017, his 2016 numbers are due to regress.

To further illustrate this idea of regression, here are Ryan's final rankings in fantasy football among quarterbacks.

Year Fantasy Rank Among Quarterbacks
2008 15th
2009 19th
2010 8th
2011 8th
2012 7th
2013 15th
2014 7th
2015 19th
2016 2nd

Prior to 2016, Ryan had never finished as a top-five fantasy quarterback. Now, after doing it for one season, people are drafting him fifth among quarterbacks. This recency bias is leading to him being overvalued on draft day.

Viva Lost Wages

While the numbers above indicate Ryan will likely see some negative regression, Vegas bookmakers also are projecting some regression for the Falcons as a whole (perhaps because of their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan leaving to coach the San Francisco 49ers)

I recently covered how quarterbacks score in fantasy football in regards to when their team wins or loses. Ryan has averaged about 3 more fantasy points per game in wins than he does in losses over his career. After winning 11 games and coasting to a Super Bowl appearance, online bookmaker Pinnacle projects the Falcons to win just 9.5 games in 2017. We have them projected for 9.2 wins.

Wait for It

Another reason to dislike Ryan's current price is the talent being drafted after him. Players like Derek Carr, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson are going a round or two later than Ryan and have a good chance of performing at a similar level. After them, Kirk Cousins and Ben Roethlisberger are available. They both finished in the top eight in fantasy points per game in 2016.

We just named five quarterbacks you could comfortably take rounds later than Ryan who have the upside to finish ahead of him. Also, if you are playing in a standard 10- or 12-team league, you should never be reaching at the quarterback position. That's especially true this year as there are a couple good late-round options at the position.

While I think Ryan has a chance to finish the season as a top-10 quarterback due to his durability, talent and the weapons around him, he is not worth drafting at his current price.