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written by Jim Sannes on Jun 16th, 2014
Follow them at @JimSannes

Philip Rivers Deserves More Love

Philip Rivers' numbers put him in the second tier of quarterbacks. Why don't people acknowledge his skills?

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As we enter the summer months, all of the 2014 fantasy football rankings are starting to roll out. It gets my loins all jiggly just thinking about it.

While I was cruising through all of these, I noticed something that confused me a bit: peeps are throwing a crazy amount of shade at Philip Rivers. I know that this isn't necessarily a new thing, but it still confused me a bit.

On ESPN's Fantasy Rankings, Rivers is listed as the 14th-best quarterback. On NFL.com, he's 15th. Brudduh can't get any love.

Clearly some of this is competition based, as the position is deeper than it's ever been. But this still made me ask the question (yes, to myself. Shush): Is Rivers as bad as people seem to think he is? To answer the question, I'll first look at Rivers in terms of real football and then at him as an asset in fake football to see whether or not the haterz be trippin' or if my pre-conceptions of the man are completely mis-guided.

What Net Expected Points Say

If you're to numberFire, we've got this fancy little statistic called Net Expected Points (NEP). Here's how it works. In each situation (3rd-and-8 from the 40, 2nd-and-2 from the 15), there is an expected number of points that a team will score on that given drive. A positive play (a first down, a long completion) will increase that, while a bad play (a fumble, an incompletion) will decrease that. Over the course of the season, the deviation from the expected number of points is Net Expected Points with a score of zero being average. To read more on NEP, you can click here.

For the purpose of evaluating the talented Mr. Rivers, I'll be looking at Total NEP. For quarterbacks, this is a measure of every one of their drop backs (including sacks) as well as rushing attempts. We could also look at Passing NEP, but I feel like this one should give us a good view of the total package that Rivers brings to the table.

Below is a table of how Rivers has performed in each year since he first became a starter in 2006. Soak it in, homies.

SeasonTotal NEPRank Among Quarterbacks
200686.724th
200740.6514th
2008136.583rd
2009177.012nd
2010143.902nd
2011104.417th
201218.1723rd
2013161.103rd

In his eight seasons as a starter, Rivers has only not been a top-10 quarterback twice, and one of those was in his second year at the helm. Sure, one of those was painfully atrocious and it was only two seasons ago, but this data makes it seem like an outlier. He's finished inside the top four in Total NEP more times (five) than he has outside of the top 10. That's almost a dirty "e-word" that gets tossed around too often by guys like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning.

In his six years as a starter in Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers has had a higher Total NEP than Rivers only twice. Ben Roethlisberger? Jay Cutler? Samesies. How about Mr. Flacco? Lolz, surely you jest. Just once for him. Even Tom Brady has only out-paced Rivers in terms of NEP four times over the last eight years.

All of this makes it look like Rivers is a bonafide stud. I'm not trying to say that he's as good as guys like Rodgers or Manning or Drew Brees, but he's firmly in that second tier of high-quality quarterbacks.

However, I feel like most people generally agree that Rivers isn't exactly dog-droppings when it comes to real football. The true claws come out when you say he's a valuable fantasy quarterback. Prepare to engage in fisticuffs, ladies and gents, because I actually think this dude deserves more love in the fake football realm, as well.

What Fantasy Points Say

Rivers has always been a better quarterback in reality than he has been in fantasy, so I was actually pretty interested to see what his career arc has been here. Below is a table of where he has ranked among quarterbacks each of his eight seasons as a starter. The rankings are based on standard scoring.

SeasonQuarterback Ranking
20068th
200716th
20083rd
20098th
20105th
20119th
201221st
20136th

While those rankings are far from Earth-shattering, they're not too shabby, either. Only two finishes outside of the top 12 show that, in most instances, you're going to be just fine having Rivers as your number one quarterback.

Let's focus quickly on 2013. In that season, Rivers finished sixth with Matthew Stafford seventh and Colin Kaepernick ninth. Stafford is currently fourth on ESPN's rankings. Kaepernick is fifth on NFL.com. Rivers, though, can't sniff the top 10. Why? I cannot figure it out.

The thing that was so great about Rivers last year was his consistency. Rivers averaged 17.96 points per game with a standard deviation (a measure of the week-to-week variance from the mean) of 6.31. He scored less than 10 points only once (although that was Week 16, which is kind of a rough time to have a bad game for fantasy owners). Stafford and Kaepernick couldn't say the same.

Overall, Stafford's average (17.46) and standard deviation (6.54) weren't too far from the marks Rivers put up. However, he had three weeks in which he scored fewer than 10 points, and each of them came from Weeks 14-16. Again, not an ideal time to take a statistical potty break on the field.

Kaep was pretty much all over the piece. Even though his average (16.52) was just a bit away from Rivers and Stafford, his standard deviation (8.25) was all kinds of jacked up. Not only did Kaepernick have four weeks of less than 10 points, he had two weeks in which he scored less than five. No bueno!

Using their respective standard deviations and averages, we can see that, in a given week, there was a 10.38 percent chance that Rivers would score fewer than 10 points. That number for Kaepernick is 21.48 percent. Kaepernick was twice as likely to score fewer than 10 points than Rivers was. Yet he is considered by some to be a top-five quarterback, and Rivers can't buy love.

In the end, I'm not trying to argue that Rivers is going to be a drop-dead stud in 2014. I just don't think the man gets enough credit for how good he actually is. For real football, Rivers should pick up where he left off last year and keep helping Keenan Allen make it rain on the league. In fantasy, he's a great guy to look at if you subscribe to the late-round quarterback theory. Don't let the pre-season rankings fool you; brudduh is a great second-tier signal-caller that has earned a figurative hug from all of us.

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In This Article

Colin Kaepernick
QB, San Francisco 49ers

Jay Cutler
QB, Chicago Bears

Joe Flacco
QB, Baltimore Ravens

Matthew Stafford
QB, Detroit Lions

Philip Rivers
QB, San Diego Chargers

Tom Brady
QB, New England Patriots

Keenan Allen
WR, San Diego Chargers

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