Why Is No One Taking Ryan Fitzpatrick in Fantasy Football Drafts?

Ryan Fitzpatrick was better than you think last year, and could be a nice late-round sleeper in deeper leagues.

What if I told you there was a quarterback being taken at the tail end of the deepest fantasy drafts, but plays better than some eighth-round picks?

numberFire's 30 for 30 presents: Fitzmagic, the Ryan Fitzpatrick story.

Ryan Fitzpatrick began his life in the NFL in humble fashion, falling deep into the seventh round before being selected by the St. Louis Rams in 2005. The Harvard product aced his Wonderlic test, performed well at the NFL Combine, and earned a spot at the end of the draft as a project quarterback who produced well in the Ivy League.

And like a fine wine, Fitzpatrick would get better with age, improving over time and, despite bouncing around from team to team, remain a viable starting quarterback in the NFL into his 30s. So how does he continue to surpass his lowly expectations as "just a quarterback from Harvard?"

Mastering the Fitzmagic

Ryan Fitzpatrick got a chance to play with the Rams during his first season, and failed to do anything worth writing home about. He was a deer in headlights, and struggled to see the field for the next few years until the Bengals gave him a chance in 2008.

He has since been viewed as one of the premier backups in the NFL, generally finding his way into the starting lineup for teams in shaky quarterback situations or with injury concerns at the position. His tenure will the Bills ended unceremoniously, but he quickly found a job again as the backup to the oft-injured Jake Locker, and has now moved to a new home in Houston, where he'll assume the role of starter from day one this year.

What are the Texans getting in Fitzpatrick? Our numbers show they're getting a much better player than the one drafted nearly 10 years ago.

YearDrop BacksPassing NEPNEP/Drop BackSuccess RateRushing NEP
200600.000.00 1.65

NEP refers to Net Expected Points, our metric which you can read more about here. For Fitzpatrick, that number has risen as he's gained experience in the NFL, culminating in a solid season in 2013 as both a runner and a passer.

To put his numbers into context, Fitzpatrick finished 16th in Passing NEP last season among quarterbacks with 300 or more drop backs, ahead of Alex Smith, Robert Griffin III and Jay Cutler. And as a rusher, he finished seventh among that same group in Rushing NEP, more than Terrelle Pryor, E.J. Manuel and Aaron Rodgers.

And on a per-rush basis, he was more efficient than Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. Fitzpatrick's numbers across the board were on par with the Carolina quarterback last season, with the Harvard grad posting better per-attempt statistics as both a runner and passer.

The former Ivy League MVP who made his living as a dual-threat player has finally settled into that role in the NFL. So he must be a risky value in fantasy drafts, right? Surely people have caught on to his success by now...

Disappearing ADP

According to Fantasy Football Calculator's ADP data, Ryan Fitzpatrick is going undrafted. That's not that odd, though, since Fantasy Football Calculator drafts aren't very deep, and there are plenty of good quarterbacks out there to choose from.

But what about deeper leagues? Those rosters surely see Fitzpatrick drafted as a top-tier QB2, right? According to My Fantasy League's ADP, Fitzpatrick is the 31st quarterback off the board, going as the 220th pick, on average.

Both of the New York Jets' quarterbacks are going ahead of a starter who finished as a middle-of-the-road quarterback last season in part-time duty? I'm not sure I want to live in this world anymore.

Fitzpatrick is the starter on a team with Andre Johnson, the best receiver he's been paired with in quite some time, as well as DeAndre Hopkins. This gives him a one-two combo at receiver that trumps his targets in Buffalo and Tennessee, where he still produced as a viable backup passer in fantasy leagues.

He's also got Arian Foster, arguably a better back than any he's played with before. And his competition on the Texans for snaps includes a 24-year-old, fourth-round rookie in Tom Savage, and Case Keenum, one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year according to our metrics.

There's no reason for the Houston signal-caller to fall this far in fantasy drafts.

Even if he doesn't play a full season, he should still surpass his lowly draft value, as our current projections have him only throwing 363 passes but still finishing 28th among quarterbacks. Should he start the whole season, and there's no reason to think he won't (barring injury), that number will skyrocket into the low 20s or high teens.

The secret is out on this magic trick. Ryan Fitzpatrick is too good to go this late in fantasy football drafts.