NFL

NFL Player Props: The 4 Best Bets to Lead the League in Passing Yards

We're inching closer and closer to the 2021 NFL season, and while we're still a few days away from kicking back and watching the games on Thursday, Sunday, and Mondays, we have plenty to tide us over.

Whether it's fantasy football drafts (for which we have a customizable draft kit and player projections), best-ball drafts on FanDuel or team futures bets at FanDuel Sportsbook, there's something for everyone.

And did I mention the props?

*Checks notes*

I have not.

FanDuel Sportsbook has a good number of player stats props posted, including the one I'm about to discuss: most regular season passing yards.

Here are the listed players and their odds to lead the league in passing yards, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

Player FanDuel
Sportsbook
Odds
Player FanDuel
Sportsbook
Odds
Patrick Mahomes +310 Dak Prescott +500
Josh Allen +850 Tom Brady +950
Justin Herbert +1200 Matt Ryan +1300
Matthew Stafford +1400 Joe Burrow +1600
Aaron Rodgers +2000 Trevor Lawrence +3100
Ryan Fitzpatrick +3700 Russell Wilson +3700
Derek Carr +3700 Kyler Murray +4100
Kirk Cousins +4100 Jared Goff +4400
Jameis Winston +5500 Zach Wilson +6500
Ryan Tannehill +6500 Ben Roethlisberger +7000
Tua Tagovailoa +8500 Sam Darnold +8500
Carson Wentz +8500 Baker Mayfield +8500
Jimmy Garoppolo +13000 Jalen Hurts +13000
Daniel Jones +13000 Mac Jones +22000
Lamar Jackson +22000 Tyrod Taylor +30000
Trey Lance +30000 Teddy Bridgewater +30000
Taysom Hill +30000 Justin Fields +30000
Drew Lock +30000 Davis Mills +30000
Cam Newton +30000 Andy Dalton +30000


Which players make for the best bets?

To find out, I used numberFire's player projections as the baseline along with historical ranges of outcomes to see which players outperformed their odds most frequently across 10,000 season simulations.

Some Historical Precedent

Across 21 seasons from 2000 to 2020, there have been 22 total instances of a player leading the league in passing yards (there was a tie back in 2014).

Of these 22 seasons, 21 of them consisted of a full, 16-game schedule played.

While there's a potential assumption that volume and garbage time would lead to elite passing yardage outputs, none of the 22 league-leading seasons were tied to a yards-per-attempt rate below 7.51.

The Results

Patrick Mahomes (+310)
For Patrick Mahomes to be considered a value bet, he would need to be at least 24.4% likely to lead the league in passing yards -- something he has yet to do, actually. (He's ranked second twice.)

numberFire's projections do anticipate Mahomes to lead the league in yardage this season with a total of 5,212. The only other projection above 4,745 belongs to Dak Prescott (+500) at 5,157.

So, Mahomes, understandably leads the way most frequently in the season simulations, and he did so at a 27.5% clip.

That's crazy, but he has had a top-10 yardage season three years running, and I don't think anyone would really want to bet against Mahomes to be great in 2021.

Dak Prescott (+500)
So, I mentioned already that Prescott has a yardage projection north of 5,150, as well, and so he has distance on the rest of the league, according to numberFire's model.

Given that, and given the better odds relative to Mahomes, Prescott has to be a lock to be a value bet, right?

Right.

Prescott wound up leading the league in 22.4% of the simulated seasons, easily outperforming the 16.7% odds required to break even at +500.

Prescott actually is projected for a crazy 8.22 yards-per-attempt rate this season (Dak averaged 8.36 yards per attempt last year on 222 attempts), which would easily clear the 7.50 baseline we have seen from eventual league-leaders.

Justin Herbert (+1200)
Behind Mahomes and Prescott, we have a pretty tight tier of passing yardage projections.

That tier includes, you guessed it, Justin Herbert, who is projected for 4,711 yards and a yards-per-attempt rate of 7.59. Unlike those projected around him -- Tom Brady (4,745; +850) and Josh Allen (4,741; +900) -- he comes at a nicer number at +1200.

Via our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back metric, which looks at underlying data based on context such as down-and-distance, Herbert ranked 9th during his rookie season among 38 qualified quarterbacks.

Building on that in his second year could lead to a very prolific passing season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (+3700)
The biggest thing standing in the way for Ryan Fitzpatrick is likely the perfect game requirement. Fitzpatrick has played in all 16 games just once over the past eight years, and he'll now likely need to go 17-for-17 to pace the league in yardage.

But Fitz was like really, really good last season, and that doesn't get a lot of attention.

Fitzpatrick ranked 10th in the NFL last season in Passing NEP per drop back, and he's projected for 7.55 yards per attempt -- barely meeting the requirement.

If the Washington Football Team does flirt with 8.5 wins, he could see a balance of efficiency and volume that gets him to the top of the leaderboard at a big number of +3700.