Please Stop Drafting Matt Ryan So High in Fantasy Football
Just because Matt Ryan is a safe quarterback choice in fantasy football doesn't make him a good quarterback choice in fantasy football.
Because safety at the quarterback position really shouldn't be a thing. And that's all you get from Ryan -- safety.
The truth is, based on quarterback strategy and replaceability, Ryan's somewhat of a worthless draft choice to make given his cost. Let's take a quick look as to why this is the case.
A Better Real Quarterback
You could and probably should argue that Ryan's a better "real" quarterback than he is a fake one. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which measures the number of points a player adds or loses for his team versus expectation -- Ryan's never finished a season with a Passing NEP per drop back lower than 0.08. To give you some context, last year's average among starters was 0.09, while the averages over the two seasons prior equaled 0.07.
And that's his floor. Ryan's been an above-average passer -- sometimes a fantastic one -- over the first seven years of his NFL career. He's had three seasons with 107 or more Passing Net Expected Points, which is generally only seen by roughly the top five quarterbacks each season.
These numbers just haven't always translated to fantasy football success.
Never Better Than Average
When you're drafting a quarterback in fantasy football, your goal really shouldn't be to find a nice, solid floor. Because given the way you can stream the position, a decent floor from a fantasy football quarterback is essentially the same thing you can find off the waiver wire in the majority of leagues.
Matt Ryan gives you a floor, not a ceiling. Over his career, take a look at his cumulative finishes year to year.
These numbers aren't all that inspiring, especially when you consider my podcast cohost, Denny Carter, and I streamed a quarterback last season that ended with QB6 numbers, or better-than-Matt-Ryan totals.
Week by week, our quarterback Frankenstein was better than the Falcons' signal-caller.
And last season was Ryan's second best from a fantasy football standpoint.
Yet, since his rookie year, Ryan has been drafted as a top-nine quarterback in all but one season, per MyFantasyLeague.com's average draft position data. And, as the table shows above, he's never finished higher than the seventh-best quarterback in a given year.
This year, according to the same data, Ryan's the fifth quarterback off the board. (Fifth!)
So what does this mean? It means that, sure, he's not going to bust for you if he's healthy, but that doesn't really matter at the quarterback position in fantasy football. You actually should be drafting for variance in single-quarterback leagues -- the only players who really are giving you an edge at the position are the elite guys, and we have a fairly large sample size to show us that Matt Ryan, in terms of raw numbers (which are what matter in fantasy football) just isn't that.
Rather than investing a middle-round pick in Ryan, go with later-round upside in players like Ryan Tannehill or Sam Bradford. Though Ryan has better odds in finishing higher than them in fantasy scoring this year, the difference is irrelevant -- the only way Ryan will really be a difference-maker (and you can see the data for this in the streaming quarterback case study that's linked above) is if he makes a jump that he's never made throughout his career.