Should Fantasy Football Owners Trust Brian Hoyer's Production?
It would probably be an understatement to say that 2015 has been a weird one for quarterbacks.
Hoyer started the season as Houston’s starter but was benched after a Week 1 loss, giving way to Ryan Mallett.
After spending the next two weeks on the bench, Hoyer resurfaced in relief of Mallett, who was ineffective in Week 4 and got hurt in Week 5, and was named the Texans' starter afterwards.
Since Week 4, Hoyer has put up the seventh-most points for quarterbacks in standard scoring leagues, scoring 99.6 points (19.9 per game).
He continued this stretch in Week 8 against the Titans, throwing for 235 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, scoring a solid 17.3 points (14th among quarterbacks last week).
It has marked quite a change for a quarterback who ranked 25th at the position in fantasy points last season, his first year of extended playing time. If you’ve been streaming him lately, it’s been a good ride, but after a closer look at the numbers, you might want to consider getting off at the next station.
A Surprisingly Good Start
Before projecting Hoyer’s future, it would probably be a good idea to look back on what he has done lately. His success over his last five weeks has gone beyond the fantasy realm, as he has also put up good numbers in “real life.”
Hoyer has completed 129 of 215 passes for 1,581 yards, 13 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, while getting sacked 13 times for a loss of 86 yards.
This translates to a 7.11 adjusted net yards per attempt average (raw net yards per attempt, adjusted for touchdowns and interceptions), which ranks ninth in the league...ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and Peyton Manning (have I mentioned this has been a weird season for quarterbacks?).
Hoyer is a more modest 14th in raw NY/A (6.56; the NFL average is 6.5) but is helped by his touchdown and interception rates. He has thrown a touchdown on 6.0% of his passes (seventh in the league) and an interception on 1.4% of them (sixth lowest).
In terms of our in house metrics, Hoyer came into Week 8 ranked 11th in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), and tied for eighth in NEP per pass and Success Rate (among quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs). NEP indicates how a player performs in terms of adding to his team's expected scoring outcome and is compared to expectation-level.
Since Week 4, Hoyer has ranked 11th, 10th, 5th, 7th, and 14th in fantasy points among quarterbacks on a week-to-week basis.
What He Has Going For Him
The most attractive thing about Hoyer for fantasy owners is the fact that he has to throw the ball...a lot.
Hoyer is seventh in attempts since getting reinserted into Houston’s lineup in Week 4, averaging over 36 passes per game.
This is for a number of obvious reasons. First off, Houston’s defense has put its offense in positions where it needs to pass.
The Texans have allowed 25.6 points per game, 11th most in the NFL. In its first seven games, Houston’s offense has faced an average deficit of 11.2 points at the start of its drives, which is worst in the league, according to Football Outsiders.
Hoyer should also be asked to do more due to the injury to Arian Foster and the fact Foster is being replaced by one of the worst running backs in the NFL.
Foster was placed on injured reserve last week after tearing his Achilles, giving way to Alfred Blue, and to say this is a steep drop off is another big understatement.
Last season, Foster ranked 11th at his position in Rushing NEP, while Blue ranked 162nd out of 163 running backs (only Andre Ellington was worse). Blue gained only 3.1 yards per carry, which was worst in the league among the 44 qualifying players.
He has not been much better this year, averaging 3.7 yards per carry, while producing -3.73 Rushing NEP, so whatever reservations you may have about Hoyer, his passing seems like a better option than Blue's running, and will probably be treating as such by Houston.
During Hoyer’s strong five-game stretch, the defenses he faced had an average rank of 20th in terms of our opponent-adjusted Defensive NEP per pass ratings (through Week 7). Even this number is propped up by Tennessee, which came into last week’s game ranked 10th.
Hoyer’s other opponents, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Miami, came into the week ranked 22nd, 25th, 27th and 21st, in passing NEP per play, respectively.
Things won’t continue to be this easy after Houston comes back from its Week 9 bye, though.
From Weeks 10 to 16, the average opponent Houston will face ranks 14th in passing NEP allowed per play.
There will still be some weeks when Hoyer has a favorable matchup and could be a streaming option, such as Week 11 versus New Orleans (31st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play) and Week 14 against the Colts (25th). Plus, if your league goes into Week 17, Houston faces the 27th-ranked Jaguars in their last game.
Otherwise, Hoyer’s remaining matchups are poor. His other second half opponents include Cincinnati (10th), the Jets (4th), Buffalo (3rd), New England (9th), and Tennessee (8th) again.
Aside from being aided by a weak slate of opposing pass defenses, we should also question Hoyer’s success because of a small sample size.
As mentioned, Hoyer ranks ninth in the league in ANY/A, but we probably don’t have enough data to be confident in this figure.
Danny Tuccito found that ANY/A stabilizes after about 326 dropbacks, meaning this is the volume of plays needed before we can conclude a stat is more of a product of performance than random variation.
Hoyer has dropped back 228 times this year, so while the sample is growing, it’s not big enough for us to definitively say his performance is “real.”
There is also the fact that Hoyer’s value has been driven up by his touchdown and interception rates. As mentioned earlier, his net yards per pass average ranks 14th, but his adjusted net yards per pass rate ranks ninth.
Individual touchdown and interception rates take even longer to become reliable, as Tuccito found that touchdown percentage only stabilizes after over 1,000 attempts and interception rate needs almost 1,700 attempts.
Hoyer has not hit these levels in his career, let alone this season, as he has thrown 845 passes between his time with the Patriots, Cardinals, Browns, and Texans (for his career, his NY/A average is 6.48, his ANY/A is 6.09, his touchdown rate is 3.8% and his interception rate is 2.6%).
From a fantasy and “real world” perspective, Hoyer has performed roughly at the level of a top 10 quarterback since returning to the Texans lineup. This is probably not indicative of Hoyer’s true talent though, given the weak caliber of his opponents and his relatively low number of pass attempts.
Plus, because he has a tougher slate of opponents coming up, owners should probably thank Hoyer for the value he provided them over the last month but ultimately look elsewhere at quarterback.