Philip Rivers Is a League-Winning Value Pick in Fantasy Football
As I write this, I'm sitting in a rental house in Austin, Texas, where I moved with my family over the weekend. About halfway through our journey from the Metro Detroit area (just outside of Memphis), the air conditioning in our car decided it was time to give up. This left my family and I with just over 10 hours of driving to go without air conditioning in roughly 98 degree heat.
This event made me think about those things in our lives that many of us take for granted but that we would really struggle to live without. Among those being clean water, healthy food, and a reliable late-round quarterback.
This year, as the late-round quarterback strategy becomes more widely accepted, someone interested in picking up a signal caller in the latter rounds of the draft will have to be strategic about his or her selection. A prime late-round target this year is one of the NFL's ironmen, Philip Rivers.
Since becoming a full-time starter in 2006, Rivers has not missed a single game, amassing a 280 to 134 touchdown to interception ration in that time.
Rivers' name on the list of value, late-round quarterbacks is nothing new. Last season, according to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Rivers was the 14th quarterback off of the board, going in the 10th round on average.
He proved to be a value in that position, finishing as the QB12 on the season, but if a couple of things had broken differently, he would have ranked much higher.
Rivers in 2015
For the season, Rivers' 661 pass attempts was tops in the NFL, and his 4,792 passing yards ranked second. Obviously, those numbers are great in regard to a quarterback's fantasy success, but had Rivers' favorite target, Keenan Allen, not gone down in Week 8 of the season, his statistics could have been more impressive.
According to our Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back statistic, which measures how many points an average quarterback would be expected to score in a specific situation (given down, distance-to-go, and yard line) per drop back, Rivers ranked 12th among quarterbacks with over 400 drop backs with a mark of 0.14.
However, through Week 7, while Allen was healthy, Rivers' had a 0.20 Passing NEP per drop back, which ranked sixth in the NFL. Rivers' 330 passes over that time ranked first, making him an extremely valuable fantasy commodity.
In fact, in the first seven weeks of the 2015 NFL season, Rivers threw 15 of his 29 touchdown passes, or 2.14 per game. Over a full 16-game season, that per game pace would have given Rivers 34 touchdown passes. Assuming standard scoring of four points per touchdown thrown, those additional five touchdown passes would have taken Rivers from QB12 to QB6 in 2015.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune, Allen will be ready to go for training camp, so let's look at the other weapons that surround Rivers to see where else he can throw this year.
Opposite Allen will be newcomer Travis Benjamin, who was signed by the Chargers in free agency. Benjamin and his 4.36-second 40-yard-dash time will be asked to take the top off of opposing defenses, occupying the role held by Malcom Floyd for the last 11 seasons. Benjamin started to come into his own last season in Cleveland, posting career highs in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and catch rate.
The reliable Steve Johnson, who will play a lot out of the slot, ranked between Julio Jones and Willie Snead with an 84.4% Reception Success Rate, the percentage of his catches that added expected points to his team, last year.
Antonio Gates, while not as spry as he used to be, hauled in 56 receptions on 86 targets and 5 touchdowns, in 11 games last season. Gates' 57.45 Reception NEP ranked 10th among all NFL tight ends.
While 2015 first-round pick Melvin Gordon does not add much to the passing game, Danny Woodhead is in San Diego for that exact purpose. Woodhead led all NFL running backs last season with a 58.50 Reception NEP, and his 0.55 Reception NEP per target was third.
A Safe Option With Upside
Rivers is not the sexy, new quarterback that everyone is swooning over, but with Rivers, you know what to expect. We project Rivers to lead the league in attempts, again, in 2016, with roughly 650.
Rivers has the talent and supporting cast, accompanied by a huge workload, to be a league-winner for you in 2016. On draft day, if you're waiting on quarterback, let him fall into your lap. You'll be happy that you did.