Matt Ryan’s been a perennial top-12 draft pick at the quarterback position, but his struggles in 2015 will make him far cheaper this year. … In early MFL10 bestball drafts, Ryan has been the 17th quarterback off the board.
For the last seven years, Matt Ryan had never been drafted lower than QB11, going as high as QB6 in 2013. Now, he’s QB17. After seven straight years of QB1 draft prices, Ryan is suddenly a mid-tier QB2, making him a great value in 2QB leagues.
I have written previously that reliable, low-upside quarterbacks are valuable in two-quarterback leagues, and they are desirable QB2s if the price is right. A steady performer at QB2 frees you up to gamble on a high-upside QB3, because you are insulated from much of the risk that your QB3 busts.
That boring dependability is less desirable at QB1, where you want upside and high weekly totals, which is why Matt Ryan has historically been miscast as a QB1. Over the last four seasons, Ryan has remarkably few excellent performances, as shown in the graph below. He is dependable and can be relied upon to finish as at least a QB2 in most weeks, but he has not been a high-end performer.
(Great thanks to Mike Beers, @beerswater, for the charts in this article.)
Putting that same information another way, here is how Matt Ryan’s weekly scoring output has looked over that same period.
Matt Ryan provides a remarkably high floor, even when you include his four QB3 performances in 2015. In 64 starts over the last four seasons, Ryan has only had one single-digit game and only five weeks with fewer than 15 points. If you needed to pay QB1 prices to draft Matt Ryan, that wouldn’t be compelling news, but when Ryan’s ADP falls to QB17, that floor is suddenly a fantastic value.
My belief is not that Matt Ryan should be drafted back at a QB1 level, but I want to commend him to you as a QB2 target. In both redraft and dynasty leagues, Ryan has become one of my favorite targets because of the low cost to acquire a reliable QB2 with a high floor.
Last season’s struggles are the biggest argument against Matt Ryan, and I must admit some concern that he was much less reliable than in the rest of his career. Ryan finished outside the QB2 range in 25% of his starts last year, as compared to 4% in the three prior seasons. Ryan looked, at times, less proficient and more prone to mental errors than in past seasons, but he also suffered from a lack of passing weapons around him, outside his elite wide receiver. The Falcons have already added Mohamed Sanu (which is, admittedly, far from exciting), and I expect them to do more to strengthen the passing game. The team surely recognizes they can’t trot out the same offense if they want to succeed.
I tend toward the belief that we should ignore one-year aberrations in favor of multi-season trends in predicting how a quarterback will perform. Too often, recency bias ties us to the previous season, and we ignore history. A few seasons ago, Philip Rivers fell nearly eight spots in ADP after one bad season, only to immediately return to prior form. This year, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo are heavily discounted off their typical prices, and I expect we will see both bounce back and provide value to fantasy owners.
When it comes to my QB2, I want to take someone with a track record of reliability, so I will favor waiting to draft Matt Ryan over paying high QB2 prices to take a relative newcomer like Blake Bortles or Tyrod Taylor. Ryan is an ideal plug-and-play QB2, and his floor will allow me to take a long-shot on a risky QB3 with more upside.