One of the big winners coming out of the NFL Draft was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The fact that the Bills didn’t take a QB with any of their nine draft picks was a vote of confidence for their current starter. Had Buffalo picked a QB in the first round or two, he may have begun the season as the starter, but chances are that he would have been benched as soon as the losses started piling up. That would have made Fitzpatrick a risky pick in fantasy drafts.
Fast forward a few days and he’s suddenly looking like a great value pick once your draft gets into the middle rounds (10th-12th). According to the #Draftmaster ADP over at Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick is currently the 20th QB off the board in the middle of the 12th round. I suspect that his ADP will rise to the 10th or 11th rounds given the Bills’ draft, as he could pass David Garrard, Matt Cassel and Mark Sanchez, creeping up into the QB17 range. That’s where I have him in my initial QB rankings for 2011.
Let’s take a look at Fitzpatrick’s per game numbers as compared to those three QBs, because I bet there are still some nonbelievers out there:
As you can see, Fitzpatrick compares pretty favorably to the aforementioned three QBs in almost every category. On a per game basis, he scored the second-most fantasy points in this group. (Keep in mind that I did remove Garrard’s Week 6 game against the Titans, when he was knocked out in the second quarter. I also removed Mark Sanchez’s Week 17 game against the Bills, where he started but left the game without attempting a pass.)
Considering the Jaguars drafted Blaine Gabbert in the first round, and have been toying with replacing Garrard for some time now, it certainly appears that he may have a short leash heading into 2011. If the Jaguars start losing, I’d expect they’d plug Gabbert in to get him some experience heading into 2012. Garrard’s strength of schedule looks to be about 5% tougher this season, while Fitzpatrick’s projects to be 4% easier. For what it’s worth, Matt Cassel’s schedule looks 7.6% tougher while Sanchez’s projects to be 3.9% easier.
To me, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a no-brainer when picking from this group, which is why I have him ranked #17. The Bills have a tendency to fall behind in games, so assuming he plays a full season, I could easily see him finish in the QB12 to QB14 range. I actually think he should be placed a tier higher, with Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Sam Bradford and Joe Flacco. Let’s take a look at how his numbers compare to those players:
Note that I used Matthew Stafford’s last eight games, which includes six games from the 2009 season, and excluded his Week 1 game against the Bears in which he was injured.
Again, Fitzpatrick compares favorably to the other players in this group. He has the second-highest fantasy points per game average, the most rushing yards and is right there with the leaders in passing yards and touchdowns. In fact, given his running ability, it’s a little surprising that he didn’t run for a TD or two last season — I’d expect that to change in 2011. The only characteristic that these other four players have that Fitzpatrick doesn’t is a first-round arm. It is highly unlikely that Stafford, Flacco, Cutler or Bradford (all drafted in the first round) are going to get benched at any time this season, but Fitzpatrick, a seventh-round pick, no doubt has a shorter leash.
(For what it’s worth, Stafford, Flacco, Cutler and Bradford all have similar (within 1.7%) schedules as 2010, while Fitzy’s projects to improve by 4%.)
Bottom line: I love Fitzpatrick as the second QB taken in a committee-approach, possibly with one of the aforementioned players. He’s a great value once the rounds hit double-digits, and with no other viable QB to threaten his job, we can draft him with confidence that if he’s healthy, he’s probably the starter in Buffalo.
The Bills didn’t do anything to improve their receivers in the draft, but with the up-and-coming Stevie Johnson anchoring one side, Lee Evans on the other, Roscoe Parrish and David Nelson over the middle, and C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson out of the backfield, Fitzpatrick should have plenty of weapons to utilize. The Bills’ offense isn’t good enough to press the Patriots or Jets for the division crown, but they’re certainly good enough to put up points in garbage time, and that’s all you need in fantasy football.