Why Philip Rivers Offers Incredible Value in 2012
Murphy’s Law was in full effect for Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers last season: the team finished 8-8 in the weak AFC West and Rivers threw a career-high 20 interceptions. His completion percentage of 62.9 percent, although not terrible, was his worst mark since 2007. Here’s the case against Rivers in 2012:
He lost Vincent Jackson.
Losing your No. 1 receiver never helps, and Jackson had the ability to take over games at times. Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal don’t offer the same all-purpose game as Jackson.
- His attempts will be down.
Due to game situations, Rivers attempted a career-high 582 passes in 2011. That figure will almost assuredly be lower this season, meaning Rivers will have fewer chances to gash defenses for Fantasy points.
Now here’s why you should take the chance on Rivers in 2012:
- He’s safe.
Despite it all going wrong for Rivers last season, he still threw for 4,624 yards and finished ninth among all quarterbacks in Fantasy points. He also hasn’t missed a game in his career, so he’s a sure thing for Fantasy owners.
- His yards-per-attempt will be much higher.
I recently did a post on quarterback yards-per-attempt. In that article, I regressed quarterbacks’ YPA to match their average over the previous three seasons in order to obtain a number that was more representative of their true ability than 2011 stats alone. Rivers was one of the biggest risers.
In 2011, Rivers threw for 7.9 YPA. He threw for 8.7, 8.8, and 8.4 YPA the previous three seasons, however, meaning he really underachieved last year. With 8.5 YPA in 2012, Rivers would likely finish in the top two or three for quarterbacks in terms of total passing yards. Yes, that takes into account Rivers’ probable drop in attempts.
- Rivers’ completion percentage will be higher.
Like his YPA, Rivers’ completion percentage of 62.9 percent was below his career mark. Over the three prior seasons, Rivers completed 65.5 percent of his passes. If we project Rivers to attempt just 520 passes in 2012—62 fewer than last season and 21 fewer than in 2010—he’d still connect on 341 passes with a completion rate of 65.5 percent.
Rivers’ yards-per-completion over the past three seasons has been 13.1. Even with 4,624 passing yards last year, Rivers’ YPC was only 12.5. With an increase in completion percentage and YPC toward “normality,” Rivers figures to throw for nearly 4,500 yards, even assuming a larger dip in attempts. If Rivers is closer to his 582 attempts from 2011, he could approach 5,000 yards and lead the league in passing.
- Rivers will throw more touchdowns and fewer interceptions.
With 27 touchdown passes last year, Rivers threw fewer scores than he has since 2007. In the three prior seasons, Rivers averaged close to four extra touchdown passes. Even with Jackson out of town, Rivers figures to be closer to 30:12 than 27:20.
- Rivers’ average draft position is much, much too low.
Check out the graph below, courtesy of Fantasy Football Calculator.
Rivers is getting selected nearly a full round behind Tony Romo, half a round behind Eli Manning and is closer to Matt Ryan than any other passer. That’s insulting to Rivers.
Over the past three seasons, the typical Matt Ryan line has been a 60.9 completion percentage for 3,599 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. Meanwhile, Rivers has posted a 64.6 completion rate for 4,529 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 14 picks. In leagues that award a point per 20 passing yards, four points per passing touchdowns, and penalize two points per interceptions, that equals 224 points for Ryan and 265 for Rivers. I realize Ryan has a revamped passing game, but it just shows that Rivers is being forgotten in Fantasy drafts this season.
Ultimately, Rivers offers what few Fantasy prospects can give owners, especially in the seventh round: a high ceiling without a much risk.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of TheDCTimes.com and writes for the New York Times and Dallas Cowboys. He’s the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.