It’s preseason which means one thing, and one thing only. Fever, rookie fever, and we’ve got it bad when it comes to drafting a late round QB. Too often we enter the season excited to watch the shiny new toys we saw walking across that stage in April. We tend to ignore the producers we’ve become accustomed too, and instead focus on the what if.
As we head into 2021 one of the biggest head-scratchers lies within the quarterback position when comparing Trevor Lawrence and Matt Ryan.
Lawrence was the first prospect to have his name called this year in the draft after 3 years at Clemson. Many had anointed him after his national championship season at Clemson. Excitement has been building for Lawrence for the past couple of years, and Underdog drafts are no exception.
Currently going off the board at pick 125, Lawrence is perceived as somewhat of a value in a 1 quarterback league. However, when you look at the history of the 1.01 and top 12 finishes it’s easy to fade Lawrence this season.
Lawrence enters the season with first-time NFL head coach Urban Meyer which makes the proposition even murkier. Considering 3 college coaches have jumped to the NFL and hand-picked their signal-caller at the 1.01 none of them have had their rookie signal-caller post a top ten finish their rookie season. This includes Kyler Murray who is just as talented a runner as Lawrence. Needless to say, history isn’t exactly on Lawrence’s side, but neither is the tendencies of his coach.
From 2016 through 2018 at Ohio State was a juggernaut offensively averaging almost 500 yards per game down that stretch. On the outside, it would seem Lawrence is primed for big things. The devil is in the details though, during that stretch the run-pass split at Ohio State was 2,136 rushes against 1,407 passes which come out to just a 40-60 split of run vs pass.
Lawrence has significant arm talent, but expecting big things in year 1 while adapting to the speed of the NFL, and being in a run-centric offense is a recipe for unrealistic expectations. If we’re looking for production, at similar ADP why not consider a far less risky prospect who people are sleeping on.
If Trevor Lawrence represents rookie fever, the opposite would have to be something like Veteran Hypothermia. If that were a thing the definition of this would be Matt Ryan.
Considering Matt Ryan’s lowest finish in the last 3 years was QB13, it’s quite perplexing how he is being drafted a full round a half behind a rookie who hasn’t even taken a snap in the NFL. Matt Ryan’s lowest finish was on the heels of 2020 where we saw him throw the ball 626 which was only 10 times above his three-year average without his top receiving option for almost a third of the season. With limited cap space, and investing a high pick on the offensive side of the ball I struggle to see a world where Ryan isn’t forced to pass below his average of 616.
While Julio has departed to Tennessee, it’s worth noting the Falcons invested their #3 overall pick on unicorn tight end prospect Kyle Pitts. This pairing with Calvin Ridley should only increase Matt Ryan’s 26 touchdowns which have been his floor since 2010. Simply put, if you’re trying to play the value game of late round qb this year, Matt Ryan is your best bet.
We’ve got roughly a month until the start of the season which is plenty of time to exploit the inefficiency of these ADPs. While Lawrence presents upside, Matt Ryan has been one of the most consistent players at the position the last ten years, and I see little reason to suspect him slowing down this season. Not only is Ryan an excellent sleeper pick, but he also presents tremendous stacking value with Calvin Ridley who could finish #1 at the position this season.