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Why Drew Brees Doesn’t Belong In the Company of Aaron Rodgers

Drew Brees

I’m addicted to the Similarity Score Apps. There, I said it. If I had a set game plan detailing things I wanted to accomplish prior to fooling around with the apps for 60 minutes every day, I probably would have written way more than five articles so far. I feel like when someone says “Peyton Manning is such a risky pick” and you respond with “Well the difference between his high and low comps is just 2.7 points per game” despite the fact that you’re nowhere near a computer, it might be time to reassess your time management.

So yeah, I like these things. The greatest contribution the apps can and will provide for me this season is a more fundamental understanding of risk and reward on an individual basis. I’ve long been a proponent of determining the potential distribution of outcomes for players because, aside from a median projection, it allows us to factor uncertainty into rankings. If you’re deciding between two second-round quarterbacks, both of whom you have projected at 18.0 points per game, it’s probably wise to go with the safest option due to the price of the pick.

That’s not always the case, though. Outside of the first few rounds, owners should seek more and more volatility as the cost of picks—and their expected return—declines. Why in the world would you draft Eli Manning in the ninth round when you can have Michael Vick a full round later? Think about it. In that range, you’re starting to get into backup quarterback territory; Manning and Vick are currently the 13th and 14th passers getting selected. If the hope is that you won’t need to start those players anyway, why not draft the one who has elite potential?

And what if you draft a backup quarterback as an insurance policy against a risky option? Let’s say it’s Russell Wilson. If Wilson goes down, the overall philosophy of your team should shift to take on more risk. When you’re an underdog seeking volatility, the last thing you want to see is Joe Flacco in your starting lineup.

To get a sense of quarterback volatility, I used the QB Similarity Score App to determine the deviation in each passer’s projections. The quarterbacks are sorted inversely by risk: (High Projection – Low Projection)/Median Projection

Quarterback Deviation Median Projection Deviation/Median
Aaron Rodgers

2.7

18.9

0.142857143

Peyton Manning

2.7

17.5

0.154285714

Robert Griffin III

2.5

16.1

0.155279503

Ben Roethlisberger

2.7

17.2

0.156976744

Philip Rivers

2.3

14

0.164285714

Eli Manning

2.7

14.4

0.1875

Tom Brady

3.4

17.6

0.193181818

Andy Dalton

2.7

13.7

0.197080292

Josh Freeman

2.9

13.7

0.211678832

Matt Ryan

3.9

16.4

0.237804878

Joe Flacco

3.9

16.3

0.239263804

Tony Romo

3.7

15.3

0.241830065

Sam Bradford

3.9

14.8

0.263513514

Colin Kaepernick

3.5

13.2

0.265151515

Blaine Gabbert

3.1

10.4

0.298076923

Christian Ponder

3.5

11.6

0.301724138

Russell Wilson

5.2

16.6

0.313253012

Cam Newton

5.4

16.9

0.319526627

Drew Brees

5.3

16.5

0.321212121

Andrew Luck

4.6

13.9

0.330935252

Jay Cutler

4.2

12.3

0.341463415

Carson Palmer

5

14.1

0.354609929

Matt Schaub

5.5

15

0.366666667

Matthew Stafford

6

14.8

0.405405405

Ryan Tannehill

4.8

11.6

0.413793103

Michael Vick

6.9

16.3

0.423312883

Brandon Weeden

4.8

11.3

0.424778761

Kevin Kolb

6.1

13.1

0.465648855

Alex Smith

5.8

12.2

0.475409836

Jake Locker

6.4

12

0.533333333

Mark Sanchez

5.7

8.8

0.647727273

Matt Flynn

7.1

8.2

0.865853659

A few observations:

  • Aaron Rodgers’ safety is incredible. That’s important in the first or second round, and it’s the primary reason he’s a superior option to Drew Brees. Remember, you always want to maximize value in regards to projected points, but it’s not like Rodgers doesn’t have a high ceiling and no one touches his 18.9 median projected points per game.
  • RGIII’s third-place ranking doesn’t take his injury into account, so you can adjust accordingly.
  • After Griffin, we see a trio that includes Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Eli Manning. In the range where those quarterbacks are getting selected, you should be searching for more upside. Their high ranking on this list is a negative when you factor in their ADP. You know what you’re getting, but for the price of a QB2, you don’t want so much certainty.
  • It’s interesting to see quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Cam Newton ranked in the middle of the pack. I think all three players actually have a good amount of both seasonal and week-to-week consistency because they’re so versatile, staying relevant throughout games. Their risk comes in the form of the potential for injury, I assume.
  • Matthew Stafford interests me. He’s got obvious top five potential and the most important component of quarterback fantasy success on his side: bulk attempts. If he can muster some sort of jump in efficiency, he’s Brees for the price of Wilson.

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