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Kyle Orton Named Buffalo Bills Starter: Fantasy Implications


Word dropped Monday that EJ Manuel is out, and Kyle Orton is in, as the Buffalo starting quarterback. Here’s some quick background for you, as you consider what impact this change will have on your fantasy teams.

An Ordinary Man

Orton isn’t going to win any Peyton Manning look-alike contests. But he’s a very serviceable QB. Here are his advanced passing stats, from Pro Football Reference.1

Year G Att Y/A+ NY/A+ AY/A+ ANY/A+ Cmp%+ TD%+ Int%+ Rate+
2005 15 368 69 71 72 74 73 81 93 73
2007 3 80 81 93 90 97 75 97 108 89
2008 15 465 90 93 95 97 91 98 106 96
2009 16 541 101 104 104 106 104 97 110 104
2010 13 498 105 103 108 107 94 97 116 104
2011 9 252 98 105 92 97 96 92 88 91
2013 3 51 114 129 100 111 111 95 83 99
Career 75 2265 94 96 96 98 92 94 105 95

It’s hard to be much more average than that. For comparison, here are the same stats for Manuel.

Year G Att Y/A+ NY/A+ AY/A+ ANY/A+ Cmp%+ TD%+ Int%+ Rate+
2013 10 306 86 85 88 87 91 92 96 89
2014 4 131 86 92 92 95 88 94 104 92
Career 14 437 86 87 89 89 90 93 98 90

Those stats are better than I thought they’d be, but they definitely trail Orton. Assuming he plays to his career averages, Orton represents a modest but significant improvement in QB play. That in turn should help the Bills other skill position players. Manuel should theoretically be a better runner than Orton, but that hasn’t availed the Bills much this season. To date, Manuel’s rush attempts have provided -5.9 expected points.

Better Than Remembered

The public perception of Orton is that he’s nothing special. He’s not – see above, he’s just average – but he’s maybe better in some regards than we remember. I used the AYA App to find the two players at each position that Orton has targeted the most in his career, and compared that to how the same receivers fared when targeted by other QBs.

Kyle Orton Brandon Lloyd WR 223 114 1920 11 8 7.98
Tom Brady Brandon Lloyd WR 131 74 911 4 1 7.22
Kyle Orton Brandon Marshall WR 149 100 1115 10 2 8.22
Jay Cutler Brandon Marshall WR 640 384 4918 32 24 7
Brian Griese Desmond Clark TE 142 94 1003 9 3 7.38
Kyle Orton Desmond Clark TE 119 64 597 5 3 4.72
Kyle Orton Greg Olsen TE 86 53 579 5 0 7.9
Cam Newton Greg Olsen TE 304 187 2199 16 4 7.69
Kyle Orton Knowshon Moreno RB 90 66 607 5 1 7.36
Peyton Manning Knowshon Moreno RB 100 81 715 3 1 7.3
Jay Cutler Matt Forte RB 312 236 2115 6 3 6.73
Kyle Orton Matt Forte RB 69 56 425 3 1 6.38

This doesn’t account for different teams, schemes, and ages of players of course, but I think it helps clear any cognitive bias about Orton’s ability to make use of his best weapons.

Inefficient Manuel

Most of the time, we wouldn’t be that interested in an average QB. But the prospect of average play from Orton is appealing because of Manuel’s decidedly below average play. Switching to the Fantasy Efficiency App, we see that Manuel is the 24th ranked passer this season on a per-attempt basis. On a total basis, he’s returned the 22nd-most fantasy points above expectation. He ranks 28th in passer rating and 17th (lower is worse) in interception percentage. However you look at Orton’s career–in total, or his peak years, or just his most recent seasons–he’s . . . wait for it . . . an average performer. The hurdle that Manuel has set is a low one. Simply being himself should get Orton, and the rest of the Bills, to a better place offensively.

Patience is a Virtue

So should you make a waiver claim for Orton? The answer depends on your team’s needs, but at the moment I would lean toward no. Here’s why. Courtesy of the Buy Low Machine, here’s the Bills’ upcoming schedule.


Yep. That’s the worst fantasy QB schedule over the next three weeks.2 Playing at home, Detroit has limited Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers to 291 yards passing. Combined. The Bills could struggle mightily next week, and perhaps over the two weeks following that, as well.

But take a look at the Bills’ schedule from Week 8 to the end of the season.


Yep. That’s the second-easiest QB schedule, although it does tighten up a bit during the fantasy playoff weeks. Still, the Jets twice and Oakland are nice matchups, and most of the rest are neutral or slightly favorable.

Things are set up for the Bills to struggle in the short term. There’s a good chance that, if anyone picks up Orton, they’ll wind up dropping him in the near future.3 I’d wait and try to acquire him, either off waivers or via low-ball trade, after Week 6 or 7.

As for the rest of the Bills skill players, I think the switch to Orton will at worst be a neutral change, but it’s more likely to be a slight positive change. Just as with Orton himself, however, you may need to be patient over the next couple of weeks. I’d hold the Bills skill players for now, unless you’re really desperate. On the other hand, if you don’t own them, but their current owner is desperate, the combination of tough schedule and QB change may offer a buying opportunity. Once the schedule softens, they should have a higher ceiling with Orton than they do with Manuel.

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  1. Scaled to league average by year; 100 is average; higher is better.  (back)
  2. This might change; Alex Smith is presently ripping the Patriots a new one.  (back)
  3. And unless you’re desperate, you probably won’t start them next week anyway.  (back)

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