It has been an interesting couple of seasons for Matt Ryan, who went from MVP to middle of the pack. It was always going to be tough to repeat his 2016 numbers with Kyle Shanahan leaving. However, he has now had a year with Steve Sarkisian and hopefully we see some steps forward. For fantasy owners, Ryan was incredibly frustrating. In many leagues he was a high draft pick who failed to live up to the hype finishing as QB15 in standard leagues. So can Matt Ryan get back to being a top-10 fantasy quarterback in 2018?
In terms of positional ranking among quarterbacks Ryan has an interesting history. In 2008 and 2009 he finished 15th and 19th respectively. He then had three years of top-10 performance from 2010 to 2012. In two of those three years he also ranked as a top-30 fantasy player overall. In the last five years there has been an interesting pattern begin to emerge. In 2013, Ryan ranked 15th, 2014 he was seventh, 2015 he was back at 19th. Obviously then we had the great 2016 year where he ranked 2nd before sliding back to 15th last year. Just simply by following that pattern we should expect him to be a top-10 quarterback for fantasy.
His Supporting Cast
It is always hard for a quarterback to rank well if he doesn’t have a good supporting cast of receivers around him. The addition of Calvin Ridley should be a big boost to Ryan’s chances. Ridley is familiar with this offense from his time under Sarkisian at Alabama. He is also an extremely experienced rookie coming into the league at 23 years old. Ridley should provide a legitimate third outside threat alongside Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu. If my colleague, Nigel Christianson, is right and Ridley breaks out, alongside Austin Hooper, then Ryan could be in luck.
It felt like Julio Jones was a complete mess at times last season. One particular moment stands out in my mind to sum up how I felt Jones did last year. Wide open in the end zone against Carolina, Jones dropped a perfect pass from Ryan. If Jones is back to his true form in 2018, then Ryan should immediately see a boost. For example, Jones had just three touchdown catches last year. Before 2018, he had never had less than six in a year where he played double-digit games. Equally Jones only had a worse catch percentage in his rookie year than he had in 2018. I fully expect a bounce back from Jones and Ryan’s numbers can only benefit from that.
Looking at Ryan’s numbers and it is clear he should improve this season. Ryan averages 4232.5 yards per 16 games over his career and had just 4095 last year. If we take that further and look just at his performances since 2011 the gap widens. Since 2011, he has averaged 4533.5 yards per 16 games. Therefore we should expect Ryan to have between 100 and 400 more yards in 2018. That equates to somewhere between four and 16 more fantasy points. That would only move Ryan up at most one spot last year but it is a start.
Where Ryan can make a leap is with his touchdowns. To expect another 38 touchdown season would be pushing it. However, the only year Ryan threw less touchdowns than 2018 was his rookie year. To calculate what Ryan could throw I am going to use his career touchdown percentage of 4.6 percent. If we use that number and assume a similar number of attempts to last year then Ryan would have four more touchdowns in 2018, equating to another 16 fantasy points. Now you could argue that since 2013 he has been at four percent or below three times. However, you could also argue that he might throw closer to the region of 600 passes as he did from 2013 to 2015. Either way somewhere in the region of 24 or 25 touchdowns is not an unreasonable expectation.
The Final Word
Another four or five touchdowns and another 250 yards equate to 26-30 more fantasy points for Ryan. Last season, that would have only been good enough for a top-12 finish at quarterback. Therefore, it is clear that Ryan is going to have to really step up beyond just his average performances if he is to be a top-10 quarterback in 2018. I am already on the record as saying it clicks this year and the offense fires. However, even if it does I do not see Ryan having another 38 touchdown performance. For me 30 touchdowns and 4750 yards seem realistic but still optimistic projections.
Those extra stats in 2018 would have made Ryan the fifth ranked quarterback for fantasy. From that we can see that if Ryan is somewhere near the best that he can be then yes top-10 is very possible. However if Ryan is only slightly above average or just average for his career then he may fall short of the top-10. All in all Ryan has the potential to be a top-five fantasy quarterback but somewhere in the region of eight to 15 is a more realistic bet.
If I am drafting today Ryan is a quarterback I am happy to get in later rounds. The good news is that Ryan is currently the 15th quarterback off the board according to fantasypros.com. Therefore, Ryan makes a perfect late-round quarterback target, who could give you top-five production if it all clicks.