Hayden Winks

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Passing Yards Leader Odds

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

As promised in last week’s Odds and Predictions for MVP column, I discussed some of the advantages of gambling on player props instead of gambling on games on Twitter. Most of the advantages basically fit within two categories, priorities and quantity. First, with most money being wagered on games, the biggest priority for sportsbooks is developing the sharpest lines possible for games. Second, with so many players to develop prop lines for, it is harder for sportsbooks to develop and maintain sharp player prop lines.


For example, let’s imagine an underrated corner who only plays on the right side is suddenly doubtful to play this week. While the corner isn’t good enough to change the game line from +2.5 to +3, the statistical projection for the wide receiver who plays on the right side will definitely improve. However, the player prop line often doesn’t adjust quickly because the sportsbooks are focused on the heavily bet game lines and not on the less popular wide receiver player prop. In this example, we -- as player prop betters -- have the edge over the sportsbook because of our statistical research, game theory and Rotoworld blurb reading.

We can find edges by using statistical research, game theory and reading Rotoworld blurbs for season-long player props too. Today, I went back in time to find trends to understand which type of quarterback leads the league in passing yards. After noting meaningful trends, I analyzed which quarterbacks fit the mold this season. On page two, you will find my top three values based on the current odds to lead the NFL in passing yards. Let’s dig in.


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Research for Passing Yards Leader Odds:

  • The passing yards leader has thrown for 5,008 yards on average since 2007.
  • The passing yards leader has averaged 8.0 yards per attempt since 2007.
  • The last 10 passing yards leaders threw for more than 265 yards per game in the previous season.
  • Eight of the last nine passing yards leaders had at least 7.5 yards per attempt in the previous season.
  • Drew Brees has led the NFL in passing yards in five of the last seven seasons.



According to this linear trendline using data from 1990 to 2017, the 2018 passing yard leader is projected to throw for 5,197 yards. A number that high would historically be the fourth-highest and would be 620 yards more than last year’s leader. I think we can all agree that there are only a handful of quarterbacks this season that have the upside to reach 5,000+ yards.

While I appreciate this linear trendline, I am skeptical that a linear projection will be accurate. In the last decade, NFL offenses began to change to become pass heavier (32.3 attempts per game in 2008 versus 34.2 attempts per game in 2017). But this upward trajectory might be plateauing (34.9 > 35.7 > 35.7 > 34.2 attempts per game over the last four seasons) as defenses are beginning to adjust schemes and personnel to combat the aerial attack.

Because of this, I believe the passing yard leader will throw for less than the 5,197 yards projected by the linear model. A better projection for the leader would be closer to 4,800 yards. This is relevant because there are a few more quarterbacks with the upside to reach 4,800 yards instead of the 5,197 yards predicting by the linear trendline.


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The last 10 passing yards leaders threw for more than 265 yards per game in the previous season. The quarterbacks who passed for more than 265 yards per game in their last healthy season were Tom Brady (286), Ben Roethlisberger (283), Andrew Luck (283), Philip Rivers (282), Matthew Stafford (278), Drew Brees (271), Alex Smith (270) and Jameis Winston (270).




Eight of the last nine passing yards leaders had at least 7.5 yards per attempt in the previous season. The quarterbacks who accomplished this in their last healthy season were Drew Brees (8.1), Alex Smith (8.0), Jared Goff (8.0), Tom Brady (7.9), Philip Rivers (7.9), Matthew Stafford (7.9), Jameis Winston (7.9), Andrew Luck (7.8), Matt Ryan (7.7), Ben Roethlisberger (7.6), Kirk Cousins (7.6) and Carson Wentz (7.5).

Current Odds for the Passing Yards Leader:


PlayerOddsImplied ProbYPGYPAAtt PGOffseason Changes
Tom Brady +400 20.0% 286 7.9 36.3 Brandin Cooks out, Edelman suspended
Drew Brees +450 18.2% 271 8.1 33.5 Mark Ingram suspended, Meredith in
Ben Roethlisberger +650 13.3% 283 7.6 37.4 Martavis Bryant out
Philip Rivers +750 11.8% 282 7.9 35.9 Hunter Henry out
Matthew Stafford +1000 9.1% 278 7.9 35.3 Eric Ebron out, Kerryon Johnson in
Jimmy Garoppolo +1400 6.7% 260 8.8 35.6 Jerick McKinnon in
Aaron Rodgers +1400 6.7% 239 7.0 34.0 Jordy Nelson out, Jimmy Graham in
Matt Ryan +1500 6.3% 256 7.7 33.1 Calvin Ridley in
Kirk Cousins +1800 5.3% 256 7.6 33.8 Thielen/Diggs > Crowder/Doctson
Jared Goff +2500 3.8% 254 8.0 31.8 Sammy Watkins out, Brandin Cooks in
Andrew Luck +2500 3.8% 283 7.8 36.3 Can throw a football
Deshaun Watson +3000 3.2% 243 8.3 34.0 Coming off ACL tear
Alex Smith +3300 2.9% 270 8.0 33.7 Crowder/Doctson < Hill/Kelce
Carson Wentz +3300 2.9% 254 7.5 33.8 Coming off ACL tear
Russell Wilson +3300 2.9% 249 7.2 34.6 Baldwin questionable, Richardson out
Eli Manning +3300 2.9% 231 6.1 38.1 McAdoo out, Odell back, Saquan in
Patrick Mahomes +3300 2.9% 284 8.1 35.0 First full season
Case Keenum +4000 2.4% 237 7.4 34.4 OC Bill Musgrave < OC Pat Shurmur
Derek Carr +4000 2.4% 233 6.8 34.3 Gruden in, Nelson < Crabtree
Ryan Tannehill +4000 2.4% 230 7.7 29.9 Amendola/Wilson < Landry
Blake Bortles +7500 1.3% 230 7.0 32.7 Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns out
Marcus Mariota +7500 1.3% 216 7.1 30.2 OC Matt LaFleur >>> OC Terry Robiskie
Andy Dalton +7500 1.3% 208 6.7 31.0 LaFell out, Eifert back, John Ross in
Mitch Trubisky +8000 1.2% 183 6.6 27.5 HC Matt Nagy >>> HC John Fox
Dak Prescott +10000 1.0% 208 6.8 30.6 Zeke back, Dez Bryant/ Jason Witten out
Joe Flacco +10000 1.0% 196 5.7 34.3 Michael Crabtree/John Brown > Wallace
Jameis Winston +15000 0.7% 270 7.9 34.0 Suspended for three games
Cam Newton +15000 0.7% 206 6.7 30.8 Greg Olsen back, D.J. Moore in
Tyrod Taylor +15000 0.7% 187 6.7 30.0 Gordon/Landry > Kelvin Benjamin
Sam Bradford +20000 0.5% 259 7.0 36.8 Fitzgerald < Thielen/Diggs


Yards per Attempt and Attempts per Game




This spider chart shows the yards per attempt (black) and attempts per game (red) for each of the top 30 quarterbacks in their last healthy season. The quarterbacks are listed clockwise by their Vegas odds beginning with Tom Brady and ending with Sam Bradford. The closer the end point of the line is to the player name, the better. Some quarterbacks to point out are Drew Brees (low Att PG), Aaron Rodgers (low YPA), Andrew Luck (high YPA and Att PG), Deshaun Watson (high YPA) and Eli Manning (high Att PG).




This trendline helps split the good (top) and bad (bottom) values. The quarterbacks listed on top averaged more yards per game than the current Vegas odds are projecting. For example, Alex Smith (+3300) averaged 270 passing yards per game, but Carson Wentz (+3300) averaged 16 yards less per game than Smith at the same price.




This chart is in the same format, but looks at yards on a per play basis instead of per game basis. Quarterbacks who are above the trendline were more efficient in their last season than current Vegas odds are suggesting. For many of these quarterbacks, they will need to increase their pass attempts to be the passing yards leader. But, when a quarterback adds volume, efficiency usually takes a dip.




Speaking of volume, this chart highlights quarterbacks who had more pass attempts per game in their last season than current Vegas odds are suggesting. Andrew Luck and Eli Manning are the two quarterbacks who jump off the list given their long odds. Both Luck (injuries and offensive weapons) and Manning (age and poor recent performance) have had issues recently, but both of their offenses are heavily reliant on them. If they and their teams can bounce back, both Luck and Manning have the volume to sneak up to the top of the passing yards leaderboard.


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