When evaluating the most important position group in the NFL, quarterbacks, one of the first stats most often looked at is how many passing yards they've thrown for.
Passing yards is one of those stats that can lie to you. It’s nice to rack up those yards, but unless you’re playing fantasy football, you should care about how many passing attempts it takes a QB to reach that high yardage mark.
Take Drew Brees in 2016 as an example of this. A few Saints fans I came across argued that Brees should have won the MVP award over Matt Ryan because he threw for more yards (I know, not the brightest bunch). Brees, however, needed 673 attempts (most in the NFL) to reach his 5,208 passing yards (most in the NFL), while Ryan only required 534 attempts (17th most in the NFL) to reach his 4,944 passing yards (second most in the NFL). As a result, Ryan’s 9.26 yards per attempt blew Brees’ 7.74 yards per attempt figure out of the water (much like how he beat out Brees in every other major statistical category but that’s neither here nor there).
Because it takes sheer quantity into account, yards per attempt is the stat people should be looking at as opposed to passing yards when evaluating starting QBs.
Atlanta’s own Matt Ryan leads the NFL in yards per attempt since Dan Quinn’s arrival in 2015. His 8.13 ypa in that span tops the league, with Tom Brady (7.88), Drew Brees (7.85), Ben Roethlisberger (7.80) and Kirk Cousins (7.80) rounding out the top 5.
Here is a breakdown of Ryan’s yardage totals by season since 2015 (note: the rankings for these numbers are only among qualified players who have averaged at least 14 passing attempts per game played).
2015: 4,591 passing yards (5th in the NFL), 614 passing attempts (5th in the NFL): 7.48 yards per attempt (13th in the NFL)
2016: 4,944 passing yards (2nd in the NFL), 534 passing attempts (17th in the NFL): 9.26 yards per attempt (1st in the NFL)
2017: 4,095 passing yards (6th in the NFL), 529 passing attempts (10th in the NFL): 7.74 yards per attempt (8th in the NFL)
Total: 13,630 passing yards, 1,677 passing attempts: 8.13 yards per attempt
What sets Ryan apart is obviously that magical 2016 season where he ran away with the stat, as the gap between his 9.26 ypa and second placed Tom Brady’s 8.23 ypa was more significant than the gap between Brady and 15th placed Jameis Winston’s 7.21 ypa. This was also the greatest single-season ypa mark among all active players in the NFL, narrowly beating out Aaron Rodgers’ 9.25 ypa in 2011 (also an MVP season).
Ryan’s 2015 and 2017 seasons weigh down his 2016 mark down, of course, but he nonetheless posted a very respectable ypa figure in each of those seasons to help propel him into first place.
This is just another incredible stat for Matt Ryan to stick as a feather in his cap.