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Spotlight: Ryan Fitzpatrick

posted by Greg Russell on Aug 10th

Greg Russell's thoughts

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't flashy, he isn't exciting to watch and he may have a limited skill set when you compare him to the majority of starting quarterbacks in the NFL. What he has in abundance is fearlessness. He is not afraid to stand tall in the pocket and take a vicious hit from incoming defensive players with bad intentions. If it means a first down, or even better, a touchdown for his team, he'll take it. That aspect of his game alone makes Fitzpatrick worthy consideration as a strong backup quarterback for the purposes of fantasy leagues. It is revealing to watch quarterbacks in today's league fold under pressure; Fitzpatrick doesn't even flinch.

The former Harvard graduate is by no means flawless, however. With the team coming off a 4-12 season, better things will be expected not just from Fitzpatrick, but from the entire Bills offense. Chan Gailey has put his faith in Fitzpatrick by naming him the firm starter with little chance of his position being usurped by Gailey disciple Tyler Thigpen. Fitzpatrick's offensive weapons are young but have tremendous upside.

Surrounding Cast

It is so easy at this time of year to get carried away with reports out of training camps. Players are put up on pedestals and often fail to live up to the hype they produced during camp when the lights really come on in real game action during the regular season. Reports are, nonetheless, valuable to an extent. Peter King recently visited the Bills' camp and predicted defenses would have trouble with the array of weapons and the variety of the talents of those weapons:

"When the Bills line up in a five-wide formation, with Ryan Fitzpatrick in a shotgun, they go with Lee Evans and Stevie Johnson outside, David Nelson (second-year surprise from Florida), Roscoe Parrish and the heretofore unknown Donald Jones inside. (Jones, you can tell by being here, is a favorite of the coaches and the quarterback.) The reason this formation could be a major threat is because of the speed of Evans and Parrish, the over-the-top catching ability of Johnson and the physical nature of Jones and Nelson."

Steve Johnson needs no introduction to most fans and seized the number one receiver position from Lee Evans' weak grasp last season. Johnson reached the end zone ten times and had his first 1,000 yard season. He was the sixth-most targeted receiver in the league in 2010 (139 targets) but let Fitzpatrick down with a league-high 13 dropped passes as well. Johnson is a true professional and will endeavor to correct these mistakes. The talent is there.

Lee Evans was rather ineffectual in 2010. He missed four games and played poorly to boot. When he is on, he can be a very important piece in this offense, and I am certain the coaching staff knows it. The problem with Evans is that Fitzpatrick's mentality as a passer does not fit Evans' skill set, which is to challenge defenses deep with straight line speed. Fitzpatrick was most effective passing between 10 and 19 yards downfield in 2010 and only completed a third of his passes to Evans' side of the field. The two will be hopeful to establish a more fruitful relationship in 2011.

Roscoe Parrish, Donald Jones and David Nelson round out one of the much lesser-known wide receiver corps in the NFL, but that doesn't mean they can't be a productive bunch. Fitzpatrick can flourish in this offense if Gailey can play up to his strengths - his intelligence, toughness and mobility.


  • Fitzpatrick enters his second year in Chan Gailey's system and will be much more familiar with the Bills' skill players as well. The lack of practice time due to the lockout will have hurt, but he should be able to rally the troops
  • Fitzpatrick is unopposed by any other quarterback on the roster and if healthy, will play all sixteen games
  • With the Bills young players having one more year of experience, the likes of C.J. Spiller, Donald Jones and David Nelson will in all likelihood have a bigger role in the offense, making it more multi-faceted and dangerous


  • Fitzpatrick's upside is limited to a number two option in fantasy leagues
  • Fitzpatrick is not the most talented passer in the league and will rely on good game plans and play calling from Chan Gailey to take advantage of his skills and not put him in a place where he is uncomfortable
  • The Bills face the grueling schedule of the AFC East which includes some great defensive minds and no shortage of complex schemes

Final thoughts

In my opinion, Ryan Fitzpatrick will be a very solid option for owners in a pinch at the quarterback position. If your starter were to go down in Week 1, for example, I would recommend putting a call in to the Fitzpatrick owner in your league and acquiring him. The Bills' offensive line is still a gigantic concern that cannot be ignored. Fitzpatrick's current ranking amongst our staff of 21st is right about where I would put him as well.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rzrback77 said:

Ryan Fitzpatrick offers potential for redrafts in 2011. He was ranked at the 18th QB in FBG's year end stats, yet he only played in 13 games. It may not be a good idea to project his 2011 on a pro-rated basis of his per game averages in 2010, but here is what you would get:

Fitz pro-rated '10 313 comp 543 att 57.8% 3682 yds 27 TDs 18 ints 49 rushes 334 yds 0 TDs

Now consider that recent Mock Drafts at FBG, in the WSLs, Fitz was drafted on average QB 23. In the PDSLs, mcuh the same going at 20, 22, and 24. He moved slightly up in the most recent drafts, the SSLs where he was taken at 15, 19, 20 and 20.

If you can grab him as late as QB 20, he could be a great Plan B for injury. I think that the Bills roll with him again in 2011 and he should exceed expectations of where he will be drafted. A solid back-up capable of outproducing his draft spot.

fightingillini said:

I think Ryan Fitzpatrick will be one of the most undervalued QBs out there. He played pretty good last year and has some nice targets in Steve Johnson and Lee Evans, along with two good pass catching backs in CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. While BUF D should be better, they will still give up a decent amount of points so I can see BUF behind a lot again. Will end up a solid QB2 that you can grab a little later in the draft.

Go deep said:

As a Buffalo homer, i was not a fan of Fitzpatrick going into the 2010 season. I didnt like Trent Edwards either. I was just hoping that between them they could lose enough games to get us the first overall pick, and in turn a real NFL QB(Andrew Luck). Trent Edwards did his part early in the season, and the Bills looed like a sure bet for no more than 1 or 2 wins(if they were lucky). When the Bills switched to Fitzpatrick a few games into the season i just assumed the bad play would continue. At first the Bills continued losing games but they were much closer and they were actually scoring some points. As much as i was rooting against Fitzpatrick, he really started to win me over. He is a smart athletic guy with a good arm.

He was never really given an opportunity to start in the NFL before last season, and this will be his first season going into the year as the starter. Im not expecting the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but i think Fitzpatrick can put up low end QB1 numbers this season. If your are one of the guys who waits until later rounds to take your first QB, after taking guys like Josh Freeman and Jay Cutler, take Fitzpatrick 5 rounds later and get better numbers from your backup than your starter.(Yes, Fitzpatrick will finish with more FF points than Freeman).

MrTwo94 said:

Chan Gailey has a history of good offenses. I admit I liked Trent Edwards last year as a value option with upside solely due to Gailey's presence. While Edwards didn't work out, Gailey did manage some magic with Fitzpatrick. There's no reason why he can't build off of last season, but he will need a relatively high number of attempts to repeat. His 441 passes in 13 games puts him at 9th in attemps/game. The Bills should be bad again so this isn't out of the question, but do realize that's what you are banking on when drafting him. They were also 7th to last in rushing attempts last year. If there is any shift at all to a more balanced attack then that will hurt his value.

TheDirtyWord said:

Not going to be repetitive here, but IMO, Fitzpatrick has a chance to be this years Kyle Orton. He is being horrifically overlooked and I think it's on the basis on people clinging to Pre-conceived notions on his ability and his background.

1) went to Harvard, not exactly an SEC school.
2) was a 7th rounder
3) is on his 3rd team
4) plays in BUF, a franchise that seems to be perceived as bottom of the barrel, in no small part because people think BUF stinks.

But after an 0-8 start, they went 4-4 in the seasons second half and they lost 3 OT games to BAL, PIT, & KC.

I think Fitzpatrick represents a terrific buy low opportunity and you can get him extremely late, in some case, he's not even being drafted.

Ryan Fitzpatrick projections

Greg Russell302570378524142101
Message board consensus330548376526152541