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NFL Draft

Ben Roethlisberger Best Longshot Bet To Lead NFL In Passing

  • The Draft Network
  • July 9, 2020
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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will likely lead the NFL in passing in 2020. It’s important to get that out of the way early on to avoid the inevitable comment section and social media conversations articles like these lend themselves to. Mahomes is the favorite at every sportsbook to lead the NFL in passing and leads my 2020 projections as well. 

However, there is a player further down the betting board that I have projected to throw more passing yards per game this season, if he can just stay healthy. So instead of betting on Mahomes to lead the league at odds around 4/1, let’s take a look at the aforementioned player that carries longshot odds of 33/1 at BetOnline.

It’s rare you’ll find such attractive odds on a player who has led the NFL in passing twice since 2014, but that’s the case for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He’s coming off an elbow injury that ended his 2019 season after only two games, but Roethlisberger says he’s throwing pain-free and he should be as motivated as ever in his comeback.

Roethlisberger may not have Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell anymore, but he re-joins a Steelers team with a now-healthy JuJu Smith-Schuster, a progressed supporting cast of James Washington and Diontae Johnson (relative to the last time Roethlisberger was on the field), and a new tight end/red zone threat in Eric Ebron. He also has Jaylen Samuels as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. This may not be the most talented Steelers offense Roethlisberger has led in his career, but it’s still pretty good. 

Speaking of still pretty good, so is Roethlisberger. Lost in all of the potential retirement talk a couple years ago was that his statistical output hasn’t suffered at all. In fact, Roethlisberger’s remarkable consistency never wavered before his injury last season.

Between 2006-2018, Roethlisberger averaged 7.75 yards per attempt and 7.6 adjusted yards gained per attempt. The former ranged from 7.27 to 8.55 over those 13 seasons, with most seasons falling between 7.5 and 7.9. The latter ranged from 6.1 to 8.5, but Roethlisberger’s last four seasons of adjusted yards gained per attempt came in at 7.8, 7.5, 7.5, and 7.5 respectively. Essentially, there’s nothing in his statistical profile (aside from age) that indicates a massive drop in production coming. 

Volume is crucially important when it comes to being the passing king and Roethlisberger has gotten plenty of it in recent years. Over the last five mostly-healthy seasons (excluding 2019), he’s averaging 38.7 pass attempts per game and led the league in pass attempts in 2018. If you weigh recent seasons a little more heavily, you get around 39.35 pass attempts per game—which is actually slightly below his 2017-18 two-year average, or his exact average if you also include his two games from 2019 

So we have a baseline for passing rate and volume, let’s put those numbers together. Averaging 39.35 pass attempts per game at the 7.50 yards per attempt he’s averaged since 2016, you get roughly 295.1 passing yards per game. The final element of this equation is how many games you believe Roethlisberger will play. 

Big Ben missed 14 games last season but just seven games in the prior six seasons combined. If you want to bet on a 16-game season in 2020—something he’s done just three times since 2013—his projection comes out to 4,721 passing yards. While that would be the second-lowest output for a passing champion since 2010, it would’ve placed third last year behind former Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (now a backup in New Orleans) and Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. 

This bet is risky given Roethlisberger’s health and Mahomes’ presence, but 33/1 odds for a player with this statistical profile is unheard of. It may be worth throwing a few bucks on, especially if you’ve already committed money to the favorite.

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