Will Patrick Mahomes Lead the NFL in Passing Yards Next Season?
2018 was the year of Patrick Mahomes. Last offseason, the Kansas City Chiefs made the controversial decision to trade veteran quarterback Alex Smith in order to clear the way for Mahomes, who had been the team’s first-round draft choice out of Texas Tech back in 2017. Mahomes played in just one game during his rookie season, a 27-24 win over the Denver Broncos in an otherwise meaningless Week 17 affair. But the team apparently saw enough to know that they couldn’t keep him on the bench any longer.
Obviously, that proved to be a wise decision. In his first full season as the Chiefs’ No. 1 signal-caller, Mahomes enjoyed one of the most prolific individual campaigns in the history of the sport. The 23-year-old completed 66% of his throws for 5,097 yards with 50 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions. For good measure, he led the Chiefs to a 12-4 regular season record and the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs. He was also named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
The season didn’t culminate in a Super Bowl triumph for Kansas City, but it’s pretty clear that Mahomes is the brightest young star the NFL has to offer these days. While his numbers jump off the page, you may not know that Mahomes didn’t actually lead the league in passing yards last season. That honor actually went to grizzled veteran Ben Roethlisberger, who topped Mahomes’ total by a measly 32 yards. They were the only passers to top 5,000 yards a season ago.
With Roethlisberger having lost his most dangerous weapon in Antonio Brown during the offseason, is Mahomes’ path to a passing yards title now clear? He’s the betting favorite according to MyBookie, but it’s not as clear-cut as you may have thought. Below are the odds to lead the NFL in passing yards for the 2019-20 season:
- Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs) +400
- Matt Ryan (Falcons) +400
- Andrew Luck (Colts) +400
- Aaron Rodgers (Packers) +650
- Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers) +750
- Baker Mayfield (Browns) +1200
- Drew Brees (Saints) +1200
- Jameis Winston (Bucs) +1600
- Jared Goff (Rams) +1600
- Philip Rivers (Chargers) +2000
- Tom Brady (Patriots) +2500
- Carson Wentz (Eagles) +3300
- Kirk Cousins (Vikings) +3300
- Deshaun Watson (Texans) +5000
- Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers) +5000
- Kyler Murray (Cardinals) +5000
- Matthew Stafford (Lions) +6600
Goff Is a Sleeper
Last season, Big Ben, Mahomes, Ryan, Goff, and Luck finished 1-through-5 in passing yards. It would obviously be no surprise if some permutation of that quintet accomplished the same feat in 2019.
Of course, the odds reflect the likelihood of that, as all five are listed at +1600 or better to lead the league next season. Goff has by far the longest odds of the five at +1600, as oddsmakers are clearly bearish on his chances of recapturing his magic of a season ago. As a result, Goff is a bit of a sleeper here based on the odds alone.
It’s easy to forget just how prolific the Rams’ offense was last season on the heels of their pathetic showing in Super Bowl LIII. Los Angeles, which was one of the best offenses in all of football, mustered just three points in their 10-point defeat at the hands of the Patriots in Atlanta. The former top overall pick completed just 50% of his throws for 229 yards without a touchdown in the Big Game.
As a result, I think he’s a tremendous value. Head coach Sean McVay is one of the more innovative offensive minds in the game, and LA had the No. 5-ranked passing offense in the league a season ago. There’s certainly a chance that the rest of the league is more well-prepared to combat what the Rams may throw at them, but I trust McVay enough to make whatever adjustments necessary.
Some are still reluctant to buy into Goff as an elite QB, which is another reason I’d be willing to take a shot on him to lead the league in passing at +1600. Continuity is important for offensive rhythm, and Goff will have Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and a healthy Cooper Kupp all back and ready for training camp.
The Raiders added Antonio Brown during the offseason. He may not be as explosive as he once was, but any time you add a receiver of that caliber to an offense, it makes sense to assume the quarterback will reap the benefits. Carr quietly topped 4,000 yards for the first time in his career last season with a sketchy group of receivers, and his 553 pass attempts ranked 12th in the league. Jon Gruden likes to throw the football, so taking a flier on Carr at +6600 isn’t the craziest bet in the world.
Baker Mayfield had plenty of question marks coming out of Oklahoma, most of which had to do with his smallish stature. Following a record-setting rookie year, though, it seems as though most of those question marks have become exclamation points. Mayfield looks like the real deal.
He was far from impeccable, of course. The rookie still ranked among the league leaders with 14 interceptions. That is nothing unusual for a young passer, though, and the former Heisman Trophy winner helped transform the Browns from a doormat into what seems to be one of the fastest-rising teams in the NFL.
Mayfield amassed 3,725 yards across his 14 games during his first year as a pro with a rookie record 27 touchdown passes. He finished just 17th in total passing yards, but let’s not forget he played two fewer than the maximum number of regular season games, and the Browns have upgraded his weaponry considerably this offseason.
Last season, Mayfield was throwing to Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Antonio Callaway, and Rashard Higgins. All of those guys remain, but Mayfield’s new favorite toy will be former Giants standout Odell Beckham Jr., who came over in a blockbuster trade back in March. Beckham is arguably the league’s best pass-catcher when healthy. He’s dealt with injuries over the last few seasons, but here’s hoping a change of scenery helps him round back into form. Leading the league in passing in his second season may be a stretch, but I’m fine with taking a punt on Mayfield to do so at +1200. Even a tiny bet obviously has massive upside if it hits.
Mayfield’s understudy at Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, checks in with the same odds. Murray should be Arizona’s starting quarterback to begin the season, which is an opportunity Mayfield wasn’t afforded last year in Cleveland. Murray comes with even more questions than Mayfield did coming out of college, but the Cardinals seem to believe he has what it takes to be worthy of the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Murray put up astounding numbers in college, but the NFL is obviously a different challenge altogether. That said, he does have some solid weapons at his disposal. Larry Fitzgerald is still one of the premier receivers in the game despite his advanced age, while Christian Kirk showed last season that he has plenty of upside as the team’s potential future top pass-catcher. The Cardinals are also hoping that Kevin White, a former top-10 pick of the Bears, can benefit from a new setting in the desert.
Because of the high-octane offense we can surely expect from new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, I wouldn’t be surprised if Murray wound up near the top of the league leaderboard in pass attempts in the coming season. Obviously, more attempts mean more opportunities to rack up yards. It’s also safe to assume Arizona will be playing from behind quite a bit next season, which figures to mean even more focus on the aerial attack.
Mayfield is the better bet considering he’s more of a proven commodity, but Kyler Murray also offers much more upside with +5000 odds.
The NFL’s old guard is still going strong. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees each led their respective teams to the postseason last year, while Roethlisberger (1st), Aaron Rodgers (6th), and Eli Manning (9th) all ranked in the top-10 in passing yards.
I don’t think Manning (+15000) is a viable betting option in the least at this point, but a legitimate case can be made for any of the other five guys. Big Ben’s monstrous statistical season almost came out of nowhere. The Steelers whiffed on the playoffs, but Roethsliberger attempted 675 throws, which was over 65 more than he had attempted in any previous season. As mentioned, though, losing Antonio Brown via trade figures to put a dent into the Steelers’ passing attack.
Aaron Rodgers is always an alluring option considering that when healthy, he’s probably still the game’s best quarterback. He surpassed 4,000 yards yet again last season, but I’m skeptical of his weaponry. Davante Adams is a star, but he’s really the only name on the depth chart that puts much fear into opposing defenses. It remains to be seen whether a receiving corps that also includes names like Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and J’Mon Moore can combine to form a truly elite attack.
I think Rivers (+2000) offers the best value of the elder statesmen. He finished just 8th in passing yards a season ago, but let’s not forget that the Chargers were without No. 1 tight end Hunter Henry for just about the entire season. The quartet of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, and Henry is far more dangerous than the aforementioned group the Packers will be utilizing, and Rivers has been durable. It’s hard to lead the league in passing if you’re not out there for all 16 games, and, incredibly, Rivers hasn’t missed a game since 2005.
The Saints have become less pass-happy over the last couple of years thanks to the emergence of Alvin Kamara in the backfield, while the Patriots are likely to just take it easy in the last few weeks of the regular season thanks to their cupcake AFC East schedule. In terms of viable betting options among the old guys, I’d rank them Rivers (+2000), Rodgers (+650), Big Ben (+750), Brady (+2500) and Brees (+1200).
Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck, and Matt Ryan all check in with the same +400 odds to lead the league in passing in ‘19. I expect Mahomes and Luck to garner most of the betting attention since they were both massive stories a season ago, which could cause Ryan’s odds to dip as the season gets closer.
Ryan has a stellar trio of receivers in Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Mohamed Sanu at his disposal. Ryan’s rapport with the rookie Ridley was evident from the start, and that’s a bond I think we can only expect to get stronger heading into their second season together. Ridley caught 64 balls for 821 yards with 10 scores as a rookie, and it’s certainly not out of the question for both Ridley and Jones to top 1,000 yards next season.
Jones has topped 1,400 yards in each of the last five seasons. While his touchdown totals may be disappointing for potential fantasy owners, the Falcons’ pass-happy attack means there is plenty of wealth to go around. Atlanta also still has Devonta Freeman, who has been one of the league’s most dangerous pass-catching weapons coming out of the backfield. With Tevin Coleman gone, Freeman should have all the work he can handle.
Ryan ranked third in the league in passing yards a season ago. He ranked sixth in 2017, second during his MVP-winning 2016 season, fifth in 2015, and fifth in 2014. The consistency is there, and I really like Ryan as an option at +400.
As mentioned, Mahomes and Luck will be popular bets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the odds for both got less favorable from here. Mahomes will be the more trendy pick, and it’s hard to argue against it. He finished second in the league in yards last season despite ranking just seventh in pass attempts. If the Chiefs hand Mahomes even more responsibility heading into his second season as the starter, we could see the attempts number jump even higher.
However, the Tyreek Hill situation is looming over this team. Hill, who is currently being investigated in a child abuse case, may well face a suspension pending the results of the investigation. Taking Hill out of this offense obviously has massive implications considering he’s arguably the league’s most dangerous deep threat, so that’s certainly a situation worth monitoring if you’re considering betting on Mahomes.
At this point, Luck may be the best bet of all. He proved last season that he has fully recovered from his lingering shoulder troubles, and the Colts are a popular pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Luck nearly totaled 4,600 passing yards with 39 touchdowns last season. T.Y. Hilton might be the best deep threat in the league this side of Tyreek Hill, and newcomer Devin Funchess gives Luck a nice, big target on the other side.
Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron form a stellar tandem at tight end, and the team has put together a strong offensive line that should be able to keep the star signal-caller upright for the most part. Given the uncertainty surrounding Hill in Kansas City, I slightly prefer both Luck and Ryan at +400 to Mahomes at the same odds.
Drew Brees may always be a popular pick to win the passing yards title considering he’s done so seven times in his career. However, with the Saints opting to utilize the running game more heavily in recent years, it stands to reason that the team may look to conserve Brees’ arm during the season. Brees isn’t a crazy bet at +1200, but he’s not my favorite option here.
In terms of value, I love Rivers (+2000) and Goff (+1600). Both veterans play in pass-heavy offenses with plenty of viable weapons at their disposal. Mayfield is a fine option at +1200, but I prefer either LA quarterback at this point.
If you’re looking to play it safe, Luck and Ryan both represent strong options at +400 apiece. Mahomes’ ability speaks for itself, so I wouldn’t put it past him to lead the league this season even if Hill is gone for part or all of the campaign. In terms of pure YOLO darts, a case can be made for Kyler Murray at +5000 and Derek Carr at +6600. My favorite bets to lead the NFL in passing yards in 2019 are ranked as follows:
- Matt Ryan +400
- Andrew Luck +400
- Patrick Mahomes +400
- Jared Goff +1600
- Philip Rivers +2000