The approach to the QB regression candidates will be much different than how I tackled (pun intended, haha) the RB regression candidates. Here’s the reason why.
As I started compiling the candidates for regression, I realized that nearly every QB had the opportunity to “move toward the mean.” As discussed in the RB regression candidates piece, regression candidates can move in a positive direction. Some obvious examples are Andrew Luck, who suffered through some injury issues, or Aaron Rodgers, who had one of his worst seasons last year. Or let’s turn our eye toward the AFC North. Both Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger were both on pace to have one of their personal best years last year. Unfortunately, they lost nearly a dozen games combined to injury.
Or how about those likely to regress negatively? Cam Newton threw for 50-percent more touchdowns than he had any other year in his career. Russel Wilson saw an even greater spike in TD passes. After playing only six games the previous year, Carson Palmer played all 16 games last year. He had nearly 400 more passing yards than he did in any previous season. And of course everyone’s favorite regression candidate, Blake Bortles, saw huge spikes from his first to second year thanks to 26 second-half touchdowns last year.
I will run through my Top 20 QBs, highlighting a reason or two why QB regression should be expected. That will be followed by details why they are NOT a QB regression candidate.
One final note. In addition to tiers, QBs essentially fell into one of two groups–those with four years or more experience and those without. For the former, I typically looked at this past year in comparison to the rest of their career. For the latter, I typically looked at last year compared to the “average” QB (around the 15th/16th best QB) last year. With the methodology discussion complete, lets discuss the potential QB regression.
QB Regression Candidates
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Why Positive Regression Should Be Expected: Discounting the season he only played nine games due to injury, Rodgers passed for his lowest yardage total in eight seasons, as well as his lowest yards per attempt since he became a starter.
Don’t Overreact: One of the reasons why Rogers had his lowest yardage per attempt was because he had more attempts last season than any other season. As Rodgers enters his 12th year in the league, could he be slowing down? Would his numbers been worse had they not been so volume driven? And Rodgers year was not as bad you think. He still finished as a QB1, plus he had his second highest rushing total of his career last year as well.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Why Positive Regression Should be Expected: After three very strong years to start his career, Luck was befallen by injury and played only seven games.
Don’t Overreact: It’s not like Luck was lighting it up and then got injured. Luck never had more than 18 interceptions in a season, but had 12 last year in less than half a season. Are defensive coordinators around the league starting to figure him out? Is the rest of the division getting stronger?
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Why Positive Regression Should be Expected: Roethlisberger finished as only the 20th best quarterback. Yet the Pittsburgh offense was an unstoppable locomotive last year, only slowing down when Big Ben was sidelined for four games. Finishing out of the Top 10 quarterbacks will be a disappointing season. Furthermore, Ladarius Green is a far more explosive weapon than Heath Miller.
Don’t Overreact: Do you realize just how on fire Pittsburgh was last year? It’s near unsustainable. Passing yards per game was nearly 20 yards higher than any other year; his completion % was the highest it has ever been. In fact, it would have been just out the Top 20 highest completion percentages in NFL History! Even his yards per attempt was far higher than anything Big Ben has done this decade. Finally, you realize he had 16 INTs last year? Given how high flying the offense was, he mustered only 21 passing TDs? Something doesn’t jive.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Why Negative Regression Should be Expected: Both his yardage totals and passing TD totals have been in steady decline the last five years. His streak of Top 5 quarterback finishes has to end soon, right? Now 37 years old, could this be the year?
Don’t overreact: It’s regression the other way. Brees had his lowest number of attempts this decade last year. Expect his attempts to increase. Remember all those predicting his downfall last year, too?
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Why Negative Regression Should Be Expected: As stated above, Newton’s passing TD totals were so far above his average that a natural regression should be expected. See chart below:
And while not nearly as dramatic, his rushing TDs also saw a sizable spike last year.
The law of averages dictates we should see one or two less rushing TDs out of Newton next year too.
Don’t Overreact: Remember, that was without the use of one of Newton’s favorite red zone threats, Kelvin Benjamin, who returns this year. I don’t necessarily love Benjamin this year, but his return has to be a positive for Newton.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Why Negative Regression should be expected: As mentioned above, his TDs totals were way out of whack with career up until now. His 34 passing touchdowns were an index of 170 over the previous year! Wilson also saw nearly a 20-percent increase in passing yards per game after increases barely over five-percent each of the previous two years.
Don’t Overreact: Could we be seeing a transition to a less run-heavy attack in Seattle? Let’s not forget Pete Carroll taking the ball out of the hands of Marshawn Lynch in the Super Bowl. And Thomas Rawls and company are far less proven than Marshawn Lynch.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Why Negative Regression should be expected: No fancy-shmancy statistics and complex numbers on this one: the four game suspension is going to lead to an overall regression.
Don’t Overreact: Remember the last time Brady and the Patriots were disciplined by the league?
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Why Negative Regression should be expected: I’ll be honest, I struggled how to include Eli in this piece. His numbers were better than most people think they were. Attempts, completions, and most importantly passing TDs last year were all career highs in the book of Eli. Probably best to consider the 13-year-previous baseline over last year.
Don’t overreact: The Giant running game was a mess last year. Are you seeing anything dramatically different happening this year? Furthermore, the statistical jump from previous seasons was minimal. Another small bump could easily be in order.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Why Negative Regression should be expected: Oh, let me count the ways….
- Palmer’s completion percentage was the highest its been since before Obama was president.
- His Yards Per Attempt was the highest it’s ever been, including a 20-percent jump over his previous three year average.
- His passing yards were nearly 400 yards higher than any previous season.
- Palmer had 35 passing TDs last season. His previous high was 32 … in 2005! Looking at his post-Cincinnati career, his next highest total was 24.
Don’t overreact: Bruce Arians might be the best coach in the game, plus Palmer has probably the best trio of receivers in the game. I’d expect a regression, but a very small one.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Why Negative Regression should be expected: Bortles is the “King of Regression Candidates” for 2016. After a very shaky rookie year in which he threw only 11 touchdowns, Bortles saw a meteoric rise last year. Bortles threw 35 touchdowns and nearly finished as a Top 5 Fantasy quarterback. That’s a huge jump and taking the under on Bortles throwing 35 TDs is easy money. If nothing else, an improved JAX defense should require less late game passing.
Don’t overreact: Bortles passing TDs should go down, but I would expect his rushing contributions to go up this year. Bortles rushing average dropped by 20-percent, resulting in a greater than 25-percent drop in rushing yards. A five-percent increase in Bortles’ rushing production might be the minimum increase we see this year.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Why Negative Regression should be expected: Stafford finished as the seventh-best-FFL QB last year. Yes, I am surprised too. I can’t see him finishing that high given the negative trend I expect to continue. Last year saw the fourth year in decline and the lowest amount of attempts in his five years serving as the Lions starter. Moreover, the loss of one of the best receivers the game has ever seen is not a good thing.
Don’t overreact: Expect continued improvement by Eric Ebron and the continued maturation of Ameer Abdullah, giving Stafford two more aerial weapons.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Why Negative Regression should be expected: Rivers saw his higherst yards per game ever in his career last year and ended up with his highest passing yardage totals ever
Don’t overreact: Rivers had his lowest completion percentage last year of the past three years, as well as his lowest yards per attempt in the last three years. Something has to give and with Keenan Allen back, I expect the positive regression more likely than the negative regression.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Why Negative Regression Should be expected: After never playing a full season previously, Cousins finished as the eighth most valuable quarterback in Fantasy Football this year. I’m really just echoing what was written already in our contract year article.
Don’t overreact: As also stated in that contract year piece, the addition of red zone threat Josh Doctson should nullify some of the expected regression.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Why Negative Regression Should be expected: Carr actually finished slightly above average despite posting replacement level numbers most of the time. After six 300-plus yard games in the first 12 games, he saw zero down the stretch. And that included four divisional games, teams he will obviously see again this year.
Don’t overreact: Those four divisional games included the two best defenses last year of Denver and KC. Carr had three games against those two teams down the stretch. Carr will probably put up worse number during the Fantasy regular season, but expect better numbers during the Fantasy playoffs.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why Positive Regression Should be Expected: Winston finished as a below average Fantasy quarterback due mostly to his 15 INTs compared to only 22 TDs.
Don’t overreact: Of course many will say that Winston is not a rushing QB and expecting half a dozen rushing TDs this year is insane. Call it a wash. Expect rushing TDs to decline but his INTs to improve. His INT rate dropped dramatically the last third of the season.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Why Positive Regression Should be Expected: Expect a slightly positive regression as Ryan finished as the 18th best quarterback. Much in part was due to a six year low in touchdowns and a three year low in attempts.
Don’t overreact: Before you commit to “Matty Ice,” do yourself a favor and research his (in)ability to throw a deep ball.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Why Positive Regression Should be Expected: I’ve covered this before. Mariota would have finished in the Top 20 had he not missed four games because of injury. Expect him to play a full season this year.
Don’t overreact: Still sounds like the Titans are going to be running the ball a bunch….
Mularkey: Says his old offensive system in Pitt, which he hopes to replicate, was known as “exotic smashmouth.”
— John Glennon (@glennonsports) February 18, 2016
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
Why Positive Regression Should Be Expected: Because the odds of Tony Romo playing only four games this year is fairly minimal. Even with all his injury risks, he’s played at least 15 games each of the last four years.
Don’t overreact: Expect the Cowboys to lean on the 36-year-old Romo less, evidenced by their drafting a RB fourth overall. I’d keep my expectations low, but he’s an obvious candidate for positive QB regression.
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