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Three-Year Averages and Quarterback Projections: Putting Myself on the Line

This thread has been inspired by some comments I made in a previous fanpost, about counting on three-year averages and sensible regression when projecting QB performance forward. In that spirit, I've decided to project out all of the probable starting quarterbacks for 2012. In the comments I invite you to say which of these players you expect to perform the furthest away from the projection (who will bust and who will break out?), or, you know, to say whatever you want to say about these.

Before showing you my results, here's my method: I've written myself the following restrictions:

  1. Under most circumstances, quarterbacks must regress near their three-year averages (I used the averages for basic rate stats--TD%, INT%, Comp%, Y/C--to get at the counting stats. I also have some hidden sack%/sack yard averages that I used to calculate ANY/A).
  2. I must assume a 16 game schedule for each QB.
  3. If a team has two likely enough starters, I must project both of them for the full 16.
  4. For quarterbacks younger than 28, I can project positive or negative development if a) the trend is already apparent in the three-year sample, or b) if the available sample represents less than three years and there is a coaching or personnel change to suggest it, or c) if the sample represents less than three years and standard development curves suggest it. And even then, I have to be modest.
  5. For quarterbacks older than 32, I can project decline only if the trend is already apparent in the three-year sample.
  6. For rookies, I don't really have a system, so I'll just try not to look like an idiot.
  7. For total attempts, I don't really have a system, so I'll just try not to look like an idiot (insofar as any projection that has John Skelton throwing the ball 550 times does not look idiotic--I'll elaborate on how I know guys like John Skelton will never throw this much, but am going with it anyway, below).


For those counting, Alex Smith comes out 14th in the league in both of the rightmost columns according to this.

To note: These are projections. They are meant to express likely outcomes given a full 16-game season--the purpose is not really to be right or wrong. It's to be pretty close most of the time, for whatever quarterbacks actually get to play the whole year. There is some inherent unrealism in the projections, which we must accept. Not all QBs will, obviously, play a full season. Some QBs will, obviously, have banner years, and some will, obviously, have uncharacteristically bad years. These projections will neither reflect breakouts nor cliffdives. They almost fundamentally can't. It's an experiment in trusting sample sizes and regression, just to see how these ideas hold up.

That said, I expect my stupidest looking projections by year's end to be the ones I had the least data for. This means, naturally, that Brandon Weeden will be MVP.

Some other things I got to thinking while I was putting this together and looking at all of these players (feel free to disagree on anything but the Mark Sanchez stuff):

  • Man, it sucks to be the Cardinals.
  • Man, that Ryan Fitzpatrick contract was an overpay and a half.
  • I hate Philip Rivers and all, but he's really good. Even last year he was really good. He just wasn't his usual super amazing really good.
  • lol Mark Sanchez.
  • Matt Schaub is also really good. He might be the most underrated QB in the league.
  • It may be time for me to give up on my Joe Flacco fanboying. He's a good quarterback and all, but he's probably not fanboy good. I imagine bignerd will be glad to hear me say this.
  • Matt Cassel kind of sucks a lot. Might be the most overrated QB in the league, and he's not really especially rated as is.
  • Schaub may be the most underrated QB in the league, but Tony Romo is the most fiercely underrated. He's extremely good, guys. It's just too bad he plays for the badguys.
  • Tom Brady is unreal. He's the only guy in Rodgers's league. Or, just as likely, the other way around.
  • lol Mark Sanchez.