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Projecting the 2012 Quarterbacks: Brees, Brady, and Peyton Manning

Last week, I started projections by trying to divine last year’s rookie crop who are projected to compete for a starting job this year. Today, I turn to three of the bigger names, all Super Bowl MVP’s, all in their thirties, who are among the game’s best.

First, a word on my projections. Some people asked about the games projections. I am not going to project anyone for 16 games. I am trying to project median numbers and any population of quarterbacks is going to miss games. Depending on their characteristics, that could be because of age, injury, lack of performance, or competition. I then take those league adjusted ratings and re-apply them to the 2011 offensive passing environment. All of these numbers reflect my median projection, and the hope is that about an even number go over the projection as under.

I set the number by trying to find some age/performance comparable players, use the “league-adjusted” ratings for those players, and then adjust off for the specific player, as well as accounting for things like this year’s roster and other factors. Eventually, these will form the basis of my fantasy quarterback rankings as I work toward projection every starter in the league.

 

TOM BRADY

For Brady’s comparisons, I used a weighted three year average (with last year at age 34 weighted more heavily) for all quarterbacks at ages 32 to 34, with a career value from age 27 to 31 to also pick up those who were stars for longer, like Brady.

Age 35 was a dangerous time for elite quarterbacks. Peyton Manning last year, Montana replaced by Young in San Francisco, and Terry Bradshaw getting injured in his first game and retiring. Brady doesn’t have a Steve Young scheduled to replace him and has not undergone neck surgery, so I excluded the first two. I’m projecting him to start 14 games, which is still higher than the average for the other 8 comparables.

A lot of the elite quarterbacks at age 34 saw a drop off in yards per attempt and touchdown rate at age 35, while still posting excellent completion percentage, interception, and sack rates.

Brady’s most similar players, ages 32 to 34: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Warren Moon, Joe Theismann, Billy Kilmer, Peyton Manning, Trent Green, Roger Staubach

Brady’s 2012 Projection:

14 Games Started, 337 of 518 (65.0%), 4,040 passing yards (7.8 YPA), 30 TD, 11 INT

27 Sacks Taken, 30 Rush Attempts, 50 Rushing Yards and 1 Touchdown

 

DREW BREES

For Brees, I found his comparables in a similar way to Brady. I used a weighted average performance from ages 30 to 32, as well as a prior career value measure. As it turns out, if it weren’t for all the uncertainty of his own contract, Bounty-gate and Sean Payton suspension and how that will affect the offense, we might expect Brees to be a 2012 MVP favorite. Almost half of his comps were MVP’s or put up MVP caliber performances at age 33, and there was little sign of decline yet. That includes Montana in 1989, Steve Young in 1994, Peyton Manning in 2009, and Tom Brady two years ago.

Brees’ most similar players, ages 32 to 34: Trent Green, Dan Marino, Tom Brady, Jim Hart, Dan Fouts, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw

Brees’ 2012 Projection:

15 Games Started, 404 of 585 (69.0%), 4,855 passing yards (8.3 YPA), 37 TD, 13 INT

22 Sacks Taken, 20 Rush Attempts, 40 Rushing Yards and 1 Touchdown

 

PEYTON MANNING

What to do with Peyton Manning? For over a decade, he took every snap and played as well as any quarterback in history. Then, he had multiple neck surgeries, could not recover in time, and missed an entire season. He’s now with a new organization and mostly new teammates. Needless to say, it’s a situation with a lot of unpredictability.

I tried to look at quarterbacks who were Hall of Fame caliber for their careers and threw a qualifying number of passes at age 36, and then compared them to how they performed from age 32 to 34. Manning’s numbers are actually down in recent years as the offensive line declined and with injuries and age affecting the skill players in Indianapolis.

Age can be hard on any 36 year old quarterback, and so projecting Manning for 15 games would be fool hardy. His peers included some who missed games or declined entirely, and some who put up great seasons. The average result compared to where they were a few years earlier showed gentle declines across when they did play, the sharpest being in yards per attempt.

I’ll say Manning still has his stellar sack rate and release playing behind the line. I suspect his yards per attempt won’t take a dip because any dropoff in receiver experience will be offset by better protection. I’ll project his interceptions near league average, and his yards per attempt slightly above. The 12 games reflects the range of risk in coming back from injury, as the real result could be anywhere from a full recovery for this year to missing more games than that.

Manning’s most similar players: Dan Marino, Dan Fouts, Joe Montana, Ken Anderson, Steve Young, Brett Favre, John Elway, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Kelly, Warren Moon

Manning’s 2012 Projection:

12 Games Started, 284 of 440 (64.5%), 3,210 passing yards (7.3 YPA), 21 TD, 13 INT

16 Sacks Taken, 12 Rush Attempts, 10 Rushing Yards and 0 Touchdowns

 

[all data via pro-football-reference.com, image via US Presswire]

 

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