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Projecting the 2012 Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger

The third installment of projecting the quarterbacks for next season includes the three younger Super Bowl winners, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger, after looking at Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning last week. I’ve also looked at five quarterbacks who were rookies in 2011. You’ll want to go look at those to see some of what I’m doing.

Today’s quarterbacks are all in their prime, between ages 29 and 31 this year, and so the number of potential comps is greater. With the older Hall of Famers, I just looked at the overall quality of those still playing, since the numbers were smaller. At ages 29 to 31, though, I went into how they played, looking at interception rate, yards per attempt, completion percentage, touchdown rate and sack rate differences. I’m also using “league adjusted” numbers, so that while completion percentages have been climbing and interception rates falling since the 1970′s, I’m comparing players to others who ranked in the same range.

For all three of today’s quarterbacks, I used their most recent season, and then also used a similarity score for the previous two seasons combined as well to get a career curve. For example, Ty Detmer actually shows up as similar to Ben Roethlisberger at age 29 (pretty good YPA, average TD and interception rates, mediocre sack numbers), but only through 16 passes the previous two years. He gets knocked off the list, properly, by including the two prior years.

Let’s get to it.

AARON RODGERS

Not surprisingly, Rodgers’ comparables show up as guys who had all-time great seasons at age 28: Manning in 2004, Montana in 1984, Warner in 1999, McNabb in 2004 as the Eagles reached the Super Bowl, and Favre in the last of his three MVP seasons in 1997.

Also, not surprising, a lot of those guys regressed from those insane numbers a year later but were still very good, so while projecting Rodgers to duplicate last season would be optimistic, he should still project, along with Drew Brees, as one of the best candidates to win MVP this season.

Rodgers most similar players, age 28: Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers, Joe Montana, Donovan McNabb, Kurt Warner, Boomer Esiason, Brett Favre, Dave Krieg, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger

Rodgers’ 2012 Projection:

15 Games Started, 344 of 510 (67.5%), 4,340 passing yards (8.5 YPA), 36 TD, 12 INT

36 Sacks Taken, 45 Rush Attempts, 225 Rushing Yards and 3 Touchdowns

 

ELI MANNING

Eli Manning provides someone with a high yards per attempt, and a very good sack rate, at age 30. His list of comps feature some elite quarterbacks plus others who posted good yards per attempt figures but were average at avoiding interceptions and perhaps struggled with that in the previous two years, but avoided sacks.

Eli was better than his group of comps collectively at age 30, particularly at yards per attempt. Expect some drop back (Cruz may not get those elusive 90+ yard touchdowns this year) in that category, but still a very good performance as Eli is still in his prime.

Eli’s most similar players, age 30: Phillip Rivers, Dan Marino, Kerry Collins, Brett Favre, Elvis Grbac, Jake Delhomme, Dan Fouts, Matt Hasselbeck, Steve McNair, Stan Humphries

Eli’s 2012 Projection:

15 Games Started, 318 of 525 (60.5%), 4,000 passing yards (7.6 YPA), 27 TD, 16 INT

26 Sacks Taken, 25 Rush Attempts, 50 Rushing Yards and 1 Touchdown

 

BEN ROETHLISBERGER

Big Ben is always an interesting case. His list of comps may seem unusual, but so is he as a player. It includes a combination of guys who were generally above average from age 27 to 29, and who had yards per attempt better than completion percentage at age 29, while reversing that earlier, and also guys who sometimes had below average sack rates.
While the names may not be as impressive, this group actually posted better numbers collectively at age 30 than 29, suggesting an uptick for Big Ben to his age 27 and 28 numbers. He’s a wildcard for several reasons in 2012–the new offensive coordinator in Todd Haley, Mike Wallace grousing over his contract, and Rashard Mendenhall’s injury. The team has also bolstered the offensive line, and the receiving group has speed.
A couple of years ago I wrote about Ben Roethlisberger and other young quarterbacks with high sack totals. Big Ben’s game is predicated on extending plays and holding it, relying on his strength to do that. He takes a lot of hits. I don’t think he slows down in 2012, but it will be interesting to see if his prime is shorter than other elite quarterbacks because of all the hits he takes as he moves into his thirties. Bert Jones, Neil Lomax, Daunte Culpepper, Marc Bulger and Ken O’Brien are all cautionary tales of guys who didn’t last as long who took a lot of sacks in their twenties.
Roethlisberger’s most similar players, age 29: Matt Schaub, Scott Mitchell, Matt Hasselbeck, Neil Lomax, Steve McNair, Marc Bulger, Mark Brunell, Tom Brady, Steve Bartkowski, Philip Rivers

Roethlisberger’s 2012 Projection:

14 Games Started, 314 of 490 (64.0%), 3,970 passing yards (8.1 YPA), 23 TD, 14 INT

38 Sacks Taken, 30 Rush Attempts, 90 Rushing Yards and 2 Touchdowns

 

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

 

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