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Projecting the 2012 Quarterbacks: Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton

The quarterback projections return, and we might as well jump in with two situations where the projected backup was a winner last year, despite, well, not always playing the best. One of those winners was younger, had a higher yards per attempt, and had a better winning percentage. The other was Tim Tebow.

If you have missed it, I’ve already projected last year’s rookie class of Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and Blaine Gabbert, along with Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, followed by Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger.

I’ve tried to base my projections on both looking at historically similar players at the same age, adjusting for league averages, and then also to the current situation. Today’s group was a challenge, and quite frankly, there is a lot of unknown here.  Still, let’s see what we can learn.

MARK SANCHEZ

This feels like a make or break year for Mark Sanchez, with the weight of attention and clamor with the Tim Tebow trade, and the lackluster 2011 season that closed in disappointing fashion. Sanchez’s historical comps are all over the place, from Super Bowl winners like John Elway to Eli Manning, to Super Bowl winners like Trent Dilfer, to guys like Tim Couch and Tony Banks. Sanchez feels a lot closer to the Tommy Kramer, Chris Miller or Trent Dilfer end of the spectrum than a Hall of Famer like John Elway at this age. The reason his outlook is not totally negative is because (a) his sack rate has been decent to this point, (b) interceptions, while frustrating, are not as big a negative indicator for the future, and (c) below average completion percentages are not abnormal for 25 year old quarterbacks.

Only two of Sanchez’s comps actually improved to an above average yards per attempt at age 26, and one of those was Chad Henne in only four games last year. So while it feels like a year where he needs to make a leap forward, not many did, other than avoiding those highly volatile interceptions.

As for the situation in New York, who knows? I think he starts the majority of games, and my projected number is a median expectation. We can envision a scenario where he struggles and the noisy clamor for change grows in October, and can also see him starting all year and keeping Tebow in specialty roles. The presence of Tebow probably will reduce his rushing touchdowns (6 last year, 3 each of previous years) if Sanchez is replaced in some goal line packages.

Sanchez’s most similar players, age 25: Eli Manning, John Elway, Trent Dilfer, Tim Couch, Chris Miller, Chad Henne, Donovan McNabb, Tony Banks, Kerry Collins, Tommy Kramer

Sanchez’s 2012 Projection:

12 Games Started, 219 of 384 (57.1%), 2,573 passing yards (6.7 YPA), 16 TD, 12 INT

24 Sacks Taken, 25 Rush Attempts, 75 Rushing Yards and 2 Touchdowns

 

TIM TEBOW

Tim Tebow broke my computer. I had to crumple up the paper and throw it at the wall. Yes, the most similar player may have been someone like Steve McNair at age 24, but that’s only because there are no similar players and the rushing yard similarity brings them close. Compared to other quarterbacks, no one shows up. The fifty most similar quarterbacks to Mark Sanchez were all more similar in style than any to Tebow. Tebow had an extremely historically low completion percentage. Yes, others had worse raw numbers, but once you adjust for league averages, which have been steadily climbing, he rates only behind Akili Smith in 2000. High rushing yards that few achieve at the position. Horrible sack rate. Basically, there is no one to compare. Maybe scrambling Bobby Douglass from the early 70’s.

So, Tebow’s projection is more a guess as to his usage, which is completely up in the air. Will the Jets utilize him in 10+ plays a game in a variety of packages, including red zone where he can score touchdowns? We’ll project him for some games started as he could replace Sanchez if things fall apart.

Tebow’s most similar players, age 24: No.

Tebow’s 2012 Projection:

4 Games Started, 55 of 110 (50.0%), 748 passing yards (6.8 YPA), 6 TD, 3 INT

12 Sacks Taken, 80 Rush Attempts, 420 Rushing Yards and 6 Touchdowns

 

KEVIN KOLB

For Kevin Kolb, the 2011 season was one of frustration and disappointment after being traded to a team where he was supposed to finally be the man. His play was inconsistent, and he was plagued by injuries, but his finally numbers were probably better than the perception. That’s what happens when you go 3-6 as a starter, while the unknown backup goes 5-2.
His yards per attempt was at an above average 7.0, and his passer rating was near average at 81.1. The concerning thing for the future was actually his sack rate, which was a pretty poor 10.6%, and which has declined each of the last three years.
Kolb’s comparisons are to other guys at age 27 who played as starters but not a full season, and who had been part-time players the previous two seasons. You are probably not going to pencil Kolb in for greatness after 2011, though it’s probably too early to write him off as a guy that can start for the next 3-4 years, perhaps for a playoff contender, based on his comparables.
As for this year, the quarterback competition between Kolb is wide open, though Kolb will likely get the benefit of the doubt in a close race. He can’t play poorly though, and whoever starts at quarterback will have the added advantage of Michael Floyd playing opposite of Larry Fitzgerald. We’ll project Kolb to start the majority but be a risk to lose starts to Skelton.
Kolb’s most similar players, age 27: Bill Kenney, Matt Moore, Charlie Batch, Bubby Brister, Tim Rattay, Jon Kitna, Ron Jaworski, Bobby Hebert, David Woodley, Stan Humphries

Kolb’s 2012 Projection:

11 Games Started, 232 of 390 (59.5%), 2,890 passing yards (7.4 YPA), 17 TD, 11 INT

33 Sacks Taken, 22 Rush Attempts, 50 Rushing Yards and 1 Touchdown

 

JOHN SKELTON

Skelton really did have a mirror image year to Tim Tebow last year, on a stage where he wasn’t noticed. He turned the ball over more than Kolb, and his passer rating was in the 60’s, but the Cardinals went 5-2 when he started, with all five wins featuring a fourth quarter game winning drive. He was not a rookie at age 23, and he was undrafted a fifth round pick, so I think he’s going to trend more toward the bottom end of his comp list.
I anticipate that Kolb will win the QB battle, but Skelton has the “winner” label and that keeps him alive, enough at least to be a legitimate threat.
Skelton’s most similar players, age 23: Mark Sanchez, Todd Marinovich, Christian Ponder, John Elway, Chris Chandler, Jeff Komlo, Heath Shuler, Tony Banks, Joe Ferguson, Kerry Collins
Skelton’s 2012 Projection:

5 Games Started, 103 of 180 (57.0%), 1,260 passing yards (7.0 YPA), 7 TD, 5 INT

11 Sacks Taken, 20 Rush Attempts, 75 Rushing Yards and 0 Touchdowns

 

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

 

 

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