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.
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 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
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
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]