Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a disappointing season in 2017. The Buccaneers–who entered the year with expectations to compete for a playoff spot after a 9-7 record in 2016–faltered to a 5-11 record. Winston struggled with a shoulder injury that caused him to ultimately miss 3 games, and the Bucs went only 3-10 in games he started.
Yet, while the shine is off Winston (in our recent QB rankings, our group collectively had him outside the Top 20), I’m here to tell you that it seems to be an overreaction. Winston’s numbers do not belie a quarterback on a team that went 3-10 when he played. He set a career-high at 7.9 yards per attempt and had a decent 19 to 11 TD to INT ratio. Oh, and he also turned 24 in January, making him younger than Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota, and less than 10 months older than Mitch Trubisky and Jared Goff.
This is the first in a series over the summer where I breakdown the quarterbacks and project the upcoming season for real life and Fantasy Football purposes. They’ll often include jaunts or looks into specific issues or questions.
So for Jameis, let’s ask this: what happens when a QB loses games while putting up good stats?
Here’s a list of every QB since 1978 to lose more than 60% of his games but post a Y/A+ score of 110 or higher, in other words a yards per attempt meaningfully above the league average. (via pro-football-reference.com):
Boomer Esiason and the Bengals were perpetually missing the playoffs up until this point–then he put together his MVP season the next year. All told, 6 of the 9 finished in the Top 10 in Fantasy Points the next year (Testaverde would re-emerged in New York and also have a great season two years later). If you would lower the standards to 6-10 records with good yards per attempt figures for the QB, you would add recent years by Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Jeff Garcia that preceded top seasons.
I trust the yards per attempt numbers more than the win/loss numbers when judging a QB, when we are getting discordant information. Can Winston play better? Sure, he can, and he’s not hit his peak yet, and he was dealing with the shoulder injury as well. But I’m not ruling out a bounce back. This was a team without any consistency in the running game, something they hoped to address by drafting Ronald Jones. Meanwhile, O.J. Howard is entering his second year and Mike Evans is still very much on top of his game.
Here is my projection for 2018, and a listing of the previous three years.
Where will that put him? Well, he’s the first projection so that will come later, but my guess is he should still be going in the low-end QB1 range in a 12-team league, or high end backup/platoon, somewhere in the 10-15 range.