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10 Aug 2011

Wisdom of Crowds 2011: QBs

by Danny Tuccitto

Ladies and gentlemen, our Wisdom of Crowds feature returns for its third season. In case you've been living under the same rock as that GEICO guy for the past few years, what we do here is produce crowd-sourced statistical projections for the upcoming season using Football Outsiders' Twitter account to harness the fantasy football aptitude of our readership. This season, we've decided to up the degree of difficulty by focusing on players for whom 2011 stats aren't that easy to predict. Today, let's look at the five quarterbacks we threw out there for Twitter consumption last week.

In years past, we've given reader projections for average fantasy performance, best-case-scenario performance, and worst-case-scenario performance. This year, we'll do the same, except to also add statistical confidence to the mix. Namely, alongside the average projection, we'll give you a range that incorporates the margin of error in that projection. This is basically the fantasy football version of a political poll, after all. Read it as "the average Football Outsiders reader predicts player A to have a stat between X and Y."

Monday: Kevin Kolb
Average: 3,358 ± 110 passing yards , 21 ± 1 TDs, 17 ± 1 INTs
Best-case scenario: 4,164 passing yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs
Worst-case scenario: 2,500 passing yards, 11 TDs, 28 INTs

Last season, Kolb threw for 1,197 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions in what amounted to 6 full games for the Eagles. If you prorate that out to 16 games, it amounts to 3,192 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. In that context, it appears that the crowd basically thinks Kolb in Arizona equals Kolb in Philadelphia.

Apparently, the crowd also believes Kolb isn't going to perform anywhere close to Kurt Warner's production under Ken Whisenhunt from 2007 to 2009. During that period, Warner -- if you prorate his stats out to 16 games per season -- averaged 4,164 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Aside from interceptions, that's on par with what our readers say is Kolb's best-case scenario. With a suspect offensive line and a wide receiver corps that doesn't include Anquan Boldin, that best-case scenario doesn't seem very likely.

Tuesday: Tarvaris Jackson
Average: 2,937 ± 141 passing yards, 17 ± 1 TDs, 18 ± 2 INTs
Best-case scenario: 3,750 passing yards, 26 TDs, 10 INTs
Worst-case scenario: 2,100 passing yards, 10 TDs, 32 INTs

In Jackson's lone season as a full-time starter (2007), his 12-game stats prorate out to 2,548 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. In Pete Caroll's first season as the Seahawks' head coach, Seattle quarterbacks combined for 3,536 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions. Therefore, readers' average projection seems to be smack dab in the middle of Jackson's history and Caroll's history; that is except for touchdowns.

So the question becomes, "Will Jackson throw for more touchdowns than expected this season?" In our minds, the answer is yes. First off, Jackson's primary targets in 2007 were Robert Ferguson and Bobby Wade, not Sidney Rice and a resurrected Mike Williams. Second, with all due respect to his beast-mode run in last year's playoffs, Marshawn Lynch isn't likely to be the focus of the offense like Adrian Peterson was. Finally, the Seahawks don't figure to be a good team this season, so Jackson will likely find himself in a lot of easy passing situations (read: they're going to be behind frequently).

Wednesday: Donovan McNabb
Average: 3,305 ± 130 passing yards, 20 ± 1 TDs, 14 ± 1 INTs
Best-case scenario: 4,400 passing yards, 27 TDs, 6 INTs
Worst-case scenario: 2,400 passing yards, 11 TDs, 23 INTs

McNabb was a quarterback we featured in last year's Wisdom of Crowds, and he ended up exceeding yardage expectations while underperforming in both touchdowns and interceptions. This season, the prognosticator's dilemma revolves around whether or not McNabb can parlay a better running game into better passing stats despite having a wide receiver corps of equal talent. After all, Percy Harvin may be Santana Moss's doppelganger, but Ryan Torain is no Adrian Peterson.

One clue that might help solve the mystery is that the Vikings replaced offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with Bill Musgrave. In his last stint in the position, Musgrave coached a Jaguars offense that averaged 3,368 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. With Mike Shanahan last season, McNabb had prorated stats of 4,156 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions. Put that together, and you have 3,762 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. That's pretty darn close to what our readers have to say.

Thursday: Andy Dalton
Average: 2,740 ± 131 passing yards, 14 ± 1 TDs, 19 ± 2 INTs
Best-case scenario: 3,500 passing yards, 17 TDs, 9 INTs
Worst-case scenario: 2,100 passing yards, 11 TDs, 28 INTs

By far, Dalton was the least palatable of our quarterback options last week. We received only 21 projections, and more than one reader expressed displeasure with the choice. What? Do you think we're going to make this easy for you?

All kidding aside, reservations about Dalton are understandable. Obviously, he's a rookie quarterback, and that's not exactly ideal. In addition, as we discussed in Four Downs, the Bengals' running game may not provide much relief in Dalton's rookie year. Throw in an incredibly young wide receiver corps, and the readers' average projection looks better and better. One historical note: Dalton's 16-game, average reader projection -- if accurate -- would most resemble the rookie seasons of Rick Mirer (2,833 yards, 12 touchdowns, 17 interceptions) and David Carr (2,592 yards, 9 touchdowns, 15 interceptions).

Friday: Josh Freeman
Average: 3,708 ± 113 passing yards, 25 ± 1 TDs, 13 ± 1 INTs
Best-case scenario: 4,200 passing yards, 33 TDs, 9 INTs
Worst-case scenario: 3,000 passing yards, 19 TDs, 17 INTs

In comparison to the other four quarterbacks of the week, readers have the highest expectation of Freeman. Indeed, he's the only one whose statistical bottom is still a 3,000-yard season and a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio. Not to mention that his average projection is also the best of the bunch.

Compared to his breakout 2010 season, the average reader projects Freeman to have more yards, more interceptions, and an identical number of touchdowns. That touchdown projection seems unlikely. Since the passing game expanded in 1978, only six quarterbacks have thrown for at least 25 touchdowns in two of their first three seasons, and two of them are current or future Hall of Famers (Peyton Manning and Dan Marino). If Freeman manages to join them, we'll be talking soon enough about championships of the nonfantasy variety.

Posted by: Danny Tuccitto on 10 Aug 2011

38 comments, Last at 16 Aug 2011, 3:45am by Bobman

Comments

1
by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 11:36am

T. Jack: Worst-case scenario: 2,100 passing yards, 10 TDs, 32 INTs

LOL - I doubt any QB has ever put up a stat line like that. They would bench him for Whitehurst if he even got close to putting up that type of production.

2
by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 11:43am

Yeah, that T-Jax projection is loopy. It rivals Testaverde's legendary INT-record-setting campaign (35 picks), but Vinnie played on an utterly terrible team that had no playoff hopes whatsoever. There's no way he'll be THAT bad. I mean, he'll be bad, but not legendarily bad.

All I can say is there are some really pessimistic people considering the projections.

3
by Jonadan :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 11:51am

Quick-and-Dirty PFR search says yep, really not going to happen. I think the closest you get is #48 in results, Jim Fink in 1955 (12 games): 2270/10/26. In modern terms, looks like the closest is Jake Plummer's 99 season (#52): 2111/9/24 over 14 games. In his defense, he was playing for Arizona...

10
by BucNasty :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:49pm

As I remember it, it's required that you prorate everyone's stats to a 16 game season. Even if Jackson is benched midseason, the important thing is whether or not he was on track to meet the projection.

11
by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:54pm

I believe you're right, and if that's the case, all TJack has to do is throw 2 int's in his first game, get benched, and his prorated stats will show that. I think he's even capable of throwing 4 int's in the first two games, and then getting benched once Seattle realizes what they've done.

13
by tuluse :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 2:08pm

I guess when you look at it like that, it could happen, but I'm still dubious. Jackson has 22 picks thrown in 36 games played. It's virtually impossible for a QB to average 2 picks or more per game when playing a reasonable number of games. Also, while Jackson is not a very good QB, he's hardly the worst QB to ever play the game, and he's not particularly interception prone.

17
by BucNasty :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 3:25pm

You're probably right about sustaining it over a season, but if he gets benched or hurt early that kind of INT rate wouldn't be unheard of. Trying to think of someone who could have been on pace to match that 32 INT stat line, and being a Buccaneer fan, Chris Simms in 2006 springs to mind.

Chris Simms actually had a nice little run in 2005, so I don't think Simms is the worst quarterback to ever play the game, either. From '04-'05, he threw 10 picks in 16 games played, which averages out to .625 picks per game: extremely close to Tarvaris Jackson's .611. Come 2006, and in 3 starts he threw 1 TD and 7 INT's before imfamously rupturing his spleen. That put him on pace to throw 5 TD's and 37 INT's over the course of a 16 game season. I don't think he would have maintained that pace even if he hadn't been hurt and had Gruden absolutely refused to bench him, nor am I saying that they're similar players, but it's not out of the question for Jackson to get off to a rough start like that before getting pulled or injured.

*Accidently swapped Simms's played/picks stats.

**Screwd all the math up, apparently. Now fixed again.

19
by tuluse :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 3:46pm

The point of the exercise is that you are supposed to assume the QB plays all 16 games, not prorate the games you think he will play.

21
by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 4:49pm

I understand that, and I can see how my comments make it look like I'm only thinking he'd reach that amount of INT's if he hit it on a pro-rated average. However, I can see TJack legitimately hitting 32 INT's while playing 16 total games. I understand that he's going to be playing with a little bit better supporting cast around him then he was when actually starting in Minny, however, I do think that Seattle will be down most games, and he will have to pass. Teams will know that they really don't have a running game, and therefore plan to stop the pass. TJack will then have ample opportunity to throw a bunch of picks. However, like pointed out previously, Seattle isn't so bad, and/or TJack so good, to merit leaving him in there for a chance to hit 32 INT's. But if he was to throw, say, 8 INT's during the first 4 games, and was then benched, he would be on pace for those 32 INT's.

31
by AndyE :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 9:25am

I actually did not assume that at all; I was predicting a stat line that can be compared to his prorated statline at the end of the year.. I'm the 32 pick part of the stat line; here was my guess:

@fboutsiders TJ: 3012/21/32. Of course, you'll have to multiply up from the six games he survives.

Those 6 games include Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and New York (Giants). Assuming he has a season ending injury against either the Browns or Bengals, that's a six game stat line of 1130/8/12. On the edge, but I don't think impossible.

37
by Bobman :: Tue, 08/16/2011 - 3:41am

Yeah, but BucNasty, if you prorate Simms's 2006, you also have him going through five spleens. That's epic. I think Larry Hagman has the record with four livers. (sorry to be so late responding--vacation)

23
by Jonadan :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 5:20pm

Oh, point. Plummer pro-rates out to a 2413/10/28 season.

For utterly dart-thrown-blindfold comparisons, pro-rating last few years QB#32 in PYPG gets us:

2010: Vince Young -> 2230
2009: Brady Quinn -> 2142
2008: Seneca Wallace -> 2451

None of them had anything like the TD/INT ratios necessary to get to TJax worst possible numbers though.

26
by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 11:23pm

Let's not forget the player season Barnwell detailed in last year's WoC: Trent Dilfer, 1995, 16 GS, 2774-4-18. And TB won 7 games that year!

28
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 3:46am

I could somehow see him having a poor first game, say 1 TD and 3 INTs, then say a decent second game (2 TDs, 0 INTs), then an absolutely horribly 4 or 5 INT game and being benched.

If he did play 16 games and got that statline I think it would be safe to say that Seattle had decided to Suck for Luck.

29
by Lebo :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 7:05am

'Suck for Luck' is brilliant. I hope that it becomes the default headline for any article trying speculating who will earn the first overall draft choice in 2012.

34
by Drunkmonkey :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 1:55pm

I think I heard that already on FO somewhere. I'm already assuming that's what they'll be using for probability that a team gets 0-4 wins in the Almanac.

4
by Andy R (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 11:52am

The worst-case scenarios feature TD-INT splits of -17, -22, -12, -17, and +2. All of them, except for Freeman's, are pretty ridiculous. Can't we get rid of outliers that are so far removed from reality as to be comical/impossible?

7
by mansteel (not verified) :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:10pm

IIRC, the worst-case scenario contains the worst outcome predicted for each of the three stat categories. In other words, no individual person predicted that, for instance, T-Jack would go 2100-10-32; instead someone predicted 2100 yards, someone else (presumably) predicted 10 tds, and a third person (again, presumably) predicted 32 INTs.

So Jackson's worst-case scenario wasn't some bitter Vikings fan being spiteful. It if were, I agree that it should be discarded. But as it is, just read it as three individual worst-case scenarios rather than a prediction of his final stat line.

8
by tuluse :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:30pm

32 INTs is a a ridiculous prediction. Jackson is no where near good enough, nor Seattle bad enough to put up with a QB throwing 32 picks.

12
by MCS :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:54pm

So, what you are saying is, one person in the crowd isn't so wise?

24
by Danny Tuccitto :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 6:12pm

You are correct, sir!

5
by bingo762 :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:02pm

Didn't one of Kolb's starts last year come in a meaningless game at the end of the season? He was playing with 2nd & 3rd stringers on his side of the ball. Just saying, that might have effected his numbers

6
by Theo :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:03pm

Can you make this also accessible for non-tweeters?

9
by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 12:32pm

Agree. As it is, I have my co-workers read me who is being done each day. I have a moral and ethological conundrum about accessing twitter. I chastise myself every time I click on a link on PFT and it turns out to be a twitter page.

I must say, I'm not trying to be pessimistic, but my numbers are pretty close to the lowest projection.

14
by tuluse :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 2:09pm

I'll third having a method of participation that doesn't use twitter.

15
by JIPanick :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 2:49pm

Fourthed.

22
by Joseph :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 4:55pm

Fifth.

25
by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 7:54pm

I hope twitter disappears before I'm forced to use it

30
by Theo :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 9:22am

Twitter is a good tool for news guys to spread news.
Many people though use it to boost their ego, which is kinda annoying.

35
by Tim R :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 3:24pm

Sixthed

36
by Alternator :: Fri, 08/12/2011 - 1:43am

Count me as seven. Pretty please?

16
by inkakola :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 3:05pm

"Finally, the Seahawks don't figure to be a good team this season, so Jackson will likely find himself in a lot of easy passing situations (read: they're going to be behind frequently)."

I thought being behind was associated with more attempted passes and HARDER passing situations because the defense is expecting a pass and will go easy on time wasting run plays. Isn't this basically the colts' defensive strategy?

18
by Intropy :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 3:39pm

I think the difference between long and short passes becomes much more pronounced.

20
by JIPanick :: Wed, 08/10/2011 - 4:41pm

That's teams that are playing from behind and still in it. Teams that are getting killed often rack up huge numbers of passing yards because the defense plays everything soft. Which do you think Seattle will be?

27
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 3:44am

I thought that was a bit odd, but rewrote it in my mind to mean "situations where the choice to have a pass play, rather than run play is easy."

Now it makes sense.

32
by Zack :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 9:38am

Thursday: Andy Dalton
Best-case scenario: 3,500 passing yards, 17 TDs, 9 INTs

By best-case scenario, you mean he hits these numbers in the CFL, right?

33
by Theo :: Thu, 08/11/2011 - 12:26pm

He'll start vs the Lions as per the Depth Chart.

38
by Bobman :: Tue, 08/16/2011 - 3:45am

Shouldn't that have been, "..., you mean he hits these numbers in the CFL, eh?"