One of the things we look for in every sport is the challenge of forecasting. How can we accurately predict player performance? Certainly, it is much easier in baseball than in football or basketball. There is an old expression that player numbers will eventually look like what they look like on the back of the baseball card. There are simply too many factors independent of the player themselves to take into account in football.
However, by looking at each group of positions in the AFC South, we can begin to get an idea of what any individual player could do. This will likely be the case with quarterbacks as well. So we’ll look at the four starting quarterbacks in depth statistically. From there, we can do a kind of rudimentary ranking.
It’s worth mentioning that Tannehill has three seasons as the main titular Possum Holler. He ranked eighth in the NFL among PFF overall qualifying quarterbacks with a score of 83.7. He finished in the top five the previous two seasons at 90.6 and 90.2. In three seasons with the Titans, he never had a completion percentage below 65.7, threw 83 touchdowns on 32 interceptions and had a career-low 7.1 yards per attempt last season.
If we were to take it all together, we’d guess he’d come in somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a completion percentage of around 67%. His yards per attempt would return to around 8.0. All of these numbers are close to elite level and would put Tannehill just below the top quarterback group.
Naturally, this is where numbers and psychology collide. Tannehill’s year crashed dramatically last year, so who’s to say how he reacts mentally? 2021 was his worst season at Tennessee. Does the league get it? Has he lost confidence? These questions could be the most important questions in determining what happens in the division this season.
When someone comes from a different team, we have to look at their past and the past of the team. Carson Wentz came in at 70.9 in 2021 for the Colts and Philip Rivers came in at 77.4 in 2020. So the first question is whether Ryan is as good or better than these guys. Rivers saw a slight bump in his PFF score moving to Indianapolis while Wentz saw a significant bump.
The working theory here is that any bump Ryan might get away from Atlanta and Indy will be outweighed by the likely degradation he’ll see as he gets older. His 74.5 PFF score in 2021 was the lowest of his career. The 76.0 he had in 2019 was the second lowest of his career. It’s obviously not consecutive, but you get the idea. Part of that could be down to Atlanta’s rotten roster. Part of this is the natural aging process.
Ryan will have one of the best five running games in the NFL next season and that’s something he never had in Atlanta. The line will certainly be better too. Receiver quality might be the only issue. We will obviously come back to all these things in the following articles.
Lawrence was 32nd in the NFL with a 59.6 PFF rating. Obviously there is a big gap between Tannehill, Ryan and the other guys. Ryan is destined to have his bust cut in Canton. No matter what one thinks of the rest of the NFL quarterbacks, there aren’t many who can say that. Lawrence entered the league with much fanfare and lofty compositions throughout history. So let’s do the most common.
Player A— 3641 yards, 59.6%, 12 TDs, 17 INTs, 6.0 YPA
Player B— 3,734 yards, 56.7 percent, 26 TDs, 28 INTs, 6.5 YPA
I think everyone knows who Player B is. It’s not so much that we’re comparing the two players over a 15-20 year career. Only specials are able to do this. The question is what we can expect in year two. Quarterbacks who are more special tend to have more growth. So let’s look at what Player B did in Year 2.
Player B – 4,135 yards, 62.1 percent, 26 TDs, 15 INTs, 7.8 YPA
So, it’s safe to say that Player B wasn’t the Hall of Famer we remember in Year 2, but he was definitely a fucking sight beater. So if we were to see a similar leap for Lawrence in year two, what exactly would that look like? Unfortunately, we don’t have PFF scores for Player B as they weren’t available at the time, but we could probably use the other numbers. I guess it won’t be as good as Ryan and Tannehill, but it will be a lot closer.
We can do the same thing with Mills that we did with Lawrence. Of course, we have to find different compositions. We’ve done this before, that’s why we’re using player A, B, and C testing. In this case, Mills will be player A and two of the other guys we compared him to earlier will be the players B and C. Basically, one will be the conservative composition and the other will be the ambitious composition.
Mills— 58.5 PFF, 16 TD. 10 INT, 66.8%. 6.8 YPL
Player B— 62.2 PFF, 20 TD. 13 INT, 58.1%. 6.6 YPA
Player C— 58.1 PFF, 29 TD, 11 INT, 69.8%, 7.7 YPA
Okay, let’s be honest here. He’s much closer to Player B than Player C. So hoping for Player C is definitely ambitious. However, there are reasons for optimism. None of these guys were first-round picks and none were even expected to be a Pro Bowler when drafted. So anything can happen. As with Lawrence, we are more interested in the rate of improvement between the first and second year.
Player B— 63.7 PFF, 27 TD, 16 INT, 62.3%, 6.9 YPA
Player C— 70.8 PFF, 25 TD, 12 INT, 67.0%, 8.1 YPA
I don’t know how player C got his grades to tell you the truth. He was better in yards per attempt but literally nothing else. So if we take the other numbers at face value, we would see these two quarterbacks were about the same or slightly better than they were the previous season. That’s why we look at several numbers.
If I was a bettor, I would probably put these quarters in the same order as we have them. Over a long enough period, the survival rate drops to zero. The numbers on the back of the card end up being the target for future performance and the bottom two have too far to go to overtake the top two. I would expect a slight improvement for Mills overall. If he gets B player status, I would be really happy. It would be Andy Dalton. I know that’s a sobering thought, but he’s been a professional for ten years. There’s a lot worse than Mills could be.