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The biggest misconception amongst anyone who tries to determine the best players at any position in the NFL is that last year’s production will be improved upon in the coming season. In many ways, this is true, BUT following up on a transcendent season with another is almost impossible. Everything is working against you – Murphy’s Law, mean reversion, this blog post, etc…

I originally came up with this idea to justify why Tom Brady should not go in the first round following his 50-TD season. Trust me, everyone thought I was an idiot. One quarter and 76 yards later, I turned out to be right. Not only is it that defenses are keying on the pass, there also seems to be an uncanny chance that an injury-shortened one will follow a great year. Of the 27 quarterbacks I profiled, there were sixteen instances of injury shortening the season following a fantastic one. Obviously, there is no way to explain why this seems to happen.

Let’s say that someone has a gun to my head and is forcing me to explain why these injuries seem to occur. So now I have to try and explain the unexplainable. My best guess is that these athletes have one more year of wear and tear on their bodies, and are just more susceptible to an injury. Let’s think about this for a second: to perform at a high enough level to be considered transcendent for an entire year is going to require LOTS of snaps. More snaps equals more opportunities to be hurt. So now I’ve been released from gunpoint and I can admit this is a BS explanation… Mostly because there really isn’t one, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Before you draft Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers this year, keep the following statistics in mind. I won’t be taking either of them, regardless of whether or not I have a HUGE soft spot for Mr. Rodgers. The easiest (and most unfortunate) way to have a season derailed is an injury or a whiff on a high-round pick. My suggestion for this season – wait on a QB. There are plenty that will be serviceable.

Please realize that I did not hide any seasons. The following data goes as far back as necessary to look at the top 30+ individual passing performances of all time. Rasheed Wallace is famous for saying the ball don’t lie. In this instance, the numbers don’t lie.

The biggest misconception amongst anyone who tries to determine the best players at any position in the NFL is that last year’s production will be improved upon in the coming season. In many ways, this is true, BUT following up on a transcendent season with another is almost impossible. Everything is working against you – Murphy’s Law, mean reversion, this blog post, etc…

I originally came up with this idea to justify why Tom Brady should not go in the first round following his 50-TD season. Trust me, everyone thought I was an idiot. One quarter and 76 yards later, I turned out to be right. Not only is it that defenses are keying on the pass, there also seems to be an uncanny chance that an injury-shortened one will follow a great year. Of the 27 quarterbacks I profiled, there were sixteen instances of injury shortening the season following a fantastic one. Obviously, there is no way to explain why this seems to happen.

Let’s say that someone has a gun to my head and is forcing me to explain why these injuries seem to occur. So now I have to try and explain the unexplainable. My best guess is that these athletes have one more year of wear and tear on their bodies, and are just more susceptible to an injury. Let’s think about this for a second: to perform at a high enough level to be considered transcendent for an entire year is going to require LOTS of snaps. More snaps equals more opportunities to be hurt. So now I’ve been released from gunpoint and I can admit this is a BS explanation… Mostly because there really isn’t one, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

Before you draft Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers this year, keep the following statistics in mind. I won’t be taking either of them, regardless of whether or not I have a HUGE soft spot for Mr. Rodgers. The easiest (and most unfortunate) way to have a season derailed is an injury or a whiff on a high-round pick. My suggestion for this season – wait on a QB. There are plenty that will be serviceable.

Please realize that I did not hide any seasons. The following data goes as far back as necessary to look at the top 30+ individual passing performances of all time. Rasheed Wallace is famous for saying the ball don’t lie. In this instance, the numbers don’t lie.

Tom Brady:

2007: 4806 yards, 50TDs, 8 INTs

2008: 76 yards, 0TDs, 0 INTs

2009: 4398 yards, 28TDs, 13 INTs

Dan Marino:

1984: 5084 yards, 48 TDs, 17 INTs

1985: 4137 yards, 30 TDs, 21 INTs

1986: 4746 yards, 44 TDs, 23 INTs

1987: 3245 yards, 26 TDs, 13 INTs

Peyton Manning:

2004: 4557 yards, 49 TDs, 10 INTs

2005: 3747 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs

Daunte Culpepper:

2000: 3937 yards, 30 TDs, 16 INTs

2001: 2612 yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs

2004: 4717 yards, 39 TDs, 11 INTs

2005: 1564 yards, 6 TDs, 12 INTs

Joe Montana:

1987: 3054 yards, 31 TDs, 13 INTs

1988: 2981 yards, 18 TDs, 10 INTs

Steve Young:

1994: 3969 yards, 35 TDs, 10 INTs

1995: 3200 yards, 20 TDs, 11 INTs

1998: 4170 yards, 36 TDs, 12 INTs

1999: 446 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs

Tony Romo:

2007: 4211 yards, 36TDs, 19 INTs

2008: 3448 yards, 26TDs, 14 INTs

2009: 4483 yards, 26TDs, 9 INTs

Philip Rivers:

2008: 4009 yards, 34TDs, 11 INTs

2009: 4254 yards, 28TDs, 9 INTs

Dan Fouts:

1981: 4802 yards, 33 TDs, 17 INTs

1982: 2883 yards, 17 TDs, 11 INTs

Sonny Jurgensen:

1961: 3723 yards, 32 TDs, 24 INTs

1962: 3261 yards, 22 TDs, 26 INTs

1967: 3747 yards, 31 TDs, 16 INTs

1968: 1980 yards, 17 TDs, 11 INTs

Y.A. Tittle:

1963: 3145 yards, 36 TDs, 14 INTs

1964: 1798 yards, 10 TDs, 22 INTs

George Blanda:

1961: 3330 yards, 36 TDs, 22 INTs

1962: 2810 yards, 27 TDs, 42 INTs

Jim Kelly:

1991: 3844 yards, 33 TDs, 17 INTS

1992: 3457 yards, 23 TDs, 19 INTs

Kurt Warner:

1999: 4353 yards, 41 TDs, 13 INTs

2000: 3429 yards, 21 TDs, 18 INTs

2001: 4830 yards, 36 TDs, 22 INTs

2002: 1431 yards, 3 TDs, 11 INTs

Daryle Lamonica:

1969: 3303 yards, 34 TDs, 25 INTs

1970: 2516 yards, 22 TDs, 15 INTs

Lynn Dickey:

1983: 4458 yards, 32 TDs, 29 INTs

1984: 3195 yards, 25 TDs, 19 INTs

Steve Bartkowski:

1980: 3544 yards, 31 TDs, 16 INTs

1981: 3829 yards, 30 TDs, 23 INTs

1982: 1905 yards, 8 TDs, 11 INTs

Warren Moon:

1990: 4689 yards, 33 TDs, 13 INTs

1991: 4690 yards, 23 TDs, 21 INTs

1995: 4228 yards, 33 TDs, 14 INTs

1996: 1610 yards, 7 TDs, 9 INTs

Steve Beuerlein:

1999: 4436 yards, 36 TDs, 15 INTs

2000: 3730 yards, 19 TDs, 18 INTs

Randall Cunningham:

1990: 3466 yards, 30 TDs, 13 INTs

1991: 19 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs

1998: 3704 yards, 34 TDs, 10 INTs

1999: 1475 yards, 8 TDs, 9 INTs

Vinny Testaverde:

1996: 4177 yards, 33 TDs, 19 INTs

1997: 2971 yards, 18 TDs, 15 INTs

Johnny Unitas:

1959: 2899 yards, 32 TDs, 14 INTs

1960: 3099 yards, 25 TDs, 24 INTs

Scott Mitchell:

1995: 4338 yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs

1996: 2917 yards, 17 TDs, 17 INTs

Steve Bartkowski:

1981: 3829 yards, 30 TDs, 23 INTs

1982: 1905 yards, 8 TDs, 11 INTs

Ben Roethlisberger:

2007: 3154 yards, 32 TDs, 11 INTs

2008: 3301 yards, 17 TDs, 15 INTs

2009: 4328 yards, 26 TDs, 12 INTs

Carson Palmer:

2005: 3868 yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs

2006: 4035 yards, 28 TDs, 13 INTs

2007: 4131 yards, 26 TDs, 20 INTs

2008: 731 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs

2009: 3094 yards, 21 TDs, 13 INTs

Jeff Garcia:

2000: 4278 yards, 31 TDs, 10 INTs

2001: 3538 yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs

2002: 3344 yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs

Notable Exceptions:

Drew Brees:

2007: 4423 yards, 28 TDs, 18 INTs

2008: 5069 yards, 34 TDs, 17 INTs

2009: 4388 yards, 34 TDs, 11 INTs

Brett Favre:

1995: 4418 yards, 38 TDs, 13 INTs

1996: 3899 yards, 39 TDs, 13 INTs

1997: 3867 yards, 35 TDs, 16 INTs

1998: 4212 yards, 31 TDs, 23 INTs

Y.A. Tittle:

1962: 3224 yards, 33 TDs, 20 INTs

1963: 3145 yards, 36 TDs, 14 INTs

1964: 1798 yards, 10 TDs, 22 INTs

From Around The Web

  1. Jim Parkey says:
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    Do you then hold that the converse is true, i.e., QBs coming off a down year are due for big numbers?

  2. barker says:
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    hey there doc and anyone who cares — this is my 1st post to razzball football and hopefully many more ( discovered razzball baseball this past year and loved it and this site looks to be more of the same great fantasy advice )
    anyway had my 1st draft last night — 8 team h2h — and was looking for advice on who to drop and who to pick up and such and maybe a grade on the job i did and any players to avoid for future drafts
    well here is how it went 1st overall pick

    QB kolb rd 6 p48 QB henne rd 9 p 65 WR r wayne rd 2 p 16

    WR b marshall rd 3 p 17 RB c johnson rd 1 p 1 RB b wells rd 4 p 32

    TE j finley rd 7 p 49 wr/rb j charles rd 5 p 33 wr/ rb m barber rd 8 p 64

    wr/rb j maclin rd 10 p 80 wr/rb a bradshaw rd 11 p 81 K prater r22 176

    def nyg rd 12 p 96 def car rd 20 p 160

    bench wr m floyd rd 13 p 97 rb d brown rd 14 p 112 wr t owens rd 15

    p 113 rb a foster rd 16 p 128wr p garcon rd 17 p 129 qb leinart rd 18

    p 144 qb hasselbeck rd19 145rb mcfadden rd 21 p 161

    available players : WR aromashadu hester cotchery jacoby jones lee evans walter chambers berrian RB k smith TE h miller QB garrard

    was thinking of dropping mcfadden for 1 of these guys maybe jones miller or smith
    do u like any of these K better than prater: scobee kasay reed feely folk vinateri
    are these Ds better than NYG or CAR : atl tampa sea KC wash

    am i good with these QBs or should i be trying to trade for a top tier QB ( not by design i was the last to draft a QB unfortunately ) is garrard an up grade over hasselbeck or leinart

  3. cleaver596 says:
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    Its always interesting to see someone expect a repeat performance. Such as tom brady a few years ago or Peyton manning after his 49 TD season. Even though these QB’s are amazing, expecting anyone to have back to back 50 TD seasons is just stupid.

  4. Pepe Silvia says:
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    If you’re dead-set on having a top-level QB, I think the smart play is just draft Brady this year. You can get him 2-3 rounds later than Rodgers and Brees, and I think it’s even money that his stats are at least as good as theirs at the end of the year.

  5. Pound Sand says:
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    there’s a reason why it’s called a career year.
    there’s a reason why it’s called a career year. 2nd time for effect, like your article.

  6. Joe Cooper says:
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    The only issue is that the top QBs in football last year outside of Favre were repeating their good performances. Rodgers was in the top 2 for 2 years in a row. Similar story with Brees and Manning. They’ve been consistently good, and occasionally great. I guess I’m just confused about who you’re saying we should avoid. For instance, I’m staying away from Favre this year since he’s coming off a monstrous season that will be near impossible to repeat with his age and fragility (in most leagues he’s the 8th QB off the board in yahoo). I can see the argument for avoiding guys with career years since they tend to be overvalued the next (Brady is the perfect case and point) but it’s not like a lot of RBs are perfect repeat performers either (Slaton, Cadillac, Forte, etc). If anything, you could argue QBs are more consistent year after year.

  7. Mr2Bits says:
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    Am I drunk or did I just read the same thing twice?

  8. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @barker: Really tough to tell in an 8 team league, but it looks stout of course. I do like Garrard over Hass or Leinart. I like Prater. I think you are good for now. DMac is much better in a ppr league of course.

    @cleaver596: Yes. It’s hard not to expect or at least want them to repeat at least. Numbers like Brady’s and say Chris Johnsons are just too out of the norm to repeat.

    @Pepe Silvia: Agreed. Wait on the “lower” part of the top tier QBs.

    @Joe Cooper: I think he is saying don’t expect the HUGE numbers again. I think you are fine expecting top 5 or even top 3 numbers out of great players, but don’t draft Rodgers in the first round because it is a lock he will be the #1 fantasy QB once again.

    @Mr2Bits: Drunk as usual.

  9. barker says:
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    so im gunna lose mcfadden for heath miller because i need a 2nd TE

    and either hass or leinart for garrard??

    leaning toward hass — whatdya say here doc i think leinart has a good chance to be decent this year but hass could be more consistent

  10. barker says:
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    and thank you for the response

  11. Wilsonian says:
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    Doc and any other fine commenters who know what the hell they’re talking about:

    I’m in a 12 Team H2H Keeper league (keep 2) and I’m not entirely sure who I should be keeping. Here’s my roster:

    QB: Favre
    WR: Wayne
    WR: Ochocinco
    WR: Driver
    RB: Barber
    RB: Wells
    TE: Gates
    WR/RB: Forsett
    BN: McNabb
    BN: Celek
    BN: Slaton
    BN: Britt
    BN: Ganther
    K: Longwell
    D: NE

    It is a 0.5 PPR, and also has bonuses of:

    Passing – 4 points at 270, 6 points at 320
    Rushing – 4 points at 100, 6 points at 135
    Receiving – 4 points at 80, 6 points at 120

    We can only keep 2 guys, and they can’t be the same position. Pretty much have guaranteed that Wayne is one of my keepers and it’s looking like either Gates or Wells would be the next in line. Who do you think I should keep. Thanks in advance!

  12. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @barker: Go with your gut there. I could see going either way.

    @Wilsonian: I would go with Wells. I was thinking possibly Gates, but he only topped 80 yards 4 times last season. I thought he might have been more consistent than that. TE is deep enough you’ll be able to get a decent one and Wells has a lot of upside.

  13. Wilsonian says:
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    @Doc: cool, thanks Doc. My first thought was Wells. Without Warner, he’ll be a much bigger part of that offense and could have a breakout season. I like Gates, but like you said, there should be many pretty comparable TEs out there.

  14. 10 Yard Fight says:
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    @barker: I would never carry a back-up defense, especially in an 8 team league. Nor do you “need” a back-up TE; start Finley every week and pick someone up for his bye.

    You could use the free spots on a higher-upside guy like Aromashadu. Also, you didn’t mention if it is a two QB league, but 4 QBs is a lot to pick from every week.

  15. WillieMayesHayes says:
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    Hey Doc,
    I joined my first IDP league this year. How soon should I be targeting my defensive players? It’s six total players, 2 DL, 2 LB, & 2 DB.
    Scoring system,
    1 pt.- Tackles
    .5 pt.- Assited tackles
    2 pt.- Sacks
    2 pt.- Int.
    2 pt.- Pass defensed

    Thanks

  16. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @barker: @10 Yard Fight: I agree with Barker here. It was kinda tough to get a good feel for your team on your comment.

    @WillieMayesHayes: I always wait on IDP players until I have my starting offensive players picked. If Willis, Beason types were to fall I could see grabbing them before a TE or 3rd receiver, but they usually don’t.

  17. Mark says:
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    Re: QB drop off, specifically to the comment that last year’s top performers have shown a consistency over a few years.

    This brings a question up that I was intending to ask you Doc. Are we simply seeing an average season, a season we can and should expect to see these top performing QBs perform at, and therefor only need to fear the post-career year (ie madden jinx) scenario?

    Our base line for a huge year was 30tds (ish?), but that is common place now, as is 4000 yards. The idea you demonstrate is consistent, but it’s flaw is that it is only viable when it occurs after an anomalous statistical high point, not a consistent high point.

    If a system is set up for, and includes a QB capable of throwing 4500 yds and 40tds, what’s his statistical high point? That may have been answered recently by both Manning and Brady. It also speaks to who has the potential to achieve a high point.

    Right now, we should be seeking a situation that points towards a highpoint (Brees, Rodgers, Romo, Schaub) and who does not (Manning, Brady) and thinking more in terms of a higher ceiling, rather than a narrower, more predictable range that limits the value of these studs.

    If they all have a range of value that approaches the same floor, why would we pick one with a low ceiling? Wait, grab Schaub or Romo as the 5th or 6th QB taken if you can, and have probably a better shot at ending up with the best.

    I’ll risk an imagined projection that supposes an expected slightly higher value of a typical season, to take on the upside at a lower price.

    In fact, give me that in every round and I go home happy.

    Love your site DOc, keep up the amazingly entertaining and
    valuable work!

    Mark
    (now, compare the new higher floor of QBs to the new lower floor and lower ceiling of RB2s and you’ll find the only way to play in a league that adjusts for this is a 2-QB league)

  18. Doc

    Doc says:
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    @Mark: There are a ton of variables separating these top 5-6 fantasy QBs. How often do they leave games early because they are far ahead, do they play much in week 16/17, do they get in for 1 or 2 QB sneak TDs. The statistical anomalies i.e. huge record breaking years don’t reoccur for many reasons. I would guess not having the drive to pad those numbers again is one. James mentioned others.

    I like looking at the hungrier QBs. No SB wins, no record breaking years, just an overall desire to show the league they can hang with the big boys. I think Romo fits that mold perfectly. I’m all for the upside picks as often as possible.

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