Josh Freeman and Inscrutability

freeman

Josh Freeman is an interesting test case for predicting quarterbacks in both fantasy and reality. I’ve been fairly certain Freeman is a bust for over a year now, but some aren’t so certain. Chase Stuart is one of the ten best football writers out there, and he recently took Freeman as the 32nd pick in the RSP2 draft project.

Freeman came in as the No. 13 quarterback in fantasy a year ago, but is being drafted as the No. 21 QB off the board in summer mocks. This would seem to indicate Freeman owners are receiving a discount to his 2012 season and getting the potential breakout tossed in for free.

So let’s generate some comps and see what we come up with. 

Josh Freeman Comps – Year 3 and 4 of NFL Career

Passing
Player Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A Y/G W L
Gus Frerotte 54.4% 6135 29 23 76.8 7.04 6.51 211.6 15 13
Donovan McNabb 58.1% 5522 42 18 85.0 6.47 6.50 212.4 18 8
Kyle Orton 60.4% 6774 39 24 83.5 6.73 6.44 218.5 17 13
Tom Brady 61.2% 7384 51 26 85.8 6.55 6.41 230.8 23 9
Matt Hasselbeck 59.9% 5098 22 18 80.5 6.89 6.39 175.8 10 12
Jeff Blake 56.8% 7446 52 31 81.2 6.67 6.35 232.7 15 17
Jay Cutler 61.5% 8192 52 44 81.6 7.00 6.19 256.0 15 17
David Carr 60.9% 6019 30 25 80.5 6.77 6.18 188.1 9 23
Josh Freeman 58.8% 7657 43 39 78.1 6.90 6.10 247.0 11 20
Steve McNair 55.7% 5893 29 23 75.6 6.50 6.00 184.2 16 16
Daunte Culpepper 62.1% 6465 32 36 78.5 7.07 5.99 239.4 10 17
Brett Favre 61.7% 7185 52 38 82.0 6.51 5.90 224.5 18 14
Dave M. Brown 56.5% 5350 23 26 72.9 6.64 5.76 172.6 14 17
Joey Harrington 56.4% 5068 31 24 75.3 6.19 5.63 181.0 10 17
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/14/2013.

This is a very good list. David Carr is very similar and his career was about to end, but Steve McNair, Daunte Culpepper, and Brett Favre were about to see their careers explode. Donovan McNabb and Tom Brady were much better in the win/loss department, but both passers were about to see their passing stats skyrocket. Perhaps the best sign for Freeman is the fact that his physical attributes seem very similar to McNair, Culpepper, Favre, and McNabb. He’s a big-armed gunslinger with questionable accuracy and above average mobility. That maybe be a package that takes a little longer to develop.

Josh Freeman Comps – Year 4 in NFL

Passing
Player Age Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A AY/A ANY/A Y/G W L
Aaron Brooks 27 59.1% 3546 24 8 88.8 6.85 7.08 6.29 221.6 8 8
Matt Cassel 26 63.4% 3693 21 11 89.4 7.16 7.01 6.04 230.8 10 5
Matt Hasselbeck 27 63.7% 3075 15 10 87.8 7.34 6.98 6.25 192.2 5 5
Troy Aikman* 26 63.8% 3445 23 14 89.5 7.28 6.92 6.38 215.3 13 3
Josh Freeman 24 54.8% 4065 27 17 81.6 7.28 6.88 6.30 254.1 7 9
Kyle Orton 27 62.1% 3802 21 12 86.8 7.03 6.81 6.18 237.6 8 7
Tom Brady 26 60.2% 3620 23 12 85.9 6.87 6.72 5.94 226.3 14 2
Brett Favre 25 62.4% 3882 33 14 90.7 6.67 6.72 6.08 242.6 9 7
Peyton Manning 25 62.7% 4131 26 23 84.1 7.55 6.61 5.88 258.2 6 10
Joe Flacco 26 57.6% 3610 20 12 80.9 6.66 6.40 5.70 225.6 12 4
Drew Bledsoe 24 59.9% 4086 27 15 83.7 6.56 6.34 5.76 255.4 11 5
Jeff Blake 26 56.1% 3624 24 14 80.3 6.60 6.33 5.39 226.5 8 8
Matthew Stafford 24 59.8% 4967 20 17 79.8 6.83 6.33 5.81 310.4 4 12
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/14/2013.

This final projection is also very encouraging. Freeman is almost a dead ringer for Peyton Manning, right down to the record and the yards per game.

Red flags

One concern jumps out from the above graph, and it’s a big one. Freeman’s completion percentage hovers right around 55%, the lowest of the group and far lower than most of the others. His 13.3 yards per completion is unsustainably high and helped boost his efficiency numbers.

Again, it’s important to give Freeman some credit here. According to Pro Football Focus, he attempted the third most deep passes in the NFL and accrued the second most yardage on such attempts. Unfortunately, he ranked 22nd in deep accuracy, so his ability to gain deep yardage may have a fluke. He only had two deep passes dropped. To put that in context, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck each saw eight such passes dropped.

Accuracy and decision-making will be Freeman’s bugaboo going forward. He seems poised to make a big jump, but it will probably be against stiffer competition. NFC South quarterbacks faced ridiculously easy schedules in 2012, a factor which should shade back toward average next season.

What do the Advanced Stats say?

Passing numbers are improving across the NFL and schemes are better at eliminating interceptions. This means that comparisons to players like Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Bledsoe may be inaccurate. Each of those players encountered a very different NFL when playing as young quarterbacks. Considering the ease with which players like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck burst on the scene, it’s fair to wonder if Freeman’s slow development is a bigger red flag than the historical comps suggest.

So let’s take a quick swing around the advanced stats block.

Pro Football Focus

In PFF’s more accurate QB rating, Josh Freeman comes in a tie for 30th with Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s below the big three rookies plus Ryan Tannehill. He’s also below luminaries like Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker. The biggest reason? He ranked 33rd in accuracy, just ahead of Mark Sanchez and John Skelton.

Advanced NFL Stats

Freeman does a little better here, ranking 18th in Expected Points Added Per Play. His ability to attack down the field is offset by a 43% success rate which ranked 33rd.

Football Outsiders

Freeman ranked 24th in DVOA. That just happens to trail Christian Ponder.

 

 

2 thoughts on “Josh Freeman and Inscrutability”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>