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
|Dave M. Brown||56.5%||5350||23||26||72.9||6.64||5.76||172.6||14||17|
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
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.
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.
Freeman ranked 24th in DVOA. That just happens to trail Christian Ponder.