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2005 and Peyton Manning. Up or Down?

There have been a lot of Shark Tank forum posts this off-season asking how high Peyton Manning should be selected in the draft this year. The general consensus in the tank seems to be that anywhere from 3rd to 10th overall, depending on your scoring system, number of starters, and number of teams. Taking a QB this high is out-of-character with many of the RB-loving members in the tank – so obviously Manning’s record breaking 2004 season has made an impact in people’s perception of the QB’s importance.

However, I’m going to assume that Manning’s 2004 season was better than his 2005 season will be (he can’t throw for 50 TDs, can he?). So, given that his production will dip some in 2005 – the question is, “How much?” So, I went looking through history to see how quarterbacks fared the season after the best season of their career. I wanted to see how much their production dropped and if Manning was really worth a high first-round pick in 2005 drafts.

Analysis Background

Scoring System: 1 pt / 25 yds passing; 4 pts for each passing TD; 1 pt / 10 yds rushing; 6 pts for every rushing TD

The quarterbacks played anywhere from 1960 to the present

Only QBs with 200 or more FF Pts in their best season were included\

92 QBs were included in the results as a total 

Manning’s 2004 Stats

Passing Yards: 4557

Passing TDs: 49

Rushing Yards: 38

Rushing TDs: 0

FF Pts: 382.08

Chance of Injury

After running the numbers, the first thing that jumped out at me was Randall Cunningham’s drop in production between 1990 and 1991. In 1990 he had 356.84 pts but in 1991 he only had 0.76 pts. Being an Eagles’ fan, I easily remembered 1991 as the year Cunningham was lost for the season in the opening game. This was obviously the cause of the huge drop in performance. So, I decided the best place to begin my research was to learn how likely it is that Manning will get hurt this year. The numbers here are actually pretty good – in my opinion.

Of the 92 QBs included in the research, 30 (or 32.6%) of them played in every game the following year. Another 23 QBs (or 25%) played in at least 14 games. This tells me that Manning has a 57.6% chance of staying healthy in 2005. I then looked at all of the quarterbacks that played 16 games during one season to see how likely they were to play all 16 games the next season. Of the 369 QBs included, 44.7% of them played in all 16 games the following year and 58.8% of them played in at least 14 games the following year.

The combination of these numbers seem to indicate that Manning has the same chance to play all season as any other quarterback. Throw in the fact that Manning has never missed a game due to injury and his starting line is pretty good, I feel pretty confident in the fact that Manning will be healthy all of 2005.

Average Production Loss

Since my assumption is that Manning’s 2004 season was the best of his career, I’m expecting to see a drop in his performance this year. The question is, “How much?” In doing the analysis, I discovered that a player that plays in at least 14 games has an average drop in performance of 75 pts the following year. This is about a 4.7 pts / game drop – which is the equivalent of almost 19 fewer TDs on the year. This is a significant drop.

Since I included players that missed a couple of games in the analysis, I then took an average pts / game for each player and multiplied it by 16. This gave me a normalized full season score for each player that played in 14 or more games the year following their best season. Using this normalized score, I discovered that the average drop in production was about 61 pts over the season. This is about a 3.8 pts / game drop – equivalent to over 15 fewer TDs on the season. Again, this is a significant drop in production.

Production vs. Age

In looking at all of the QBs that had 3 or more 3000 yard seasons, I was able to determine that when a QB reaches age 29, there is an average 4% drop in production from when the QB was 28. Additionally, age 28 is usually the year the player has the best season of his career.

It turns out that Manning will reach that magical age 29 this year. So, these findings help support my assumption that Manning had his career year in 2005 and provide me with another data point to use in my projections for his 2005 projections. A 4% decline would give him 366.8 pts in 2005 – which is pretty good.

Conclusion

So, what do all these numbers tell us? We can expect Manning to play the entire year – but his production will drop. While his stats will still be very good, based on the data above, I would expect him to have about 40 TDs and 4200 yards passing. He’s still worthy of being a top QB and one of the first off the board – but I think you’re making a mistake by taking him early in the first round. There will be other QBs that put up similar numbers that will be available later.

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