We’re currently doing staff projections that will be used as the basis of articles and to power a number of the apps on the site. As I was doing the Tampa Bay projection this morning it occurred to me that Jameis Winston could really have a disgusting number of pass attempts as a rookie.
Using some of the data exploration functions in the Projection Machine I wanted to get a sense as to what kind of play splits might be reasonable for the Buccs this year. I plugged in a few recent top pick seasons, along with some recent Dirk Koetter seasons into the app to get an estimate.
You can see that I’ve included the seasons of the four most recent top pick QBs (Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck, and Cam Newton) along with two recent Atlanta seasons. Note that essentially weights things 2/3 to rookie QBs and 1/3 to Winston’s actual offensive coordinator.
When the app averages the numbers for those seasons it gets to an average point margin of -2.9 points (each play that the offense ran they were trailing by an average of almost a field goal), a pass tendency of .029, and a net pace of 1.44 plays over average per game. I can then plug those numbers into the Projection Machine and get an estimate of pass attempts for Winston this year. But we actually have slightly better information to add because the Vegas win total for TB implies that they’ll be trailing by even more points on average in 2015. The win total implies that they might be trailing by closer to six points on average. When I plug those numbers into the Projection Machine (average point margin of -6, pass tendency of +0.029, and net pace of +1.44) I get 647 pass plays for Tampa Bay. But a few more than 40 of those might be sacks. If I net out the sacks I get about 604 pass attempts.
To put 604 pass attempts into perspective, that’s 23 fewer than Andrew Luck threw his rookie season. It’s 14 more than Sam Bradford threw his rookie season. That would have also been fifth in the league last year in pass attempts.
But Winston could also reasonably throw more than 604 times this year. Note that I included the Carolina 2011 season in order to set my estimates. But Cam Newton is probably a different kind of QB than Winston. If I threw that season out it would increase the pass tendency and the pace. Winston’s updated pass total would be 617. That would have been third in the league last year.
Up until this morning I always thought that Marcus Mariota might be the better late round QB just because he’ll get rushing yards. But now I’m not sure. Winston is being drafted as QB21 and it’s reasonable to think he could be top five in the league in attempts. Even if he’s horrible you’re going to get some fantasy points out of that many attempts. But considering that he’s throwing to one of the best young WRs in the league he also might be better than horrible. I’m frankly pretty optimistic now.