Josh Freeman: Fantasy Sleeper?

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Image via Football Schedule

Archer: Something something danger zone. I know. I’m not even trying anymore.

A couple of days ago, I put together a list of 14 quarterbacks you can build a draft strategy around. Such a strategy is necessary because of the Great Quarterback Conspiracy of 2013.

Josh Freeman‘s name doesn’t appear in either article.

The Tampa signal caller is a very difficult player to project for 2013. In most such cases, I would just avoid the guy. If my analysis had extended past the first ten rounds, Freeman would have made my All-Trap Team. While it’s never a great feeling to pass on high upside players, it’s sometimes necessary.

Freeman slots into a very important part of the draft, however, since he’s going to be selected in the QB15-QB25 range and possesses significant breakout potential. As I articulated in making the case for Alex Smith, that’s exactly the range you should be targeting for your QBBC members. In somewhat counterintuitive fashion, Freeman represents a potentially higher leverage pick than non-QBs being selected in the same area. It’s almost a Danger Zone.

Let’s enumerate the difficulties in projecting his 2013.

The Good – Freeman has some surprisingly good comps. In a Banana Stand study emphasizing QB experience and age, I found Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Donovan McNabb among his most similar players. Needless to say, each of those players was about to explode.

The Bad – Freeman also has some surprisingly bad comps. Very little separates Freeman from the Sanchize. Freeman’s fourth season was also nearly a dead ringer for former No. 1 overall pick David Carr.

The Good – Freeman has plus height, athleticism, and arm strength. It’s tempting to discount Freeman’s less athletic comparisons. Two other names that come up in any list of comparables are Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. While both are overrated reality quarterbacks, they’re capable of going on the types of randomly generated hot streaks that help carry an otherwise talented team to a Super Bowl title. Of course, those guys were very lucky. Freeman could end up better than both of those players and still have trouble navigating the Buccaneers to a winning record (or you to the fantasy playoffs).

The Bad – Freeman has terrible accuracy issues. I generate comps based on adjusted yards per attempt, but it’s worth noting that quarterbacks with lower completion percentages may risk more in-game and game-to-game inconsistency. Among Freeman’s comps, the ones with similarly low completion percentages are mostly guys who flamed out: Aaron Brooks, Jeff Blake, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Mark Sanchez.

The Good – Freeman put up a handful of good stats in 2012 and was only 24. Freeman finished as QB13 last year, and, as the excellent Chase Stuart pointed out, ranked 10th in net yards per attempt. Moreover, it’s difficult to get a good feel for Freeman’s true range of outcomes, because so few quarterbacks have played four complete NFL seasons by the age of 24. What’s more meaningful – his age or his NFL experience? Freeman is actually two months younger than Colin Kaepernick, but he’s thrown 1650 more NFL passes.

The Bad – Freeman may compare favorably to past greats, but he compares very poorly to current ones. Freeman may have more NFL experience than Kaepernick, but he’s far behind him in terms of development. He also trails at least four 2012 rookies. Most believe the NFL has become a much easier passing environment, and yet Freeman was a below average reality quarterback last season. If you average Freeman’s final ranking from Pro Football Focus, Advanced NFL Stats, and Football Outsiders, he comes in at No. 24. That would seem to confirm that his yards per attempt number camouflages some pretty questionable execution.

The RotoViz Projections

The two most interesting comps for Freeman are probably Andy Dalton and Matt Schaub. Even though Freeman has more experience than Dalton, the two are almost exactly the same age. They also finished in a virtual dead heat as QB12 last year.

Schaub and Freeman are tied by draft position. According to Fantasy Football Calculator, they are locked together at 155 in overall ADP or QB21.

Josh Freeman Andy Dalton Matt Schaub
4pt 6pt 4pt 6pt 4pt 6pt
Low 12.3 14.6 12.5 15.2 11.8 13.7
Median 13.7 16.3 13.7 16.6 15 18.4
High 15.2 18.6 15.9 19.2 17.3 20.7

As you can see, Freeman has the worst upside projection in both 4-pt and 6-pt formats. This serves to undermine the breakout thesis suggested by his youth and arm talent. Dalton has the highest floor and better upside than you might think. He’s my favorite breakout candidate this season, trumping Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill. Schaub has the highest median and upside projections, making him the best QB value in the entire draft.

2013 Redraft Strategy and Freeman

While QBBC is the dominant strategy in fantasy football, how you structure your committee is paramount. This means identifying three or four QBs with great upside at their relative ADPs. Freeman has excellent upside but Mark Sanchez downside. It may seem strange to say a guy with an ADP outside the first 100 picks is too risky, but there are guys with better risk/reward profiles still available in that range.

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy.

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.
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