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At the “ceiling” level, our QB Similarity App projects Michael Vick to score 21.4 fantasy points/game, and Philip Rivers to score 18.5/game. Vick’s projection is the 10th highest ceiling produced by the QB app, and Rivers is the 20th, which you might think would mean I’d recommend them as low ADP bargains for QB1 or QB2 status. But I don’t.

This article is about avoiding disaster. In it, I explain why you should avoid Vick and Rivers. The QB App isn’t wrong; indeed, it’s a crucial part of my case. But it’s a starting point, not an ending point, for evaluation. If you examine the year over year change plots produced by the QB App, and dig deeper into historically similar QBs, you’ll start to see why these quarterbacks are toast.

I didn’t want to rely solely on the QB App to make my case, so I found a group of comparable QBs and examined how their careers unfolded. The lesson here is to be wary of QBs with mid-career productivity slumps. Most of the time, this is a death knell for fantasy relevance. And I don’t see anything that really suggests Vick or Rivers will be able to beat the odds and regain theirs.

While writing other articles, I noted that both Vick & Rivers have a multi-year decline in their adjusted yards/attempt (AYPA, a good indicator of QB efficiency): three consecutive years for Vick, four for Rivers. Using Pro Football Reference, I searched all QBs from 2000 – 2012 who had at least 150 attempts in a season. Then I isolated those who had at least a three year, mid-career decline in AYPA. I found 13 QBs who fit my criteria. Here they are, along with Vick and Rivers.

Player Seasons of Decline

# of consecutive decline seasons

1st  decline season FP/G

Final decline season FP/G

A.Brooks 2003-2006

4

19.58

8.13

C.Chandler 2001-2003

3

16.03

5.43

D. McNabb 2006-2008

3

23.44

20.18

J. Delhomme 2008-2010

3

15.15

12.15

J. Fiedler 2002-2004

3

16.02

11.66

K. Stewart 2001-2003

3

14.28

11.21

M. Bulger 2005-2007

4

23.73

14.22

S. McNair 2005-2007

3

17.36

10.61

T. Green 2004-2006

3

23.4

12.51

J. Garcia 2003-2005

3

17.71

9.81

K. Warner 2000-2002

3

25.4

11.22

P. Manning 2004-2008

5

31.99

21.88

T. Brady 2004-2006

3

21.16

19.28

M. Vick 2010-2012

3

22.58

18.01

P. Rivers 2009-2012

4

23.23

20.08

(These are passing only fantasy points. I know that Vick can put up significant fantasy points by running the ball. But if he can’t pass efficiently – and keep possession of the ball – he won’t be on the field.)

These QBs fit into three categories:

  • Losers – Coded red, these nine QBs couldn’t recover from their decline in AYPA, and lost their fantasy relevance.
  • Winners – Coded green, these four recovered and prospered after a multiple year decline in AYPA.
  • The Newbies – Vick and Rivers; will they be “Losers” or “Winners”?

The Losers

This group is mostly capable, long term starters. Here’s what their production looked like BEFORE their multiple year decline in AYPA.

QBs Median Att/G Median Cmp % Median AYPA Median FP/G Median Games
Losers

24.43

58.2

6.4

17.85

72

Their multiple year declines in AYPA were not good for their careers. Here’s what happened in the season following the final decline year listed above.

Player Post-Decline Career
A. Brooks Out of league.
C. Chandler 2 games/62 attempts in 2004. Out of league 2005.
D. McNabb 14.12 FP/G in 14 games 2009. Traded in 2010 and 2011, out of league 2012.
J. Delhomme 1 game/28 attempts in 2011, out of league 2012.
J. Fiedler 13 attempts in 2005, out of league 2006.
K. Stewart Spent 2004, 2005 on BAL roster, no attempts, out of league 2006.
M. Bulger 24 games over 2 seasons, average 9 FP/G. Out of league 2010.
S. McNair Out of league 2008.
T. Green 213 attempts/8 games next 2 seasons. Out of league 2009.

The Winners

These four were good both before and after their declines. Here’s their post decline production.

Player Post-Decline Career
J. Garcia Three seasons, 11.84 FP/G average.
K. Warner 6 seasons, average 13.38 FP/G. Missed most of 2003 to injury.
P. Manning 3 seasons, average 15.64 FP/G. Missed 2011 to injury.
T. Brady 5 seasons, average 16.87 FP/G. Missed 2008 to injury.

After Garcia’s decline, he rebounded to play three solid, if unspectacular, seasons. Warner, Manning, and Brady obviously recovered from their declining AYPA seasons, but it’s interesting to note all three missed significant time with injury. Here’s their pre-decline production.

QBs Median Att/G Median Cmp % Median AYPA Median FP/G Median Games
Winners

33.16

62.3

6.6

19.23

54.5

The “Winners” played fewer games and were more efficient pre-decline QBs than the “Losers”. Keep this in mind when we analyze Vick and Rivers. Let’s see how they compare to our Winners and Losers cohorts.

Vick Ain’t Slick

Here’s Vick’s pre-decline production, compared to the pre-decline production of the “Losers” cohort.

QBs Med Att/G Med Cmp % Med AYPA Med FP/G Med Games
Losers

24.43

58.2

6.4

17.85

72

M. Vick

23.55

51.37

6.33

11.16

86.00

 

Now let’s use the RotoViz QB Similarity App to examine Vick’s comparable QB seasons. Full results here. His comps include 4 QBs (8 seasons) from our historical cohort.

NAME Yr GMS ATTS COMPS CMP% PYDS PTDS INTS pFPOP rATT rYDS rTDS
Donovan McNabb 01 15 32.8 18.93 0.58 212.07 1.67 0.80 -0.00 5.33 30.07 0.13
Steve McNair 03 14 28.71 17.86 0.62 228.64 1.71 0.50 0.11 2.64 9.36 0.29
Donovan McNabb 02 10 36.10 21.10 0.58 228.80 1.70 0.60 -0.04 6.30 45.90 0.60
Jeff Garcia 04 11 22.91 13.09 0.57 157.36 0.91 0.82 -0.01 3.09 14.73 0.18
Michael Vick 12 10 35.10 20.40 0.58 234.60 1.20 1.00 -0.05 6.10 32.10 0.10
Steve McNair 02 16 30.75 18.81 0.61 211.44 1.38 0.94 0.00 5.00 26.31 0.19
Aaron Brooks 06 7 24.00 13.75 0.57 137.50 0.38 1.00 -0.17 2.75 14.38 0.00
Jeff Garcia 03 13 30.15 17.31 0.57 207.69 1.38 1.00 0.01 4.15 24.31 0.62

 

Vick’s “ceiling” projected scoring ranks him 10th according to the QB Similarity App. But there are significant reasons for concern. The App tells us that 60% of his total comparables produced fewer fantasy points the following season. His comparables includes eight seasons by four QBs analyzed in our historical cohort. Of these eight comparables seasons, four (bolded) were seasons in which the QB experienced a decline in both AYPA and fantasy points/game. And Vick has worse pre-decline numbers than they do. Spending draft capital on Vick is a gamble that Vick will do something that only 30% of our historical cohort could: recover from a multi year decline in AYPA. I don’t see anything that suggests he will. His pre-decline numbers are worse, and his QB App “low” and “median” projections are bad.

These numbers should convince you that the Eagles’ QB competition is real. Vick’s pre-decline numbers are WORSE than the Losers’ cohort. Nick Foles is a real threat to Vick’s job. We’ve talked up Foles before, and Justin Henry at Cold Hard Football Facts presented a good argument for why Foles is already better than Vick.

Rollin’ Down the Rivers

This table shows Rivers’ pre-decline production compared to our two historical cohorts.

QBs Median Att/G Median Cmp % Median AYPA Median FP/G Median Games
Losers

24.43

58.2

6.4

17.85

72

P.Rivers

28.40

60.43

6.43

19.18

50.00

Winners

33.16

62.3

6.6

19.23

54.5

 

Rivers splits the difference between the Winners and Losers cohorts. But don’t take hope in this – it’s not like he is clearly in the Winners group. Others agree. In their evaluation, RotoWorld said this:

“Rivers’ decline has been swift and steady, and for the second straight offseason we’re skeptical he’s capable of bouncing back. Rivers has become over reactive when under duress, and there’s little question his arm strength has regressed.”

Let’s look at Rivers’ comparable QB seasons using the QB App. Try it yourself to see the full results. Five seasons by four different QBs we’ve examined show up in Rivers’ comps.

NAME YR GMS ATTS COMPS CMP% PYDS PTDS INTS pFPOP rATT rYDS rTDS
Tom Brady 06 16 32.25 19.94 0.62 220.5 1.50 0.75 0.01 3.06 6.12 0.00
J. Delhomme 05 16 27.19 16.38 0.60 213.75 1.50 1.00 0.09 1.50 1.38 0.06
Tom Brady 04 16 29.62 18.00 0.61 231.62 1.75 0.88 0.09 2.69 -0.44 0.00
Peyton Manning 08 16 34.69 23.19 0.67 248.94 1.69 0.75 0.05 1.25 1.31 0.06
Peyton Manning 09 16 35.69 24.56 0.69 281.25 2.06 1.00 0.09 1.12 -0.69 0.00

Delhomme’s season, both Brady seasons, and one of Manning’s seasons (bolded) were seasons in which they experienced a decline in AYPA and fantasy points/game.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up: 60% (12 of 20) of QBs with seasons comparable to Rivers’ 2012 produced fewer fantasy points the next year. Further, only 30% of QBs in a similar career position (our “Winners” cohort) rebounded to have fantasy significance – and Rivers has worse pre-decline numbers than they do. Like Vick, the QB App “low” and “median” projections raise alarm. I’m not seeing much to suggest optimism for Rivers’ future fantasy relevance.

What Does It All Mean?

We examined a group of QBs who had similar mid career declines in AYPA to Vick and Rivers.  70% of this comparison cohort failed to regain fantasy relevant levels of performance. Vick and Rivers both have numbers that suggest they will likewise fail to regain a fantasy relevant level of production. Our QB app provides supporting evidence – especially if you pay attention to the “low” and “median” scoring projections and the change plots.

Avoid these QBs in both redraft and dynasty formats. If you need a QB, try these similarly valued, RotoViz endorsed options instead (12 team leagues).

Player Current Redraft ADP Better Option Current Dynasty ADP Better Option
M. Vick 10.8 A. Dalton,B. Roethlisberger,

J. Flacco

15.5 A. Smith,M. Schaub,

N. Foles

P. Rivers 12.11 S. Bradford,M. Schaub,

A. Smith

16.7 A. Smith,M. Schaub,

N. Foles

 

 

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