Last week I wrote about the Top 12 QBs in 2016 and whether or not they'd just had their career year. I also published three tables comparing the historical performance of QBs coming off career years in the following season compared to similar QBs (in age, fantasy rank, and rushing performance) did after non-career years. Today I will use those tables to estimate what last year's Top 12 QBs might do in 2017.

Seven of the Top 12 did not have career years: they already had at least one previous season better than their 2016 fantasy performance. They were Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Blake Bortles. Of the other five, my assessment was that Matt Ryan did have his career year but Kirk Cousins, Marcus Mariota, Dak Prescott, and Tyrod Taylor did not. Of course, I could be wrong about any or all of them.

The next table shows the results of using those historical numbers for all of 2016's Top 12 QBs to estimate what their 2017 performance might be:

Player

2016 Results

2017 Estimates

FP/G

Age

Rank

% FP Rush

FP/G

Rank

Hi

Avg

Lo

Hi

Med

Lo

Aaron Rodgers

24.9

33

1

15%

23.1

22.6

22.1

6

11

16

Drew Brees

23.1

37

2

4%

21.0

20.7

20.4

6

12

16

Andrew Luck

22.6

27

3

14%

20.8

20.4

19.9

6

12

16

Matt Ryan (NCY)

22.6

31

4

3%

20.5

20.1

19.8

6

13

16

Tom Brady

21.7

39

5

2%

20.0

19.6

19.3

11

14

16

Kirk Cousins (NCY)

20.6

28

6

10%

18.9

18.7

18.5

11

14

16

Matt Ryan (CY)

22.6

31

4

3%

18.7

18.4

17.9

8

16

20

Ben Roethlisberger

19.7

34

7

3%

18.0

17.8

17.6

11

15

16

Blake Bortles

19.4

24

9

17%

18.4

17.8

17.3

6

15

19

Marcus Mariota (NCY)

19.2

23

10

16%

18.2

17.6

17.1

6

15

19

Dak Prescott (NCY)

18.9

23

11

21%

17.9

17.5

17.3

6

15

19

Philip Rivers

19.4

35

8

1%

17.7

17.4

17.1

12

16

19

Tyrod Taylor (NCY)

18.9

27

12

33%

17.3

17.2

17.1

6

15

20

Kirk Cousins (CY)

20.6

28

6

10%

17.0

16.8

16.6

11

17

20

Tyrod Taylor (CY)

18.9

27

12

33%

15.0

13.9

13.1

11

24

32

Marcus Mariota (CY)

19.2

23

10

16%

15.2

13.5

11.4

15

25

34

Dak Prescott (CY)

18.9

23

11

21%

13.7

12.6

11.1

20

29

35

As good as Rodgers was at the tail end of 2016, his "career year" had occurred prior. We're still expecting big things in 2017 though.For example, Aaron Rodgers averaged 24.9 FP/G in 2016. He was 33 years old, ranked #1 in FP/G, and scored 15% of his fantasy points on the ground. Looking at the historical data (republished at the end of this article), other QBs his age coming off non-career years see a decline of 1.8 FP/G and a drop of 7.8 places in rank. They have an average rank the next year of 15 and a median rank of 11. Using the Rank and Source of FP tables gives other estimates of FP/G change and rank. The table above consolidates all those estimates into a high, average (mean), and low figure for FP/G (after calculating the change) and a high, median, and low rank. 

This table is sorted by the average 2017 FP/G estimates. I included both the career year (CY) and non-career year (NCY) estimates for the five QBs whose 2016 could have fallen into either category, showing my choice of CY vs. NCY in bold.

The 2017 ranks are more pessimistic in some cases than the FP/G. If Rodgers does average 22 or 23 FP/G he will rank higher than those numbers (6th, 11th, 16th). In fact, I'd say the "Hi" rank estimate is most likely of the three to be accurate, with the other two numbers representing downside. The ranks ought to be considered as predictive relative to each other rather than predictive in themselves. Rodgers will probably rank higher than both Brees and Luck; it's extremely unlikely all three will tie for 6th – or 16th. Having said that, it's important to realize that a few QBs will out-perform these numbers – but more than a few will do as bad or worse than these estimates. These are a realistic range of outcomes.

Of course, none of these estimates account for the specific changes in situation of these 12 QBs. But in the post-merger, non-strike years, probably some QBs have experienced similar changes and the tables try to incorporate that. Past data is never going to do well with outliers like Tom Brady (in uncharted territory at his age), or Dak Prescott (unexpectedly brilliant as a rookie), so their 2017 estimates as more likely to be off than more typical players like Matt Ryan. 

With those caveats out of the way, some thoughts on the table.

Despite their age difference, Brees and Luck have similar 2017 estimates. Brees, like Brady, will eventually have age catch up with him. But this study doesn't indicate that Brees is at the cliff yet (I'm subjectively a little more pessimistic than the numbers are). 

Ryan's CY vs. NCY estimates differ by "only" a couple of FP/G and a few rank positions. I think the difference is starker than that. If you think 2016 was NOT Ryan's career year, historical numbers put him in the Top 5 in FP/G. But also that means he still has a season in him BETTER than 2016, so he has more upside to come, maybe this year. But if 2016 WAS his career year, not only will his 2017 numbers be lower – because he HAS to do worse than his career year – but he is very unlikely to be a value at his draft position. Remember that the "hi" FP/G estimate for career-year Ryan (18.7) would not have cracked the Top 12 in 2016. so the "Hi" rank of 8 is probably optimistic in this case and the median rank estimate (16) seems like a better number. 

Cousins' non-career year rank estimates are in line with the FP/G estimates. So while he stands 5th or 6th in this table (depending on your view of Ryan), he would be a marginal starter using these figures. That's how I'd like to draft him at this point, assuming he stays in DC. His career-year numbers are realistic downside guesses. If you think 2016 WAS his career year, then you will not end up with him on your roster: he will almost certainly be drafted higher than somewhere around the #17 QB off the board.

Bortles has decent upside if you look at his "Hi" rank estimate. All the other numbers put him substantially lower so he's a risky guy to draft as your starter (just on this data), but I'd be happy to have him as a high-ceiling backup.

The other two young QBs who cracked the 2016 Top 12, Mariota and Prescott, also have high upside if last year was NOT a career year. But unlike Bortles, they have much more downside because it's possible that 2016 was a good as they'll ever be. While I don't think last season was their career year(s), I'd be a lot more comfortable drafting them as a backup or pairing the two of them on my roster figuring one of them will deliver on his potential upside.

Lastly, Taylor has both less upside and less downside than Mariota and Prescott. I think his 2017 forecast relies on factors than aren't captured in this CY/NCY study, more so than probably any of the other 11 QBs in the table.

I know the table seems very pessimistic about the chances of any of last year's Top 12 repeating. Some of them will. But over the last 10 years, whether due to injury or declining performance, only 69 of 120 (58%) of the previous year's Top 12 ranked that high in the next season. The #1 QB in 2015, Cam Newton did not make it into the 2016 list (he was 14th). And 2016's #1, Rodgers, was 16th in 2015.

For reference:

Age

Career Year

Non-Career Year

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

22 to 24

-7.8

-23.5

31

23

-1.0

-4.7

11

6

25 to 28

-3.9

-11.0

17

11

-1.8

-8.0

15

11

29 to 31

-3.9

-12.8

19

20

-2.5

-9.4

16

12

32 to 34

-4.1

-10.9

15

14

-1.8

-7.8

15

11

35 to 37

-6.6

-17.6

22

15

-2.4

-10.2

16

13

All Top 12

-4.4

-12.9

19

15

-2.0

-8.4

15

11

 

Rank

Career Year

Non-Career Year

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

Top 4

-4.7

-8.8

11

8

-2.8

-9.0

11

6

#5-8

-3.6

-13.3

20

14

-1.7

-8.0

15

11

#9-12

-5.2

-19.6

30

25

-1.6

-8.3

19

15

All Top 12

-4.4

-12.9

19

15

-2.0

-8.4

15

11

 

Source of FP

Career Year

Non-Career Year

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

Change in FP/G in Year+1

Change in Rank in Year+1

Average Rank in Year+1

Median Rank in Year+1

<20% Rushing

-4.0

-11.8

17

15

-2.1

-8.9

16

12

>20% Rushing

-5.8

-17.7

24

20

-1.6

-6.0

12

6

All Top 12

-4.4

-12.9

19

15

-2.0

-8.4

15

11