Aug 3, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) throws the ball during training camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Good, The Bad, and The Likely: Predicting All Possible Outcomes For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Freeman in 2013

So far this offseason, Josh Freeman has looked very solid in practices and drills during Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ training camp. Our friends at JoeBucsFan have been raving about him all offseason, even occasionally evoking comparisons to a certain quarterback who plays for the New Orleans Saints. And while I don’t think anyone should expect Drew Brees-like performances during the regular season from Josh Freeman, there is reason for optimism in Tampa Bay when looking ahead at the possible outcomes for Freeman in 2013. But what do the numbers say?

Rotoviz.com has an incredible resource which scans through recent performances by players at the same position, and assigns a similarity score to all of them, which means they are able to find out which players are statistically comparable, and spot trends before they happen. This doesn’t always work perfectly, because players don’t live inside of spreadsheets, but statistical comparisons tend to be the most fair way to predict future performance, as it removes bias and instead asks the question “Where does a player go from here based on the statistics he has posted so far?” (You can find the similarity scores app and more by clicking here.)

Let’s take a look at some of the data that comes from putting Josh Freeman’s 2012 season into the machine, and use it for the basis of our standard “Good, Bad and Likely” predictions.

Aug 8, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman (5) points as he calls a play during the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Good: Hey guys, Josh Freeman could be really, really good in 2013.

According to the similarity statistics, here are a couple of the players Josh Freeman could have a similar season to (as projected out over 16 games):

  • Peyton Manning, 2003 – 67% completion, 4267 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
  • Aaron Rodgers, 2009 – 65% completion, 4431 yards, 30 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
  • Matt Ryan, 2012 – 69% completion, 4719 yards, 32 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

Not a bad list to be compared to, eh? The truth is that Freeman has the talent and has shown the flashes of brilliance that prove he’s capable of this kind of performance. The completion percentages here might be a bit higher than what Freeman is capable of in the current offensive scheme, but what he would lack in completion percentage he would make up for in yards per attempt and possibly even increased touchdowns.

Want to get even crazier with the Josh Freeman projections? Let’s remove his two four INT games from late last season and see how he projects using the same prediction model. Make sure you’re sitting down when you read this:

  • Tom Brady, 2007 – 69% completion, 4795 yards, 50 touchdowns, 8 interceptions
  • Philip Rivers, 2009 – 65% completion, 4252 yards, 28 touchdowns, 9 interceptions
  • Peyton Manning, 2006 – 65% completion, 4393 yards, 31 touchdowns, 9 interceptions

You can recreate these results on the app to make sure I am not lying. There are statistics and algorithms that can correlate Josh Freeman’s 2012 without his two-week collapse to Tom Brady’s 2007 dominance and undefeated season. Now I don’t want anyone to get excited thinking that’s what’s going to happen, as one of the most frequently used words in statistical analysis is “outlier” and that’s exactly what Brady’s 2007 season was.

But in summarizing all of this data, and thinking about what a true “good” scenario for Josh Freeman would be, I have come up with this:

  • Josh Freeman, 2013 – 62% completion, 4568 yards, 33 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

This projection adjusts for his boom-or-bust mentality, and shows an improvement in touchdowns caused by a reduction in interceptions and an improvement in completion rate. I feel like this is 100% attainable by Josh in 2013, but I won’t be running to Vegas to put money on it just yet.

Aug 9, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) on the sidelines in the third quarter of a preseason game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Bad

You didn’t think this was going to be an entire post of “Compare Josh Freeman to Tom Brady” did you?

There are some bad, bad comparisons on the list for Freeman, too. Let’s take a look at some of the worst:

  • Aaron Brooks, 2005 – 55% completion, 3530 yards, 16 touchdowns, 21 interceptions
  • Mark Sanchez, 2012 – 54% completion, 3062 yards, 14 touchdowns, 19 interceptions
  • Elvis Grbac, 2001 – 57% completion, 3461 yards, 17 touchdowns, 21 interceptions

Ouch. The statistics for Josh Freeman have such a wide range of outcomes, it spans from MVP type performances all the way down to “benched in the middle of the season.” But the amount of turnovers and the lack of accuracy could take over for Josh in 2013 and quickly devolve into a mess like the stat lines listed above. It’s unlikely, but so are many of the great results listed above.

Even when you remove the two four interceptions games from the picture, there are still a few stinkers that show up on Josh’s similar seasons report. That’s because there’s still a concerning lack of accuracy that leads to comparisons to Trent Green and Matt Hasselbeck.

But here is the reasonable “bad” projection I have come up with, which I believe to be reasonable based on Josh’s improvement in 2012:

  • Josh Freeman, 2013 – 55% completion, 3700 yards, 20 touchdowns, 19 interceptions

I really don’t see Josh doing any worse than this. This would be a mistake filled season with a disappointing amount of touchdowns, but he’s going to get every chance to prove himself, and that means that his bad weeks will be balanced out with good weeks. Freeman is not going to be 2012 Mark Sanchez, because the talent around him gives him a floor of expected performance that is far ahead of anything based on the mess that was the 2012 Jets.

The Likely:

And now we get reasonable. Here are the two projections from the full season similarity score analysis that I believe most closely represent what we can expect from 2013 Josh Freeman:

  • Tom Brady, 2006 – 62% completion, 3528 yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
  • Jake Delhomme, 2005 – 60% completion, 3420 yards, 24 touchdowns, 16 interceptions

And while Buccaneers may have more laughable memories of Delhomme, the truth is he was a very effective quarterback who led his team farther than many could have expected during his prime in the mid-2000’s. So to be compared to Brady and Delhomme while still developing into an NFL quarterback at the age of 25 is an encouraging sign. I can see Freeman taking a step back in terms of overall production, as the defense will put him in better situations, and he’ll be able to rely on the running game more often. There will almost certainly still be boneheaded mistakes now and then, but overall the outlook for Freeman is positive. Those expecting a dominant NFL quarterback are likely to be disappointed, but as the Ravens and Giants have proven, NFL teams don’t need Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady to win a Super Bowl.

What is my realistic projection for Freeman for 2013?

  • Josh Freeman, 2013 – 60% completion, 3780 yards, 26 touchdowns, 14 interceptions

I can’t help but assume that Josh Freeman is going to be better in 2013. Barring an unforeseen tragic injury on offense there will be improvement, because there is talent surrounding Freeman for a second year running, and he’s a part of an offense that is entering its second year in a new system. Familiarity, improved defense, and hopefully increased health will all create a better situation around Freeman.

So what do you expect from Josh Freeman in 2013? Let us know in the comments below.

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