Sam Bradford’s 2013 Season Projections vs 2013 Season Leaders

"<strong

Sam Bradford entered the 2013 regular season with plenty of questions yet to be answered.  Despite his immense talent and physical skills he had yet to truly prove he was the “Franchise Quarterback” the Rams hoped he would be when they drafted him first overall in 2010.  It was going to be Bradford’s first season under the same offensive coordinator, with some new pricey additions to bolster both his protection and improve his receiving options.  The Rams made a big splash in the draft by moving up to snatch Tavon Austin in an attempt to provide the offense with the game changer it had been missing for nearly a decade.  There were supposed to be no more “excuses” for Sam Bradford, NFL pundits everywhere labeled it as a “make or break” year even though Jeff Fisher and Les Snead insisted that Bradford was their QB of the future.  The Rams were fresh off of a 4-1-1 showing within the NFC West including going 1-0-1 against the NFC’s Super Bowl representative.  Expectations were high that they would improve on their 2012 season and challenge for a playoff spot in 2013, led by an up and coming defense and a Bradford-centric offense.

The Rams started the season with a come from behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals at home, and then followed it up with a near comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.  Bradford was sensational in the first two games, but the complete lack of a running game was creating a heavy workload for the young QB.  In the first two weeks Bradford threw the ball 93 times and, aside from two tipped ball pick sixes, was playing at a very high level.  During weeks 3 and 4 the Rams struggled mightily as a team, including Bradford as the Cowboys and the both dominated the Rams en route to 24 point victories.  The lack of a running game was hurting the Rams offense and defense, and it appeared as if the Rams were going to miss the departed Steven Jackson more than anyone had anticipated.  In week 5 the Rams inserted Zac Stacy as the starting running back and reduced Bradford’s pass attempts quite a bit in a victory over the Jaguars.  Through the first four weeks Bradford was throwing an average of 45.5 passes per game, but in week 5 the Rams had much better balance running the ball 36 times for 143 yards led by Stacy who had 14 carries for 78 yards.  In week 5 Bradford threw the ball “only” 34 times  as the Rams offense underwent something of an identity change, from a spread offense to a power running team.  The newfound running game combined with some improved defensive and special teams plays lead to improved play from the Rams and some impressive performances by Bradford.  In weeks 5 and 6 Bradford posted 105.3 and 134.6 passer ratings while throwing 6 TDs and 0 INTs, he was on a bit of a hot streak entering their week 7 matchup with the Carolina Panthers and their impressive defense.

The week 7 game in Carolina started about as poorly as it could for the Rams.  On the opening play from scrimmage Bradford wanted to go deep, but Zac Stacy couldn’t quite pickup the blitzing safety who hit Bradford’s arm as he released the football.  Instead of what was potentially an 80 yard TD pass turned into another tipped ball pick six and an early deficit for the Rams.  Bradford did manage to recover from the early setback quite nicely throwing for 255 yards and a touchdown while completing 70% of his passes.  His numbers would have been even more impressive if not for a tripping penalty wiping out a big TD pass to Tavon Austin, and the dropped TD pass by Brian Quick as the Rams were trying to rally.  It was on the next possession that Bradford tore his ACL while scrambling towards the sideline and the Rams season took on a whole new feeling.  Of course even with Bradford going down the Rams managed to push forward and remain competitive through most of their games, and even spring a few upsets against playoff teams behind an imposing defense and powerful running game.  It is impossible to say exactly how Bradford and the offense’s season would have gone had he remained healthy.  Would the newfound running game have opened up big play opportunities for players like Jared Cook, Tavon Austin, and Chris Givens?  Would it have reduced opportunities for Bradford to maintain his breakout pace?

For this article we will make a couple of statistical projections based upon the statistics Bradford did produce when healthy, and then compare those statistics to that of the 2013 regular season leaders.  First we will look at a full season projection based upon the pace he had set during weeks 1-7.  I have put where Bradford’s projected number would have placed him among the actual statistical results from the 2013 season in parenthesis for Yards, TD, and TD-INT margin.

Completions

Attempts

Yards

Comp. %

YPA

TD

INT

TD-INT Margin

Bradford (1-7 Pace)

363

599

3856 (12th)

60.7

6.44

32

(T 4th)

9

+23

(T 4th)

A quick look at the numbers shows that Bradford was on pace for an impressive 2013 season.  Anytime  quarterback could manage to throw for 32 TDs and fewer than 10 INTs you know they are playing at a high level.  This got me thinking though, just how impressive is that statistical accomplishment in the NFL?  I decided to see how many times some of the NFLs best veteran QBs have managed to throw for over 3,200 yards, 32 TDs and less than 10 INTs in a season. The great Peyton Manning has managed the feat 2 times over 15 seasons as a starting QB in the NFL, Tom Brady has managed it 3 times over 12 seasons, and Aaron Rodgers has accomplished it 2 times in his 6 seasons as a starter.  That is a grand total of 7 such seasons over 33 NFL seasons from 3 of the NFLs best QBs and arguably 2 of the greatest of all time.  I also looked at 8 other starting QBs that are typically accepted as very good or elite level QBs.  Jay Cutler, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, and Drew Brees have combined for a grand total of zero such seasons over 68 combined seasons as starting Quarterbacks.  This was actually quite the surprise to me, as I didn’t figure that 32 TD and 10 or fewer INTs would be such a rare feat.

Next I decided to see what Bradford’s pace looked like from just the games where Zac Stacy was the starting RB, and see how that impacted his statistical output.  It seems to me that the improved running game was likely to improve Bradford’s numbers virtually across the board, while reducing the total number of attempts and probably passing yardage.  Below I have made a table of Bradford’s statistics from weeks 5-7, the weeks where Stacy took over at running back while Bradford was still healthy.

Completions

Attempts

Yards

Comp. %

YPA

TD

INT

TD-INT Margin

Bradford (5-7)

52

80

594

64.8

7.42

7

1

+6

When you look at the numbers one thing that jumps out to me is the Yards Per Attempt (YPA) number is nearly a full yard higher than in the week 1-7 numbers.  His 7 TDs to only 1 INT is also an impressive margin, while his completion percentage improved nearly 5 percent.  The yardage and total number of attempts were way lower than his week 1-4 pace, but a small part of that can be attributed to Bradford only playing 3.5 quarters of week 7.  The run heavy offense seemed to have the impact you would normally expect, fewer attempts and yards for the QB but with higher YPA and completion percentage numbers.  The next thing that I decided to do was to see how the offensive philosophy would impact Bradford’s statistical projection and end of the year rankings if added to the week 1-4 numbers.  Below you will see the actual statistics from weeks 1-4 added to the statistical pace from weeks 5-7 projected for the rest of the season, with his end of the season ranking in parenthesis again.

Completions

Attempts

Yards

Comp. %

YPA

TD

INT

TD-INT Margin

Bradford (1-4 + 5-7 Pace)

315

502

3469 (15th)

62.7

6.91

35

(3rd)

7

+28

(2nd)

When looking at these numbers it is clear the run game impacts the total yardage number, but the efficiency of the passing game is improved and Bradford’s TD to INT margin is very impressive.  In fact, if Bradford had managed this pace and achieved 35 TDs he would have tied Steve Young (1994) and Brett Favre (1997) for 25th most TDs in a single season in NFL history.  Or in Rams lore he would have achieved the 3rd ranking in franchise history behind Kurt Warner‘s 41 in 1999 and 36 in 2001.  While it is highly possible Bradford would have fallen well short of these numbers if he remained healthy, it seems fairly clear he was playing at a pretty high level prior to the injury.

Was Bradford perfect before the injury?  Of course not, he still seems to struggle a little bit with pocket presence and avoiding pass rushers.  He has the 3rd best INT thrown rate among active NFL quarterbacks behind Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, but part of that is because he never takes a chance on the big play like Rodgers will.  Bradford could improve on several aspects of his game, as the play action fake is an area he has struggled with since entering the NFL.  Of course weeks 1-4 no one would fall for the run fake anyway, but Bradford needs to be better at selling the fake than he has been.  Projecting Bradford’s statistics for the entire NFL season is obviously anything but an exact science, and this article isn’t intended to make a case for Bradford among the NFL’s elite QBs based on the projections.  Instead I wanted to see if the projections supported my gut feeling that Bradford was playing much better than most fans and analysts had given him credit for.  Bradford has a long road ahead of him in terms of his rehab and recovery to get back to where he was before week 7, and the Rams would be wise to draft a player capable of being a backup with upside and/or someone who could push him as the starter.  I firmly believe the Rams will stick with Bradford as they have an opportunity to shore up a talented young roster with another strong draft class, and can’t afford to spend a high pick on a quarterback if they expect to compete for the playoffs in 2014.  Bradford has shown flashes of brilliance in his brief NFL career, but has also had some very poor performances as well.  Can he and the rest of the Rams turn the corner towards being more consistent in 2014, or is he never going to reach his immense potential?  Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!

Topics: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams

Want more from Ramblin' Fan?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.
  • Beer O’Clock

    Interesting read, Troy. Enjoyed it.

    • tvandenbark

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and for the feedback! Go Rams!!

  • Pingback: Where would the Rams have finished with Sam Bradford? - Ramblin' Fan - A St. Louis Rams Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and more.

  • Pingback: Breakfast Links: No offseason for Palmer | Spiked KoolAidSpiked KoolAid | Football News, Analysis and Discussion

  • Gary Stewart

    as a ram fan for 50 years now yep years i think 1 more year to get the team on track is only fair but…with the weapons and defense and this years draft sam gets only 2014 in my book and if he fails i say sit him in 2015 while we groom a new qb. i dont care as much about the numbers except the number under the W column get it together sam im behind you but not forever and a great read troy

    • tvandenbark

      Thanks for reading, glad you enjoyed it. I am with you, wins are the most important thing but the Rams as a team weren’t very good Bradford’s first 3 seasons. This year felt like they have finally put some pieces in place, which was proven somewhat after Bradford went down and they still remained competitive. If Bradford and the Rams manage a mostly healthy season in 2014 without seeing major progress then its definitely time to consider the options. Food for thought regarding replacing Bradford this season, highest rated QB in 2014 draft gets a 91 grade from Scouts Inc. Bradford had a 97 grade from the same Scouts Inc in 2010.

      • Gary Stewart

        troy, im with you i dont like the incoming class of qb as much as i like the one we have i simply feel we need to loosen the reins, let him play maybe one more big body wr im closer to giving up on quick then i am on bradford

        • tvandenbark

          Quick definitely hasn’t lived up to his draft position, but the Rams knew he was a “project”. The thing about him is he has a combination of size and athleticism that no other Rams WR possesses, and very few WRs in the entire NFL for that matter. His specialty in college was being the guy that won the “50/50″ ball type of play. I believe 2 or 3 of his NFL TD’s have come on such plays. He has also become a force as a run blocker on the edge, and even showed much improved ability to use his size to get position on defenders. He is a work in progress, but Bradford’s injury hurt his numbers and development probably as much as anyones. In my opinion anyway.

          • Gary Stewart

            im not saying we cut quick just add another big body wr like watkins or mike evans and if quick earns time great if he sits its because we got someone better

          • Gary Stewart

            the orange bowl just ended watkins had a monster game he caught my eye j ust wish i knew how good the ohio state defense is but wow

          • Blaine Grisak

            Right?! At this point, even if the Rams can’t trade down from two, Id want them to take Watkins, the guy is a playmaker on the outside, which is what the Rams need, and in my opinion he can be an elite receiver. Givens and Quick are on the hot seat right now in my books.

          • Gary Stewart

            if we could just get the trade down 2 to 4 and 25 watkins would be there at 4 dix at 13 and at least 1 acceptable o lineman would be there at 25, if somehow we miss watkins, evans is a bit bigger he would be a pretty good consolation at 13 which if watkins was gone after 3 someone has to be there at 4 either barr or matthews or clowney . this is fun a bit of a mind spinner but fun!! id take any 2 matthews clowney barr or watkins if matthews is one of the 2 go corner at 25 if not go o line at 25 no matter which 2 dix is in the mix as well

  • Pingback: Rams, Fisher, Standing Behind Quarterback Sam Bradford