2017 Stat Predictions for All 32 NFL Starting Quarterbacks
Quality quarterback play is the foundation for winning in the NFL. It's also maddeningly difficult to find.
Teams with a solution to the quarterback problem can feel confident that, at the least, they have a chance to be in playoff contention. To reach even the base of that postseason mountain a team's quarterback play needs to either improve or stay at a consistently high level.
Who will reach that level in 2017? Let's dial up the ol' prediction machine and try to forecast the final stats for every starter (or potential starter) this upcoming season. I assure you every prediction I've ever attempted has been exactly correct.
Each starter's completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions in 2017 have predictions in the slides that follow. Recent performance, age and offseason moves to improve a quarterback's supporting cast were the primary factors taken into consideration. In cases where the Week 1 starter likely won't stay in that position for a full season, stats for an "eventual starter" are also listed.
The quarterbacks are divided by division, starting with the AFC East.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 65.5 completion percentage, 5,100 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTS
At some point, Tom Brady will start playing like a 40-year-old. That's the age he'll turn just after the beginning of training camp in August, and no amount of quinoa consumption can fight off the football age demons forever.
But Brady may win that fight longer than most. He certainly won't lose it in 2017 after the Patriots added wide receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Dwayne Allen, who will line up alongside a healthy Rob Gronkowski.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: 64.9 completion percentage, 3,560 yards, 26 TDs, 10 INTs
Ryan Tannehill is still a little difficult to gauge statistically, even after a successful season under first-year Dolphins head coach Adam Gase in 2016. He seemed confident and comfortable in Gase's offense, and that resulted in growing connections with wide receivers Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker, along with five games when he averaged at least 8.5 yards per passing attempt.
But Gase also heavily managed Tannehill's throws, asking him to attempt only 38 passes that traveled 20-plus yards in the air during the 2016 season (28th). That approach could easily lead to two straight playoff appearances for the Dolphins. But it won't translate to booming numbers for Tannehill.
Josh McCown, New York Jets (four games): 55.4 completion percentage, 1,300 yards, 6 TDs, 8 INTs
About four games is the standard length for the Josh McCown experience.
The journeyman will be lucky to last much longer than a quarter of the year during a season set to spiral fast for the New York Jets. The soon-to-be 38-year-old can't withstand the physical punishment of being an NFL starter for long, and his accuracy is pedestrian during the best of times. McCown completed only 54.5 percent of his pass attempts for the Cleveland Browns in 2016.
After McCown bows out due to either poor play or an injury, the Jets will likely go about the business of losing games by trotting out 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg, and that won't end well.
Christian Hackenberg (eventual starter): 53.4 completion percentage, 2,880 yards, 12 TDs, 10 INTs
Right now, Hackenberg is behind McCown and Bryce Petty on the depth chart, though that doesn't mean too much in May. Eventually, the Jets need to see if the Penn State product can shake the draft-bust label after they inexplicably selected him 51st overall. There's not much hope following a 2016 preseason when Hackenberg completed only 36.2 percent of his throws against preseason scrubs.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills: 62.1 completion percentage, 3,360 yards, 20 TDs, 8 INTs
Like Tannehill, it's difficult to feel confident about any projection for Tyrod Taylor. Over 29 starts for the Buffalo Bills, we've seen two vastly different quarterbacks. The guy we saw in 2015 who averaged 8.0 yards per attempt was terrific. But then that per-attempt average fell by over a full yard in 2016 to 6.9, and Taylor's indecisiveness in the pocket also contributed to 42 sacks.
If wide receiver Sammy Watkins can stay healthy, then the 2015 version of Taylor could return fast. But if that doesn't happen, he might take another step back.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: 65.1 completion percentage, 3,952 yards, 23 TDs, 11 INTs
Joe Flacco has been the Ravens' starting quarterback since 2008, and he's led his team to six playoff berths, 10 playoff wins and a championship. But the 32-year-old has never produced eye-popping numbers because of how the defense-first Ravens are structured.
He owns a career completion percentage of 61.5, a per-attempt passing average of 6.9 yards and a modest single-season high of 27 touchdown passes. And he's not about to suddenly break free from that history in 2017 after the Ravens lost wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and Kamar Aiken in the offseason.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: 64.3 completion percentage, 4,250, 28 TDs, 13 INTs
It's easy to find support for both your sunny Andy Dalton thoughts in 2017 and the doomsday terror.
The cheery outlook comes from the draft additions of wide receiver John Ross and running back Joe Mixon. Ross set a new 40-yard-dash record at the combine at 4.22 seconds after hauling in 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns during his final year with the Washington Huskies. And Mixon finished his time at Oklahoma with 1,812 yards from scrimmage in 2016.
Then the possible coming darkness can be found in the free-agency departures of tackle Andrew Whitworth and guard Kevin Zeitler following a season in which Dalton was sacked 41 times.
My prediction here falls somewhere in the middle.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: 64.4 completion percentage, 4,783 yards, 36 TDs, 13 INTs
Health is the only hurdle between Ben Roethlisberger and an eruption in 2017. That's no small road block for a 35-year-old quarterback who last played a full 16-game season in 2014.
But if he can manage to stay upright and in one piece, Roethlisberger will be at the center of an offense oozing with talent. Martavis Bryant has been reinstated, and prior to his suspension, the towering 6'4" receiver had caught 14 touchdown passes over only 21 regular-season games.
The Steelers also added wideout Juju Smith-Schuster with their second-round pick in 2017, and he's fresh off two straight double-digit touchdown years with USC.
Toss in the usual brilliance from running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown, and Big Ben might not want to retire for a while.
Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns: 62.1 completion percentage, 2,720 yards, 17 TDs, 13 INTs
A healthy Cody Kessler might actually start all 16 games for the Browns. His challengers for the starting job are underwhelming at best.
Brock Osweiler flamed out with the Houston Texans and might not even be on the Browns' Week 1 roster, even though he recently told reporters he has what it takes to be a starter. Kevin Hogan averaged four yards per attempt as a rookie in 2016. And although 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer comes with plenty of potential, he still needs time to develop.
So it looks like Kessler will have the keys for now, and the offense around him suddenly has some youthful life. Wide receiver Corey Coleman, 22, is back from injury, and the Browns traded up in the 2017 draft to land tight end David Njoku at No. 29 overall. The 2014 New Balance outdoor high-jump champion averaged 16.6 yards per reception with nine touchdowns over two years with the Miami Hurricanes.
But can even those added weapons, along with wide receiver Kenny Britt, elevate Kessler's mediocre talent? Probably not, as he's a place holder at best.
Tom Savage, Houston Texans (10 games): 60.0 completion percentage, 1,700 yards, 9 TDs, 6 INTs
The Houston Texans have spouted off all the standard lines we often hear when a team wants to bring its prized young quarterback along slowly. The Texans used a first-round pick on quarterback Deshaun Watson (No. 12 overall), and shortly after, head coach Bill O'Brien told Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com that Tom Savage would still be the starter.
The standout from Clemson has some learning to do before being tossed into the NFL fire. Even after losing cornerback A.J. Bouye in free agency, the Texans defense is strong enough to float Savage for a while. But he's still a seat-warmer—and the worst kind because Savage has struggled to stay healthy. Having him start a little over half the season feels like the most optimistic scenario.
DeShaun Watson (eventual starter): 62.1 completion percentage, 1,550 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs
Watson can give the Texans what they desperately need after three straight 9-7 seasons. He ended his career at Clemson with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 41-17 in 2016. Watson can grown into a passer capable of making key throws in clutch moments, rising above Houston's recent history of caretaker quarterbacks.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: 57.7 completion percentage, 4,160, 25 TDs, 16 INTs
The Jaguars collected lots of defensive talent in free agency, highlighted by signing Bouye and defensive end Calais Campbell. And they added a dynamic offensive force by selecting running back Leonard Fournette in the first round at No. 4 overall. But a problem remains: Blake Bortles is still their quarterback.
Bortles still has inconsistent mechanics, and that's led to poor ball placement. He's thrown 51 interceptions over just three NFL seasons, second in the league over that time. Almost 3 percent of his pass attempts have ended in interceptions, so it's tough to have faith Bortles will salvage his career.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: 63.8 completion percentage, 4,608 yards, 30 TDs, 12 INTs
Andrew Luck put together a quality season in 2016, and there's no reason to think a passer just now entering his prime years at the age of 27 won't do it again. He averaged a career single-season high 7.8 yards per attempt and finished with a solid rating of 96.4.
But shaky line play held him back. He was sacked 40-plus times for the second time in his five-year career, and he only played seven games in 2015 after suffering a lacerated kidney. That line weakness could once again limit how high the Colts offense soars.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: 63.1 completion percentage, 3,760 yards, 30 TDs, 10 INTs
Marcus Mariota sizzled in his second season before suffering a broken leg in late December. He showed tremendous growth as a pocket passer and became a lethal force once he combined his newfound confidence with his natural athleticism.
The result of all that in 2016 was only nine interceptions and 26 touchdown passes over 15 games. And he played those contests without No. 5 pick Corey Davis and third-round pick Taywan Taylor, new wide receiver weaponry added during the 2017 draft.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: 66.0 completion percentage, 3,480 yards, 18 TDs, 6 INTs
Alex Smith is good at not being bad.
That's basically been his job description with the Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Andy Reid's watch. The Chiefs have asked him to mostly stay out of the way while handing off and not making any big mistakes. Then he looks like a real franchise quarterback every so often by completing a throw that travels beyond spitting distance in the air.
Smith has ranked 24th or worse in yards in the air during each of the past two seasons. And with the difficulty level of his throws so low, he's thrown only 28 interceptions over four years in Kansas City. Eventually, the Chiefs will need a quarterback who make game-altering throws more consistently, which is why they traded up to take Patrick Mahomes at No. 10 overall in this year's draft.
Trevor Siemian, Denver Broncos: 60.8 completion percentage, 3,635 yards, 20 TDs, 11 INTs
Siemian will be fighting off Paxton Lynch for the Denver Broncos' starting quarterback job. But it might not be much of a fight unless Lynch dramatically improves on his lackluster rookie season.
Lynch looked lost both in the preseason and during his two spot starts in 2016 after the Broncos selected him with a first-round pick at No. 26 overall. In the preseason, he averaged only 6.7 yards per pass attempt, and that fell to an even more lowly 6.0 yards during the regular season.
Siemian can keep doing his Alex Smith impression while being an adequate game manager until the Broncos find a better long-term solution.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: 64.1 completion percentage, 4,550 yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs
Derek Carr was headed toward serious MVP consideration during just his third NFL season before stumbling a bit in December and then suffering a broken leg on a sack. A repeat performance for both him and a surging Raiders offense is easily within reach in 2017, especially with the support of running back Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
Carr logged nine interception-free games in 2016 and hasn't thrown multiple picks in a game since Week 15 of 2015.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers: 63.5 completion percentage, 4,483, 30 TDs, 16 INTs
It's possible the Philip Rivers we saw in 2016 is here to stay. That's always a fear when a 35-year-old quarterback flames out and sets a single-season career high in interceptions (21).
But it feels much more possible that Rivers rebounds swiftly with wide receiver Keenan Allen healthy and joined by 2017 No. 7 overall pick Mike Williams.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: 63.4 completion percentage, 4,225 yards, 28 TDs, 14 INTs
The end is coming for 36-year-old Eli Manning. But the Giants added the right talent in the right places to make sure he doesn't catapult into a career wall until at least 2018.
That talent includes velcro-handed receiver Brandon Marshall, a 6'4" possession target who has recorded six seasons with 100-plus catches. It also includes 2017 No. 23 overall pick Evan Engram, and the tight end finished with 926 receiving yards and eight touchdowns during his final season with Ole Miss.
Manning is out of excuses. And he'll soon be out of time too.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles: 63.5 completion percentage, 4,080 yards, 24 TDs, 12 INTS
The Eagles need the early 2016 version of Carson Wentz to come back. And to help in the search for that guy, they brought in wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.
They're both far more sure-handed than the top receivers Wentz was throwing to in 2016. According to PhillyVoice's Jimmy Kempski, Jordan Matthews, Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor combined for 26 drops during Wentz's rookie season. So feeling more secure with his targets should be a major boost.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins: 65.8 completion percentage, 4,872 yards, 29 TDs, 14 INTs
By placing the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins in 2016, the Redskins asked their quarterback to prove himself. He did that, and he did it loudly while averaging 307.3 passing yards per game. Cousins still had some shakiness in the early going, however, as he threw six interceptions over the Redskins' first six games.
There's new talent around him now, with wide receivers Josh Doctson (who had injury issues during his rookie campaign) and Terrelle Pryor Sr. replacing Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, who both departed during free agency. The task ahead for Cousins, then, is to develop a connection with his new targets quickly while making sure the high-powered offense doesn't sputter.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: 66.1 completion percentage, 3,800 yards, 27 TDs, 7 INTs
No two rookie quarterbacks look the same or have the same trajectory. But often a bumpy road greets the first-year passer, with successes balanced out by harsh learning experiences. That didn't happen with Dak Prescott.
Prescott didn't play like a rookie in 2016, and was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year because of it. His passing yards didn't climb to another stratosphere because of Dallas' run-oriented offense centered around running back Ezekiel Elliott. That won't change in 2017, but neither will Prescott's status as the league's most promising young quarterback.
Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings: 65.2 completion percentage, 4,150 yards, 22 TDs, 10 INTs
At this point in his career, the Sam Bradford experience has become familiar. He's a fine short-term option or someone who can coast along throwing short-to-intermediate passes with the help of a strong running game.
And that'll be just fine for the Vikings in 2017. Ideally, they'll want Bradford to air it out a bit more while hopefully not getting him walloped behind an improved offensive line. But for the most part, a run-focused offense will revert to its natural form after losing running back Adrian Peterson in 2016 and replacing him with 2017 second-round pick Dalvin Cook.
The Vikings will ask Bradford to do a little more. But not too much because he's still a quarterback with a career per-attempt passing average of 6.6 yards.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 65.8 completion percentage, 4,520 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTs
You never have to look far to be dazzled by something Aaron Rodgers has done on a football field. You can take your pick from a long list, though his precision and care with the ball over a long period stands out.
Rodgers has been the Packers' starting quarterback since 2008. Over that time he's attempted the sixth-most passes in the league. And during those nine seasons, he's finished only two with double-digit interceptions.
It doesn't seem to matter who is around him. Rodgers is frequently lofting balls deep and dropping them into buckets or zipping them through tight holes. That won't change in 2017, especially not with tight end Martellus Bennett aboard.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: 65.6 completion percentage, 4,425 yards, 26 TDs, 11 INTs
Matthew Stafford was steady during a white-knuckle 2016 season, engineering a record-setting eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. And efficiency and quality decision-making partly made those drives possible. Stafford logged four games with three-plus touchdown passes and threw just one interception over an eight-game stretch.
He can repeat those numbers—or possibly improve upon them—if the rushing offense provides better support after guard T.J. Lang and tackle Ricky Wagner signed with the Lions in free agency.
Mike Glennon, Chicago Bears: 58.4 completion percentage, 3,584 yards, 20 TDs, 16 INTs
Forget about Mike Glennon's contract for a second (reminder: it's bad), and let's just focus on the last time he did something meaningful in the regular season.
That came back in 2014, when he made five starts for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Glennon completed just 57.6 percent of his attempts while throwing 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
He's now little more than an expensive short-term option for the Bears. The leash will be short because it always is when a second overall pick is standing on the sideline. But since Mitchell Trubisky started only 13 games in college, he'll likely have to wait for his turn until late in the year when the Bears' season is lost.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 62.4 completion percentage, 4,435 yards, 32 TDs, 14 INTs
The Buccaneers loaded their pass-catching talent reserves around Jameis Winston. That started with signing marquee free-agent wide receiver DeSean Jackson. It continued during the draft when the Bucs selected tight end O.J. Howard and wideout Chris Godwin at No. 19 and No. 84 overall, respectively.
Now that there's much more support around Winston, he doesn't have to become magnetized to wide receiver Mike Evans, who was targeted 175 times in 2016.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 69.1 completion percentage, 5,150 yards, 36 TDs, 13 INTs
Much like Brady, there's a fear with Drew Brees that he may tumble down an age cliff, never returning to form again.
But also much like Brady, Brees isn't showing any signs of fading to black as he enters his age-38 season. In 2016, he threw for 5,208 yards, his second-highest career single-season total.
That performance came with wide receiver Brandin Cooks as a top target, though he's gone after a trade to the New England Patriots. But Ted Ginn is replacing Cooks, and his deep speed is the ideal match for Brees' strong arm. And Brees should receive plenty of support from a multifaceted backfield that includes Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: 58.7 completion percentage, 3,645 passing yards, 23 TDs, 12 INTs
Cam Newton posted a stunning amount of career single-season lows in 2016. Some of that was his responsibility, as the 28-year-old's accuracy vanished for long stretches, resulting in a completion percentage of only 52.9.
But many of Newton's struggles were out of his control because he was whacked constantly. The Panthers QB was sacked 36 times in 2016 and hit as he threw another 10 times. That punishment led to arthroscopic shoulder surgery in March.
When Newton hopefully returns healthy by the start of training camp this summer, an offense that's gone through a face-lift will greet him. The focus won't solely be on him, forcing Newton to create chunk plays constantly. Instead, 2017 No. 8 overall pick Christian McCaffrey can do that in space, and so can slot receiver Curtis Samuel (selected No. 40 overall).
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: 68.7 completion percentage, 5,100 passing yards, 35 TDs, 9 INTs
There's little reason why much should change after Matt Ryan's MVP season. The only area of slight concern is his interceptions—and the possibility of a regression there.
Ryan isn't old yet as a quarterback at the age of 32. But he's not young either, and it's unusual to see a dramatic improvement in decision-making so late in a passer's career.
Ryan threw a career single-season low seven interceptions in 2016. Prior to that, he was averaging 13.4 interceptions per year over eight seasons.
Maybe what we saw in 2016 is the new normal. But remember, Ryan is still only one year removed from a season with 16 interceptions.
Brian Hoyer, San Francisco 49ers: 58.6 completion percentage, 3,225 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs
The 49ers had an impressive offseason, inserting key building blocks throughout the roster. The highlight was adding defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster in the draft at No. 3 and No. 31 overall, respectively .
They wisely passed on taking a quarterback early during a questionable draft class at the position. That means for now Brian Hoyer gets the keys of an offense he's familiar with after making 13 starts for the Cleveland Browns in 2014, when Kyle Shanahan—the 49ers' new head coach—was the offensive coordinator. Hoyer is now 31 years old, and he's still a temporary solution.
Hoyer was effective for the Chicago Bears with less talent around him in 2016. In five starts, he recorded 300-plus passing yards four times without throwing an interception. If Shanahan can coax that sort of play out of him again, the 49ers' rebuild might move along a little more swiftly.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: 66.7 completion percentage, 4,165 yards, 28 TDs, 9 INTs
If the Seahawks offensive line can take even a baby step forward through either coaching or the addition of tackle Ethan Pocic in the second round of this year's draft, then Wilson will likely keep charging ahead too.
He's mastered the ability to whirl, dodge and create massive gains amid chaos. But the Seahawks offense would benefit from one season without Wilson getting sacked 40-plus times, which hasn't happened since 2012.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: 63.7 completion percentage, 4,255 yards, 24 TDs, 15 INTs
Palmer hasn't said anything official about retiring after the 2017 season yet. But at the age of 37, he's likely headed into his final year.
His medical report is lengthy, including two torn ACLs, and taking 40 sacks in 2016 didn't help. The Cardinals and head coach Bruce Arians are well aware of Palmer's limitations as he ages. That is why dynamic running back David Johnson has progressively shouldered more of the offensive load. That shift will continue in 2017, which is good for the Cardinals offense and bad for Palmer's overall production.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams: 57.8 completion percentage, 2,930 yards, 18 TDs, 13 INTs
Goff recently told Myles Simmons of the Rams' official website that he's having an easier time picking up new head coach Sean McVay's offense. That is a welcome development, of course, though it's also a standard offseason storyline that clutters the chatter coming from OTAs.
Goff's problem as a rookie was the game seemed too fast for him. He wasn't able to read the field well and get the ball out both quickly and accurately. That resulted in seven interceptions and a whopping 26 sacks over seven starts.
He should be able to at least crawl forward a bit in his development in a new offense. Leaping ahead will be tough without a true field-stretcher among his wide receivers.