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Questioning Conventional "Wisdom" (Part 1):


SSOG

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NOTE: This original post is from 2010. For more recent numbers circa 2013, jump to Post #30 by Gawain. Thank you, and please carry on.

I've been meaning for a while to do a series of posts looking at "conventional wisdom" through the prism of historical results, and with the decade coming to a close, now seemed like a good time. For those that are unfamiliar with me and my style, I tend to be one of the biggest proponents of going deeper than the counting metrics and prizing things like efficiency. I'm also a huge fan of using historical models to predict future trends, which is what this post will be all about. I say this will be a "series", but to be honest, I'm not going into this with any preconceived notions about how many entries there will be. It could be 2, it could be 20- we'll see how the offseason goes.

Anyway, I wanted to kick this thing off with a personal pet of mine- I stumbled across this juicy little tidbit a couple of years ago, mentioned it in passing, and haven't really done a whole lot with it since. During the season, I promised during the dynasty thread to revisit the numbers after the season was over, so here we go. The genesis of this investigation was to determine what sort of characteristics top 10 fantasy QBs tended to share in order to better identify up and comers.

Anyway, in the past decade, there have been 100 top-10 fantasy finishes by 36 different QBs. In order to see just how long of a learning curve there typically was among top-10 QBs, I asked three questions. First, how many top 10 finishes did that QB see in his first two seasons in the NFL (note: a regular season only counts if the QB had at least 1 pass attempt)? Second, how many top 10 finishes did that QB see in the first two seasons where he was a regular starter (regular starter, for this exercise, means at least 6 starts)? Finally, how many top 10 finishes did that QB see in the first two seasons in which he had 14 or more starts?

To give an example... let's say Jim Bob started 0 games as a rookie, 16 games as a sophomore, 2 games as a junior, and 14 games in his 4th season. Let's say he finished 70th, 10th, 28th, and 4th, respectively. The answer to the first question (how many top-10 finishes in his first two years) would be 1 (his 10th place finish in his second year). The answer to the second question (how many top 10 finishes in the two years starting when he became his team's primary starter) would be 1 (he finished 10th in his first year as a regular starter, and missed the top 10 in the year immediately after). The answer to the third question (how many top 10 finishes in his first two seasons as the prohibitive starter) would be 2 (10th place in year 2, 4th place in year 4). This is designed to measure three things- how quickly a QB started producing after being drafted, how quickly a QB started producing after winning the starting job, and how the QB produced in his first two full (or mostly full) seasons as a starter.

10x Peyton Manning-

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 2

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 2

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

7x Brett Favre

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 2

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

6x Tom Brady

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

6x Drew Brees

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

5x Donovan McNabb

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

4x Trent Green

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

4x Daunte Culpepper

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

4x Aaron Brooks

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Steve McNair

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 2

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Rich Gannon

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0 (although he did finish 11th in 11 games)

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Jeff Garcia

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Tony Romo

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Philip Rivers

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

3x Kurt Warner

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Matt Hasselbeck

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

3x Carson Palmer

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

3x Marc Bulger

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

2x Mike Vick

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

2x John Kitna

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

2x Drew Bledsoe

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

2x Ben Roethlisberger

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

2x Eli Manning

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

2x Aaron Rodgers

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 2

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

2x Kerry Collins

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

2x Jake Plummer

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Matt Schaub

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Jay Cutler

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Matt Cassell

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Chad Pennington

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Derrick Anderson

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Jake Delhomme

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Kordell Stewart

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Jay Fiedler

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

1x Elvis Grbac

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

1x Mark Brunell

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 0

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 2

1x Shaun King

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after entering the league: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two seasons after earning the starting job: 1

Number of top-10 finishes in his first two 14+ start seasons: 1

Now, the totals:

Out of 36:

Number of QBs with at least one top-10 finish in their first 2 season: 16 (44.4%)

Number of QBs with at least one top-10 finish in the 2 seasons after earning the starting job: 28 (77.7%)

Number of QBs with at least one top-10 finish in their first two full seasons as a starter: 36 (100%)

Out of 100:

Number of top-10 finishes by a QB with at least 1 top-10 finish in their first 2 season: 56 (56%)

Number of top-10 finishes by a QB with at least 1 top-10 finish in the 2 seasons after earning the starting job: 81 (81%)

Number of top-10 finishes by a QB with at least 1 top-10 finish in his first two full seasons as a starter: 100 (100%)

To unpack that a little bit more, here are my thoughts on the data.

#1- Sitting for a couple of years doesn't mean anything. Over half of the top-10 QBs were not starters from day 1, including Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Steve McNair, just to name a few. As a result, the fact that he started his career as a reserve should not be held against guys like Chad Henne.

#2- Despite the fact that conventional wisdom says that no position has a steeper learning curve than QB, more than 4 out of every 5 top-10 finishes this decade went to a QB who was a top-10 fantasy QB within his first two years as a starter. Even "nobodies" like Jon Kitna, Jay Fiedler, and Shaun King managed a top 10 finish within their first two years as a starter.

#3- No QB who played two "full" seasons (14+ games) without a top-10 finish ever went on to finish in the top 10 at any point during the entire last decade. Remember- a top-10 finish isn't particularly impressive when you play a full 16 games. In any given season, you might only have 20 QBs play 14+ games (this year, only 23 QBs managed the feat), so a top 10 finish is merely "top 50%".

What does this mean going forward? Here's a brief list of QBs who fall into the various categories-

2 years in the league, no top-10 finishes (guys you don't necessarily have to worry about, based on historical data):

Joe Flacco, Troy Smith, Matt Leinart, Trent Edwards, Matt Ryan, Matt Moore, Kyle Orton, Drew Stanton, Rex Grossman, Sage Rosenfels, Chad Henne, Kevin Kolb, Kellen Clemens, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Vince Young, Jason Campbell

Guys who were named starters 2 or more years ago with no top-10 finishes yet (guys you should be mildly concerned about):

Joe Flacco, Matt Leinart, Trent Edwards, Matt Ryan, Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Vince Young, Jason Campbell, David Garrard

Guys who have started 14+ games exactly once who don't yet have a top-10 finish (guys you shouldn't necessarily worry about... unless they do it again):

Alex Smith, Rex Grossman, Matt Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Kyle Boller, Trent Edwards, Jamarcus Russell

Guys who have started 14+ games at least twice without cracking the top 10:

Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton (3 such finishes), Jason Campbell, Vince Young, David Garrard, David Carr

Now, obviously the standard disclaimers apply- just because it didn't happen once in the last decade doesn't mean it might not happen 4 times next year alone. Just because Jon Kitna's career followed a certain path, or Rich Gannon's career followed a certain path, doesn't mean that Matt Ryan's will follow the same exact path. Every single NFL player is different and should be judged on a different set of standards. With that said... I do think that this presents some major concerns about guys like Ryan and Flacco, and even 2nd-tier QBs like Young, Smith, Garrard, or Campbell. A smart dynasty owner right now should be asking exactly how much they believe in those players and perhaps checking to see what they would be able to get in exchange. Matt Ryan might still wind up turning into another Brady, Brees, or Trent Green... but I think the actual risk surrounding Ryan right now probably significantly exceeds the perceived risk.

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Stafford didn't start 14 games. Does that mean he has 2 chances left ot meet the magic top 10 finish and still perhaps have a decent career?

You're right, my bad.As for the second part... as I said, every player is different and has to be judged by a different set of standards. The fact that no NFL WR had ever played a snap after his 40th birthday certainly didn't stop Jerry Rice from putting up 1200 yards in 2002. If Chad Pennington had gotten 1 more start in 2004, then there would have been 1 QB last decade who had a pair of 14+ start seasons with no top 10 finish who later went on to post a top 10 finish. If that had happened, it wouldn't have impacted Stafford's chances of finishing in the top 10 in the slightest (or Ryan's or Flacco's, for that matter). Obviously these are radically different players in radically different situations, and how one player produces next season won't be impacted by how an unrelated player on an unrelated team produced against an unrelated schedule 9 years ago. My intention was never for this to be a "Sell Matt Ryan for a 3rd round dynasty pick now!" thread. I just think it's interesting and valuable to know that no QB in the past decade started his career like Matt Ryan and still became a top 10 fantasy QB. A big key to success is identifying trends before everyone else and capitalizing on inefficiencies in the market, and this is potentially a glaring market inefficiency.Of course, the corollary to the "guys that don't start fast generally don't become studs" point is the "studs generally start fast" point. In other words, because so many QBs finish in the top 10 in their first or second year as a starter, perhaps it's time to evaluate whether the fantasy community is undervaluing first or second year starters. Someone who is convinced that Matt Stafford is a future stud should look at these numbers and think "maybe I'm underestimating Stafford's chances of being a fantasy contributor as early as NEXT SEASON".
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Nice work.

This makes me feel good about the pitiful Sanchez/Henne starting duo that I drafted in my current 16 team dynasty league.

I've always subscribed to the idea that "what you see is what you get" with players. It's pretty rare for someone to become a star after looking like crap for years, but it does happen occasionally (Drew Brees, Vernon Davis, Thomas Jones).

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Nice work, as always. I enjoy your analysis & like how you get right to the point.

Drew Brees was the player that stood out to me in the analysis. If he weren't benched for Flutie in 2003, he would be the exception since he played 9 or 10 pretty terrible games at that point.

To turn this on its head a bit - could it be that there IS a steep learning curve at QB, but front offices and coaches and fans are just extremely impatient? A player who hasn't shown anything in two years will be given a very short leash in future years? The Chargers gave up on Brees and moved on. If he didn't start putting up some numbers immediately in 2004 (or if the team didn't start winning) it is entirely possible that he becomes a career backup. Just some food for thought.

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Nice work, as always. I enjoy your analysis & like how you get right to the point.

Drew Brees was the player that stood out to me in the analysis. If he weren't benched for Flutie in 2003, he would be the exception since he played 9 or 10 pretty terrible games at that point.

To turn this on its head a bit - could it be that there IS a steep learning curve at QB, but front offices and coaches and fans are just extremely impatient? A player who hasn't shown anything in two years will be given a very short leash in future years? The Chargers gave up on Brees and moved on. If he didn't start putting up some numbers immediately in 2004 (or if the team didn't start winning) it is entirely possible that he becomes a career backup. Just some food for thought.

It's clear the the length of your leash is correlated with the salary you're being paid. High draft picks get a longer leash, while later picks have, on average, less room for error.

That said, Brees is just one example and yes, it appears that perhaps his leash was too short. On the other hand are guys like Harrington, Carr, arguably Russell, Kyle Boller, Rick Mirer, Quincy Carter. Alex Smith looked like a guy who was a bust and was being kept around too long, but he played alright last year. It's a pretty fluid process.

My only point being that some great QBs will probably stink for far longer than normal while many crappy QBs stink again and again and again. As a GM, the focus isn't just on not letting the star QB go; knowing when to cut bait on a bust is just as important, as playing a bad QB over and over again can set back the team year after year. Tarvaris Jackson might one day turn into a great QB but that doesn't mean Minnesota shouldn't have decided to go after Favre last year. With QBs, it would be nice if they all developed at the same rate and it was easy to see which ones would be great and which ones would not; unfortunately, it's just not that easy.

But again, Bart Star was not only a late round pick but a bust after three seasons in the league. No one could have blamed the Packers for deciding after the '58 season that the Starr experiment was over, which is exactly what they did.

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Now, obviously the standard disclaimers apply- just because it didn't happen once in the last decade doesn't mean it might not happen 4 times next year alone. Just because Jon Kitna's career followed a certain path, or Rich Gannon's career followed a certain path, doesn't mean that Matt Ryan's will follow the same exact path. Every single NFL player is different and should be judged on a different set of standards. With that said... I do think that this presents some major concerns about guys like Ryan and Flacco, and even 2nd-tier QBs like Young, Smith, Garrard, or Campbell. A smart dynasty owner right now should be asking exactly how much they believe in those players and perhaps checking to see what they would be able to get in exchange. Matt Ryan might still wind up turning into another Brady, Brees, or Trent Green... but I think the actual risk surrounding Ryan right now probably significantly exceeds the perceived risk.

Interesting analysis and I commend you for taking the time to look into the matter. However (and just speaking for myself) I find this of value as being more of a curiosity than anything else.

The conventional wisdom here just goes beyond bloggers, sports commentators and fantasy wonks. From every interview I have read with a QB they seem to ascribe to it also - at least I have never heard any QB say anything remotely close to "that learning curve thing is a myth." Straight from the horses mouth (so to speak).

Secondly, as noted in the bolded section, I find it impossible to evaluate the QB position without looking at the particular situation that the individual QB was in. And your conclusions don't really add much to the information I have.

I think most people already have some legitimate major concerns about Flacco and Ryan - and why wouldn't they, based on their Fantasy production?

I personally think that Flacco will turn out to be a good one, based on what I have seen and the fact the Ravens are slowly transitioning to being truly competative on the offensive side of the ball. However I would not be shocked if he ultimately fizzles out.

I own Ryan in one league and can't say if he can ultimately cut it, but I didn't need any historical trends to tell me that.

As far as the second tier QBs are concerned, I doubt anyone in Dynasty leagues are building their franchise on the future production of Young, Smith, Garrard or Campbell.

That being said, I appreciate the work you put in on this, and you could well be right that many will find this helpful in spotting future trends (although I do remain skeptical).

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Every single NFL player is different and should be judged on a different set of standards.

Thanks for all the data, I think it certainly raises the bar so to speak for young QBs. But the above quoted is still the major element to consider when evaluating fantasy potential. If I really think a player is going to develop no trend is going to change my mind. But this post certainly makes a strong case for being extra sure you want to take a shot at a young QB developing late.
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Of course, the corollary to the "guys that don't start fast generally don't become studs" point is the "studs generally start fast" point. In other words, because so many QBs finish in the top 10 in their first or second year as a starter, perhaps it's time to evaluate whether the fantasy community is undervaluing first or second year starters. Someone who is convinced that Matt Stafford is a future stud should look at these numbers and think "maybe I'm underestimating Stafford's chances of being a fantasy contributor as early as NEXT SEASON".

On the flip side, does being a top 10 QB really even mean much? I mean, most years that just means that you starting 16 games and were decent. I would imagine that many of the bottom top 10 guys are guys who spend much of their time on their fantasy team's bench in favor of guys putting up better per game numbers, and just not playing all 16 games to finish in the top 10 at the end.For instance Jay Cutler and Eli Manning were top 10 guys this year, and really were just solid backups as far as fantasy goes. Even Jason Campbell barely missed the top 10, and I doubt many successful fantasy teams were starting him.
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Of course, the corollary to the "guys that don't start fast generally don't become studs" point is the "studs generally start fast" point. In other words, because so many QBs finish in the top 10 in their first or second year as a starter, perhaps it's time to evaluate whether the fantasy community is undervaluing first or second year starters. Someone who is convinced that Matt Stafford is a future stud should look at these numbers and think "maybe I'm underestimating Stafford's chances of being a fantasy contributor as early as NEXT SEASON".

It's a very interesting read and appreciated. I'm not so sure though that recent guys like Ryan, Sanchez, Stafford or Flacco necessarily will never finish top 10 if they don't do so right away (first two seasons). This is now a pass happy league, so the competition for a top 10 finish is now more broad than it was even 10 years ago.Right now there are many good young QBs in addition to the veterans that have been doing it year in and year out putting up stats that were unheard of in past seasons - so it will be harder for a youngster to break into the Top 10. Perhaps Matt Ryan's rookie season would have been a top 10 finish 10 years ago (not sure).Also it will depend on how a player is used early. Peyton Manning went to a very bad Colts team that had nothing to lose by having him heave it up. In addition to his great first year yardage and TD totals, he also threw 28 interceptions. A player like Flacco started for a playoff Raven team that had strong runners and a good defense so he was only asked to play game manager as a rookie and as he learns can be trusted more.Please don't read this as me saying what you posted is useless - I just think it's a good tool to consider, but you also have to look at the individual talents and opportunity's as well.
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I've been meaning for a while to do a series of posts looking at "conventional wisdom" through the prism of historical results, and with the decade coming to a close, now seemed like a good time. For those that are unfamiliar with me and my style, I tend to be one of the biggest proponents of going deeper than the counting metrics and prizing things like efficiency.

Since you prefer efficiency metrics, as opposed to compiler metrics, one quick question. If you had an endless amount of time, do you think that we would glean better information if we looked at QB's on a per game metric (or some other metric) as opposed to year end point total? What else are you looking at when evaluating QB's.
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My initial comment was only a notation of Stafford's starts and the rest was tongue in cheek. I think you have been more than clear that you don't claim the results to be reliably predictive and believe every situation must be judged on its own facts. Still, that NO QB in the last decade has ever started 14 games in two seasons and gone on to have a top 10 finish is something to think seriously about.

As FreeBaGet notes, finishing top 10 may not mean that much (since so many QBs miss time and simply staying on the field to start 14 games can get you into the top 15 most years) but that may be a big part of the lesson. If you DO start 14 games twice and still can't reach the top 10 either of those healthy years (with so many other QBs not getting that many starts) perhaps we should have serious doubts about your upside.

Obviously, Leinart now comes into a better situation to finish top 10 if starting 14 games than Flacco did - and that has to be taken into account when analyzing, but this is solid research and an empirical way to look at young QBs and success potential that we ingore at our peril. Thanks for the effort and posting! These concepts and the analysis of something I would never have considered are why I'm here. I think anyone that treats a trend like this as purely anecdotal is passing by a significant tool, particularly for dynasty QB evaluations.

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My initial comment was only a notation of Stafford's starts and the rest was tongue in cheek. I think you have been more than clear that you don't claim the results to be reliably predictive and believe every situation must be judged on its own facts. Still, that NO QB in the last decade has ever started 14 games in two seasons and gone on to have a top 10 finish is something to think seriously about.

As FreeBaGet notes, finishing top 10 may not mean that much (since so many QBs miss time and simply staying on the field to start 14 games can get you into the top 15 most years) but that may be a big part of the lesson. If you DO start 14 games twice and still can't reach the top 10 either of those healthy years (with so many other QBs not getting that many starts) perhaps we should have serious doubts about your upside.

Obviously, Leinart now comes into a better situation to finish top 10 if starting 14 games than Flacco did - and that has to be taken into account when analyzing, but this is solid research and an empirical way to look at young QBs and success potential that we ingore at our peril. Thanks for the effort and posting! These concepts and the analysis of something I would never have considered are why I'm here. I think anyone that treats a trend like this as purely anecdotal is passing by a significant tool, particularly for dynasty QB evaluations.

I think the key phrase to keep in mind is "so far." I'd be absolutely shocked if Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Vince Young and David Garrard go on to have 0 future top 10 finishes.

I think you'd ideally look at all retired players before making judgments on a player's career. So you might want to look at the top 10 QBs in the '90s instead of the '00s; if all of the 100 QBs in the '90s had at least one top 10 finish in their first two seasons of starting 14 games, that would mean a lot more. We know that's not true, though. Off the top of my head, Vinny Testaverde and Warren Moon violate this (they were top 10 fantasy QBs in at least one season in the '90s, but did not finish in the top 10 in either of their first two seasons of 14+ starts).

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My initial comment was only a notation of Stafford's starts and the rest was tongue in cheek. I think you have been more than clear that you don't claim the results to be reliably predictive and believe every situation must be judged on its own facts. Still, that NO QB in the last decade has ever started 14 games in two seasons and gone on to have a top 10 finish is something to think seriously about.

As FreeBaGet notes, finishing top 10 may not mean that much (since so many QBs miss time and simply staying on the field to start 14 games can get you into the top 15 most years) but that may be a big part of the lesson. If you DO start 14 games twice and still can't reach the top 10 either of those healthy years (with so many other QBs not getting that many starts) perhaps we should have serious doubts about your upside.

Obviously, Leinart now comes into a better situation to finish top 10 if starting 14 games than Flacco did - and that has to be taken into account when analyzing, but this is solid research and an empirical way to look at young QBs and success potential that we ingore at our peril. Thanks for the effort and posting! These concepts and the analysis of something I would never have considered are why I'm here. I think anyone that treats a trend like this as purely anecdotal is passing by a significant tool, particularly for dynasty QB evaluations.

I think the key phrase to keep in mind is "so far." I'd be absolutely shocked if Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Vince Young and David Garrard go on to have 0 future top 10 finishes.

I think you'd ideally look at all retired players before making judgments on a player's career. So you might want to look at the top 10 QBs in the '90s instead of the '00s; if all of the 100 QBs in the '90s had at least one top 10 finish in their first two seasons of starting 14 games, that would mean a lot more. We know that's not true, though. Off the top of my head, Vinny Testaverde and Warren Moon violate this (they were top 10 fantasy QBs in at least one season in the '90s, but did not finish in the top 10 in either of their first two seasons of 14+ starts).

It looks like those two were the only guys in the '90s to do it, while Richard Todd and Joe Ferguson also matched that feat. I simply wouldn't put too much stock into hard rules like that, as obviously 14+ starts is an arbitrary number.
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I would also say that it is MUCH harder for a young QB to gain access to the top-10 right now than at any point in recent memory.

If you look at the recent history at the position, we have seen season records for TDs broken TWICE in the past 3 years, the number of 4000 yard passers has expanded GREATLY, and the stats are just so high now that it is hard to break into that top-10 group.

If you look at the #10 passing scorer in my league last season, Eli Manning, he had:

4021 yards, 27 TD and 14 INT. In most years that I remember, that would have easily been a top-5 or better season.

In comparison, big bro Peyton's 2008 season was almost identical:

4002 yards, 27 TD and 12 INT. And that season, Peyton was #6 at Qb.

I would say that in most years aside from the past 3 or 4 seasons, Flacco's numbers would have easily been top-10. 3613 yards, 21 TD and 12 INT. It has just become such a pass-happy league that the bar is just that much higher.

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I would also say that it is MUCH harder for a young QB to gain access to the top-10 right now than at any point in recent memory.If you look at the recent history at the position, we have seen season records for TDs broken TWICE in the past 3 years, the number of 4000 yard passers has expanded GREATLY, and the stats are just so high now that it is hard to break into that top-10 group.If you look at the #10 passing scorer in my league last season, Eli Manning, he had:4021 yards, 27 TD and 14 INT. In most years that I remember, that would have easily been a top-5 or better season. In comparison, big bro Peyton's 2008 season was almost identical:4002 yards, 27 TD and 12 INT. And that season, Peyton was #6 at Qb.I would say that in most years aside from the past 3 or 4 seasons, Flacco's numbers would have easily been top-10. 3613 yards, 21 TD and 12 INT. It has just become such a pass-happy league that the bar is just that much higher.

Not sure I follow here; it's also much easier for an average Qb to throw for 3613 yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs. A rising tide lifts all ships, to to speak. I don't see why it would be any harder for a young QB to be top 10 right now, just like I wouldn't say it was easier than ever for a young Qb to be top-10 since defenses are so handicapped now compared to in prior years that it's easier for a young QB to amass huge numbers.
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I'd be absolutely shocked if Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Vince Young and David Garrard go on to have 0 future top 10 finishes.

I think you'd ideally look at all retired players before making judgments on a player's career. So you might want to look at the top 10 QBs in the '90s instead of the '00s; if all of the 100 QBs in the '90s had at least one top 10 finish in their first two seasons of starting 14 games, that would mean a lot more. We know that's not true, though. Off the top of my head, Vinny Testaverde and Warren Moon violate this (they were top 10 fantasy QBs in at least one season in the '90s, but did not finish in the top 10 in either of their first two seasons of 14+ starts).

I think that 2 guys doing it since 1990 is just about as strong evidence as no one doing it for the last decade (with Pennington being 1 start away). I don't think SSOG meant this, or that we should apply it, as a hard and fast rule. But if you don't look at your list of guys and start to say to yourself that if 2 guys in 20 years have done this, how many of this group are likely to ... then maybe you assume things always happen afresh and reliance on trends offers you nothing.

I tend to think that Ryan and Flacco have a good chance, but would bet that you don't get more than one from the rest of those guys careers, and wouldn't expect any (Campbell with Shanny seems to me the only likely exception). More significantly to me, its a new reason to question whether Ryan and Flacco will join the guys who are fantasy QB studs - ALL of whom showed greater results compared to QBs of the day in their first two 14+ game seasons. And I realize the fact that these guys first two 14 game seasons came when they had less time in the league than most of the others ... but I won't dismiss the significance of this lesser production out of hand.

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I think that 2 guys doing it since 1990 is just about as strong evidence as no one doing it for the last decade (with Pennington being 1 start away). I don't think SSOG meant this, or that we should apply it, as a hard and fast rule. But if you don't look at your list of guys and start to say to yourself that if 2 guys in 20 years have done this, how many of this group are likely to ... then maybe you assume things always happen afresh and reliance on trends offers you nothing. I tend to think that Ryan and Flacco have a good chance, but would bet that you don't get more than one from the rest of those guys careers, and wouldn't expect any (Campbell with Shanny seems to me the only likely exception). More significantly to me, its a new reason to question whether Ryan and Flacco will join the guys who are fantasy QB studs - ALL of whom showed greater results compared to QBs of the day in their first two 14+ game seasons. And I realize the fact that these guys first two 14 game seasons came when they had less time in the league than most of the others ... but I won't dismiss the significance of this lesser production out of hand.

I think you really need to look on a case by case basis. And, the 2 guys since 1990 is misleading because of what I said earlier -- most of the guys we're talking about are still young. You need to look at guys who have retired, otherwise it's meaningless. Ryan and Flacco both started from day 1 which is highly unusual; comparing them to QBs who sat seems silly. Look down the list:10x Peyton Manning - the exception to all, but was good (FF-wise) right away and good (NFL-wise) by year two7x Brett Favre - didn't play his first season, top 10 in year 26x Tom Brady - didn't play his first season, mediocre fantasy player year two6x Drew Brees - didn't play his first season, mediocre fantasy player year two5x Donovan McNabb - played a bit as a rookie but didn't do much; top 10 in year 24x Trent Green - DNP his first four seasons, spent some time in Canada, threw one pass attempt in year 5, top ten the next seasonI'm not going to go down the list, but I think you get the point. Flacco and Ryan are only joined by Joe Ferguson and Warren Moon (who I mentioned above), Peyton Manning, Jim Plunkett and Norm Snead as QBs to start 14 games or more their first two seasons. It's not a coincidence that Ferguson and Moon were two of the only QBs who didn't reach top 10 fantasy status in their first two seasons where they started 14 games and that they're on this list; most QBs aren't good enough to play well as rookies. The fact that Ryan and Flacco have done pretty well their first two seasons is a good sign, not a bad one. I think it's much more valuable to look at QBs by age than to look at QBs by number of seasons with 14 starts.
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Recognizing that you have the credentials here, I'll still disagree. First, I think 20 years takes into account a lot of young QBs and their production. I think SSOG said something like 36 in the last decade, and I'll assume that with spillover, maybe that figure is a little bit less for the preceeding decade. If 58 of 60 QBs fit the same pattern, for me that's worth looking at - recognizing that any one coming up might be another exception. But I'll agree to that its a case by case determination and one size doesn't fit all. I guess SSOG's data will just be useful to me and not to you.

But I think trying to evaliuate QB production by age, however, will give you a lot less consistent results than evaluationg by first and second full seasons as a starter.

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Interesting analysis and I commend you for taking the time to look into the matter. However (and just speaking for myself) I find this of value as being more of a curiosity than anything else.The conventional wisdom here just goes beyond bloggers, sports commentators and fantasy wonks. From every interview I have read with a QB they seem to ascribe to it also - at least I have never heard any QB say anything remotely close to "that learning curve thing is a myth." Straight from the horses mouth (so to speak).

To be clear, I was never questioning whether QBs had a steep learning curve from an NFL perspective. I certainly think it's easily demonstrable that QBs aren't really at their peak until their 4th or 5th season. I was merely looking at it from a fantasy perspective. A QB can be a great fantasy QB and still a mediocre or worse NFL QB. The question being addressed was whether fantasy QBs hit their stride quickly or generally take a while before becoming fantasy relevant.

On the flip side, does being a top 10 QB really even mean much? I mean, most years that just means that you starting 16 games and were decent. I would imagine that many of the bottom top 10 guys are guys who spend much of their time on their fantasy team's bench in favor of guys putting up better per game numbers, and just not playing all 16 games to finish in the top 10 at the end.For instance Jay Cutler and Eli Manning were top 10 guys this year, and really were just solid backups as far as fantasy goes. Even Jason Campbell barely missed the top 10, and I doubt many successful fantasy teams were starting him.

I absolutely agree. I don't think a 10th place fantasy finish in a year where you play 16 games is really that high of a bar by any stretch. Which is why it should be a concern if a QB fails to reach that bar twice.

Since you prefer efficiency metrics, as opposed to compiler metrics, one quick question. If you had an endless amount of time, do you think that we would glean better information if we looked at QB's on a per game metric (or some other metric) as opposed to year end point total? What else are you looking at when evaluating QB's.

Yes, if I had unlimited time or a #####in' database and some mad database-manipulation skills, I would have much rather looked at the subject through the prism of points per game. Also, if I had any statistical background other than one college stats class, I'd love to do fun stuff like run regressions and find best-fit models and run chi-squared tests and find confidence intervals and all that other stuff that I don't have the experience or background to do anything with.Unfortunately, though, I have to just make do with what I got.
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Since you prefer efficiency metrics, as opposed to compiler metrics, one quick question. If you had an endless amount of time, do you think that we would glean better information if we looked at QB's on a per game metric (or some other metric) as opposed to year end point total? What else are you looking at when evaluating QB's.

Yes, if I had unlimited time or a #####in' database and some mad database-manipulation skills, I would have much rather looked at the subject through the prism of points per game. Also, if I had any statistical background other than one college stats class, I'd love to do fun stuff like run regressions and find best-fit models and run chi-squared tests and find confidence intervals and all that other stuff that I don't have the experience or background to do anything with.Unfortunately, though, I have to just make do with what I got.
You did a great job. I was just curious how you would approach it in an ideal scenario because I think your reasoning is top notch.
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Great information, thanks for compiling it.

I think historical trends are very useful in at least one aspect, and that is to provide PERSPECTIVE. Sometimes some of us make decisions based on the wrong perspective; generically speaking, maybe assuming some obstacle is overcome much more often than it is actually overcome, and we pay too much to acquire a player in said situation.

However, and SSOG and others have addressed this, historical trends are not predictive when applied to individual players. This was my biggest pet peeve last year in the "Steven Jackson is Injury Prone" threads, arguments were being made based in part on historical trends, and trends with fairly small samples to boot. Which is not to say Jackson is or isn't injury prone, just that it has nothing to do with historical trends.

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I did a quick scan of this thread so apologies if I missed it, but what is the exact definition of "A Top 10 QB Finish?" Are you using QB Rating, Fantasy Points, Yardage, TD's, Fantasy End Season Rankings?

Fantasy points, as taken from www.pro-football-reference.com. The goal wasn't to gauge a player's NFL effectiveness, it was simply to gauge his value as a fantasy asset.
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I think that 2 guys doing it since 1990 is just about as strong evidence as no one doing it for the last decade (with Pennington being 1 start away). I don't think SSOG meant this, or that we should apply it, as a hard and fast rule. But if you don't look at your list of guys and start to say to yourself that if 2 guys in 20 years have done this, how many of this group are likely to ... then maybe you assume things always happen afresh and reliance on trends offers you nothing. I tend to think that Ryan and Flacco have a good chance, but would bet that you don't get more than one from the rest of those guys careers, and wouldn't expect any (Campbell with Shanny seems to me the only likely exception). More significantly to me, its a new reason to question whether Ryan and Flacco will join the guys who are fantasy QB studs - ALL of whom showed greater results compared to QBs of the day in their first two 14+ game seasons. And I realize the fact that these guys first two 14 game seasons came when they had less time in the league than most of the others ... but I won't dismiss the significance of this lesser production out of hand.

I think you really need to look on a case by case basis. And, the 2 guys since 1990 is misleading because of what I said earlier -- most of the guys we're talking about are still young. You need to look at guys who have retired, otherwise it's meaningless. Ryan and Flacco both started from day 1 which is highly unusual; comparing them to QBs who sat seems silly. Look down the list:10x Peyton Manning - the exception to all, but was good (FF-wise) right away and good (NFL-wise) by year two7x Brett Favre - didn't play his first season, top 10 in year 26x Tom Brady - didn't play his first season, mediocre fantasy player year two6x Drew Brees - didn't play his first season, mediocre fantasy player year two5x Donovan McNabb - played a bit as a rookie but didn't do much; top 10 in year 24x Trent Green - DNP his first four seasons, spent some time in Canada, threw one pass attempt in year 5, top ten the next seasonI'm not going to go down the list, but I think you get the point. Flacco and Ryan are only joined by Joe Ferguson and Warren Moon (who I mentioned above), Peyton Manning, Jim Plunkett and Norm Snead as QBs to start 14 games or more their first two seasons. It's not a coincidence that Ferguson and Moon were two of the only QBs who didn't reach top 10 fantasy status in their first two seasons where they started 14 games and that they're on this list; most QBs aren't good enough to play well as rookies. The fact that Ryan and Flacco have done pretty well their first two seasons is a good sign, not a bad one. I think it's much more valuable to look at QBs by age than to look at QBs by number of seasons with 14 starts.
:lmao: This well highlights my own thoughts. Nice work by SSOG, but I think this data is slightly skewed. (Self-fulfilling by nature.)
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I would also say that it is MUCH harder for a young QB to gain access to the top-10 right now than at any point in recent memory.If you look at the recent history at the position, we have seen season records for TDs broken TWICE in the past 3 years, the number of 4000 yard passers has expanded GREATLY, and the stats are just so high now that it is hard to break into that top-10 group.If you look at the #10 passing scorer in my league last season, Eli Manning, he had:4021 yards, 27 TD and 14 INT. In most years that I remember, that would have easily been a top-5 or better season. In comparison, big bro Peyton's 2008 season was almost identical:4002 yards, 27 TD and 12 INT. And that season, Peyton was #6 at Qb.I would say that in most years aside from the past 3 or 4 seasons, Flacco's numbers would have easily been top-10. 3613 yards, 21 TD and 12 INT. It has just become such a pass-happy league that the bar is just that much higher.

Not sure I follow here; it's also much easier for an average Qb to throw for 3613 yards, 21 TDs and 12 INTs. A rising tide lifts all ships, to to speak. I don't see why it would be any harder for a young QB to be top 10 right now, just like I wouldn't say it was easier than ever for a young Qb to be top-10 since defenses are so handicapped now compared to in prior years that it's easier for a young QB to amass huge numbers.
He's right though Chase. Time was, a wide open pass happy offense was run ONLY when you had a stud QB. Now, teams run offenses that feature wide open passing attacks, and sticking QB's into those roles who would not have been just 10 years ago. As a result, many mediocre QB's are putting up good numbers, crowding (and clouding) the picture for the young studs (in the making). As you explained, they certainly don't preclude a young stud from achieving top ten, but it's certainly harder now then it was before.
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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 years later...

So I knew I had heard something about QBs and top-ten finishes, but couldn't quite remember it, so I did my own research over the past 10 years. Surprisingly enough when we think of the QB talent that entered the league in the past 3 years, out of the 100 top-ten finishes, there are now 37 quarterbacks that own at least one, only one more than when SSOG did this after the 2009 season.

Also, reference the post by gandalas that says this is the toughest time for a young QB to break the top-ten, when we just had Luck, RG3, Wilson and Newton post top-ten seasons in only their first or second year.

I don't even know if I just made the top-ten finishes up to be quite honest. I was sure that I had heard the theory from someone though.

So, I decided to look it up. I treated any season where a QB had 8 more appearances as a started season, though I made a note if the QB didn't play 13 or more games. In the past 10 years, 37 quarterbacks have had one or more top ten finishes.

Of those 37 quarterbacks, 16 of them cracked the top-ten in their first year as a starter. (Rodgers, Newton, RG3, P. Manning, Wilson, Luck, Rivers, Favre, Warner, Cassel, Anderson, Bulger, Kitna, Culpepper, Green, Brooks)

Of the 21 remaining quarterbacks, 13 had their first top-ten appearance in their second season as a starter. (Brady, Romo, Stafford, E. Manning, Vick, Freeman, Cutler, McNabb, Palmer, Bledsoe, Delhomme, Plummer, McNair)

That leaves 8 of 37 that recorded a top-ten finish after their first two years as a starter. Five QB's broke through in their third year, but three of the five had not managed to play full seasons during their first two starting seasons in the league.

Drew Brees broke the top-ten in his third year as a starter, but he only played 11 games during his second year in the league. He's probably the biggest "miss" of this theory, because he didn't give much indication that he would blossom into his perennial top-3 status. Heck, he was benched for Flutie.

Matt Ryan broke into the top-ten in his third year as a starter. He is probably the second biggest "miss" of this theory, but even with his development, his career high finish is seventh. He has recorded three straight top-ten finishes, but hasn't finished top-six yet, so he's still a below average starter in a 12-team league.

Marc Sanchez recorded his one top-ten finish in his third season, placing as tenth best quarterback for the year. His fourth season was no where near as successful. He finished with 28 more points than #11 Michael Vick, but Vick was ahead of Sanchez on a PPG basis.

Matt Schaub cracked the top-ten in his third season, with a fifth place finish, but his first two seasons were only 11 games each and he posted decent, if not overly impressive PPG averages.

Matt Hasselbeck made the top-ten in his third year after two pedestrian finishes, but he only started 12 games and 10 games in his first two years. In his first 16 game season, he had a third place finish.

The remaining three quarterbacks that broke into the top 10 after their third season are Ben Roethlisberger, Kerry Collins and Chad Pennington.

Roethlisberger broke through in his fourth season with a fourth place finish and has one other top ten finish on his resume. Some of that could be attributed to getting dinged (he only has one 16-game season to his credit), but with the exception of 2007, Big Ben has likely never won someone their fantasy league.

Kerry Collins had his first top-ten season in 2000, his sixth season in the league and has two top-ten finishes to his credit (8th and 9th). His first top-ten finish was the first time he managed to start 16 games in a season.

Chad Pennington had his one and only top ten finish (10th) in 2008 in his ninth season in the league. 2008 was also only the second season Pennington managed to get through a full season as well.

All three of these guys have some sort of injury problems that limited their ability to start a full season, but who knows if that can be applied to quarterbacks moving forward.

2012:

1) Brees: (Year 1=18th, Year 2=26th (only 11 games), Year 3=8th)

2) Rodgers: (Year 1=3rd, Year 2=1st)

3) Brady: (Year 1=19th, Year 2=6th)

4) Newton: (Year 1=5th, Year 2=4th)

5) RG3: (Year 1=5th)

6) P. Manning: (Year 1=9th, Year 2=4th)

7) Ryan: (Year 1=15th, Year 2=19th, Year 3=8th)

8) Romo: (Year 1=17th, Year 2=2nd)

9) Wilson: (Year 1=9th)

10) Luck: (Year 1=10th)

2011: (Just QBs not listed already)

4) Stafford: (Year 1=26th (10 games), Year 2=4th)

6) E. Manning: (Year 1=36th, Year 2=5th)

9) Rivers: (Year 1=8th, Year 2=15th)

10 Sanchez: (Year 1=25th, Year 2-19th, Year 3=10th)

2010: (Just QBs not listed already)

3) Vick: (Year 1=35th (8 games), Year 2=3rd)

7) Freeman: (Year 1=27th, Year 2=7th)

10) Schaub: (Year 1=23rd (11 games), Year 2=21st (11 games), Year 3=5th)

2009: (Just QBs not listed already)

3) Favre: (Year 1=7th, Year 2=7th)

9) Roethlisberger (Year 1= 20th, Year 2=17th, Year 3=15th, Year 4=4th)

2008: (You know the drill)

4) Warner: (Year 1=1st, Year 2=14th (11 games), Year 3=1st)

5) Cutler: (Year 1=11th, Year 2=5th)

7) McNabb: (Year 1=37th, Year 2=5th)

8) Cassel: (Year 1=8th, Year 2=21st)

10) Pennington (Not listing the all, 5th season playing 10 games or more)

2007:

6) Anderson: (Year 1=6th, Year 2=31st)

7) Hasselbeck: (Year 1=30th, Year 20=20th, Year 3=3rd)

9) Palmer: (Year 1=23rd, Year 2=1st)

2006:

4) Bulger: (Year 1=9th, Year 2=11th)

6) Kitna: (Year 1=8th, year 2=18th)

2005:

7) Bledsoe: (Year 1=15th, Year 2=4th)

8) Delhomme: (Year 1=15th, Year 2=6th)

9) Collins: (Had two top 10 finishes, first one was in his fifth year)

10) Plummer: (Year 1=21st, Year 2=8th)

2004:

2) Culpepper: (Year 1=1st, Year 2=15th)

4) Green: (Year 1=7th, Year 2=17th)

10) Brooks: (Year1 1=8th, Year 2=5th)

2003:

6) McNair: (Year 1=32nd, Year 2=6th)

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