By Joe Landers
Click Here if you missed the Introduction to the Series
Year 2 is the most common year for Quarterbacks to reach the peak season of their career. Unlike other positions, it’s not a steady decline from Year 4 through retirement. Year 11 is the third most common peak season after Year 2 and Year 3. The Year 11 names? Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees.
Since Year 11 QBs buck the trend of all other positions, I’m naturally interested in understanding what QBs are going into their 11th year in 2016 and whether or not they’re truly candidates to have the best season of their career. Who will be the Year 11 peaker? Only five QBs are even still in the league from the class of 2006 – Bruce Gradkowski, Charlie Whitehurst, Kellen Clemens, Jay Cutler, and Tarvaris Jackson. You decide which of those five has the best chance to have the best season of their career in 2016, if any. Take a look below to see more details about names from the past and present.
Year 2 is the norm for Quarterbacks, so our first list is of those who peaked in Year 2. The uniqueness of the QB position seems to be highlighted here. Boller, Leftwich, JaMarcus, and Freeman were all 1st rounders who management and coaches may have felt they needed to put on the field to validate taking them so high. This need to validate high picks probably colors every position a bit, but the compulsion seems to be more prevalent with QBs than any other.
The Norm – QBs Who Peaked in Year Two of Their Career
|Jeff Garcia||Kyle Boller|
|Byron Leftwich||Charlie Frye|
|Andrew Walter||Trent Edwards|
|JaMarcus Russell||Josh Freeman|
|Tyler Thigpen||Colt McCoy|
The second list shows six quarterbacks, despite some long and prolific careers, peaked as rookies. Their on-field productivity never again matched what they accomplished in their rookie seasons. The validation compulsion seems to creep in here with Young, Clausen, and Leinart, but Gradkowski, Weinke, and Batch came as surprises to me.
Rookie Peaks – QBs Who Peaked in Their Rookie Year
|Jimmy Clausen||Bruce Gradkowski|
|Matt Leinart||Vince Young|
|Chris Weinke||Charlie Batch|
This third list of ten quarterbacks represents late-career outliers – those who had their peak season beyond Year 5 of their career. As with other positions, if a big contract is on the table for a QB that’s beyond Year 5, I’d ask if they seem to fit in this group. Are they an anomaly like Fitzpatrick, Vick, Palmer, or Smith? If not, then they may not need to be a future Hall-of-Famer, but Hall-of-Great would seem to be a requirement.
Late-Peakers – QBs Who Peaked After Year 5 of Their Career
|Peyton Manning (16)||Carson Palmer (13)|
|Eli Manning (12)||Ryan Fitzpatrick (11)|
|Alex Smith (11)||Ben Roethlisberger (11)|
|Drew Brees (11)||Philip Rivers (10)|
|Michael Vick (10)||Tom Brady (8)|
In the fourth list, these QBs didn’t qualify for the study as they’re in the 2011 or later classes. However, they do have three years of productivity. Based on their career trajectory thus far, it appears their best season (in parentheses) might be in the rearview mirror. Newton, Russell, and Cousins have had relatively great seasons recently. 2012-2015, Cousins totals have been: 34, 32, 93, and 314. Russell 2012-2015: 269, 266, 312, and 341. Newton 2011-2015: 350, 309, 290, 236, and 382. Imagining any of them surpassing their best season so far seems far-fetched. They’d have to catch lightning in a bottle.
Current Players Who Seem to Have Peaked in First Four Years
|Kirk Cousins (4)||Robert Griffin (1)|
|Cam Newton (5)||Russell Wilson (4)|
|Brandon Weeden (1)||Geno Smith (1)|
|E.J. Manuel (1)||Tyrod Taylor (5)|
The last list of QBs are of those who seem to have their best season in the near future – 1-3 years. Based on career trajectories, here are six QBs that seem to fit the bill.
Peak Coming 1-3 Years
|Brock Osweiler||Derek Carr|
|Marcus Mariota||Teddy Bridgewater|
|Blaine Gabbert||Mike Glennon|
Next up – Defensive Ends