Bucky Brooks is trying to predict rookie quarterbacks' success over at NFL.com. Predictions are notoriously hard, and pure statistic predictions are fun but usually not all that useful. Still, it's fun to see what he'll predict -- and what you folks think is more (or less) realistic.
Best-case scenario: Winston hits the ground running as the on-field director of a Dirk Koetter offense that features an explosive vertical passing game complemented by a steady ground attack. With receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson wreaking havoc on the perimeter and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins controlling the middle of the field, Winston could lead the Buccaneers back toward .500 as a rookie starter.
Worst-case scenario: Despite assembling a star-studded lineup on the perimeter, the Buccaneers could see their franchise quarterback get battered and bruised playing behind a leaky offensive line that's breaking in new starters at key positions. If Winston is knocked around early in the season, the former Heisman Trophy winner could struggle with turnovers and poor decision-making, as constant pressure rattles the young passer during his first season.
My projection: 3,100 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Total yardage is mostly a factor of how often Winston will be asked to pass, so I'm not overly interested in that amount. If he passes for just 3,100 yards, that doesn't mean he won't have been productive, just that the Bucs had a run-based offense -- something they may want to do, but also something that seems fairly unlikely at this point. The more interesting point is how many yards Winston gains per attempt: the NFL median was 7.2 last year. Josh McCown came in at a messy 6.8, while rookies Blake Bortles and Derek Carr managed a ridiculous 6.1 and 5.5 last year. But then, Teddy Bridgewater came in at 7.3 yards per attempt, and the league leader was Tony Romo at 8.5.
As with yardage so it is with touchdowns and interceptions. The exact numbers are a lot less relevant and telling than the ratio between the two numbers. Given Winston's penchant for aggressive throws and missing underneath coverage, I'd expect his touchdowns to be pretty high -- and his interceptions to be relatively high as well. But 15 interceptions are a lot easier to stomach when they're accompanied by 35 touchdowns than when they're accompanied by 20.
And then there's my personal favorite and vastly underrated statistic: sack rate. That tells you a lot about a quarterback's style of play, his ability to find outlets under pressure, his ability to get rid of the ball on time, and his ability to just throw away the ball or take the sack instead of creating turnovers.
To me, a successful season is going to see Winston hit over 7 yards per attempt, throwing about half as many touchdowns as interceptions and a sack rate lower than 7%. And I think those numbers are very attainable, given Winston's supporting cast. What do you think?