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2012 Fantasy Football Draft Preview: Should You Take a Chance on Josh Freeman?

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Going back to 2001, there have been 14 instances where a quarterback has attempted over 400 passes in a season and had an interception rate of 4% or higher and then attempted another 400+ passes the following season.  In other words, there have been 14 times in the last decade or so where a starter threw a lot of picks and maintained the starting job throughout the following season. 

This is precisely the situation in which Josh Freeman finds himself this season.  He threw 22 picks in 551 attempts last year (4%) and, barring injury, will remain the starting QB for Tampa Bay this season.  Because of the bounce back success that the other 14 similarly situated quarterbacks experienced, Freeman could be a nice value this season.

Let’s start with the interception rates.  Of the 14 quarterbacks in our sample, every single one improved their interception rate in the subsequent season.  All but one of the 14 had an interception rate under 4% in the following season, nine of the 14 had an interception rate under 3%, and their combined interception rate was 2.84% the following year.  It’s a well-known fact that interception rate tends to regress toward the mean (league average is a bit under 3%), and this set of data just furthers that fact.

As for fantasy points, 11 of the 14 quarterbacks in our sample increased their fantasy production in the following season.  On average their fantasy production increased by 27.5 points.  And five of the 14 saw increases ranging from 35 to 100 points.

If Freeman gets the average bounce back of 27 or so points, that ought to be good enough to get him very close to being a top ten quarterback.  He had 190 points last year, so the average rebound would put him around 217 this year.  The tenth best fantasy quarterback had 227 point last year.  And if his bounce back is anything better than average, the odds are very good that he’ll be a top ten quarterback. 

Moreover, interception rate bounce back isn’t the only thing Freeman has going for him this year.  He has improved his completion percentage in each of the last two years, and last year it was 62.8% which was good for ninth best in the league.   He also was more of a rushing option in the red zone for the Bucs last year as he got half of Tampa Bay’s six TD carries from the one yard line.  If you factor in more improvement in completion percentage and the possibility of a few more touchdowns on the ground, Freeman’s upside goes well beyond just some positive regression in interception rate.

The addition of deep threat Vincent Jackson may also be a huge benefit for Freeman.  Jackson is a legitimate deep threat as he ranked third in the league last year for percentage of targets over 15 yards (49.6%).  Freeman has had success with the deep ball as his passer rating on attempts of 20 yards or more in each of the last two seasons has been as good or better than his passer rating on all throws.

With an average draft position of 16th among quarterbacks and 118 overall on ESPN.com, Freeman is being seriously undervalued.  There seems to be a consensus on who the top ten quarterbacks are (Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Stafford, Newton, Vick, Eli, Manning, Romo and Rivers), and that’s probably the right list.  But after that people’s opinions of the remaining quarterbacks start to vary.  Some like Matt Ryan and the success he had in the second half of last year, others like Matt Schaub to bounce back, and others seem to think RGIII has Cam Newton potential.  But for the reasons outlined above, Freeman is my #11 QB and the guy I’m taking if I’m in a 12 team league and I’m one of the guys who misses out on the consensus top ten.

Written by Brett Talley exclusively for thefantasyfix.com.  Brett is a soon-to-be attorney in Dallas who loves Jaaaaaaash Freeman almost as much as Bill Simmons.  You can follow him and/or ask him for fantasy advice on Twitter @therealTAL.

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