Extrapolation Station: Jay Cutler
February 17, 2014 | Jeff
Welcome to the first edition of the Extrapolation Station. Over the course of the long 2014 offseason, I will be taking a handful of players and running portions of their 2013 performances through an exercise in extrapolation. Of course, cherry picking our favorite statistics to project over a full 16 game slate of fantasy football action isn’t always an exact science, but it will give us fake footballers a glimpse into the 2014 potential of some notable fantasy assets. We will begin this series by looking at the 2013 performance of our old pal, smokin’ Jay Cutler.
To fairly assess the 2014 fantasy potential of Cutler, you must first rid your brain of your past feelings of the Chicago quarterback. Erase the memories of the sideline tantrums, offensive line bullying, and displays of general apathy. This is the world of fake football, and statistics are what win imaginary internet fantasy trophies. All the personal viewpoints of Cutler aside, the guy still has a cannon and the most fearsome wide receiver tandem in the NFL.
First and foremost, we must discuss the dark side of Jay Cutler’s fantasy outlook, and that revolves primarily around staying upright. Cutler has missed twelve games over the last three seasons of Chicago Bears football while playing behind a perennially weak offensive line. According to the grades from our pals at Pro Football Focus, Chicago’s NFL pass blocking ranking has checked in anywhere from 26th overall to dead last over Cutler’s five year career as a Bear, coming in with an average of 29th out of 32 teams over those same five years. Perhaps Cutler making 83.8% of possible regular season starts in his Chicago career isn’t as bad as it appears at first glance. Hopefully the 2014 offseason includes some upgrades to the offensive line that will protect Cutler next season, because if he logs a full 16 game slate, the sky is truly the limit.
The most important thing Cutler has in his corner (besides two stallions named Jeffery and Marshall), is the Chicago coaching staff and front office. Worries of Cutler’s future in Chicago were quickly erased after the end of the 2013 season, as Chicago handed Cutler a seven-year contract for a cool $126 million. This squashed all clamoring (Twitter, I am looking at you) for Josh McCown to take control of the Bears offense after an admirable job filling in for the injured Cutler last season. In fact, the success of McCown in the absence of Cutler further illustrates the potential for a monstrous 2014 from Cutler at the hands of head coach and passing game aficionado Marc Trestman.
Prior to missing five games in the middle of the 2013 season, Cutler wasn’t exactly spitting Fireball into a blow torch on the football field. Before being knocked out with a groin injury in Week 7, he was sporting a 12:7 TD:INT ratio and had cracked the 300 yard passing mark in just two games. Not terrible numbers, but not the prolific passing statistics expected from Cutler after Chicago added passing guru Marc Trestman as their head coach over the offseason. Cutler ended up playing parts of 11 games in 2013, with a final line of 2,621 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This abbreviated season checked Cutler in at QB24 for the season, surrounded by the gruesome fantasy quarterback duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne. Now, to be fair to Jay Cutler, let’s extrapolate his 2013 statistics over a full 16 game season. We will give Cutler a gift here and consider his final stats to be accumulated over a 10 game schedule, since he only attempted eight passes in Week 7. Now, with the help of our dear friend Watson, Cutler’s 10 game average from 2013 looks like this over a full 16 game season:
4,194 passing yards (10th in the NFL)
30 touchdowns (6th in the NFL)
19 interceptions (t-6th in the NFL)
258.7 fantasy points (11th among fantasy QB’s)
Not terrible numbers for Cutler if he had stayed upright for the entire season, as the passing yardage total would have been the second highest of his career and the 30 touchdowns would have been a career high and made up for the beefy interception total. Now, let’s take a look at the Chicago Bears passing offense as a whole after one full season under Marc Trestman:
27.8 points per game (t-2nd in the NFL)
381.8 yards per game (8th in the NFL)
267.6 passing yards per game (5th in the NFL)
Not a bad haul for year one in Trestman’s system, and one could reasonably expect a season similar to that in 2014. Now, let’s really kick things into high gear and get into full nerd-mode. What we combine the 2013 stat lines of Jay Cutler and Josh McCown? What if our fictional friend Jayosh McCutler had played all 16 games in 2013? If we combine the season ending statistics of both Cutler and backup Josh McCown, this is how it looks:
4,450 passing yards (6th in the NFL)
32 touchdowns (t-4th in the NFL)
13 interceptions (t-12th in the NFL)
296.7 fantasy points (4th among fantasy QB’s)
Those are some very intriguing numbers, and while Cutler is not exactly a lock to play 16 games in 2014, he is certainly capable of reaching this final stat line if he does. Of course, Cutler would likely surpass 13 interceptions in a full season, but we could also forecast a slight bump in offensive production for Chicago with another offseason under Trestman. Further development from young stud wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and even the potential emergence of Marquess Wilson, a highly talented rookie drafted in 2013 who barely touched the field last season, could also aid the aerial attack in Chicago. 2014 could realistically see the final piece of the Chicago offense join the ranks of the fantasy elite, as Cutler will likely far out-produce a favorable average draft position this summer.