Still Got It: The Veteran QBs
Everyone’s got rookie fever! They’re inescapable – the new boys on the block are everywhere right now. Filling up our timelines, headspaces and rookie drafts, it’s no wonder they get raved about. But the time were everyone zigs, you need to make sure you zag. It’s not about those unreliably green rookies and first-contract upstarts. You need a veteran that you can bank on.
This article focuses on those old-timers who have been in the league for aeons. Here are three Quarterbacks who have still got it.
TB12. He’s been around so long, his name is one that stretches beyond the NFL. You could ask anyone in the street to name an NFL player. Nine times out of ten, it’ll be Brady.
But you don’t make a name for yourself – and keep it – for no good reason. A long and illustrious career that stretches back over two decades. Multiple Superbowl-winning seasons. And the scope to have a career season in the twilight of his tenure.
Far younger quarterbacks have come AND gone in the time it’s taken Brady to get here. And, when it comes to making the grade, this veteran is still smashing the pass mark. 2021 had Brady bag a PFF grade of 91.7 – the second of that year’s 37 qualifying Quarterbacks. It’s no coincidence that both years in Florida have seen two of his five highest PFF grades. And, in the last 7 years, that grade has dropped below 90 only once – 2019: the beginning of the end in New England. While other veteran QBs may see their form drop off in a fizzle, Brady is looking to keep the fire roaring.
GUESS WHO’S BACK?
Brady’s retirement didn’t even last a month. And nobody seemed shocked to see him throw his hat back in the ring. The veteran returns to a few changes. The old head coach is gone, but the understudy stepping in is more than capable. A few of the offensive personnel have moved on, but signings and picks have taken their place. Former Falcon Russell Gage and journeyman returnee Breshard Perriman join Mike Evans in the receiving room. Gage proved effective in the Atlanta receiving corps in the absense of Calvin Ridley. As such, Tampa take a chance on him in 2022. Plus some shrewd offensive line signings help bolster the depth of protection for the veteran QB.
One key move may be the departure of Ronald Jones, coupled with the draft of Rachaad White. A strong runner with weak hands replaced by an efficient pass-catcher who has made chunk yardage on occasion. This is great news for Brady’s shorter, dump-off options. When you’re in your final years, confident and consistent catching means more yards – and a potential career year.
Most importantly, those that remain are the staples of success. In addition to Evans and ‘Playoff Lenny’, there’s the eventual return of alpha receiver Chris Godwin, and the ever-present threat of a Gronk reunion. Many analysts are predicting Brady for a bumper year, and my rankings have him at QB7.
While Kirk may not have the longevity in the league compared to TB12, he can be considered a veteran QB. This will be his tenth NFL year. So, for me, double figures puts him squarely in this category.
THE VIKINGS VETERAN
In stats terms, Cousins is the picture of consistency. Sure, his pass completion percentage has dropped below 65% only once in 7 years. But in each of those last 7 seasons? Over 500 pass attempts. More than 4,000 passing yards. 25 touchdowns or more. And the difference between touchdowns and interceptions has always been 2:1 or better.
But if he’s consistent, does that mean he plays it safe? Well, 2021 tells us quite an exciting story. Cousins’ rank in the lower end of turnover worthy plays could say ‘safe’. But the veteran’s higher end position in big time throws is promising. As is Kirk’s average depth of 8.5 yard / target. That’s higher than Prescott, Burrow, Rodgers and Brady!
PASS FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER
This level of consistency bodes well for anyone willing to take a swing at him. It also bonds well with rumours that the Vikings will continue their pass-first offense. Mike Zimmer is not the Minnesota head coach any more. But the majority of his years in charge of the Vikings went with a pass-first approach. Last year’s split saw passing plays make up 56% of total.
And the great news for new HC Kevin O’Connell is that the vast majority of the offensive personnel have stuck around. Four of the five most-targeted Vikings are in for the 2022 season – Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn and Dalvin Cook. And Irv Smith is well on the road to recovery from a meniscus injury.
Indeed, O’Connell is used to a high volume pass approach. All three of his seasons as offensive co-ordinator (Washington and the Rams) had similar numbers in the play split. And we all saw what happened with the Rams last season! If O’Connell can reproduce that with Cousins, there’s no telling what the veteran can do this year. I rank Cousins at a consistent QB14.
Surely this is an easy pick? The Superbowl winner??
But why not sneak a peek when all eyes are focusing on young guns? Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and my favourite Jalen Hurts may cost over the odds at ADP, but Stafford may be a veteran who sneaks down the board.
RETURN OF THE MATT
Stafford struggled in the doldrums of Detroit for 12 years. A West Coast transfer boosted him to the sport’s highest point. But it doesn’t look like Stafford will stop at that any time soon.
And why should he? He hit season highs in pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, touchdowns and first downs. Sure, there was one game more. But the magnitude of those highs put it far above stats from just one game extra.
Much like the two veterans before this one, 2022 holds more of the same promise. But it hasn’t come without some significant change. The receiver group has lost a key piece in Robert Woods, who now figures to be WR1 at the Titans. And the status of Odell Beckham Jnr. is up in the air.
But the Rams have pulled off a heist in taking on Allen Robinson. A huge upgrade for any team, based upon Robinson’s pre-2021 performances at the Bears. But in Stafford, Robinson has a way to revitalise his career, much like his Quarterback did on arrival. And, in Robinson, Stafford has the chance to maintain a strong career surge with the Rams.
FROM THE KUPP TO THE TROPHY
And let’s not forget that Stafford still has THE WR1 on his team. Plenty of fans and analysts alike predict another blockbuster year for Cooper. We’ve already heard about the play splits that the Rams put up last year, and Kupp was the main beneficiary.
There are question marks about the Running Back room’s health. These particularly revolve around Cam Akers. Has he fully recovered from the injury that sidelined him for the season? Therefore, it would be easy for Sean McVey and his new offensive staff to pivot back to what they know. A free-for-all on passing. And Kupp, Robinson – and by extention, Stafford – would be feasting.
I have the Rams veteran as my QB11. But this won’t stop him from going all the way the big show again!