One of my favorite things about the projection process is that it gives you a really good window into what “should” happen, assuming things stay the same. While I’d never advocate someone ranking players in the exact same order they project players, it’s my favorite way to provide a backbone to the rankings. If I’m lower or higher than the consensus on a player, I can often turn to the projections for a good explanation why. Unfortunately, that also points to one of my least favorite parts of projections — they’re not great at projecting breakouts, which is probably why I’m the low guy on Trevor Lawrence. I’m not sure everyone realizes what a leap they’re projecting for Lawrence.
In 2022, Lawrence averaged 20.3 FPPG, which was good enough for QB12 on the year. The first thing worth mentioning is that each of the past five years, Lawrence’s production would have finished outside of the top 12. I other words, he probably needs to improve on that mark just to maintain his ranking, if recent history is any indicator. The other thing to note is that Lawrence only played 70% of the offensive snaps in Week 17 against the Texans, so we should probably throw that game out. I’m just not sure how much that helps Lawrence if we do the same for every other QB.
So how do my projections for Lawrence compare to his 2022 numbers? In terms of raw numbers, I am projecting him for 340 more passing yards, 5 more rushing yards, and one more total touchdown. The touchdown increase would be bigger, but you should expect some regression from Lawrence’s five rushing touchdowns on 62 attempts last year. As a rookie, he scored twice on 71 attempts. For reference, Lamar Jackson only has five rushing touchdowns on 245 attempts over the past two seasons. In terms of efficiency, I project Lawrence will improve his yards per pass attempt from 7.0 in 2022 to 7.4 in 2023 and I have him increasing his TD rate from 4.3% to 4.5%. But while i definitely have Lawrence taking a step forward, he still shows up at QB14 in the projections below. What gives?
First, there are three guys who were worse than Lawrence in 2022 who I project to be better in 2023: Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson, and Daniel Jones. Both Herbert and Watson have shown over large sample sizes the ability to produce 25 FPPG, something Lawrence has only shown for a month. Herbert’s bounce back is aided by the fact the Chargers brought in Kellen Moore, while I’m expecting the rust Watson struggled with in 2022 will mostly be knocked off by a full offseason of work with the Browns. Jones is an example of a player whose rushing floor puts him ahead of Lawrence in the projections, but I like Lawrence’s upside enough to rank him higher than Jones. Speaking of running quarterbacks who may not be any good at passing. we should probably talk about Anthony Richardson’s projection because he comes in ahead of Lawrence as well.
For one thing, this is a 17-game projection for Richardson (as it is for most QBs), but I recognize there is a chance Gardner Minshew starts Week 1. I think it’s more helpful to see where Richardson projects per game than to try to guess how many starts he’ll make. I projected Richardson for fewer pass attempts, passing yards, and passing touchdowns than anyone but Desmond Ridder. But because Richardson has Jalen Hurts’ former offensive coordinator, I projected him for a similar rush volume as Hurts and to be one of the worst passers in the league. With Hurts’ rushing production, that is a top-10 QB.
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What’s important to recognize with both Lawrence and Richardson is that these projections are not the ceiling or the floor for either player. The difference between the players is that Lawrence’s ceiling is much closer to his floor than Richardson’s. That uncertainty around Richardson makes it much easier to take Lawrence first in a two-QB leagues. But in a one-QB league, I don’t believe Lawrence should get any boost for having a higher floor. Richardson’s floor is not zero, even if if he sits all season. His floor is whatever you can stream, and in a one-QB league you’ll be able to stream something pretty close to what Lawrence gave you last year.
Here are my updated quarterback projections: