I firmly believe the Bills will go as far this season as Josh Allen will take them.
But how far should we expect him to go?
Micah Hyde told me the other day that players take a big jump from year one to year two in the NFL.
To gauge what size jump we should reasonably look for, I went back and looked at how other top 10 quarterbacks have performed in their second season compared to their first.
I went back 10 draft classes, starting with Matt Ryan, the third overall pick in 2008, and finished with the 2017 class that included Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson. I did not count QBs who didn't start or play much at all their rookie season (Patrick Mahomes and Jake Locker) as well as those who barely played their second season (EJ Manuel was benched and Matthew Stafford got hurt). I threw Watson in there because he was 12th and close enough.
That gives us a sample size of 15 QBs:
- Mitch Trubisky (Bears, 2nd overall 2017)
- Deshaun Watson (Texans, 12th overall 2017)
- Jared Goff (Rams, 1st overall 2016)
- Carson Wentz (Eagles, 2nd overall 2016)
- Jameis Winston (Buccaneers, 1st overall 2015)
- Marcus Mariota (Titans, 2nd overall 2015)
- Blake Bortles (Jaguars, 3rd overall 2014)
- Andrew Luck (Colts, 1st overall 2012)
- Robert Griffin III (Redskins, 2nd overall 2012)
- Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins, 8th overall 2012)
- Cam Newton (Panthers, 1st overall 2011)
- Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars, 10th overall 2011)
- Sam Bradford (Rams, 1st overall 2010)
- Mark Sanchez (Jets, 5th overall 2009)
- Matt Ryan (Falcons, 1st overall 2008)
Here is what I found.
Eight of the 15 quarterbacks saw their completion percentage increase from year one to year two. Ten of the 15 saw their passing yards per game increase, six of which had it jump 25 yards or more a game. Ten QBs also saw an increase in touchdowns per game.
By the numbers, the average completion percentage increase among the 15 QBs was 1.24%. The yards per game increase was an average of 20.89 YPG. The 15 QBs averaged an increase of 6.44 touchdown passes thrown in year two and just over one less interception thrown.
Five of them made the Pro Bowl in year two (Trubisky, Watson, Goff, Wentz, Luck).
Let's now apply this to Allen.
He played in 12 games his rookie season, starting in 11. The final stats tally was 2,074 passing yards (172.8 YPG) with 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a completion percentage of 52.8%. If we take the average increases in year two of those last 15 top 10 QBs, here is what we could expect from Allen in 2019:
- 3,099 passing yards
- 16 TD passes
- 11 INTs
- 54% completion percentage
Looking at last season, that would rank Allen 21st in the league in passing yards, 27th in passing TDs, tied for 15th in INTs, and 33rd in completion percentage.
However, those numbers are not too far off from someone I have seen linked to an Allen year-two jump, Trubisky. The yards and INTs would be just about the same as what the Bears QB did in his sophomore campaign with Chicago. The biggest gap is in TDs and completion percentage.
Allen's numbers are also a bit skewed because of how his rookie season began. There were some duds, with three games under 100 passing yards. But even that has an asterisk, as Allen threw for 74 yards in the opener against Baltimore after entering in the middle of the 3rd quarter. Add to that we know Allen did not finish the game against the Texans after getting injured.
Then of course there was the noticeable jump Allen took after returning from the elbow injury.
John Wawrow of the Associated Press tweeted this nice nugget on Allen:
Allen's passing yards per game was 216.4 during that final five game stretch. Expand that to 16 games and you are looking at 3,462 passing yards.
If Allen builds off his final stretch of the season, using those average numbers from before of those 15 QBs, he could jump to 237.3 YPG, totaling out to 3,796 passing yards this upcoming season.
I think everyone would take that.
Now let's put the calculator down and come to a conclusion.
I personally think it is reasonable to think Josh Allen should throw for at least 3,300 yards, 20 TDs, with 12-14 interceptions. As for completion percentage, I think that needs to improve, but I am not as concerned about it as others. To me it is more about decision making and choosing to take the shorter, easier throws as opposed to leading the league in tossing it deep.
Allen puts up those numbers and the Bills are serious playoff contenders.