According to Pro Football Reference, there have been two quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 25 or more touchdowns in a season, while throwing six or less interceptions.
One of those players is Tom Brady – whether you like him or not, you can’t deny his 36-to-4 touchdown to interception ratio last season was one of the best statistical years ever. The other player on that list: Second-year quarterback Josh Freeman. Not Brett Favre, not Peyton Manning, not Drew Brees and not even Dan Marino.
So why did ESPN’s John Clayton, back in January, lump Freeman in with Kyle Orton, Jay Cutler, Donovan McNabb, and Carson Palmer? Why in Terry Bradshaw’s list of top ten young quarterbacks, did Freeman rank behind Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, and Joe Flacco?
Why isn’t Freeman receiving as much hype coming into this season? Why are many writers not seeing what I clearly see? I’m tired of hearing Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Sam Bradford, and Joe Flacco’s names being thrown around among the league’s top up-and-coming elite quarterbacks. I’m sick of hearing that Freeman’s numbers were inflated because of an easy schedule. While it’s true the Bucs had the 7th easiest schedule, Matt Ryan’s Falcon’s were just behind him with the 12th easiest schedule coming into 2010. Not that much of a difference if you ask me. In fact, according to the NFL’s strength of schedule, top signal callers Drew Brees and Philip Rivers faced an even easier schedule than Freeman.
I read a recent article by the writers from Gridiron Grit which lists quarterback power rankings for 2011. Matt Ryan ranks 10th on the list. Sam Bradford-11th and Joe Flacco 12th. Josh Freeman was behind the eight-ball again, ranked 14th. Don’t get me wrong, I think what Sam Bradford accomplished last season was incredible. As a rookie, to take a one-win team from the previous season and help transform them into a playoff contender is impressive – at any level. But ranking him ahead of Freeman? That’s ludicrous.
Even from a fantasy football perspective it doesn’t make sense. Using ESPN’s fantasy football scoring leaders, Freeman ranked 7th in total fantasy points among quarterbacks in 2010. Bradford ranked 20th, behind Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Freeman’s 364 rushing yards was second in the league, only behind Michael Vick. His 95.9 quarterback rating ranked 6th. Peyton Manning ranked 10th. Matt Ryan 11th, Drew Brees 12th. Sam Bradford’s rank: 25th. And two of the players ahead of Freeman – Michael Vick and Ben Roethlisberger – only played in 12 games. While it’s not out of the question that they both have the ability to maintain a rating over 96, it is quite possible those averages would drop given a full 16 games.
So what is Freeman’s ceiling given the numbers he’s put up thus far? Well, chances are wide receivers Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn are going to get better. Kellen Winslow Jr. still looks to have a few years left in those legs, and LeGarrette Blount is coming off an impressive 1,000-yard rushing season. If they remain healthy, the offensive line will be at least as good as last season, if not better due to experience, and I’m not even going to mention any offensive upgrades due to free agency. And I expect Freeman himself to mature both as a pocket passer and a runner.
With the season looming, I see every reason to suggest Freeman’s fantasy football stock will increase, and perhaps soon he’ll begin to earn the media love he deserves.