What Patrick Mahomes did in 2018 was incredible! He tied 2007 Tom Brady for the second most passing TDs in a season with 50. Both QBs trail only Peyton Manning’s historic 55 TD season. Mahomes also eclipsed 5,000 passing yards, becoming the eleventh QB to ever complete that feat. He is also only the second QB (Manning) to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards and 50 TDs in the same season.
Unfortunately for Mahomes, regression is coming!(*Extreme Ned Stark voice)
As I mentioned, Mahomes 2018 was historic! The history of QBs who reach massive TD totals that repeat their feat the following season is not something to give Mahomes’ backers confidence. There have been 6 QBs besides Mahomes to throw for 45 or more TDs. The average regression rate for those QBs is 12.8 TDs. And for that number I only used 5 QB seasons, since Brady missed all but 11 throws of the 2008 season.
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If you look at Peyton Manning, who is the only QB to throw for 50 plus TDs and play a full season the following year, his drop off went all the way down to 39 the season after his 55 TDs. If you think that had more to do with age, just look at Manning in 2005. After throwing 49 TDs in 2004, his production dipped to a jarring 28 TDs
Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers were the most consistent with their passing TD totals dropping three and six TDs respectively the season after topping 45. To be honest, what Brees has done in his career is remarkable. He has 5 of the 11 5,000 yard plus seasons including 3 straight from 2011-2013.
Does this mean Mahomes will fall off a cliff or take a big step back? Absolutely not! But it does provide a reason to be a little more cautious with expectations.
Beyond the historical comps, Mahomes also lost his top WR from last season. While Tyreek Hill is an awful person who should never play another snap in NFL, he is an incredible football player that made the Chiefs go. He had 137 targets in 2018 for 1,479 yards and 12 TDs. Replacing that production is going to be incredibly difficult to do especially for 2019.
Sammy Watkins has the talent to step in as the WR1 in this offense, but talent has never been the question. Availability on the other hand? Not so much. Watkins has played 15 or more games in only two of his five seasons. He has averaged 12.8 games per season and only played 10 games last year.
Beyond Watkins, Mecole Hardman is an intriguing prospect who vaulted in rookie drafts after Kansas City took him in Round 2 of the 2019 NFL Draft. Third year WR Demarcus Robinson is also interesting for fantasy. But when we are looking to an injury riddled WR and two players with “upside”, the concern for Mahomes is very real.
Obviously having Travis Kelce makes a huge difference, but after 103 catches for 1,336 yards and 10 TDs on 150 targets a season ago, the idea of him improving on those numbers is almost inconceivable. The production void should help Kelce maintain his throne as the TE1.
TD Rate is one of my favorite stats to look at for possible regression or improvement at the QB position. This stat helped me be more realistic on DeShaun Watson and Carson Wentz heading into drafts last season. Watson had a 9.3% TD rate in 2017 while Wentz sat at 7.5%. Both QBs came back to the pack in 2018 with TD rates of 5.1% and 5.2% respectively.
Matt Ryan has been all over the place in the past three seasons. His MVP season saw his TD rate rise to 7.1%. He came crashing back to earth the following season with a putrid 3.8%. Last season Ryan rebounded nicely and found the end zone on 5.8% of his passes.
Patrick Mahomes had an incredible 8.6% TD rate in 2018. As I mentioned above, the likelihood of that number normalizing next season is very high especially if you couple that with the presumed loss Hill.
Now, all of this is not to say that Patrick Mahomes is a bad player or that you shouldn’t draft him. (Although based on what it will likely cost due to expectations, I won’t be doing it.) If you normalize Mahomes’ TD rate to 6.6% instead of 8.6%, which is very good, he would have had 38 TDs last season. At or around 40 TDs feels like a very fair expectation for his 2019 TD total. I would also expect the passing yards to regress also. Outside of Brees, no QB has thrown for 5,000 passing yards in back to back seasons. Can Mahomes do it? Sure, but I would not bet on it.
If you’re starting to look ahead to 2019 rankings, Mahomes should definitely be in the conversation as the top QB overall. Yet it is not crazy to consider Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, or Watson as the top option at the position also. Russell Wilson is another name some may want to include, and for good reason, but his 8.2% TD rate is probably due for some regression even if just slightly to his 6% career TD rate.
Proceed with caution if you plan on going all in with Mahomes. Keep in mind, he’s also on the Madden cover…