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Jay Cutler and His Wonderfully Wide Range of Fantasy Football Outcomes

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler
Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler

Aug 9, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) throws a pass during pre game warm ups before the start of the game against the Carolina Panthers. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

I, like Madonna before me, have a request—this one for Chicago Bears quarterback and perennial fantasy football tease Jay Cutler.

Justify my love, Jay.

Show the people why it’s been so abundantly clear that your fantasy prospects are on a clear and definable upswing with quarterback guru Marc Trestman as your guide, the man assigned to save you from yourself.

My preseason ranking of Cutler as fantasy’s No. 13 quarterback is the highest among more than 100 fantasy writers and experts on FantasyPros. Fellow Sports Jerks Network fantasy scribe Rich Hribar is right there with me, as you can see.

Cutler has every tool a signal caller could want, as Trestman has pointed out time and again. Trestman, who presided over Rich Gannon’s absurdly productive 2002 season with the Oakland Raiders, has done a whole lot more with a whole lot less.

Trestman, from his days as an NFL offensive coordinator to a CFL head coach, has improved the efficiency and production of every kind of quarterback, from guys with cannon arms to mobile signal callers to those with average arm strength and pinpoint accuracy.

Read more about Cutler’s 2013 fantasy prospects…
Will Marc Trestman Make Jay Cutler Fantasy Relevant Again?
Chicago Bears: a Sneaky 2013 Fantasy Football Godsend?

I’d like to explore the range of fantasy football outcomes for Smokin’ Jay in 2013, from the most depressingly low projection to the most optimistic outlook of how he might adapt to Trestman’s brand of west coast offense.

Cutler, as I’ve pointed out, is on the verge of becoming a volume thrower for the first time in four seasons. The last time Cutler tossed the rock 600 times, he posted a top-3 fantasy season. He’s been a spot starter since.

The below projections use Cutler’s career 6.7 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), 4.6 touchdown percentage, and 3.4 percent interception rate.

Pass Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Fantasy Points
600 4,020 27.6 20.4 231.2
650 4,355 29.9 22.1 250.2
700 4,690 32.2 23.8 268.8

The pass happiest of those projections would have made Cutler the 12th highest scoring fantasy quarterback last season. The 600-pass projection would’ve made him No. 17 among quarterbacks—something less than exhilarating.

Probably the above table is a look at conservative projections for Cutler’s 2013 season, and that’s necessary, since those are the statistical guesses that often come to fruition over 16 long weeks.

Now we’ll look at Cutler’s best-case projections. He’s cracked the 7 AY/A mark three times in his seven pro seasons, and posted a 6.8 AY/A once. I’ve used Cutler’s career high AY/A of 7.2 in the projections below.

I’ve also thrown out his highest and lowest touchdown percentages and averaged the rest (4.7 percent). This best case scenario will use Cutler’s career interception rate without his horrid outlier season of 2009, when he tossed a grotesque 26 interceptions for a 4.7 percent interception rate—a full percentage point higher than any other of his seven seasons.

Pass Attempts Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Fantasy Points
600 4,320 28.2 18.6 248.4
650 4,680 30.6 20.1 267.8
700 5,040 32.9 21.7 289.8

These best-case numbers still put Cutler in the QB12 range, and I’m OK with that. I wouldn’t push Cutler as a no-brainer every-week fantasy starter, especially with a rough early-season schedule. I think it’s clear that Cutler’s only chance to crack the top-10 fantasy signal callers is to keep down his interceptions.

Matthew Stafford‘s 17 interceptions on 727 pass attempts in 2012 gives me some hope here. Like Cutler, Stafford has been described as a quarterback with all the requisite skills who falls into lazy patterns and sometimes has too much confidence in his rocket right arm.

If Stafford can muster a 2.3 percent interception rate during a season in which he threw more passes than any quarterback in NFL history, I think Cutler can do the same, or at least something similar.

Trestman’s offense is unquestionably more conservative than recent Bears’ offenses—not in the volume of throws, but the kind of throws. Every Trestman quarterback—benefiting from quick throws in a spread formation—has seen an immediate and marked jump in completion percentage and a dip in interception rate, so I think it’s something less than a reach to say Cutler could surprise us with his accuracy.

Gannon, for one, completed 65.8 percent of his passes in 2001 and 67.6 percent in 2002 with Trestman at the offensive helm. Gannon had a 60.2 career completion percentage. Cutler’s career completion percentage, for the record, is 60.8.

Cutler, I think, can justify my love, and my ranking.

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