Why Deshaun Watson Will Suffer from Negative Regression in 2018
Deshaun Watson had a historic rookie season. In only 7.5 games, Watson threw for 1699 yards 19 TDs, and 8 INTs. Watson also added an impressive 269 rushing yards and 2 rushing touchdowns to that impressive output. He was truly clicking on all cylinders with his receivers and captivated the nation with his ability. If Watson hadn't suffered a torn ACL in preparation for Week 9, he would've been a legitimate MVP candidate.
Having said that, I think that Deshaun Watson will suffer from regression in 2018. Efficiency is very volatile from year to year. It's historically been best to expect a regression to the mean from a player that has had either an extremely efficient season, or an extremely inefficient season. In Deshaun Watson's case, he had an extremely efficient season. Like, EXTREMELY efficient.
First, let's look at Watson's Air Yards Per Attempt. Air yards don't take into account any yards after catch that a receiver creates, it only measures the distance the ball travels from quarterback to receiver. Watson's 5.3 Air Yards Per Attempt was the highest total in the NFL. Now let's add True Completion Percentage to the equation. True Completion Percentage is essentially completion percentage minus throwaway passes and dropped balls. Watson's 64.0% True Completion Percentage ranked 32nd in the league. These first two metrics show that Watson was slinging the ball all over the place, and wasn't necessarily very accurate when doing so.
Next, let's look at Production Premium. Production Premium is an overarching efficiency metric that measures a player's productivity on a per touch basis above or below what the league-wide average is. Production Premium also takes into account game situation, discounting situations like garbage time and putting a premium on drives in high-leverage situations. Watson's Production Premium was an astonishing +70.6, the best in the league last season. In fact, that's the highest total ever. To add some more perspective, the next closest Production Premium was Carson Wentz at +27.9, and there were only seven total quarterbacks with a Production Premium of over +10.0.
The ridiculously high efficiency Watson displayed last season won't continue, it's almost impossible. Hopefully, Watson will play all 16 games in the regular season, and if he does, the more reps as a starter will drag down that efficiency even more.
Deshaun Watson's pure counting stats will probably be higher in 2018. It makes sense that a player would have more total production in 16 games than in 7.5 games. But the rate at which he produces will be much lower next season.
Watson may even suffer from a bit of sophomore slump in 2018. It'll be interesting to see how mobile Watson is (or is willing to be), after his second ACL tear. If you also factor in his low True Completion Percentage that we covered earlier, Watson could find it hard to get in a good rhythm next season.
I'm not trying to say Deshaun Watson is bad. I sat back last season and truly admired how well he performed and how easy he made it look. Unfortunately, the math suggests Watson will suffer from negative regression in 2018, and I don't tend to disagree with math.