Last month Pittsburgh Steelers fans got good news in the form of video showing QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing to teammates at a Pittsburgh-area high school. That was followed by news of Big Ben getting a long-awaited shave and haircut, a development that attracted the attention of the governor of Pennsylvania.
Now there’s more good news in the form of the predictive power of Pro Football Focus’ 2020 QB Rankings, which have Roethlisberger ranked ninth among the NFL’s 32 projected starters. (PFF’s rankings emphasize recent performance but consider a quarterback’s entire body of work.)
Roethlisberger One Spot Ahead of Philip Rivers
PFF’s rankings have Roethlisberger one spot ahead of Philip Rivers of the Indianapolis Colts, who, like Big Ben, arrived in the NFL in 2004.
Looking a little further into the numbers, PFF gives Roethlisberger a 2.1 percent change of being the best QB in the NFL this season, a 15 percent chance of rating in the Top 5, a 35 percent chance of being in the Top 10, and a 58 percent chance of finishing in the top half of the league.
Moreover, he has just a 5 percent chance of being among the five worst starters in the NFL in 2020.
Pro Football Focus Ranks the Other AFC North Starters
Meanwhile, the other two projected starters in the division are much lower in the rankings, with Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield at No. 18 and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow at No. 26, the latter with a 25 percent chance of being among the five worst starters in the NFL this season.
Burrow, of course, is a rookie—the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft—making his performance more challenging to project.
“To account for what the NFL thinks about a rookie, we use a blend of our college-to-pro projections and draft-position priors,” note co-authors Kevin Cole and Timo Riske. “The uncertainty for rookies is, of course, larger than for all other quarterbacks.”
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Patrick Mahomes: A ‘Unicorn’?
PFF describes Mahomes as “a unicorn in our data,” noting that it has only seen this kind of exceptionalism once before, “when Peyton Manning led all quarterbacks with an even greater margin after the conclusion of the 2009 season when he ranked 0.7 standard deviations above the second- and third-ranked quarterbacks.”
In that instance, Manning didn’t remain far ahead of his peers for long, prompting PFF to add: “It will be interesting to see who will step up and make a push towards ending Mahomes’ dominance.”