It's one thing to predict game outcomes, but it's quite another to predict individual player performances. Between injuries (Adam Griffin), fluid legal situations and eligibility (Hyde, Roby), and off days, it's extremely risky for any analyst to stake any claims on how many yards, touchdowns, receptions, or carries a player will get.
However, we can take a stab at how players will perform by comparing their careers to other previous players. Additionally, some positions – especially quarterbacks – have a more standard year-to-year development progression than others. By using these two tools, we can take at least educated guesses at how some key 2013 Buckeyes will perform statistically.
Unfortunately I'm unable to provide fantasy football predictions for every player on the team, but I've selected some key skill players on both offense and defense (yes, I consider Urban's defensive ends to be "skill players") for 2013.
Football Study Hall recently ran an excellent article examining basic quarterback statistics over the last decade. One of the findings was that quarterbacks really do get much better throughout their careers, making an especially large jump between their first and second years in the program:
We saw first hand how much Braxton improved from his promising freshman year to his truly exceptional sophomore year (especially on the ground). Time in the system matters and older starters typically perform much better than their freshmen counterparts.
I'll admit that predicting Braxton's passing was extremely difficult. We've heard many players and coaches alike speak to Braxton's improved passing mechanics, throwing under pressure, and decision making in the pocket, but it's difficult to separate the hype from the actual technique improvements.
I based my predictions both on the findings of the "typical" quarterback year-to-year growth as well as several of Braxton's comparable peers, including Tebow, Pryor, and Vince Young. Honestly these numbers are fairly conservative, considering Tebow was able to post almost 3300 passing yards as a sophomore (his Heisman year).
I expect Braxton to be better with his throwing mechanics and decision making due to increased time in the system and real quarterback coaching, but also due to a better and deeper group of receivers.
Even with an almost peer-less stable of running backs (ignoring Alabama for the moment), Braxton should exceed 1,000 yards on the ground as well.
Hyde is an interesting case considering he won't be available for the entire season. While another running back will get the start in his absence, the number of hungry ball carriers has also grown since his breakout junior year as well. It's possible that last year was his chance to reach 1,000 yards.
Hyde actually had a very productive year last season, posting the 12th most points per carry for running backs over the last ten years (at .52 points per carry). He was a touchdown specialist in the red zone, riding excellent run blocking on inside zone plays into the end zone.
Since his freshman season, Hyde has posted a fairly constant yards per carry score (between 5.2 and 5.9 YPC). I'd expect this trend to continue for his senior season, with his total yards more reflecting his number of carries. Between missed time and potentially sharing the load in the backfield, I think roughly 750 yards is fair for Hyde's senior season.
I would love to be proved wrong on Hyde not reaching the 1,000-yard mark, but missing games hurts his chances.
One of the best storylines from camp has been how explosive Dontre and company have been so far. Expectations have gotten sky high for this freshman, so it's only natural to compare Dontre with two other immediate-impact, multi-talented players around the country. Maryland's Stefon Diggs and Percy Harvin obviously jump to mind.
Dontre will likely be more Percy-like than Diggs-like, but they are both decent analogies by being split as wide receiver/running back/do-everything backs.
Dontre will get his carries and receptions this season, particularly on flash screens and short passes, but I expect his numbers to be moderated by the overall talent levels at running back and wide receiver.
As the only proven linebacker, Shazier carries a lot of weight in-game and in teaching the young Bucks how to not have fullbacks take their snaps away.
Shazier's progression as sideline-to-sideline tackling machine resembles James Laurinaitis and C.J. Mosley in my eyes. Shazier is faster and smaller than Laurinaitis, but is a comparable tackling machine. Mosley and Shazier leave fairly similar statistical footprints.
Both of his comparable players had strong starts to their college careers, as did Shazier. Barring injury, we might expect RDS to post similar tackling numbers at around 125, 2 interceptions, and ~15 tackles for loss. Shazier far out-shined both of his comparison players in the TFL department, so repeating those numbers should lead to an All-America-type season.
I go back and forth with whether Adolphus Washington or Noah Spence will post better numbers this season (that's a great thing for Fickell and Vrabel).
I took Washington here, but it's very likely that Spence leads the way in sacks as a pure pass-rusher. Barkevious Mingo from LSU and Cam Heyward are decent comparisons physically for Washington, though both had superior numbers during their freshmen years.
The thing is that we can't really glean too much from Washington's nine tackles (3 for loss) and one forced fumble in four games last season. There's simply not enough data to make any definitive predictions (though having a third of your tackles go for a loss has to say something). Both Mingo and Heyward had more play time in their freshmen years. However, I expect Washington to explode this season, to the tune of 12 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and 40 total tackles. Washington will cause much more damage than those numbers indicate as well.
So now that you've seen my best predictions, what do you guys think? How will these, and other players do this year? Are there better analogies for these five players? Stake your claims and I'll take a look at season's end for who was closest.