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ESPN analytics study looks at Cousins’ potential impact on Vikings

There are a lot of different ways to look at how Kirk Cousins might fit with the Minnesota Vikings and the impact that signing him might have on the team’s present and future.

Here at 1500ESPN, we’ve looked at:

ESPN’s Mike Sando authored a piece with analytics guru Brian Burke took another angle: They looked at how many wins Cousins would add to every team that could be in the mix for his services.

Using QBR, they analyzed how many wins Cousins should have had in Washington with an average defense and how many expected wins he would have added to the last three seasons to every team.

Sando explains:

Because QBR correlates with win rate, we simply convert Cousins’ 60.2 QBR to a percentage and multiply by 16 games — 60.2 percent of 16, in other words — to produce an expected annual victory total (9.6). This total assumes a typical supporting cast, including on defense and special teams. The Redskins were only 22nd in defensive efficiency and 24th in special-teams efficiency from 2015 to 2017. This explains why Washington won 24 games over the past three seasons, nearly six fewer than we would have expected from Cousins’ QBR alone. 

Below is the potential difference Cousins would have made if he was the Vikings’ starting quarterback over the last three seasons instead of Teddy Bridgewater/Sam Bradford/Case Keenum if defense and special teams had been average:

Of course, this doesn’t factor in weapons. In 2015 and 2016, the Vikings struggled greatly on the offensive line. In 2017, they had one of the best supporting casts in the NFL. In 2016, Cousins had an especially good supporting cast with Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson both ranking by PFF among the top 20 receivers in the NFL and Jordan Reed adding 66 catches at tight end.

This also tells us that the Vikings have been an anomaly by getting good QB performances out of multiple quarterbacks. If either Teddy Bridgewater or Sam Bradford’s health was a guarantee, it’s possible Cousins wouldn’t be part of the conversation. And if there weren’t worries about Keenum being a one-year wonder, he might also be getting a long-term contract.

Cousins had a down year in 2017 from his previous two seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked him 19th in the NFL (14th and ninth in 2015-16) and he saw numbers drop in completion percentage, yards, yards per attempt and rating.

If the Vikings had plugged the 2017 version of Cousins into their 2017 offense, Burke estimates they would have won fewer games.

Sando ranks the Vikings eighth of eight teams that might want Cousins in terms of their need to sign him.

He wrote:

The takeaway: The best version of Kirk Cousins will help the Vikings continue to be a top team in the NFC – and that might be worth signing him to a big deal. If they get anything less than that, they are bordering on replaceable production with the team’s current supporting cast.


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