On J.J. Watt and the potential for regression

July, 29, 2013
7/29/13
3:02
PM ET
J.J. Watt's 2012 performance was off the charts.

And when things go off the charts, the expectation is that the follow-up will return to the charts.

Stephanie Stradley of the Houston Chronicle's Texans blog talked to the Houston Texans defensive lineman about the idea of regression, and he didn’t give it much credence. But even Wade Phillips has said it will be hard for Watt to match the sky-high numbers he posted last year (including 20.5 sacks).

Watt
Watt
Tristan Cockcroft looks at Watt’s 2013 potential from a fantasy perspective, where the defensive lineman is a giant presence in a league that includes individual defensive players (IDP).

“History says that it's Watt's position that presents his greatest danger of regression,” Cockcroft writes. “Linemen are the ones most at risk of ‘falling back to earth’ after big years."

Watt is a break-the-mold sort of guy.

Few of us would have said he could have done what he did in 2012. It would be foolhardy to insist we could predict what he will do for a follow-up. Heck, he’s got a healthy elbow now and he didn’t last year.

But it’s not unreasonable to look at history to see what has happened, and what has happened is typically the best indicator of what will happen.

“Watt amassed 61.5 of his 170.5 (fantasy) points from his sacks alone, and had he totaled, say, 12 sacks, he'd have scored a ‘more human’ 145 points yet still ranked among the greatest historical years by any IDP,” Cockcroft said. “Be aware that no player since 1982 has amassed 20 or more sacks in multiple years of his career; only nine players have managed at least 16, or an average of one per game, in multiple years.

“This isn't to say that Watt can't manage a second consecutive MVP-caliber campaign. It's merely a caution that even the greatest defensive players of the past two decades have had a difficult time maintaining the level he enjoyed in 2012.”

I expect Watt to have another big year, though I think the numbers won’t be as good. But I think the attention he draws will help teammates like Whitney Mercilus, Antonio Smith and Brian Cushing be even more productive.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak just said on "SportsCenter" that he isn't concerned with where the sacks come from, as long as they come.

"I think our numbers can improve as a team," he said.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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