Not all projections are created the same. It’s a whole lot easier to project a player like Tony Romo—who will likely have a “sample size” of at least 600 passes—than it is to project someone whose stats might be more susceptible to randomness. One of those players is defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
Ware is an incredibly tough projection in 2013 for a few reasons. First, everyone wants to know how many sacks he’ll total, but sacks are very low-frequency. With so much volatility, they’re perhaps the most difficult individual stat to project from year to year—outside of perhaps forced fumbles.
Ware is also entering his age 31 season—a time when many pass-rushers start to break down. That means Ware’s 2012 stats might or might not be representative of a potential decline. He played much of 2012 injured, but was that a fluke or part of the aging process? It’s impossible to tell, and it clouds our ability to project him in 2013.
On top of all that, Ware is also switching defensive schemes. The change to the 4-3 will impact the defensive ends more than any other position; Ware won’t drop into coverage anymore, and that will obviously affect his pass-rushing totals.
With all of that said, let’s get into the projection. Ware’s tackle totals over the past three seasons have been 66, 58, and 56. Based on his total snaps, Ware’s tackle rate has moved from 7.0 percent to 6.4 percent to 6.3 percent. Will that drop continue? Given his age, it’s likely. So at a projected 900 total snaps, Ware would record 55 tackles at a 6.1 percent tackle rate.
We can use the same sort of methodology with pressures to project Ware’s sacks. Ware’s pressure rate—the percentage of pass-rush snaps he’s reached the quarterback—has dropped a lot over the past three years; it was 10.8 in 2010, 9.2 percent in 2011, and only 6.8 percent last season. However, I think we’ll see that number move up in 2013; Monte Kiffin will do a better job than Rob Ryan of finding unique ways to get Ware going. I’ll project his pressure rate at 8.0 percent due to the scheme switch and simple regression toward the mean.
Ware rushed the passer 454 times in 2012, but he also dropped into coverage on 64 plays. Those coverage snaps will convert to pass-rushing snaps this year, so Ware will probably rush the quarterback around 520 times or so—a number that fits with other 4-3 ends around the league. At 520 snaps, Ware would total 42 pressures with an 8.0 percent pressure rate. I’ve shown in the past that sacks typically add up to around one-quarter of all pressures, meaning Ware’s most likely sack total in 2013 is probably somewhere around 10.5.
Final 2013 Projection: 55 tackles, 42 pressures, 10.5 sacks
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.