Will Kirk Cousins Throw More This Season?

Photo: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time as a full-time starter, Kirk Cousins finished with fewer than 4,000 passing yards last season. It was the product of the Minnesota Vikings shaking things up, leaning on an extremely run-heavy approach following the firing of former offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in December of 2018.

The Vikings ran on 48.3% of their offensive plays in 2019, the fourth-most in the NFL behind the Baltimore Ravens (54.1%), San Francisco 49ers (51.4%), and the Tennessee Titans (48.8%). The shift to this heavy ground-and-pound style started immediately after DeFilippo’s firing and the promotion of quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski to offensive coordinator. 

Kirk Cousins saw a major decrease in workload when Stefanski was calling plays. Cousins’ passing attempts dropped from 40.3 per game under DeFilippo to 29.2 under Stefanski. His passing yards per game followed suit, dropping from 284.5 to 233.5. For reference, Cousins played 18 games under Stefanski and 13 games under DeFilippo. So despite setting new career-highs as a starter in adjusted yards per pass attempt (8.7), adjusted net yards per pass attempt (7.73), QB rating (107.4), touchdown percentage (5.9%), and interception rate (1.4%) in 2019, he set a career-low in passing yards (3,603)—it is worth noting he played in only 15 games compared to 16 in each of his past four seasons, but he would’ve needed to throw for more than 490 yards in the game he missed to avoid that career-low. 

Flashforward to this season, Stefanski is the new head coach of the Cleveland Browns and Gary Kubiak is the new Vikings offensive coordinator. What does that mean for Cousins’ statistical output in 2020? MyBookie has the following player props available:

Passing Yards: 3,750.5 (over -125; under -115)

Passing TDs: 25.5 (over -115; under -115)

The Vikings aren’t suddenly going to become a pass-first offense under Kubiak. Much of their philosophy will remain the same, but the dramatic drop in passing should go away. Cousins won’t average the 40.3 attempts per game he had with DeFilippo. He probably won’t even average the 35.2 attempts per game he had in his final three seasons with the Washington Redskins, but he should be closer to 33 attempts per game. That’ll be enough to get him back over 500 attempts for the season. 

Let’s work with that 33 per game or 528 attempts per-16-games number as our constant. 

Cousins is averaging 7.66 yards per attempt in his career but 7.52 during his two years in Minnesota. Let’s use the latter for our projection. 7.52 yards per attempt on 528 attempts equals 3,970.6 passing yards, about 220 yards more than MyBookie’s posted total. That doesn’t leave a ton of wiggle room, but he might be able to miss a game and still exceed the posted total. However, if Cousins’ yards per attempt jumps up to his career average (which is still below the 8.1 yards per attempt he averaged in 2019), he only needs to throw 490 passes this season to go over. Considering he rarely misses time, the best bet is over 3,750.5 passing yards (-125).

How about his touchdown total? That over seems ripe for the picking, especially since he’s never thrown fewer than 25 touchdowns in his five seasons as a full-time starter. Do the numbers agree? 

Cousins has thrown a touchdown pass on 5.33% of his throws since joining the Vikings. That’s about one every 18.75 passes or 28.2 over 528 attempts. Even if we reduce his touchdown rate to 5.0%, which is his career average as a starter and the rate he had in 2017 and 2018, that works out to 26.4 touchdown passes over 528 attempts. That makes the best bet on this prop over 25.5 passing touchdowns (-115).

Cousins did a lot of things well last season, but it went largely unnoticed because of how infrequently he threw the ball. A modest bump in pass attempts will do wonders for Cousins’ statistical output in 2020. He should flirt with 4,000 passing yards and the upper 20s in touchdowns over a full 16-game season.

Written By:

Jaime Eisner

Managing Editor

Managing Editor of The Draft Network. He’s a former editor for Sports Illustrated, FanRag Sports and Arizona Sports. He’s the co-host of the TDN Fantasy Podcast and has an extensive background covering fantasy sports and sports betting.