Pro MX - Way-Too-Early 2017 Predictions
-- UPDATE: Official predictions for SX 2017 are up: Supercross 2017 Predictions --
Please keep in mind these are NOT the final predictions for any of the series, just a working draft -- in particular, the younger riders' predictions are far from set in stone.
In the 450s, the Top 3 will be no surprise: Ken Roczen, then Ryan Dungey, then Eli Tomac. Each of those riders, though, has a major question mark. For Roczen, are we back to the beginning of 2015 (after he switched from KTM to RCH Suzuki) when he complains about his bike setup most every week after inconsistent results? For Dungey, he's coming off an injury that's not catastrophic but will have kept him off his bike for several months -- also, his first major injury as a pro: does it get into his head? For Tomac, the variable is upside -- has he put the double-shoulder injury behind him and can he now focus on dialing in his bike setup to truly challenge for #1 in 2017?
450 Prediction for 2017, including only 2016's 450 riders:
Even before adding in the riders who are moving up from the 250 MX class, this list doesn't have enough room for: James Stewart (21st), Justin Bogle (22nd), or Justin Brayton (23rd).
With riders advancing from Lites class in 2017 (based on news reports (and some rumors)):
Here, we have Jeremy Martin, Cooper Webb, Malcolm Stewart, and Zach Osborne (assuming he moves up), joining the 450 MX Top 20 as riders coming up from the 250s. JMart at #6 and Webb at #7 might seem backwards, but the big question is JMart's health -- if he's 100% and looks more like the rider who had 8 podiums (or like the 2015 version who had 9 wins), then I think he's got at edge on Webb: Webb's 2 and/or 3 year track record is not as impressive. But, if Webb is the 1 / 1 rider that he showed at Unadilla (and not the 6 / 3 and 5 / 2 from Budds Creek and Ironman the following weeks), then he belongs at #6 in front of JMart. TBD. (By the way, being slotted at #6 is very good -- ahead of Justin Barcia, Trey Canard, and Cole Seely, among other notable names.)
As for Malcolm Stewart, I was surprised he didn't have a slightly more favorable prediction. But without recent MX outdoor results, we don't have a ton to go on. By the time we do formal MX 2017 predictions, we'll have a season of 450 Supercross data to give us some idea of how well he'll transition to the bigger bike.
Other riders from 250 in 2016 that may be moving up but didn't make the 450 Top 20: Christian Craig (22nd), Martin Davalos (32nd), and Alex Martin (35th).
Note -- Included in the calculation is an adjustment for how riders improved from the 1st half of 2016 into the 2nd half:
From the 450 predictions above, let's look at some of the individual riders whose predictions in the 450 MX class may seem surprising. The first thing to note is that it once again seems extremely deep. As mentioned above, there are several guys (Stewart, Bogle, Brayton) who aren't even projected in the Top 20. And, with the addition of the solid 250 guys, it also means Phil Nicoletti, Wil Hahn, Jake Weimer, and Fredrik Noren don't make the Top 20, either.
Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson seem likely as #4 and #5, though who should be rated higher for 2017 is up for debate. Musquin gets the edge mostly because of good results in 2016 against an injury-riddled field. Correcting for "quality of competition" is something that we'll be looking into during this offseason, hopefully to be incorporated into the 2017 predictions.
Falling all the way to #8 is Barcia. He had a very inconsistent 2016 season both in SX and MX -- some of that may be due to injury. But his outdoor results for the entire season were clearly below those of Musquin's and Anderson's. If you believe that Barcia from the last 2 weeks was the real deal, then he should be up at #4; if you think the inconsistency is just who he is (as the numbers do), then he gets slotted in below the 450 newcomers JMart and Webb. Canard drops in right behind Barcia at #9, which sounds incredibly low, but nothing in Canard's last 2 seasons stands out and says that he should be a lock for the Top 5. Not in this deep field, anyway.
With the incoming Osborne and Malcolm Stewart predicted at #10 and #11, that means that Seely, Blake Baggett, and Christophe Pourcel -- all guys that I think we would say offhand "oh, sure, he's definitely a Top 10 guy" -- are outside the Top 10. But if you look at the guys above them, other than the 450 newcomers, I don't see a case that any of these 3 belong ahead of Roczen/Dungey/Tomac/Musquin/Anderson/Barcia/Canard. Perhaps Seely, but he'll be 27 in 2017, which means he's hit his peak and most likely headed for the downside of his career, while none of the riders in front of him, save Dungey and Musquin, are older than Seely. Similar situations face Baggett (26) and Pourcel (28), in that we're not projecting any improvement from them based on age, as we are for the younger guys. In fact, I think they need to be more worried about Benny Bloss (who will be 20 in 2017) and Dean Wilson (25), who are projected to be right on their tails.
It probably deserves more attention somewhere, but just a glance at the names in the Top 20 and the names that don't even make the Top 20 shows that this class is extremely, extremely deep. If injuries are more mild in 2017 than in 2016, then there will be big names every week who finish both motos but don't score any points. Could this be a new era? Do we have to adjust our thinking about what level of riding it takes to be one of "the" guys and not "just a guy"?
Austin Forkner's great rookie season appears to be just the beginning. Though these predictions are a rough draft, Forkner is a clear favorite over Aaron Plessinger and Joey Savatgy. We'll have an entire season of 250 Supercross to evaluate how the young riders Forkner (will be 19) and Plessinger (will be 21) are progressing before the final rankings, but they are the clear Top 3:
One piece of "luck" for those challenging for the 250 crown is that Webb, at least one Martin brother, probably Zach Osborne and even Christian Craig will be leaving the 250s. That eliminates as many as 5 guys who would all be Top 10 candidates, if not even better. Also note that there are no amateurs included -- riders who have no previous pro races.
From here, the 250 class looks a bit thin, actually, which will happen if you graduate 4 or 5 top riders in one year. And on the flip side of the coin, the 450 class looks amazingly stacked. We'll see what changes between now and next March -- because it could look quite a bit different by then.