Thursday, February 05, 2009

Get to Know 'Em: Quarterback Prospects

[This post has been edited to reflect reality. I had Matt Stafford's, Mark Sanchez', Josh Freeman's and Nate Davis' numbers completely wrong, completely changing my conclusion. Sloppy research on my part, but in my defense, its not easy to find statistics on college players for some reason. I blame ESPN (who had some wrong numbers and don't give career stats for college players). Thanks to the Anonymous commenter who pointed it out.]

It’s quite obvious that the Vikings need to do something about the quarterback position this off season. Another year with Tarvaris (or a mediocre to bad veteran that was signed to back him up) under center isn’t going to cut it. One of the ways they might address the position is by drafting a QB (which, would, I think, probably be a lot more rational than trying to acquire Matt Cassell or wagering it all next year on an over the hill veteran like Jeff Garcia or *shudder* Brett Favre). Of course, if they’re going to draft a quarterback the need to find one that can contribute by 2010 at the latest, which likely means drafting one in the first or second round. Of course, if they’re going to draft a quarterback, they need to draft a good one. So how do you know which college quarterback is going to be good? Well, luckily for us, Dave Lewin at Football Outsiders has developed a system that’s pretty accurate at determining which quarterbacks are worth taking. In a nutshell:

Lewin found that there are only two college QB statistics that reliably, and independent of all others, predict NFL QB performance: completion percentage and games started. Completion percentage is obvious: QBs kind of have to be able to hit their target. Generally, you’re looking for a 60% completion percentage and around 35 games started in college.

Lewin’s system only applies to QBs drafted in the first two rounds because, as Lewin showed, pro scouts are good enough to separate top talent from lesser talent. Which is the more games a player started, the better (not to mention the more talented quarterbacks tend to play earlier in their career in college). The guys who go after the first 2 rounds are generally there for good reason (Tom Brady excluded). When a team ends up with a bust, it’s usually because they either reached (*cough* Tarvaris Jackson *cough*) or because the quarterback didn’t play enough for their flaws to become apparent. Or the team ignored the flaws because of other things they thought mattered more, like arm strength, which are usually vastly overrated.

So how does this year’s crop of quarterbacks look? Well, from looking at the various draft sites, I’ve come up with a list of 7 quarterbacks that might go in the first or second round. Not all of them will, but I’m trying to be comprehensive and I’ve included where most sites have them going.



Predicted Round

Games Started

Completion Percentage

Matt Stafford





Mark Sanchez





Josh Freeman

Kansas St.

Late 1st



Nate Davis

Ball State




Pat White

West Virginia




Graham Harrell

Texas Tech




Rhett Bomar

Sam Houston St.




So what does this tell us about this year’s quarterback class? Well, there isn't a quarterback that meet the two standards and will go in the 1st or 2nd round. Matt Stafford isn't close to the mark completion wise, but he hasn’t started as many games (and while 32 games is a solid amount, he platooned his first year playing). Mark Sanchez didn't start anywhere near enough games (though with USC quarterbacks, that isn't necessarily about a lack of talent) and Josh Freeman didn’t hit either mark (though his games started and completion percentage were close), which makes sense, considering he’s seen as a very raw quarterback. Nate Davis is like Matt Stafford--he started 32 games, but platooned a few more his freshman year. He was more accurate in college than Stafford was though. Pat White and Graham Harrell both hit each mark, but quarterbacks like them are why this projection system doesn’t work past the first two rounds—neither of them is seen as having the physical tools necessary to be successful in the NFL. And Rhett Bomar is an interesting case because he probably would have played 35 games for Oklahoma if he hadn’t been kicked off the team for taking money from boosters. He doesn’t seem to have the accuracy to be successful however, as he only completed 56.5% of his passes in college. Don’t be surprised to see him talked up as a big sleeper based on his arm strength and mobility, but it’s never, ever a good sign to see a quarterback completed so few of his passes in 1-AA.

So where does that leave the Vikings? Well, none of the quarterbacks made the benchmarks that predict success in the NFL. So, that makes this year's draft particularly unappetizing when it comes to quarterbacks. Which is great, because the Vikings probably need to draft one this year. Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez aren’t likely to fall to the 22nd pick. Josh Freeman might be there, but he’s a project and didn’t hit either of the marks that predict success in the NFL. Nate Davis is intriguing, however, and he might be available to the Purple in the 2nd Round, allowing them to address another one of their issues in the first, but he's a little small for a quarterback and would have to adjust from the MAC to the NFL (then again, the MAC seems to turn out very good NFL quarterbacks). I’m going to get into this a lot more (look for a breakdown of the Vikings’ needs next) and hopefully take a more in depth look at the prospects the Vikings might take in the first round, but as of right now, it doesn’t look like they should be drafting a quarterback with the 22nd pick.


Anonymous said...

You need to do better research. The stats that you listed for the QBs are all wrong especially Sanchez. The guy only started 16 games during his time at USC. The rest of the numbers are wrong also.

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