Monday, April 17, 2017

[OC] Why 58.5% is the magic number for QBs in the NFL Draft

With the NFL Draft coming up in just a few days now, a lot of teams are looking to find that franchise quarterback. When people look for traits in a quarterback, it varies. Some look for intelligence. Others look for mobility. Others look for pocket presence and ability to throw under pressure. Others look for leadership. And some look at how many people attended their birthday party.

But the most important trait a quarterback can have, without a doubt, is whether or not they can complete a pass. I know it seems obvious, but you want a quarterback that can actually throw the ball and complete his passes.

Amazingly enough, there are teams that don’t look for this. There are some teams that take quarterbacks that, in college, had insanely low completion percentages and magically hope they’ll be able to turn it around. There are very few players that did nothing in college that magically turned it around and played well at the professional level, and the same applies for quarterbacks. Despite this, teams have taken chances on quarterbacks that can’t complete a pass, but display some sort of potential or intangible that ends up being completely meaningless when all is said and done.

Is there a magic number for college to determine the baseline of quarterbacks? Is there a number where you can flat out say they will not be good, and where you can save yourself the trouble of looking at the tape? Let’s find out.

Part I: The Formula

I looked at every NFL Draft since 2002, when the Houston Texans joined the league. The magic number I came upon was 58.5%. Simply put, if a QB completes above 58.5% of their passes in college, they’re at least worth a look (for me, the bar is set at 60%, but there are some exceptions to this rule). If a QB completes 58.5% of their passes or less, then in all likelihood, they’ll be complete garbage.

I took a look at a few things when creating this list:

  • If a QB got injured that season and didn’t have a large enough sample size, I don’t count that. For that reason, Sam Bradford does not make this list, as he barely threw any passes his final season before getting hurt twice (in games against BYU and Texas). The QB had to play at least a substantial portion of the season before getting hurt for it to count.

  • If a QB was a backup in college, it’s fair game. Doesn’t matter how many passes they threw- if they were a backup and didn’t get a whole lot of playing time, that’s fine. For this list, this ended up not applying

  • I did not count any QBs playing at the FCS (I-AA) level or lower. The reason for this is not me cherry-picking, but rather, because after a certain year, I was unable to find any stats on some QBs at that level. Only FBS (I-A) quarterbacks are on this list

  • If a player got drafted into the league as a QB but got converted after the fact (like BJ Daniels), they’re on the list. If a player played QB in college but converted beforehand (like Matt Jones and Denard Robinson), they’re not on the list.

  • I am only counting what they did for the team that they got drafted by. That’s how you evaluate a draft pick- by how well they play for your team. If there’s a QB on the list that got drafted by Seattle, did nothing for Seattle, but then went on and dominated with Philadelphia, I’m only looking at the Seattle stats. This only (and barely) applies to one QB on the list (Luke McCown)

  • I am excluding the 2015 and 2016 drafts, because part of this is retrospective. If it takes 3 years to truly evaluate a draft class, then I’ll give it 3 years. For this reason, we are looking at the NFL Draft from 2002-2014

So, with that being said, what quarterbacks from 2002-2014 ended up fulfilling this criteria?

Part II: The Historic List

Again, I am only counting their completion percentage in their final year of college. If they threw for 70% in their sophomore and junior seasons but just 52% in their senior year, they’re on here. Likewise, if they threw for 30% in their junior season but went 67% in their senior season, they’re exempt.

Year of Draft QB College Final Year Completion Percentage Draft Result
2014 Logan Thomas Virginia Tech 56.5% R4, P120- Arizona Went 1-for-9 with Arizona in 2014 before being released at the end of the 2015 preseason after just 1 season
2013 BJ Daniels South Florida 56.9% R7, P237- San Francisco Never made the active roster with the 49ers. Switched to WR in 2015
2012 Ryan Lindley San Diego State 53% R6, P185- Arizona Finished career with 3 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Threw 0 touchdowns and 7 interceptions his rookie season. Currently in the CFL with the Ottawa RedBlacks
2011 Jake Locker Washington 55.4% R1, P8- Tennessee Retired after suffering numerous injuries. Finished with just 27 touchdown passes in 4 seasons, and never had a completion percentage above 61% in any season. Titans go 9-14 under Locker
2011 Nathan Enderle Idaho 56.7% R5, P160- Chicago Never threw a pass in the NFL. Cut after 1 season with the Bears
2010 Jonathan Crompton Tennessee 58.3% R5, P168- San Diego Never made an active roster at the NFL level, and was cut after the 2010 preseason by the Chargers
2010 Rusty Smith Florida Atlantic 57.3% R6, P176- Tennessee Finished his career with 0 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. Lone start in his career was a 20-0 shutout to the Texans
2008 Chad Henne Michigan 58.3% R2, P57- Miami Finished 4-year career with the Dolphins with 31 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. Currently is the backup on the Jaguars
2008 Kevin O’Connell San Diego State 58.5% R3, P94- New England Threw a grand total of 6 passes during his NFL career for 23 yards
2008 Matt Flynn LSU 56.3% R7, P209- Green Bay One of the few on this list to work out, but this is speaking strictly as a value pick in the 7th round for a backup QB. Highlight of career- throwing for 480 yards and 6 touchdowns in the 2011 season finale against Detroit
2007 Isaiah Stanback Washington 53.4% R4, P103- Dallas Converted to WR. Never threw a pass in the NFL
2006 Reggie McNeal Texas A&M 53.2% R6, P193- Cincinnati Converted to WR. Never threw a pass in the NFL
2006 DJ Shockley Georgia 55.8% R7, P223- Atlanta Never threw an NFL pass. Only passes in professional football came as a member of the Omaha Nighthawks in 2010 of the UFL, where he went 2-for-5 with an interception
2004 Luke McCown Louisiana Tech 56.9% R4, P106- Cleveland Played 1 season with the Browns before being traded in 2005. Threw 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, failing to win a game in any of his 4 starts
2004 Craig Krenzel Ohio State 55% R5, P148- Chicago Started 5 games for the Bears, throwing 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Cut by the Bears in 2005
2004 Jim Sorgi Wisconsin 56.5% R6, P193- Indianapolis Never started an NFL game (in fairness to Sorgi, Peyton Manning was the QB ahead of him on the depth chart)
2004 Cody Pickett Washington 56.6% R7, P217- San Francisco Started 2 games for the 49ers in 2 seasons, throwing 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Traded to the Texans in 2006
2004 Casey Bramlet Wyoming 56.7% R7, P218- Cincinnati Never played a down for the Bengals, and was released in 2005
2003 Kyle Boller California 53.4% R1, P19- Baltimore Want to preface this by saying this was Boller’s highest completion percentage in college. It was the first year he threw above 50%. No idea what the Ravens were thinking here, even with the benefit of hindsight. He winds up completing just 56.9% of his passes with the Ravens, and finished with 45 touchdowns on 44 interceptions. He started double-digit games for the Ravens just once over 6 seasons
2003 Rex Grossman Florida 57.1% R1, P22- Chicago He made a Super Bowl as a starting QB… but not because of his play. He finished his 6 seasons in Chicago with 33 TDs on just 35 interceptions, and only started 8 games in a season once in 6 years with the Bears
2003 Dave Ragone Louisville 53.7% R3, P88- Houston Spent 3 years with the Texans, and never threw a touchdown pass. Played in just 2 games, where he lost both of them and completed just 50% of his passes for 135 yards
2003 Seneca Wallace Iowa State 55.1% R4, P110- Seattle This pick actually worked out for Seattle. Not a good starter, but a serviceable backup. Played 7 seasons with the Seahawks, and when called into action, threw 25 touchdowns on 14 interceptions. Never started more than 8 games in a season for any team
2003 Brian St. Pierre Boston College 58.2% R5, P163- Pittsburgh Threw just 1 pass for the Steelers in 2 seasons. Got cut at the end of the 2005 preseason
2003 Brooks Bollinger Wisconsin 53.5% R6, P200- NY Jets Played 3 seasons for the Jets, where he went just 2-7 and threw a grand total of 7 touchdown passes in 12 games over 9 starts. He was named the UFL MVP in 2009, though, so at least he’s got that going for him
2003 Gibran Hamdan Indiana 51.9% R7, P232- Washington First player of Pakistani descent to ever play in the NFL. Finished his career with just 2 passes thrown and 7 yards, playing just 1 season with Washington
2003 Ken Dorsey Miami (FL) 56.5% R7, P241- San Francisco Went just 2-8 with the 49ers and 2-11 over his career. Played 3 seasons with the 49ers, throwing 8 touchdowns on 11 interceptions, and finished his career with 8 TDs on 18 INTs. Had a career completion percentage of just 52.5%
2002 Patrick Ramsey Tulane 57.1% R1, P32- Washington Completed just 55.7% of his passes with Washington, only starting 8+ games in a season once over 4 years. Started just 24 games, despite being a first round pick
2002 David Garrard ECU 56.6% R4, P108- Jacksonville Hands down, the best player on this list. Solid starting QB for the Jaguars before his release after the 2011 preseason. Threw 89 touchdowns for the Jaguars while starting 76 games, and made the Pro Bowl in 2009 (don’t know how he made the Pro Bowl that year, but it makes up for 2007, when he didn’t make it despite throwing just 3 interceptions, and none before the start of December)
2002 Randy Fasani Stanford 51.5% R5, P137- Carolina Played 4 games for the Panthers and started 1. In that start, he went 5-for-18 with no touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 46 yards, and a 0.0 passer rating. Not surprisingly, he did not play for the Panthers after 2002
2002 Kurt Kittner Illinois 55.3% R5, P158- Atlanta Played 2 seasons for the Falcons, where he completed 38.6% of his passes, threw 6 interceptions, and had a passer rating of 32.5. For comparison, if I entered an NFL game and threw nothing but incomplete passes, my passer rating would be higher than that
2002 Steve Bellisari Ohio State 53% R6, P205- St. Louis Rams Converted to safety for some reason. Never played a game with the Rams
2002 Ronald Curry North Carolina 46.3% R7, P235- Oakland Why you’d draft a QB that had a career completion percentage of 49.6% and threw just 8 touchdowns in 10 games in his senior year on a 46.3% completion percentage, I don’t know. He got converted to WR straight away

Part III: The Analysis

From 2002-2014, there were 31 quarterbacks that had a completion percentage of 58.5% or worse, but ended up getting drafted. Of those 31 quarterbacks, only one of them (David Garrard) ended up becoming a decent starter. Some, like Seneca Wallace, Matt Flynn, Chad Henne, and even Jim Sorgi to an extent, became quality backups. Most flamed out in a blaze of glory, or didn’t even make the roster initially, or changed position despite getting drafted into the league at quarterback.

If you’re a team and you’re drafting a QB that has a completion percentage of 58.5% or worse, the best possible result you will get is David Garrard. Garrard was a good quarterback (frustratingly inconsistent, but a solid quarterback nonetheless), but he should never be used as the benchmark for anything. If David Garrard is the best possible situation (not the average, but the best situation), then that should tell you all you need to know about drafting a QB with a completion percentage along those lines.

Four teams drafted a QB under these criteria in the first round (Tennessee with Jake Locker, Baltimore with Kyle Boller, Chicago with Rex Grossman, and Washington with Patrick Ramsey). All four of those teams moved on from their quarterback before the second contract. Jake Locker had some injury history and maybe had a chance to be decent, but none of those quarterbacks even came close to working out.

Two quarterbacks were drafted in the third round (Kevin O’Connell and Dave Ragone). The two third round quarterbacks combined for a grand total of zero touchdown passes across their NFL careers. Not exactly what you want out of your third round pick.

Some teams never learn, and the 49ers are a prime example of that. Since 2002, they’ve drafted 3 quarterbacks with completion percentages below this magic number. BJ Daniels never made the active roster for the 49ers, and now plays wide receiver (he was not drafted with the intent of this conversion; that happened once he joined a different team). Cody Pickett didn’t throw a touchdown pass. Ken Dorsey had a TD:INT ratio that was worse than 1:2. These 3 quarterbacks combined for 8 touchdowns and 22 interceptions over the course of their entire NFL careers.

Part IV: Who to Avoid

With all of that being said, what QBs in this year’s draft at the FBS level threw for a completion percentage of 58.5% or worse last season? I took a look at the top 1,000 prospects according to CBS and just looked at the quarterbacks. There are some QBs not on this list that meet these criteria even though they are draft eligible, but that’s because they were not on the list of prospects, and therefore, have an incredibly slim chance of even stepping on an NFL 90-man roster.

Nobody at the top of the draft meets these criteria (though Kizer came awfully close at 58.7%), so for teams thinking about taking Trubisky or Watson, don’t worry. There’s plenty of other flaws for you to worry about that don’t involve completion percentage with those two. Here’s a look at the quarterbacks that you want to avoid at all cost in this draft, because their ridiculously high ceiling is David Garrard, their normal ceiling is a serviceable but not great backup, and their floor is a guy that won’t even make the roster or will be thrown into a game and have a passer rating that’s laughably bad.

QB School Completion Percentage
Chad Beathard Iowa 56.5%
Trevor Knight Texas A&M 53.5%
Seth Russell Baylor 54.7%
Jeremy Johnson Auburn 57.4%
Wes Lunt Illinois 54.7%
Mitch Leidner Minnesota 56.4%
Patrick Towles Boston College 50.5%
Gunner Kiel Cincinnati 52%
Mike Fafaul UCLA 52.1%
Phillip (PJ) Walker Temple 58.2%
Matt Johns Virginia 57.1%

Part V: Conclusion

If a quarterback can’t complete a pass, it’s probably not the best idea to draft said quarterback. If a quarterback has a poor completion percentage, that will not change in the NFL. The switch will not be flipped, and no amount of coaching or mechanic-fixing will change this. Bad completion percentages stay bad, and bad quarterbacks at the collegiate level stay bad.

If, in a sample size of 31, David Garrard is the unquestionable best quarterback on the list (it’s not even up for debate; nobody else on that list comes close to David Garrard. The gap between Garrard and the next best QB on the list is like the gap between Joe Flacco and the next best QB to ever play for the Ravens- there’s no reasonable debate whatsoever), then maybe it’s not a good idea to draft someone who will fall into that group.

Submitted April 17, 2017 at 09:18PM by JaguarGator9
via reddit

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