- Founder and Editor-in-chief of Footballoutsiders.com
- NFL analyst for ESPN Insider
There’s no risk in the NFL quite like the risk of drafting a quarterback. No defense revolves around a single player the way every offense revolves around the quarterback. Trust your offense to the wrong young quarterback, and your team isn’t going to climb back into playoff contention. Quarterbacks get drafted earlier than players who rank similarly at their respective positions. And while quarterbacks have more statistics measuring them than other players do, teams haven’t been more accurate in drafting them. Just ask the Chicago Bears, who selected Mitchell Trubisky before Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes three years ago.
The lessons of history can at least help us figure out how much of a risk each quarterback prospect will be. That’s the point of Football Outsiders’ quarterback-adjusted stats and experience (QBASE) projection system. It looks at college performance, experience, and expected draft position (to incorporate scouting information that college stats will miss). To allow some time for development, QBASE projects a quarterback’s efficiency (passing only) in Years 3-5 of his career according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) metric. A total of 50,000 simulations produces a range of potential outcomes for each prospect, with players drafted later generally having a larger range of possibilities.
You’ll notice that every listed quarterback prospect has a chance to be elite, and every quarterback has a chance to be a bust. That reflects just how much we don’t know about drafting quarterbacks, and the wide range of possible outcomes for each player.
QBASE favors quarterbacks expected to go high in the draft who also have a relatively long résumé of college success, according to the stats. Those stats include completion percentage, adjusted yards per attempt (adjusted for touchdowns and interceptions), and team passing efficiency (measured with Bill Connelly’s passing SP+ stats). These numbers are adjusted both for the quality of the defenses that a prospect had to face as well as the quality of his offensive teammates. QBASE is meant to be used only on players chosen in the top 100 picks; after that, the judgment of scouts becomes even more important, and statistics become even less predictive.
Overall, QBASE thinks this is a good year for moderately promising quarterback prospects. None of this year’s quarterbacks comes close to the top projections in QBASE history, in part because no top quarterback prospect this year has four full seasons as a college starter.
However, this is the first year with three prospects with mean projections over 600 DYAR since 2012 (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson) and the first year with five prospects with mean projections over 400 DYAR since 2006. Then again, those five quarterbacks in 2006 were Matt Leinart, Jay Cutler, Kellen Clemens, Vince Young and Tarvaris Jackson — once again demonstrating that projecting quarterbacks is very difficult.
Here are projections for eight quarterbacks who might go in the top 100 picks of the 2020 NFL draft.
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