Which Rookie QBs Should I Draft?

Johnny Manziel
Johnny Manziel

(Photo Credit: ChasingLines)

Like me, you have likely spent a couple months asking which rookie QBs you should draft in your dynasty leagues this year.

I’m a metrics guy when it comes to college football, primarily because I don’t watch enough NCAA games to have a strong grasp of their game film. I love nothing more than pouring statistics into a spreadsheet and crunching the numbers; that’s how I evaluate rookies.

That said, there are men and women out there who focus on game-tape, and I’d recommend you to Matt Waldman’s work if you’re looking for that sort of analysis. You need both: metrics and film study.

For my own sake, I am firmly of the opinion that statistics and metrics can tell us a lot about incoming rookie QBs.  My particular focus is on quarterbacks, so over the years I have developed various formulas to help quantify the potential each quarterback shows for success in the NFL. Metrics work great for every position, but my own writing and research focuses on the quarterback position.

In today’s game, there is no shortage of statistical information, so the real trick is knowing which college stats strongly correlate to NFL success. Personally, I focus on a few, including:

Completion %: College accuracy is necessary, because the windows get smaller in the NFL.

Red Zone Completion %: The elite NFL quarterbacks are those who ensure their teams a touchdown once they get in the end zone. I won’t draft rookie QBs who frequently turn the ball over in the red zone.

Completion % when losing by 1-7 points: This roughly correlates to composure in a must-win situation. I place less value on this one, but it helps me track how well a quarterback plays in tough situations.

Interception %: An NCAA quarterback who turns the ball over frequently isn’t likely to suddenly protect the ball in the NFL.

Height and Weight: I’ll give a slight bonus to rookie QBs who are 6’2″, 220 or bigger.

Three-Year Starter: This comes from Bill Parcells’ requirements for a quarterback, and it helps identify the players who are likely more than a flash in the pan.

While I don’t take my formula as the final word, I use it to rule out a few quarterbacks. If rookie QBs fall below a certain score, I won’t draft them. There are certainly exceptions — guys who do well despite a low metric score coming out of college — but the odds are low, and I look for good probability when I’m drafting a quarterback.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the incoming class of quarterbacks and see how they stack up as dynasty prospects.

2014 Rookie Quarterbacks: Which rookie QBs should I draft?

To give you a few reference points, Andrew Luck is the best rookie to come out in the last five years. He scored a 14. RG3 scored a 12. The numbers predicted Russell Wilson to succeed, with a 9, and they projected Blaine Gabbert’s struggles, with a 5.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings. Metric Score: 8

Rookie QBs

(Photo Credit: flickr)

Teddy is my top-rated quarterback in this year’s class, and I would easily take him ahead of Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel. Even taking hits for a low red zone completion percentage and a less-than-ideal weight coming out of college, Bridgewater surpasses the rest of this year’s group.

Teddy Bridgewater’s metric score puts him in a similar category to recent rookies like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Brandon Weeden; Landry Jones, Andy Dalton, and Jake Locker. He falls far below the scores of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and even Geno Smith.

I’d take Teddy as a top-5 pick in a 2QB or Superflex league, but in a traditional 1QB league, I’d wait until the third round.

 

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders. Metric Score: 8

Derek Carr grades out as my second-best quarterback in the 2014 class, which surprised me. After reading the experts and looking at mock drafts, I assumed Carr would fall fourth or fifth. Instead, he’s barely behind Bridgewater’s numbers.

Carr scores well in every accuracy metric, and he gets a boost for being a three-year starter at Fresno State. If he added a little more bulk or got drafted earlier, I would bump him above Teddy Bridgewater. Even without those two benefits, he has a great shot at a strong career. His recent comps are the same as Bridgewater’s and guys like Wilson, Newton, Weeden, and Locker.

 

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars. Metric Score: 7

Lindsey Dukes

Yes, this photo of Bortles’ girlfriend is included solely to keep your attention. You’re so easy. (Photo Credit: The Sports Bank)

Although Bortles did not get three years of starting experience at Central Florida, he has the height and weight you look for in an NFL quarterback, and his accuracy numbers are just as high as Bridgewater’s. Bortles also gets a slight bump in my formula because of his early draft spot, a sign that the Jaguars want him to become a foundation piece for their team.

His recent comps are Nick Foles, Jake Locker, and Sam Bradford.

 

A. J. McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals. Metric Score: 7

I did not like McCarron at Alabama, and I had no intention to put him even inside my top-seven at the position this year. But his measurables are strong. He protects the ball well, and he was a three-year starter at Alabama.

I still question McCarron for a number of reasons, but those reasons aren’t reflected in his measurables under my formula. He should be a reliable backup to Andy Dalton, and he would likely perform reasonably if he had to start two to three weeks.

McCarron is a great example of the need to balance metrics with film study. I watch enough SEC football to know that McCarron has limits that don’t show up when you look just at his statistics.

He and Bortles have a similar group of comparable recent picks: Foles, Locker, and Bradford.

 

Bryn Renner, Denver Broncos. Metric Score: 5

Renner was an undrafted quarterback out of North Carolina. Word is that the Broncos signed him thanks to some encouragement from Peyton Manning. Anyone that Peyton thinks is worth a second look is a quarterback that I’ll be evaluating closely.

The metrics back up the idea that there’s something to this guy. He loses points for going undrafted and having a low rating from ESPN, but he has good accuracy numbers and fits the prototypical height and weight for an NFL quarterback. If you don’t believe in Brock Osweiler as the long-term answer, Renner would be an interesting stash in 2QB and Superflex leagues.

Renner’s recent comps are guys like E. J. Manuel, Blaine Gabbert, Kellen Moore, Tim Tebow, and Colin Kaepernick.

 

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns. Metric Score: 4

Johnny Football is easily the most polarizing player in this year’s rookie class, and he might be the most polarizing rookie quarterback in the last decade. My metric score of 4 isn’t going to help with that, because it puts Manziel into a group including players like Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum, and Terrelle Pryor.

Manziel was more accurate last year than either Bridgewater or Bortles, but his knocks are his interception percentage, his size, and the fact that he left school before starting for a third year.

Like McCarron, there is more to Johnny Manziel than the numbers show. He has the potential to light up the scoreboard and the highlight reel, and he brings a much-needed confidence to a Browns’ team that has been through the ringer.

As with every quarterback before him, Manziel is more than his metrics score, but it gives me pause when I see rankings with him as the best quarterback in this class.

Conclusions on This Year’s Quarterback Class

The tl;dr here is that my formula likes Bridgewater and Carr, but you need to consider more than just metrics.

Take these rankings and combine them with a few others. Look to the guys who study film, and mix in your own personal preferences. But the metrics should certainly be one factor in your analysis.

One Comment

  1. Aaron

    May 24, 2014 at 7:42 am

    Good read!

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