What It Takes to Succeed (or Fail) at QB, Part 6 - Rookie Rankings

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In the final installment of this series, I’ll describe what the numbers say about the rookie class of 2017, along with quarterbacks that have a substantial amount of potential. This holistic view will be helpful in cultivating a flushed-out opinion about each player.

Through viewing the scores of each of these players according to the model we can learn to stay away from certain people or buy now in the case of others.

Begin with part one of this series to understand the underlying concepts and process behind my rankings system.

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Rookie QB Rankings

Upon reflection of the model results, here are my current rankings for this year's top rookie quarterbacks:

  1. Mitchell Trubisky

      2a. Patrick Mahomes

      2b. Deshaun Watson

  1.    DeShone Kizer

 

Mitch Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky was the second overall pick this year.  Historically, this speaks well to his chances of success in the NFL.  The numbers are also his friend according to the model. In every important characteristic except for number of games started, Mitch scored a light green score or better including an impressive 4:1+ TD/INT ratio. This means that he is likely to succeed in the NFL.

Realistically, we cannot deny the impact of a general lack of experience in the outcome of one’s NFL career.  There have only been three QBs in my sample (81 QBs) who had a “successful career” when they started fewer than 22 games.  Those players were: Cam Newton, Ryan Tannehill and Mark Sanchez.  Furthermore, beyond Sanchez’s first couple of years, his career became an unmitigated disaster eventually losing out to Trevor Siemian in a QB competition.  I’ve discussed why games started are so crucial, the concepts a QB has to interact with at the NFL level are substantially more complex than in nearly any college scheme. Also, a mind needs to mature, and become numb to much of the scrutiny that a pro QB will face before facing that onslaught.

If there is anyone in recent years that is likely to succeed given the difficulties he faces, it is Trubisky.  His poise and execution in the pre-season reminds me of Dak Prescott last year.  If Mitch is able to harness this calm fire, and live up to his potential it seems that there is little that can stop him.

Furthermore, Trubisky is in a position to succeed in the coming years.  With one of the best interior offensive lines in the league, a legitimate running back in Jordan Howard, and an underrated receiving corps (until he lost Meredith), it seems that Mitch won’t have to do too much to succeed just at first. He’ll have to play not to lose rather than play to win and this bodes well for a very young QB’s development.

 

Patrick Mahomes

The Chiefs moved up seventeen picks in the first round to get to Mahomes, obviously they wanted him pretty badly.  This hasn’t stopped Alex Smith from being the starter in KC and according to recent reports, may be for the foreseeable future.

With that being said, Mahomes may have the highest upside of any of the QBs in this class.  With a 60 MPH fastball, and the ability to throw for 4000+ yards in a college season, Mahomes is your prototypical gunslinger with a similar upside to Matthew Stafford or even Brett Favre.  Mahomes went to the perfect team, he can sit for a year or two and be coached up by QB guru Andy Reid.  Reid has worked with Brett Favre, Michael Vick, and Donavan McNabb.  Reid has crafted a team that will be very friendly to a big armed QB like Mahomes and is likely to allow him to succeed in the future.

The model is friendly, but not incredibly friendly to Mahomes.  Mahomes failed to win more than 60 percent of his games in his time at Texas Tech, although he had one of the worst defenses in the country, so he could only do so much. Furthermore, Patrick has 9.25” hands, but he’s only 6’2” tall, so these comparatively small hands have a precedent for not impacting him as much as if he was 6’5”.  Finally, his Wonderlic scores were disappointing at best, with a poor score of 24.  Thus, it is not a cut and dry, slam dunk with Mahomes, but he has everything you need to succeed in the NFL, if he can sit for a year or two behind one of the most conservative and cerebral QBs in the game.

After watching Mahomes in pre-season it seems that his reckless play has been balancing on the knife’s edge thus far.  If Mahomes can learn from Alex Smith and Andy Reid, he could capitalize on his bizarre improvisational style and become one of the more electric playmakers in the NFL. I value Mahomes over Watson in dynasty leagues currently.

 

Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson is a winner. He beat the proverbial Goliath, Alabama Crimson Tide, in the national championship. He won more than 90 percent of his 40 games that he started.  He makes great decisions with his 2.8 TD/INT ratio and completed a solid 67 percent of his passes while at Clemson.  Watson has everything you need to succeed in the NFL, with a great defense to usher him in with little need for him to play hero, to a phenomenal receiving cast where he’ll be meeting up with former Clemson alum, DeAndre Hopkins.

As you can see in the data, Watson only threw for 49 MPH at the combine, also he scored a low 20 on the Wonderlic.  A throwing velocity of 49 MPH is one of the two cut and dry failure statistics in the model.  So why am I not placing Watson in the failure category?  This is because at the ESPN Sports Science facility Watson threw a 54 MPH fast ball, and a writer at SB nation charted his throws using an automated timer and a basic time/distance equation popped out an average speed of 53.5.  This mean that Watson doesn’t have a rocket arm by any stretch of the imagination, but it means that he can be successful with what he has. Wonderlic is important, but probably the least important characteristic in the model, there have been plenty of QBs that have failed to put up a 25+ on the Wonderlic such as: Derek Carr (20), Tyrod Taylor (15), Cam Newton (21), and Teddy Bridgewater (20).  This isn’t something that precludes you from being successful in the NFL, it probably just means you’re really bad at very important written tests. Watson has grit, he has determination and leadership.

These questionable physical and mental characteristics have a tendency to show up in his play. Watson will often force balls with more strength than he needs to because he’s afraid his arm won’t allow for the mix of strength and touch necessary to hit intermediate routes.  Furthermore, Watson tends to do a half-field read and take off up field before a receiver has a chance to get open a second or two later.  These are both problems that can be fixed, but currently he seems to need more work than the first two quarterbacks in the class.

 

DeShone Kizer

DeShone Kizer is the only highly touted QB in this class that I am low on.  Kizer was in the yellow to red in numerous important characteristics throughout the model.  Furthermore, he went to Cleveland who have been in QB hell for pretty much the last 25 years.  Kizer isn’t going to get the patience necessary to develop and he may not have the mental characteristics to be able to succeed in the NFL regardless.  Kizer’s accuracy fell from his first to second year to a dreaded 58.7 percent, no QB in my model succeeded with a completion percentage that low in their final year.  Kizer failed to win more than 60 percent of his games, and only started 23 of them, this lack of experience as a winner and a QB in general bodes extremely poorly for his chance of success. The knocks on Kizer coming out of college are extremely problematic, he’s said to have “slow eyes”.  This means that he either doesn’t see open receivers, goes through his progressions very slowly, and when he does find the right target, he’s slow to pull the trigger on the right decision.  Kizer has a huge arm and a great body for the job, but if you can’t make the right decision in the rapid-fire NFL, you will not succeed.  I give Kizer a failing grade in the model.

 

Underrated/off the Radar Young QB Rankings

Current Rankings

  1. A.J. McCarron
  2. Jared Goff
  3. Brett Hundley
  4. Bryce Petty
  5. Paxton Lynch

AJ McCarron

 
A.J McCarron has started games in the NFL and was quite successful given his limited practice as a starter.  He pushed the prolific 2015 Broncos to overtime and led the team to the post-season. McCarron has one of the best outlooks that my model produced.  Literally every characteristic is in the elite category except for Wonderlic and ball speed.  Though McCarron has a fast ball above 52 MPH, so he can make it work.  What McCarron has shown in college and in the pros is great decision making along with leadership.  The man won numerous national championships in Alabama, so he has the hardiness necessary to face adversity and win with what is given to him.  A.J had one of the highest TD/INT ratios in my entire 81 QB model at 5.13.  This means that he wasn’t relying on his defense or running game to get him his TDs, he was throwing for them and making great decisions at the same time.  There has been recent talk that as many as nine teams have been interested in trading for McCarron, because they see exactly what my model shows.  A big bodied QB with solid decision making that has the leadership characteristics necessary to help a team not just play well, but to thrive.  I would highly suggest picking up A.J in any deeper dynasty league.

 

Jared Goff

The Jury is still out on Goff.  After an incredibly disappointing rookie season, many are writing off the former number one overall pick, but the numbers say we should suspend judgment for another year or two.  Goff has everything he needs to succeed in the NFL according to the standards of the model, except his dangerously small, nine-inch hands, and god awful sub 38 percent college win rate.

Goff has a developing team around him and an enormous investment by the Rams. Goff is thankfully in very sunny L.A. for half of his games every year, another four are in usually temperate Arizona and Santa Clara, the same kind of inclement weather that would doom someone else with his hand size he just won’t have to deal with on the same level, due to the simple reality of his division and landing spot. If there is anyone that’s going to overcome his college win rate (which got better every year), it’s the still very young Jared Goff.  With a newly invested in offensive line, a newly drafted receiving corps and a Todd Gurley with something to prove, it would make perfect sense that Goff could develop into a franchise QB if he can stand up to the scrutiny. Now may be the perfect time to pick him up in dynasty formats as his value may be at an all-time nadir.

 

Brett Hundley

Brett Hundley is currently Aaron Rodgers’ backup, but has also made waves in every pre-season he’s played in.  Hundley played 40 games at UCLA, and was exceptionally successful, where he won more than 72% of his games.  Hundley is one of the most accurate QBs in the sample with a completion percentage of nearly 70% in his final year.  Hundley has enormous hands at 10.5” and has a big enough arm to get the job done.  On top of all of this he also hit the 3:1 TD/INT ratio.  According to the model, given the opportunity Hundley won’t just be successful, he has the opportunity to be a superstar.  The packers develop QBs into something worthwhile, and many QBs that sit behind Hall of Famers' breath in the essence that makes those players so special. Each year Hundley has been in the NFL, he’s shown his talents in the pre-season including his stand out performances over the last couple of weeks.  Hundley is someone that should be considered for very deep dynasty leagues, with one more successful pre-season trial behind him, teams very well may be clamoring for a trade for the Green Bay QB.

 

Bryce Petty

Bryce Petty was a fourth-round picks by the Jets in 2015 and during his few years in the league he has had a tough time getting on the field and staying there. Although the NFL hasn’t been kind of Bryce Petty as of yet, his numbers make a clear statement.  They tell us not to give up on him just yet.  Petty was one of the most impressive players in the model, Petty racked up a TD/INT ratio above 6:1, he has 10” hands, he won more than 80 percent of his games while at Baylor, and compiled a respectable 63+ percent of his passes during his final year. Each of these characteristics are shared with star quarterbacks.  How much can we blame Petty’s poor performance last year on him alone when he was working with a substandard offensive line, and one of the league’s receiving corps? Looking back on his games, when he was locked in on Andersen, many teams had a hard time stopping him.  Given more time, or a different opportunity, Petty could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.  Just last week, Petty had his best outing yet, where he completed 15 of 18 passes for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns, which resulted in a perfect passer rating.  Many quarterbacks don’t mature until their mid to late twenties, Petty very well may be one of those players.  Unfortunately, with the Jets in full tank mode, it very well may be bad news for Petty and his future.  Let’s hope that he can get the chance he deserves on a team that is in a position to utilize his skills.

 

Paxton Lynch

Paxton Lynch has everything he needs to be successful as an NFL QB.  The model pulled him out as a surprising top-level player.  Paxton has some elite characteristics that place him among the vest best in the NFL today.  Lynch started 38 games, he has the largest hands in the population at 11.5”, he completed nearly 67 percent of his passes his last year, and showed an increase in completion percentage and TD/INT ratio each year. Paxton has a rocket arm, throwing at 59 MPH, and was drafted in the first round. The Broncos even traded up for him.  Finally, Lynch had a career TD/INT ratio above 2.5 which doesn’t cross the statistical threshold for success, but is a great sign regardless.  Lynchwill eventually get a chance to play, and he’s been developing ever since his draft day for the opportunity.

Lynch has some glaring weak points unfortunately, he failed to win the necessary 60 percent of his games in college and has one of the five weakest Wonderlic scores in the entire QB set.  Lynch has stated that he patterns his game after Cam Newton, but his history says that he’ll actually be more accurate than Cam too. Although Paxton has lost the starting job to Trevor Siemian in the preseason, there’s no guarantee that Siemian permanently owns the job going forward.  If the Broncos start off poorly, we could see Paxton under-center sooner rather than later.  I’m trying to get Paxton in deep dynasty leagues currently as a stash play. If he has the chance to start he has a legitimate offense built around him that could propel him to fantasy relevance.

 

Conclusion

Time will show whether I am right in my claims, but if history has anything to show us, it will be that the many of the future stars of the NFL are described in these previous pages. Hopefully this series has helped you understand the difficulty that comes with the quarterback position on the NFL.  It takes a special kind of football player to excel on the next level, but thanks to this model, we understand that a bit better.

 

QB Success/Failure Analysis Series


Check out all of RotoBaller's 2017 fantasy football rankings. Staff rankings are updated regularly for all positions and include standard formats, PPR scoring, tiered rankings and dynasty leagues.