We are working on preseason rankings for college football next year, and one of the questions that came up was just how far we ding teams like Stanford, Baylor, Oklahoma State, or Texas A&M because they are losing elite quarterbacks. So, I thought, “well, we can check that.”
Using the simple rating system from sports-reference.com/cfb, I simply looked at how much the teams in the past who have had top draft picks fell off in terms of point difference. Obviously, every case is different–different quality of depth in the programs, different individual skills of the quarterback and type of offense–but this would at least give us some baseline to adjust.
So, here are the results for all quarterbacks drafted from a Division I-A (FBS) program in the previous 15 drafts in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, with the average point drop off.
What does that mean? College teams that have had a QB drafted in the top 5 have declined by an average of 8.5 points per game. That drop off gradually decreases until it is about a field goal on average for QBs selected late second round to third round.
All nineteen teams with a Top 5 QB declined the next year, so it would of course be pretty foolish to expect Stanford or Baylor to exceed the seasons they had in 2011. The extent of the drop off, from minor to extreme, seems to depend on things like the quality of the replacement and whether he is at least NFL late round pick caliber also, the overall stability of the program, and how good the quarterback was.
Of course, the size of drop off is also related to how good the team was. The higher the rating the year before, the more effect regression has anyway. Teams with a SRS rating above +16.0 (roughly equating to a Top Ten team most years) saw a 9.4 point decline when a QB drafted in the first three rounds left.
Best guess, Stanford’s drop off should be around 10 points as a baseline. That would move them down to a borderline Top 25 team with Luck gone. Baylor’s median expectation should be at about the 40th to 45th best team. Texas A&M losing Tannehill, projected to be drafted in the first round, is probably looking at about a 6 to 7 point drop. They didn’t have as far to go, so like Stanford, they should be right in that 25 to 30 range. As for Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden has the age issue, so his “draft value” will likely suffer more than his college performance suggests. Still, even if we assume a large 10 point drop off (larger than the average Top 5 pick even), the Cowboys should slot right at the Top Ten. All of this, of course, is specific to the quarterback loss, and other factors such as additional star players lost or excellent prospects remaining will impact the final ranking.