The NFL Draft is hours away. The climate is feverish. The spandex parade engendered its false storylines. The film guys have broken down too much tape. The gossip guys have been floated too much garbage to offer perspective. Especially with the quarterbacks, it is worth while to look back at what these guys accomplished when playing football.
We compiled some numbers for the top quarterback prospects in the draft (minus Matt Scott) who only had a year’s worth of data. We limited it to games played against Top 40 yards per play defenses and looked at yards per attempt, completion percentage and TD to Int ratio.
Here are the numbers for 2012, sorted by yards per attempt.
Here are the same numbers from 2011
Consume these numbers with caveats. The stats are rough. The sample is small. The quarterbacks played with different caliber teammates against different caliber opponents. A top 40 defense means different things in different conferences. A decent Big East team might make it, against terrible offenses. A Pac 12 or Big 12 defense has a much tougher time against the nation’s best almost every week.
Playing Bama or LSU is different from playing Pittsburgh. That said, the SEC quarterback has SEC offensive linemen and SEC skill players. What we have is a crude measure against teams that posed an impediment. It’s imperfect, but it filters out Matt Barkley torching Colorado as well as anyone else.
Players with a * missed significant time during the season and played through injuries.
What can we read into this?
The name that jumps out is Tyler Wilson. The Arkansas quarterback put up the best numbers on that board in 2011. That’s especially impressive when you factor in three of his five top 40 defenses faced were Alabama (No. 1), South Carolina (No. 2) and LSU (No. 3). Wilson did not have the breakout season expected of him. But with his injuries, his lost receivers and the utter program implosion that happened around him (not to mention never having a great offensive line), his regression is more than accounted for.
Wilson faced the toughest opponents and endured the most adversity the past two seasons. One could argue he was still the best in this group at playing football when it counted. There are reasons to discount him, but, perhaps, Josh Norris is on to something. No one is can’t miss in this draft, but he may better value than picking Barkley or Nassib in the first round.
* Barkley cemented his “Heisman in waiting” status in 2011, with two monster performances against Notre Dame and Oregon in 2011. Whether it was his fault or a depleted offensive line, he never found his feet in 2012. Stanford derailed his Heisman and BCS Title campaigns early. (20/41 and two INTs). He never really recovered.
* Geno Smith’s numbers are misleading. He didn’t decline so much his senior year as he moved to a tougher conference. Facing Kansas State and TCU defenses was tougher than facing five Big East defenses that ranked in the Top 40 in 2011. Against those units he was throwing a lot and not very efficiently.
* Nassib’s numbers show why he was not on radars heading into 2011. He then attracted some attention with strong efforts in losses to Northwestern and USC at the beginning of the year.
* Bray took a step backward instead of the step forward many predicted. That’s even more apparent when you factor in he was moving from his sophomore to junior years (not junior to senior) and his numbers were deflated by a bad game against Vanderbilt after coming back from injury. Off the field issues or the Dooley factor?
* E.J. Manuel’s numbers present the same read he gets everywhere else. He’s an intriguing athlete, but Florida State’s schedule gave him few instances where he could not just coast on them. Coupled with his injuries in 2011, the jury is out.
* Glennon did not shock with his numbers. But neither did Russell Wilson under Tom O’Brien. Wilson never completed 60 percent of his passes at N.C. State. He led the nation in passer rating at Wisconsin and finished fourth in the NFL as a rookie last season. It’s at least possible environment played a role with Glennon too.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]