The second year quarterbacks from the 2014 draft class all appeared to take a step forward, while still leaving plenty of question marks. Teddy Bridgewater’s team surged to the playoffs, as he played more of a game manager role, with low touchdown totals, and other conservative indicators (bad sack rate, but high completion percentage and avoiding interceptions). Derek Carr took a major leap with a new coach, a pretty good offensive line, and the additions of both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. Blake Bortles threw 35 touchdown passes, and also saw his numbers improve across the board.
Last year, I went back in history to find the most statistically comparable rate stat season for each, and there was plenty of mixed baggage. What do we see when we look at similar sophomore campaigns? Well, one has broken out even if it may not appear like it, and another has plenty of cause for concern. Let’s get to it.
The similarity scores looked at the league-adjusted rate stats in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, interception rate, sack rate, and overall adjusted yards per attempt. In addition, there were adjustments for age differences, draft position, and number of attempts relative to league average. Seasons back to the merger were used. I excluded current players who had yet to turn 30 and are still active.
Carr put up league average overall rate stats, and wasn’t poor in any area. He was above average in both touchdown and interception rate, and also avoided sacks at a better than league average clip. Being league average in year two, especially when coupled with the pocket awareness that the sack rates suggest, is actually a very good thing. Carr’s top five comparables would go on to play in a pro bowl. For what it’s worth, Andrew Luck’s second season also came it at 4th on the list, but was excluded since we don’t know how Luck will turn out either.
Bridgewater’s campaign saw a pretty poor sack rate and low touchdown numbers, but very good completion percentage, a league average yards per attempt, and avoiding interceptions. His top comp is a guy that never got to start again other than as a backup. That won’t be Bridgewater’s fate. His comparables show a pretty good chance at being a good quarterback, but a lesser chance than Carr’s of being elite.
Bottles threw 35 touchdown passes. That would seem to be a breakout. He did so on an above average number of attempts. The concerns? The interplay of the bad sack rate, coupled with the bad completion percentage and propensity for interceptions. There seems to be some correlation between those things and a lack of future success, even for guys that had decent yards per attempt as sophomores.
Here are the weighted (by similarity score) percentages of each player’s comparables starting 4 or more additional seasons as primary QB starter, making a pro bowl, and being a star (3 or more pro bowls).
This is actually a pretty good group for where they are drafted. I know this may not be as promising as you would think with Bortles, but his chances of still being a starter in year 6 are at least as high now as they would be for any randomly selected first round (non-first overall) pick in next year’s draft.
Personally, I expect all of them to be starting in 2019, though I’m not sure a MVP candidate will emerge when they hit their late 20’s.