New Data – 2013 Draft Class – Quarterbacks

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Published on: January 26, 2013

I’ve added a new section that shows Career CAA for every quarterback that played FBS football in the 2013 draft class along with each player’s predicted Passer Rating after 3 years in the NFL.  You can find this info in the header under the “Draft Numbers” menu.

Well, What Now?: Thoughts on the College Football “All-Star” Games

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Published on: January 15, 2013

It’s the middle of January and I’m struggling with coming up with things to write about.  Which is weird because it’s, apparently, a very critical time for college football prospects.  It is Senior Bowl/Shrine Game/Whatever-Other-“All-Star”-Game-You-Get-Invited-To Time.  Everywhere I look I see analysts writing excited pieces about all the new information we will learn about a prospect from these games.  They read into a prospect opting out of playing…murmer murmer Geno Smith murmer murmer…and tell us that we are missing critical information if we don’t pay attention.

So I started paying attention and, let me tell you friends, I’m not convinced.  Specifically, I’m not convinced that these games matter.  What information can we possible pull out of some glorified exhibition games?  Because that’s what they are.  They aren’t the place where everyone showcases their skills or plays with a full heart.  Everyone playing in these games is a potential NFL prospect.  Their only real goal as they play is to not get hurt.

More importantly, this problem speaks to a misunderstanding of player evaluation. When I read the stories of evaluators talking about the process of evaluating talent, I start to wonder if the evaluators aren’t looking to create a little drama in their own lives.  There’s nothing wrong with searching for that eureka moment.  I think we all want to feel like Clint Eastwood in Trouble With the Curve when he finally figures out the flaw in “top” baseball prospect (Spoiler:  He has trouble with the curve). Part of the allure of the job is the detective work.  Trying to find that one final piece of information that will pull the picture into focus.

But when you look at player evaluation from a statistical perspective there aren’t a lot of eureka moments.  You build a database of every important piece of information you can find.  Any additional information is interpreted relative to the amount of information you already have.  There isn’t going to be one single puzzle piece that I’ll stumble across that will radically alter the picture.  Nothing Zac Dysert does in an All-Star game will change my ranking of him as the #1 quarterback prospect.  My evaluation of him is built on every pass he’s ever thrown in his entire career, in games with contested outcomes where defenders were more interested in making plays than getting injured.

This doesn’t mean evaluations don’t change.  It just means that changing an evaluation should be a process of evolution rather than revolution.  Nate Silver makes a big point about this in The Signal and the Noise.  If you want to make correct predictions, it’s best to be Bayesian about your data.

Which brings me back to my original point.  I’ve posted my top 5 quarterback prospects.  I’ve posted my top 5 receiver prospects.  I’ve posted which quarterbacks I think will bust.  I’m not going to post potential receiver busts because my data shows me receivers can have the effects of their inefficiency whitewashed over with the right offensive system, the right quarterback, or just convincing the quarterback or the play caller that they deserve the ball thrown their way.  What else is there to say?  Nothing about these evaluations is going to change between now and April 25th (P.S. The combine doesn’t matter either).  What am I going to talk about for the next three months?

Maybe I’ll use this time to flesh out the data on the site.  Put up some historical data and see where that takes us.  I’m sure I’ll think of something.  Otherwise it’s going to be a quiet three months around here.  And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?

Updated Data

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Published on: January 8, 2013

I’ve updated the data for Completions Away from Average (CAA) for the 2012 NCAA FBS season.  These data include all the bowl games.

The player with the biggest improvement was Sean Renfree (Duke).  He was credited for 7.026 completions an average quarterback would not have made.

The player with the most downward movement was Jordan Lynch (NIU).  During his bowl game, he failed to complete 10.175 completions an average quarterback would have made.

You might also notice the numbers jittering around a little bit, even for players that didn’t play in a bowl game.  This is because the bowl games represent a small amount of historical data that the model can then take into account.  It updates parameters like opponent’s defensive strength.

2013 NFL Draft – Comparing Projections: Smith, Barkley, Glennon, Wilson, & Bray

I thought it might be fun to put down some comparisons between my projections and some quarterbacks that seem to be the “consensus” best picks in the 2013 draft.  I’ve already said who I think are the top 5 draft eligible quarterbacks in a previous post.  But let’s see what my math says about the quarterbacks that I see a lot of others putting at the top of their boards.  Taking these in no particular order.

Geno Smith – West Virginia

2012 CAA – 0.71

Career CAA – 3.78

I won’t harp on this too much because I’ve already done that in other places.  My assessment of Geno Smith is that he’s an average FBS quarterback embedded in an elite offensive system.  He’s not likely to work out as an NFL prospect.

Matt Barkley – USC

2012 CAA – -11.33

Career CAA – 11.64

I was actually a little too hard on Matt Barkley in a previous post.  The old post was based on an analysis that only included the 2012 season, which everyone seems to agree has been an unmitigated disaster for Barkley.  However, he did show flashes in 2010 and 2011 that would warrant someone looking at him as a draft pick.  The thing is, the 2012 season sets him so far back that taking him as a first day pick would be far too risky.  For those interested, the player in my database whose numbers are closest to Matt Barkley is Blaine Gabbert.  Linking those two players together added a fun bit of irony when I started seeing Barkley going to the Jaguars in some mock drafts.  (Update:  I don’t know what I was looking at when I wrote that last statement, but it wasn’t my own data.)  Barkley probably won’t tank horribly, but he’s also unlikely to be a high quality starter in the NFL.

Mike Glennon – NC State

2012 CAA – -18.55

Career CAA – -26.63

Smith and Barkley have really seen their draft stock dropping.  And their loss has been Mike Glennon’s gain.  Glennon is the current flavor of the month for many draft predictors, including Mel Kiper Jr.  But we’ve gone from average (Smith) and workable (Barkley) to a terrible decision.  Mike Glennon is not a good quarterback.  He is not an average quarterback.  There literally won’t be a worse quarterback prospect in the 2013 draft than Mike Glennon.  But he looks the part.  He’s got the height and the frame (whatever that means) and the arm strength (apparently) and the few passes he does complete are crazy exciting plays down the field.  And that excitement pulls your attention away from the every-day, run-of-the-mill passes that he can’t complete.  Things will not go well for a team that starts Glennon.

Tyler Wilson – Arkansas

2012 CAA – 8.69

Career CAA – 19.15

The best of the bunch is Tyler Wilson.  This doesn’t mean that he’s the best quarterback in the draft (see here for that list), but he is the best of the players getting a lot of play at the top of draft boards.  Comparing him to a player last year, his numbers are closest to Kirk Cousins.  And Cousins had some success the little bit he played, especially given that it was under one of the best play callers in the business.  I wouldn’t call him a franchise changing quarterback by any means, but he does have skills.  Given the right offensive coordinator and coaches, he could have some success in the NFL.

Tyler Bray – Tennessee

2012 CAA – 0.74

Career CAA – -16.60

I can’t take credit for this sentiment on Tyler Bray, but I also can’t quote the source because it was on Twitter several weeks ago and now I can’t find it.  Anyway, the Twitterperson said that some team would reach for Tyler Bray and spend the next 2-4 years banging their head against a wall.  I couldn’t have said it any better myself.  (Note:  If you are the source of said quote, let me know and I’ll update the post accordingly)

I think we’ll stop there for now.  I’m planning on updating the numbers page to have a complete list of the Career CAA for all draft-eligible quarterbacks.  I’m waiting until the declare deadline to put it up, but you should see that soon.

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