2014 Pre-Draft Class Evaluation: Quarterbacks May 4, 2014  |  Rich Hribar


All of our waiting has finally come to an end. After four solid months of everyone playing out the draft in mocks, discussions, and 140 character blurbs, the real event is actually taking place this week. Before that happens though, we have one last position to cover from a pre-draft perspective, the quarterbacks.

Other Pre-Draft Evaluations at Fake Football:

2014 Pre-Draft Class Evalution: Tight End Edition

2014 Pre-Draft Class Evalution: Running Back Edition

2014 Pre-Draft Class Evalution: Top Six Wide Receivers

2014 Pre-Draft Class Evalution: Wide Receivers – The Other Guys

Much like the real NFL, from our end of fantasy coverage, evaluating incoming rookie quarterbacks is a tough task. Unlike the other skill positions, there are very few data points to draw back on in regards to quarterbacks compared to all of the other positions. There may be clear correlations to success in a few areas, but the broad scope of the code has yet to be cracked.

From a metric side, the things I place importance on are career production and improvement, but not just raw totals. I’m looking for strong showings in adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), touchdown to interception ratio and accuracy. For accuracy, you can check out some of the game charts done by Greg Peshek of Rotoworld, as I will reference them from time to time here. Just because you pass all of these measures doesn’t ensure success in the pros, but in terms of being poor, rarely do quarterbacks just become strong performers, nor do they improve on inaccuracy at the next level.

As far as the fantasy side, I can’t lie to you. In one quarterback leagues, I don’t value the position. It’s generally the easiest position to work around having a subpar performer while also being favorable to those trying to trade for one. If I’m in a dynasty league that requires you to start only one quarterback, there’s really absolutely no way I will roster a quarterback that is a backup on his real team. So that leaves your options limited in rookie drafts in finding immediate impact guys. When your options are small, the equity it costs to acquire one these young, new signal callers goes up. That’s something I try to avoid with the nature of the position being easy to turnover if you wish to trade for a player.

In two quarterback leagues and superflex leagues, the dynamic changes and the position is more valuable as it relates to the other ones. In that case, some of these guys are very much in play early in your drafts and you’ll look to add some of the options that won’t be starting right away to the end of your bench. Possibilities to early playing time exist in places like Arizona, Cleveland, Oakland and a few others for quarterbacks chosen outside of the first round, so you’ll need to be on the pulse.

 

2013 Revisited

Rank Player Drafted ’13 FF Pts
1 Geno Smith 2 1
2 E.J. Manuel 1 3
3 Tyler Bray UFA DNP
4 Matt Barkley 4 6
5 Mike Glennon 3 2
6 Landry Jones 7 DNP
7 Matt Scott UFA DNP
8 Ryan Nassib 5 DNP
9 Tyler Wilson 6 DNP
10 Zac Dysert 8 DNP

 

Last year was a pretty down year for the position and only Smith had a starting grade from my end coming out. He struggled for the majority of the season, throwing only 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. If there’s anything you want to hold to going forward, he did play moderately well over the final four games to close out the season, and the Jets won three of those games.

Glennon played pretty well considering the situation he was in, throwing 19 touchdowns to nine interceptions, but it appears that Tampa Bay is already willing to move on with the signing of Josh McCown to be stopgap. The only player to get significant snaps was the only first round selection last year in Manuel. He was injured in the middle of the season and never got real traction. The book is still out on him, but he was a guy I wasn’t high on due to an average completion rate and just an average  TD/INT ratio.

 

2014 Signal Callers

 

For fantasy purposes, the number one target should Johnny Manziel. He’s the youngest quarterback available, had two seasons of elite production in which he made improvements and comes with the built in Konami Code factor. He’s also a much better passer than given credit for. Manziel was tops in this class in 2013 in accuracy on third downs and on throws over 15 yards downfield.

His stats weren’t inflated solely because of Mike Evans either. In 2013, Evans accounted for 22 percent of Manziel’s completed passes, 33 percent of his passing yards and 32 percent of his touchdown passes. He facilitated to everyone in the offense.

Detractors will point to his size and playing style, but he doesn’t run in the masochist style of Robert Griffin III, so it’s hard to see painting an injury filled career for him outside of pure guesswork. He did have a spike in interceptions this past season, so there’s a black mark for him.

He comps as a hybrid of Russell Wilson and Alex Smith as a prospect from my model. If he’s a Top Five selection this week, he should be a first rounder in one quarterback leagues and the top overall selection in multiple quarterback formats.

At this point, I’m pretty convinced that all of the uncertainty surrounding the future success for Teddy Bridgewater was created to make the plot in the movie Draft Day seem plausible. This exact reason is why so many people like me take jabs at the NFL Draft process and the approach teams take. In one month, Bridgewater is rumored to have gone from a Top Five pick to late first round pick, although he’s done absolutely nothing tangible outside of having a Pro Day.

There are two schools of thought here. One being, how much emphasis is being put into that pro day and should there be any at all? The other is the notion that maybe teams never valued him as highly as the media perception was, so this was expected. I say those thoughts were rumors because I don’t believe he slides too far, but there’s likely some fire for teams out there if there’s this amount of smoke.

As far as on the field goes, he’s good to go. His completion percentage, AY/A  and TD/INT ratio rose all three seasons at Louisville. His 7.8 TD/INT ratio was the second best total for any prospect in his final year that was 21 or younger (Alex Smith was first). His accuracy did take a dip on throws downfield, but compared to everyone in this class, his accuracy blows the rest away on nearly every level of throw.

So he’s young, ultra productive and was lights out accurate. He also played in a pro level offense that afforded him to hit the ground running in the NFL. Now that I think about it, I’m sure that even Kevin Costner wouldn’t be swayed by the noise surrounding Bridgewater.

The last of the “big three” prospects is Blake Bortles. While he’s not as glowing on the page as the previous two players, he doesn’t have any significant red flags either. Unlike Manziel and Bridgewater, he looks the part of the traditional thrower that teams look for, but still comes with added mobility, which is why he was so successful when facing pressure.  He’s often compared to Ben Roethlisberger because of those traits, but he wasn’t remotely close to as productive. His closest comps on my end are David Garrard big picture and a more mobile version of Carson Palmer. Andrew Luck also shows up on the radar. I do think knowing what we do about the style that Luck plays with that it wouldn’t be far fetched to see Bortles have a similar start to his career as Luck has had in the right situation.

 

The Rest

 

The three guys above are expected to land in situations where they should see the field as rookies. For the rest, things aren’t so clear. I’ll go through most of the rest of the class rapid fire.

Zach Mettenberger has the frame and arm that enough teams will still covet that could land him in a catbird backup spot year one. His yards per attempt were sizzling but his accuracy points to some decision making trouble in the future. Coaches have shown they’re willing to take on players of his ilk time and time again, so there’s little doubt that he last past the second round.

Derek Carr has a ton of raw production in his favor, but it’s the underlying numbers that make him a very sketchy prospect. His yards per attempt were well below the threshold for future success and that shows up in his accuracy on throws down the field and when facing pressure. If he lands with a coordinator that lives on the intermediate pass to move the football, he could find some success.

Brett Smith is a just as exciting to watch as Manziel, but didn’t perform on those lofty levels in a much weaker conference. He is built the exact same way as Manziel (6’1” 207) but is faster straight line with freaky explosion. As far as throwing, he took a step back this season from 2012 as Wyoming switched offensive coordinators, hurting his stock when paired with his size. As far as projects go though, he’s the best option in terms of athleticism, passing ability and age that a team could make if they wanted to development their passer in house.

I really want to like David Fales, but I just can’t get there. He has a tweener frame (6’2” 212) but no added juice athletically to make you look past it like Manziel, Smith and Bridgewater have. He also took a step back across the board passing this year and did so at an older age than the majority of this draft class. His best comp on my end is Joey Harrington.

The same goes for Aaron Murray, but only worse. He has little size, the accuracy of the child in A Christmas Story, and is old. In fact, he played four seasons of pretty lateral football, and this past season was almost identical to his freshman year. He’s been compared to possibly being this year’s Russell Wilson, but that is likely a stretch since Wilson beats him in every area and was more athletic. He’s a favorite of some, but still has a longer shot to succeed than most in this class.

A.J. McCarron is pretty polarizing prospect, but he doesn’t really need to be. He’s just adequate enough to be part of a successful offense and not strong enough to elevate one. His career ratios are in line for where I would target, but they also came on extremely low volume. For his career, McCarron averaged just 24.4 pass attempts per game, lower than everyone in this class except Connor Shaw and Jordan Lynch.  If someone likes Derek Carr, they should just take McCarron a round or two later because he’s more accurate for what the type of offense that will be need to be run for either to function.

Tajh Boyd scores good marks in AY/A, but that’s likely more a byproduct from the first round receivers he’s been attached to while at Clemson. He’s one of the most inaccurate passers in the class from a broad scope and the second worst when facing pressure. It also turns out that he’s not nearly the athlete people thought he was. His closest comps are J.P. Losman and Chase Daniel.

I can’t stress this enough. There’s no reason to select Logan Thomas or Tom Savage in this draft to play quarterback. I’ll go ahead and add Stephen Morris into that group as well. These three are so inaccurate that they have virtually no chance to ever be successful in the NFL. They also all have sub two scores in terms of TD/INT ratio for their careers.

These are traits that do not improve in the pros when you’re already this poor at them in college. In the case of Savage, he’s already going to be 24 years old, so the learning curve is shortened if you believe. If a team wanted to use Thomas a pure runner near the goal line or move him to tight end, that’s the only way I could see him succeeding (this also applies to Jordan Lynch).

 

2014 Pre-Draft Quarterback Ranks

 

Rank Player College Rookie Age
1 Johnny Manziel Texas A&M 22.1
2 Teddy Bridgewater Louisville 22.1
3 Blake Bortles Central Florida 23.0
4 Zach Mettenberger Louisiana State 23.5
5 Brett Smith Wyoming 22.6
6 A.J. McCarron Alabama 24.3
7 Derek Carr Fresno State 23.8
8 David Fales San Jose State 24.2
9 Dustin Vaughan West Texas AM 23.9
10 Tajh Boyd Clemson 24.3
11 Jimmy Garoppolo Eastern Illinois 23.2
12 Connor Shaw South Carolina 23.3
13 Bryn Renner North Carolina 25.0
14 Aaron Murray Georgia 24.1
15 Keith Wenning Ball State 23.9
16 Stephen Morris Miami 22.3
17 Logan Thomas Virginia Tech 23.5
18 Jordan Lynch Northern Illinois 24.0
19 Tom Savage Pittsburgh 24.7

 

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