QB Class – Do Rep’s matter?
This is a first of a 5-part series looking at what takeaways can be gained from last year’s draft. Firstly, we shall be examining the QB class, and in particular, the value of examining the number of reps each QB has had at college, and how that has translated to the NFL production.
Looking at last year’s prospects, now they have had a full rookie season, (albeit very much different to the norm without a rookie camp, OTA’s and preseason), we have more data to examine why Justin Herbert proved to be the top QB in last year’s draft based on his rookie production.
So why was this case?
Consensus coming out of last year’s draft was in the big games, Herbert tended to fall below expectations in the pressure situations and tended to over-rely on his powerful arm at the expense of accuracy. However, as was proved, those theories were dispelled very quickly with one of the best rookie seasons by any 1st year QB for a very long time. In addition, Joe Burrow selected 1st overall by the Bengals, was on par to challenge Herbert for rookie of the year status, had it not been for a porous Bengals offensive line, meaning Burrow was practically running for his life every game. Conversely, Tua Tagovailoa had his well-documented struggles as a rookie, despite having a 6-3 record. Looking at their underlying college data, one area stands out ahead of the rest, reps.
Below are the college reps for each of the 4 QB’s taken in the 1st round of the 2020 draft. Jordan Love has been included in the data, despite not playing a single snap for Green Bay: –
As the data shows, Herbert undertook the most reps of the four QB’s, and with the interrupted preseason schedule, this valuable experience probably contributed to his successes in his rookie year. Conversely, Tua had the least snaps among the college QB’s last year; that may explain the reasoning why Coach Flores made the sudden decision of thrusting Tua into the line-up mid-season. To analyse these numbers in more detail, let us look at the data of 1st round QB’s drafted since 2017, and how they stack up to this trend.
The average reps within the dataset, which came out to be at 943 repetitions, which is between Joe Burrow and Sam Darnold. What is interesting to observe is amongst the top 5 QB’s, four on this list are consensus franchise QB’s. Of the rest of the QB’s that have above average college reps, only Josh Rosen has proven to be a bust; the jury is still out on Daniel Jones with this year proving to be the pivotal year as to whether he can be considered a franchise QB.
Of those falling below the average reps, Josh Allen and to a certain extent Kyler Murray buck the trend. The jury is still out on Tua after his rookie season, whereas the remaining QB’s are now or pending their second teams as probable back-ups. In defence of Allen and Murray, the reasoning behind their ascent can be attributable to a stable, patient coaching staff who decided building the offense around them whilst gaining experience was the best recipe for their success.
With this data to hand, what does that mean for this year’s QB Class? Below are the college reps of the five-consensus 1st round QB’s in this year’s draft: –
As the data shows, only Lawrence fulfils the criteria of meeting the number of reps translating to success in the NFL. Of the other 5 QB’s, Fields, Jones and Lance would rank in the bottom 4 of the overall list of QB’s drafted in the last 4 years, whereas as Wilson has similar reps compared to Darnold coming out of college. With the experience of Darnold to boot, is it now finally time for Jets to invest in Robert Salah and Mike McDaniel for the long haul and use their plethora of draft capital to build around Wilson for the future. A revolving coaching door mixed with a less than average QB college rep catalogue, has proven to be the worst mix for a QB to succeed.
We know Lawrence is going 1 to the Jags, and only a miracle stops Wilson being drafted to the Jets at 2, so where does that leave the 49ers choice and the other QB hungry teams in this year’s draft based on this data. In all likelihood, Shanahan will be a coach for the long haul, and therefore patience akin to that displayed with Josh Allen may need to be displayed for whoever their selection may be. This is also why Miami may have decided to keep the 49ers 1st round pick rather than their own, in the trade that ensued between the Eagles and the Dolphins.
With these stats to hand, do the Falcons gamble at 4 to have an inexperienced QB sit behind Ryan for at least a year? Do the Panthers under Rhule and Joe Brady recreate the Buffalo model of adopting the longer game and getting experience into their chosen man under centre if they decide to draft a QB this year? Is the combination of an uncertain Broncos coaching staff mixed with a QB with limited reps a recipe for failure based on recent history? What about any other team in the hunt for QB; do the Patriots oust Cam even though Belichick is in win now mode with his F.A spending spree, do Washington risk drafting and starting a rookie knowing they are probable favourites in their division, are the Bears the worst possible scenario for any rookie QB with the head coach and GM being on their ‘prove it or gone’ season?
So many enthralling subplots and storylines are still to transpire before and on draft day, and come this time next year, it will be fascinating to revisit this topic using a full year’s sample of the 21 class’ draft.
Part 2 of this series will look at why the 2021 Wide Receiver class is similar to the 2020 Offensive Tackle Class, so stay tuned.
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