Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel, and Managing Reward
In Part One of this piece we examined the profiles of current NFL quarterbacks to find out what they were like in college. Now it’s time to examine the current crop of prospects and see how they compare.
2013 Draft Prospects – Final Year Before Drafted
|Average NFL Starter||8.7||3.5||3.9|
Sophisticated stat sheet observers will note that TD/INT ratio is already factored into adjusted yards per attempt. Including it in the chart can be looked at as double-dipping in favor of Geno or as emphasizing that his ability to limit interceptions is the big reason his AYA is far higher than his raw YA.
Geno Smith, E.J. Manuel, Matt Barkley, and Tyler Wilson were closely bunched in terms of passer efficiency heading into 2012. Smith and Manuel stepped forward while Barkley and Wilson fell back. Manuel’s schedule strength is a mild red flag, but the career numbers of these four bolster their projections.
Nassib, Dysert, and Glennon all entered 2012 as non-prospects, at least from a statistical perspective. Nassib helped himself the most but still owns a weak resume, especially when you consider the caliber of competition he faced.
Potential 2013 Draft Strategy for Reality GMs
1) Geno Smith is clearly the best prospect. His most comparable quarterbacks in terms of this study are Andrew Luck (9.4), Mark Sanchez (9.4) and Matthew Stafford (9.2). His comparables using a wider range of metrics are just as strong. If we look at his entire body of work at West Virginia, only seven current NFL quarterbacks had higher career numbers in adjusted yards per attempt. Six of those players went No. 1 overall (edit: actually five, plus RG3). He also had an excellent Combine in terms of demonstrating his all around athleticism.
In a future article, I’ll examine the flaws in some of the specific scouting concerns related to Smith, but those criticisms appear to have mostly blown over. It would now be a surprise if Geno made it out of the first three picks, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the team that ultimately drafts him has to trade up to No. 1 to do so. While I wouldn’t trade much future value to move up for Smith, selecting him with a high pick is probably the dominant strategy.
2) E.J. Manuel is just as clearly the second best prospect. His passing numbers are strikingly similar to those of Colin Kaepernick (8.6), and while not the same athletic force, Manuel had an excellent Combine in showing off plus athleticism at 6’5”, 237 pounds. Manuel would certainly make the perfect early second round pick. But as I pointed out yesterday, waiting on Manuel is probably not the risk-averse strategy. If you have an elite grade on Manuel, the difference in value between your first and second round picks isn’t worth the risk of someone else drafting him. I expect Manuel will go much higher than most are currently projecting. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t make it past the Bills at No. 8.
3) The stats don’t paint a clear picture on Barkley and Wilson, and both players have clear athletic limitations. My biggest concern with these passers would not be the draft cost – you can recover from missing on an early second round pick – but the cost in time. How many years are you willing to give mediocre prospects to prove they can save your franchise? This was one of the reasons using an early second round pick on Drew Brees (7.0) didn’t work out for San Diego even though he eventually became a star.
4) Mike Glennon is the Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Nassib the Christian Ponder of 2013. If your favorite team’s GM is waiting on one of these guys, there may be a reason your team needs a quarterback. Bad teams tend to make the same mistakes and place the same low percentage bets on a yearly basis.