Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers hate my old QB theory
Back in April I made the case that quarterbacks who play their final college season at age 23+ are overvalued commodities. Of course they look great during their senior year, they’re outsmarting and outplaying people 2-4 years younger. After the article was ridiculed, Fantasy Douche came to the rescue with evidence that QB age does seem to matter. Today, we are revisiting this issue, as I recently noticed Pro Football Reference’s way of counting seasons was to observe a players age on December 31 of that season/year. Previously I used the baseball method of picking the midpoint of the season (in this case, October 15) to determine age. Updating my database caused me to reconsider my stance and share a few new names with you.
The “new” old quarterbacks: guys who have birthdays between October 15 and December 31 who I hadn’t previously counted as being 23+ in their final college season.
Colin Kaepernick— What are we to make of Kaepernick’s appearance on this list? His 2012 season graded 25% above league average as he led the 49ers to the Superbowl. Is this a case of a transformational talent to whom historical trends do not apply? Or, is his pistol-reliant existence something that will be solved by NFL coaches? Unlike any other quarterback in the original article (except maybe Chandler Harnish) Kaepernick demonstrated a running ability in college that defies classification. Yes, maybe his developmental curve as a true QB is limited, but does it really matter as long as he’s a good enough passer and can distract defenses with his 6.6 YPC running ability? Maybe there’s an entirely different curve for guys like Kaepernick, Michael Vick, or Russell Wilson who can threaten defenses with 5+ running yards on any given play. Speaking of Russell Wilson…
Russell Wilson— Similar to Kaepernick, RussellMania took the league by storm in 2012 with a mix of rushing ability and aerial talent. While Wilson wasn’t a true rushing threat in college, he displayed amazing escapability and a knack for prolonging plays. The other thing about him is that his final college season was SO ELITE that even a discount for age would shed him in a positive light against a solid 22 year old passer. As evidence, his rookie season saw him perform 18% above league average. While Wilson’s fantasy utility might still have room to increases with more aggressive play calling, I think he is pretty close to maxed out from a physical/talent perspective. Then again, Wilson has done nothing but prove people wrong for several years and the way things are going for the Seahawks, I’m really hesitant to question anything associated with that organization.
Andy Dalton— Interestingly, Dalton and Wilson posted two of the all-time best passing seasons by 23 year old college QBs. Again, even an age-discount for Dalton would still have painted him as an above average prospect. As such, Dalton was impressive in his lockout-stricken rookie season, performing just below league average, despite the abbreviated offseason. Intuitively, this makes sense that he would be more mentally and physically mature, thus ready to step in. Compare that with fellow 2011 draftee Blaine Gabbert who, regardless of the fact that he was a horrible prospect, is a full two years younger than Dalton. That said, Dalton showed minimal growth in year 2 and one has to whether or not he has maxed out his potential. Despite the Bengals drafting more weapons, his status as franchise quarterback remains in question. Speaking of the Bengals…
Carson Palmer— Palmer’s senior season performance yielded him a Heisman trophy and a distinction as the #1 overall pick, but was he too close to his ceiling? After redshirting during his 2004 rookie season, he was about league average in 2005, before being well above it in 2006 and 2007. Unfortunately, that represented the peak for Palmer. In the five years since his career 2007, he has been completely average.
Ryan Griffin— The rookie QB out of Tulane got me excited when he appeared highly in my clutch QB article and QB readiness grades. However, he appears to be a more middle-of-the-pack prospect and, given his age, seems unlikely to ever be more than Drew Brees’ backup’s backup.
Looking ahead to the 2013 season, 6 of the top 10 senior quarterback prospects will be playing in their age 23 or 24 season. Of the list, only Boyd would seem to have plus running ability, perhaps indicating that he could follow in the Kaepernick/Wilson footsteps.
- Tajh Boyd
- AJ McCarron
- David Fales
- Aaron Murray
- Bryn Renner
- Tyler Russell
- Casey Pachall (just because he’s the real life Joe Kane and his 2011 was phenomenal)
While the above guys might get a bunch of buzz, the truly special prospect(s) is likely to be found among this draft eligible bunch who will play next year at age 20 or 21:
- Teddy Bridgewater
- Marcus Mariota
- Brett Hundley
- Johnny Manziel
- David Ash