Geno Smith, Teddy Bridgewater, and The Importance of Rookie Passing Numbers

Photo by Greg Cooper

Photo by Greg Cooper

Recently I ran across an intriguing article by J.J. Zachariason (aka Late Round QB) over on Number Fire. It persuasively argued that quarterbacks show their true colors almost immediately at the NFL level. Organizations waste a lot of time in the blind hope that busts will turn it around when they almost certainly won’t. His article was based on rookie performance and a Number Fire metric called Net Expected Points. As readers of last year’s NFL Draft columns know, I’m a believer in college stats when it comes to signal callers. So my first thought was to wonder if a combination of final year college stats and first year NFL stats might paint an even clearer picture of quarterback value going forward. My favorite QB stat is adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A), so that’s what I’ll use in my breakdown. Zachariason used all quarterbacks drafted since the year 2000 who attempted 200 passes as a rookie. I’m going to lower the limit to 150 passes because it brings in a couple more important players. I’m also going to throw out Marc Bulger and Carson Palmer. Pro Football Reference somewhat inaccurately includes them in the “rookie” filter, but they were actually second year players. Finally, I’m tossing Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden since 29-year-olds having basically nothing to do with the question we’re trying to answer. In perusing the data, a couple of things quickly jumped out. 9.0 AY/A seems to be something of a threshold for differentiating between elite college play and more pedestrian final seasons. (Heading into the 2013 season, the average collegiate AY/A for current professional starters was 8.7.) Similarly, 6.0 AY/A acts as soft barrier between strong rookie seasons and weaker ones. I’m going to use those numbers as benchmarks for grouping the members of our sample. Creating groups can be helpful for conceptualizing which players are similar. However, because we don’t have hundreds of players in our sample, it’s easy to still end up comparing relatively unlike players. To help balance this, I’ve also included a Combined Weighted AY/A (cwAYA). This is an average between the two numbers where I’ve double weighted the more important rookie year numbers. This final number should allow us to create potentially more accurate comparisons across groups.

Subscribe to the best value in fantasy sports

Subscribing is the only way to make sure you don't ever miss an article.

By Shawn Siegele | @ff_contrarian | Archive