2017 NFL Draft Modeling: Quarterback Edition

by Max Mulitz

I built a simple model for projecting drafted FBS Quarterbacks to the NFL using only Age-Adjusted Collegiate Statistics. The model is fit on drafted players from 2005-2013 and uses Peak 3 seasons of Wins Over Average as the dependent variable.  Age-Adjusted collegiate Production predicted NFL Performance about the same as draft position in the sample, with a correlation of 0.36 compared to 0.35 for draft position. The model gave the following quarterbacks first round grades from the 2005-2016 drafts

Year Round Pick  Name Position Draft Age
2015 1 2 Marcus Mariota QB 21
2010 1 1 Sam Bradford QB 22
2014 1 22 Johnny Manziel QB 21
2011 1 1 Cam Newton QB 22
2005 1 1 Alex Smith QB 21
2016 1 1 Jared Goff QB 21
2014 1 32 Teddy Bridgewater QB 21
2009 1 5 Mark Sanchez QB 22
2012 3 75 Russell Wilson QB 23
2012 1 1 Andrew Luck QB 22
2009 1 1 Matthew Stafford QB 21
2012 1 2 Robert Griffin QB 22
2007 1 1 JaMarcus Russell QB 22
2005 1 24 Aaron Rodgers QB 21

It’s a fairly elite list. Mostly it’s young players who were dominant in college and went on to be drafted in Round 1, often first overall. Of the 14 players in the list, 7 have been to Pro Bowls.JaMarcus Russell and Johnny Manziel both busted badly, though arguably not due to lack of talent, and Mark Sanchez has settled in as more of a backup…The jury is probably still out on Goff, Bridgewater  and Mariota.

Here’s a list of the players taken in Round 1 from FBS schools that the model didn’t like as first round players.

Year Round Pick  Name Position Draft Age
2015 1 1 Jameis Winston QB 21
2008 1 3 Matt Ryan QB 23
2014 1 3 Blake Bortles QB 22
2006 1 3 Vince Young QB 23
2012 1 8 Ryan Tannehill QB 24
2011 1 8 Jake Locker QB 23
2011 1 10 Blaine Gabbert QB 21
2006 1 10 Matt Leinart QB 23
2006 1 11 Jay Cutler QB 23
2011 1 12 Christian Ponder QB 23
2013 1 16 EJ Manuel QB 23
2009 1 17 Josh Freeman QB 21
2012 1 22 Brandon Weeden QB 28
2007 1 22 Brady Quinn QB 22
2010 1 25 Tim Tebow QB 23
2005 1 25 Jason Campbell QB 23
2016 1 26 Paxton Lynch QB 22

Matt Ryan is elite. Vince Young, Jay Cutler, and Ryan Tannehill have had varying degrees of success. Jameis Winston looks like he is going to have a nice career.  The jury is still out on Paxton Lynch. Most of the players on this list ended up as busts.

This year the model considers three players First Round talents: Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky. There have been multiple  players the model considered first round quarterbacks four times before.

In 2005, Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers were both first round players per the model, Smith went first overall and Rodgers went 24th.In 2009, Matt Stafford went first overall and Mark Sanchez went fifth.  In 2012, the model liked Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, and Russell Wilson in the first round. All three were successful, though Griffin has struggled since his knee injuries. Then in 2014, Johnny Manziel went 22nd and Bridgewater went ten picks later at 32. Bridgewater is currently dealing with injuries and Manziel is out of the league due to off-field issues.It does not appear as if the first player drafted in a given year has a significant advantage on the other qualifying players in the class, nor does it appear clear that draft position is a significant predictor  for qualifying players.

Right now, Mahomes appears undervalued. CBS has him 70th overall while ranking Mitch Trubisky 12th. Per the Jimmy Johnson Trade Chart, the 70th pick is only 1/5th as costly in terms of draft capital as the 12th pick. Given the data, it’s hard to argue Trubisky is twice as likely to become a top quarterback as Mahomes, let alone five times as likely. There simply aren’t prospects with Mahomes’ age adjusted production who fall out of the first round (other than Russell Wilson.)

The model also considers Deshone Kizer, Brad Kaaya, Nate Peterman, and Davis Webb draftable prospects based on their age and production, while Chad Kelly and Jerod Evans just miss the cut.

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