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16 Feb 2009

Four Downs: NFC North

by Bill Barnwell

Chicago Bears

What should the Bears do with their first-round pick?

Seemingly every Bears fan who doesn't immediately fall asleep or curl into the fetal position when the Chicago offense marches onto the field hopes for a quarterback or a wide receiver to come off the board with the 18th pick this year.

Instead of spending a pick on a quarterback who will take a year or two to develop, or a wide receiver who may very well struggle as the team's top target, we'd recommend the Bears to try to solve a problem on the other side of the ball. The Bears need to find a defensive end who can consistently rush the passer.

After the 2006 season, the Bears thought they were set for years at end -- Stalwart Adewale Ogunleye occupied one side, while across from him would be budding superstar Mark Anderson, who'd taken down quarterbacks 12 times as a rookie. They even had depth, with former starter Alex Brown giving up his spot to Anderson and serving as one of the league's best reserve ends.

Since then, the drop-off has been dramatic.


The disappearing Chicago pass rush
Year Pass Attempts DE sacks DT sacks Other sacks Total sacks
2006 581 25.5 10.5 4.0 40.0
2007 541 18.5 9.5 12.0 40.0
2008 622 12.0 10.5 4.5 27.0

Although the Bears faced more passes during the 2008 season, their sack total plummeted. The rush from the defensive tackles has been remarkably consistent, but the pass rush from Chicago's defensive ends has basically disappeared. Anderson lost his starting spot to Brown after a middling 2007 performance and had only one sack in 15 games this past season. Ogunleye had only five sacks and is turning 32, while Brown led the team in sacks with a measly six. None has been the consistently effective pass rusher the Bears need.

As a result of their lack of pressure, the Bears came out of their Tampa-2 defensive base significantly more frequently last season. This cost them yards downfield when blitzing linebackers and safeties, and unlike in 2007, they couldn't make it to the quarterback. (Fortunately for the Bears, the 3.9 average yards after catch allowed was best in the league.) Without an effective pass rush, the Bears' defense is waiting to be exploited. It'll take a huge return to prominence from Anderson or Ogunleye (both in contract years) or a splash in the draft for the Bears' defense to look like it did in 2006 and 2007.

Who Could Leave?

This section has been rewritten four times as the Bears keep changing their plans.

Safety Mike Brown is out; the defense's elder statesman hasn't played a full season since 2003 and turned 31 on Friday. Right tackle John Tait is rumored to be retiring; if so, that could create a reason to retain left tackle John St. Clair, who was expected to leave in order to open up a spot for 2008 first-round pick Chris Williams.

Departing players whose fame far outweigh their actual relevance include Brandon Lloyd, Marty Booker and Rex Grossman.

Who Could They Sign?

If they choose to upgrade at quarterback, the pickin's are thin indeed. With Kurt Warner rumored to desire a warm locale to peddle his aged wares and Kerry Collins likely to resign with the Titans, the Bears are left with more imperfect options. Trade a first-round pick for Matt Cassel? Sign Byron Leftwich or Chris Simms? Hope that Jeff Garcia doesn't break down? The advantage they'll have over other teams is the ability to offer a real chance at a starting job.

With $20 million or so in cap room available, they have a shot at adding T.J. Houshmandzadeh to play across from Devin Hester, but don't expect them to commit to a huge contract for a wide receiver after being the only party burned by Muhsin Muhammad in a Bears uniform. A cheaper and more plausible option might be former Bears wideout Bobby Engram, who would make sense in a possession role. They could also use more depth on the defensive line, which could mean someone like Ravens lineman Dwan Edwards or ex-Buccaneer Ryan Sims.

Detroit Lions

Should the Lions take Matt Stafford?

The Lions will need to make the most important draft selection in team history in April, and the front-runner for the pick appears to be Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.

If they select Stafford, he'll become another player in the long line of Lions draft fiascos from this decade.

How can we be so sure? The answer has to do with the research first presented at FootballOutsiders.com by David Lewin -- namely, that the only two stats that matter for a college quarterback are games started and completion percentage. For quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds, the numbers are inextricably linked to NFL success.

In his three seasons at Georgia, Stafford started 33 games and completed 57.1 percent of the passes he threw. That puts him in some pretty uninspiring company.


QBs similar to Stafford
Quarterback Starts Comp Pct.
Patrick Ramsey 38 58.9
Jake Plummer 40 55.4
Shaun King 39 55.5
J.P. Losman 27 57.8
Matt Ryan 32 59.9
Matt Stafford 33 57.1

Yes, reigning rookie of the year Matt Ryan appears on that list, but with a bit of an asterisk. Ryan played for a Boston College team that had no running game and threw 654 passes in his final season, skewing his completion percentage some. Even if Ryan doesn't come with an asterisk, a one-in-five shot of picking a quarterback of Ryan's caliber shouldn't encourage Stafford's selection in the slightest.

One of the arguments against a statistical-based system for projecting college quarterbacks is that a system quarterback such as former Hawaii star Colt Brennan would put up inflated numbers that weren't true indicators of his NFL ability. Although scouts should sniff that stuff out and encourage teams to avoid taking such players in the first two rounds (something Lewin built into his system), another easy way to control for system quarterbacks is to compare the quarterback to the previous starter at his school.

Stafford was directly preceded at Georgia by the recently retired David Greene; both spent their entire college careers under head coach Mark Richt in similar offensive systems. Stafford's college numbers are actually worse than Greene's, with the latter completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 8.01 yards per attempt to Stafford's 7.83. If Stafford was really a star in the making, wouldn't he have put up better numbers, in the same system, than a guy who washed out of the NFL without taking a professional snap? If it was our $25 million guaranteed, the answer would need to be yes.

Who Could Leave?

It's more like who hasn't left. The Lions have already released tight end Dan Campbell, guard Edwin Mulitalo, safety Dwight Smith, corner Leigh Bodden, and wideout Mike Furrey, and the purge isn't done. Releasing Daunte Culpepper would earn the team $5 million in salary cap savings, giving them a total of nearly $39 million to spend before the rookie cap hits. Expect unrestricted free agents like defensive tackle Shaun Cody, tackle George Foster, running back Rudi Johnson, linebacker Ryan Nece, fullback Moran Norris, and corner Stanley Wilson to leave. The only prominent free agent on the list is starting quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who could be brought back on a cheap deal depending on what the Lions do elsewhere.

Who Could They Sign?

Who wants to come play in Detroit? It'll be easier for Jim Schwartz to convince defensive players to make their way to Ford Field, and the first one that naturally comes to mind is Albert Haynesworth. Slotting him next to Cory Redding would give the Lions the most expensive pair of defensive tackles in the league, but Haynesworth already knows the defense and has a comfort level with Schwartz. At the very least, it would give the Lions an anchor to build around.

Schwartz will be looking to make some cheaper moves, naturally, in an attempt to try and find his Kyle Vanden Bosch. Packers defensive end Michael Montgomery has shown serious flashes of brilliance across from Aaron Kampman, and with the Packers moving to a 3-4, he's probably too small to play end for them. Montgomery won't turn 26 until August, so he's still youthful, will be cheap for a starting defensive end, and could end up being a very decent option on the outside.

The secondary's a trickier option, although Schwartz could elect to bring in former Titans corners Chris Carr or Reynaldo Hill. He tends to prefer undersized corners with decent speed, so potential options could include Cardinals nickel back Eric Green, former Browns corner Daven Holly, or Texans mainstay DeMarcus Faggins.

Green Bay Packers

Will it take the Packers long to adjust to the 3-4?

The arrival of new defensive coordinator Dom Capers in Green Bay brought a scheme change to the Packers' defense. Out is the 4-3 and in is a 3-4, with star defensive end Aaron Kampman becoming an outside linebacker in the process.

Switching to a 3-4 has worked for some teams. For example, the Patriots' dynasty was built upon core defensive players who thrived in the 3-4. Other teams, such as Dick LeBeau's Bengals and Romeo Crennel's Browns, have struggled to see their implementation turn into success.

The million-dollar question at the moment: Will Green Bay's defense improve because of a switch to the 3-4?

Since 1997, teams have switched to a 3-4 as a base defense 11 times, with last season's Dolphins the most recent example. Those teams have seen their defensive pass DVOA drop by four percentage points the season after the switch. Defensive DVOA against the run also fell by an average of four percentage points.

Some of that has to do with the nature of defensive changes, though. Inherently, defenses change because what they were doing the previous season wasn't working, and regardless of the scheme, those bad defenses tend to improve. If we look at teams that switched out of the 3-4 and back to a 4-3, those teams also saw their defensive pass DVOA decrease by four percentage points in the subsequent season. On run defense, however, those teams stayed roughly the same.

Who Could Leave?

The Packers have little in the way of impending free agents, thanks to a young team and proactive management by Ted Thompson. The only real unrestricted free agent of any note is tackle Mark Tauscher, who missed time with injuries in 2006 and 2008 while letting his play slip. Green Bay may choose to replace him with backup Tony Moll if Tauscher asks for a significant amount of money. The aforementioned Montgomery is a free agent who likely doesn't fit into the new scheme, but defensive tackle Colin Cole does; at 330 pounds, he has the size the Packers will want from their nose tackle. Expect him to stick around. Among the restricted free agents is strong safety Atari Bigby.

Who Could They Sign?

Green Bay only has $18 million in cap space before the rookie cap hits them, so in reality, they're not going to be able to make a huge splash. If Tauscher leaves, they could seek out a tackle in free agency, which could be someone like St. Clair or former Steelers tackle Max Starks. If they really commit to spending money, they probably still won't be able to grab Jordan Gross or Stacy Andrews, but could end up with Jaguars left tackle Khalif Barnes.

More than anything, they need players who fit into their new defensive scheme. They could use a big defensive end who's familiar with the 3-4, and fortunately, there are two who qualify: Cowboys defensive end Chris Canty and Chargers end Igor Olshansky each make sense, although the financing could be difficult. They could take a flier on Cowboys backup Stephen Bowen as well. They'll also need another linebacker on the interior; that could end up being Eric Barton, formerly of the Jets, or Andra Davis of the Browns.

Minnesota Vikings

Is Adrian Peterson's fumble-itis cause for concern?

Adrian Peterson's nine fumbles during the 2008 season were three more than any other running back. Although no fumble comes at a good time, Peterson's two fumbles in Week 6 nearly cost the Vikings a game against the lowly Lions, a loss that eventually could have knocked them out of the playoffs. In addition, the Vikings were lucky enough to recover five of Peterson's fumbles; any one of those that had bounced into the hands of the other team would have cost the Vikings even more.

Nothing can be done for those 2008 fumbles, but are Peterson's problems likely to recur next season? And will his fumble issues prevent him from being a Hall of Fame running back?

Breathe a sigh of relief, Vikings fans: The answer to both questions is "very likely not."

Of the 197 times in NFL history a back carried the ball 300 or more times in a given season, Peterson had the 27th-highest rate of carries to fumbles, coughing up the ball once every 40.3 rushing attempts. The average back fumbled once every 89.9 attempts. In the season after those campaigns, the average fumble rate was one in every 92.9 attempts, which is virtually the same figure.

If backs such as Peterson really had incurable fumble-itis, we'd see a dramatic difference between their fumble rates in subsequent seasons and the fumble rates of average backs. Instead, backs who fumbled once every 45 carries or fewer in a given season averaged a fumble once every 98.3 attempts in the following season; better than the league-average back.

Included in that group are Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson, Walter Payton, Franco Harris, Earl Campbell, and Tony Dorsett. In other words, A.P. should be OK.

Who Could Leave?

Among the unrestricted free agents on the Vikings roster are center Matt Birk, tight end Jim Kleinsasser, and safety Darren Sharper. With nearly $28 million in cap space, the Vikings can resign all three if they want to, but the three are a combined 96 years old and have lost a few steps. There are replacements available for Birk (former Notre Dame center John Sullivan) and Sharper (rookie safety Tyrell Johnson), but in a year where Brad Childress will be coaching for his job, it seems logical to think that he'll be sticking in veterans wherever he can. It would be no surprise, though, if Gus Frerotte left the team.

Who Could They Sign?

A quarterback? Even the Chris Simmses and Byron Leftwiches of the world would be an upgrade on what they have behind center. They were willing to trade their first-round pick last year for Jared Allen, so you have to figure they'd at least consider trading draft picks for Cassel. They need another wide receiver to take the heat off Bernard Berrian, so adding a sure-handed receiver like Engram or the Giants' Amani Toomer could create some space for him downfield.

They've struggled to fill in spots on the right side of their line, particularly at guard; there's not a lot available at the position in free agency, but one player who could work is former Jets and Redskins guard Pete Kendall. They could also choose to move Ryan Cook inside and splash the cash out on someone like Jordan Gross, who would be the pass protector the line needs while also serving as an excellent run blocker. He was the best right tackle in the league in 2007, the place he'd occupy on the line in Minnesota.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 16 Feb 2009

132 comments, Last at 26 Mar 2009, 3:56pm by Q-bert

Comments

1
by ammek :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:02pm

If Tony Moll comes close to a starting position on the Packer line in 2009, I'm going to become a Lions fan. When Tauscher goes, his spot will probably be taken by 2008 rookie Breno Giacomini, or by current RT Daryl Colledge in a convoluted shuffle of the line which could see either Allen Barbre or Josh Sitton inserted into the line-up at guard. None of those options represents a great leap forward for a line that is sinking under the weight of all those film-room sessions documenting individual errors here, there and everywhere.

And that's two defenses of Ted Thompson on this site in a few hours. Two more than I've seen on the Packer boards in about twelve months.

Liked your Bears intro, by the way.

13
by Flounder :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:32pm

Couldn't agree with you more about Tony Moll.

He's an OK back-up, but good lord, he is not even close to being a starter. WAY to inconsistent. When he gets beat, he gets beat very, very badly.

I actually think it would be a good idea if FO recruited a designated fan of each team from the boards to review these articles. Four down often have great stuff, but when I read the GB articles, there's usually something in there (the Tony Moll thing being the case in this instance) that's just way, way off-base.

If FO could recruit a fan, the authors would have a chance to avoid these pimples. Obviously there's bound to be disagreement, but I'm mainly thinking of working to eliminate the things that just make zero sense.

82
by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 9:46am

I know that this is comparatively old knews, but I was wondering if any Pack fans know what is being planned for Kampman in this change? I would assume that they intend on moving him to OLB, but which side? If he stays on the defense's left he will probably have to spend quite a lot of time chasing after TEs and RBs in coverage, which to me is a complete waste of the guy. I have always been impressed by his leverage and great hand placement as opposed to elite athletic skills (as I am writing this I realised that I nearly wrote 'high effort' which must be the DE equivalent of 'deceptively quick fan favourite' for WRs). The guy thrives in contact (especially for a smallish end) which is only going to be less likely to be happening to him in a 3-4. It seems to me to be a strange decision, and one which may hamper the effectiveness of the Packer's best defender.

As a Bears fan I am all for it.

84
by ammek :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 9:59am

Officially the team has been very quiet on the subject, except for some corporate waffle about "great players can play anywhere". Unofficially he's going to play OLB-DE on the right side of the defense. For 2009, while the Packers run a kind of hybrid, I'd expect to see him on the line of scrimmage more often than not, probably at both left and right end. If it looks like he can play ROLB, that's where he'll sit for 2010; if not, I'd expect him to move on.

Kampman himself has kept schtum. He has previously voiced a preference to remain on the left side of the defense, and does not stand to gain (in performance or wage packet) from the switch to a 3-4. I doubt he's thrilled about the coming offseason.

Neither Kampman nor Al Harris seems a good fit for the new defense. It's all rather strange.

97
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:56pm

Schtum?

2
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:03pm

Why is Chris Simms a better option than Tarvaris? Career 12-17 TD-INT ratio while Jackson's 20-18...both have similar completion percentages - I don't see any argument behind that assertion. I understand the Leftwich argument a tad better, but I can hardly see how a qb that immobile will fit behind a line that isn't that special at pass protection. Jackson may not even be a league avg. qb, but at this point his skill is underrated.

6
by BucNasty :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:05pm

A lot of Chris Simms's picks weren't the result of bad decision making, but of an inability to throw out of a 3 step drop without getting the ball tipped at the line. He has a long, slow release that makes it easy, and since everyone knows it they're more likely to focus on batting it. He also doesn't put any effort into his play action, seeming to think that no one will believe it anyway. He has a nice deep ball, though, or at least he did before his injury. And while he may be a statue in the pocket, he's a fearless one. Even when he knows he's about to get creamed, he'll stand tall and take the shot if his receiver needs another second. He looked like a budding superstar for a bit in '05, and unless the splenectomy ruined him he should be decent in a vertical passing offense. Just watch out for the short stuff.

20
by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 3:44pm

This doesn't sound like much of an endorsement. He sounds like a high variance version of Frerotte. More upside more downside.

3
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:42pm

Interesting that three of the five QBs that Stafford is most similar to played at Tulane, though King's numbers are a bit deceptive because he had a dramatic increase in production in his Jr and Sr years (he set the NCAA single season efficiency record his Sr year).

4
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:47pm

I love every thing you guys do but Lewin Career Forecaster needs to be scrapped. There are too many variables in college football like level of competition, the offense that was ran, talent around them. If Stafford stayed one more year and his completion percentage raised to 60% would he be a different QB? No matter how hard you try statistics can't replace scouting. With the success of Ryan, Flacco and now Stafford and the failure of Kolb and Leinart you will realize that you should leave the scouting to scouts.

7
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:09pm

Stafford hasn't taken an NFL snap, let alone been drafted yet, so its hard to argue he's had any professional success like Ryan or Flacco. Kolb had mop-up duty against the stoutest defense in the league, and that's been his only significant pro action. Leinart was thrust into a bad situation but with a lot of surrounding skill talent. Still, Leinart might bust, but he's not there yet.

The Lions would only be setting the stage for Joey Harrington 2.0 if they drafted Stafford. I hope for both parties they think better of it.

I have a feeling that the trend is going to be successful pro QBs coming from smaller, less prominent schools, like Flacco and Ryan. The Mannings didn't exactly come out of QB factories. Big Ben came out of the other Miami. Drew Brees came out of Purdue. These teams typically have a narrower talent advantage over their opponents (if any at all) so its easier to control for a QB's teammates or system making him look better than he is.

9
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:16pm

The Manning came from the same level school Stafford came from. Stafford has some decent skill players to work with but his offensive line struggled this year. Stafford looks a lot like Jay Cutler to me which is why I think he will be succesful if they are patient with him.

93
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:13pm

The question is not how the level competition compared, but whether the school had a good track record of looking at NFL QBs ("the Mannings didn't come from QB factories"). So, how had Ole Miss and Tennessee done before Peyton and Eli?

Ole Miss QBs drafted in the first 10 rounds, 1978-2003: none

Tennessee has a slightly more glorious history over the same time period, producing 1989 6th round pick Jeff Francis (2 career ATT), 1994 7th round pick Steve Matthews (1 start, 43 ATT), and also 1994 1st round pick Heath Shuler (22 starts, 593 ATT).

These ain't exactly Michigan in terms of NFL QBs.

10
by BucNasty :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:20pm

The Lewin Forecast takes scouting into account, which is why it's limited to the first two rounds. It's designed mostly to identify relatively unkown (i.e., few starts) talents who rocket up draft boards thanks to a good year or two and some kind of amazing physical ability- like a rocket arm- and identifying them as high risk. The best arguement I've seen against the "had he came back and did the same thing, even the Lewin system would love him" was about JaMarcus Russell. It was pointed out that coming back and having another fantastic year like that is easier said than done, and if you don't believe that you should ask Brian Brohm. If the player does come back and perform at a high level again, then everybody would be legitimately drooling over him, and should come as no surprise that the Lewin system does as well. It's not infallible, and I think it's a bit much to boldly declare that drafting him would be yet another Lions mistake. It would just be a risky move, because obviously at least one system has identified him as having high bust potential.

17
by MarkV :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:54pm

This is very well put.

To get at the comments above, there is absolutely nothing to say that Stafford cant go back to school and outperform his junior year. If he did that, his projection would rise, and it would identify him as a a scary good talent. But right now he has an exceptional year, and what the forcasting system projects is that it is more likely that this was a good year than that Stafford is a good QB.

A lot of QBs can have really good junior years. Following it up with a better senior year is much harder, much rarer, and much more reliable in predicting future success.

21
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 3:44pm

FO will oversell the Lewin Career Forecast, and has at times, and I have my own critiques, but that doesn't mean your criticisms are valid.

1. Lewin Career Forecast (LCF) includes scouting-by its terms, it has never applied to picks outside the first 2 rounds, and was subsequently revised to project QBs picked 17-64 differently than those picked 1-16.
2. Insofar as the LCF is valuable, I believe that's because it's picking up on underreported information which is in and of itself valuable. If Stafford stayed another year and was still considered a potential high first round pick, that's one thing. If he instead had a Brian Brohm-like plunge to the end of the second round or beyond, we're having a different conversation. Watch Sam Bradford's draft stock this year for a potentially dramatic example of this.
3. LCF hit another factor that's important in evaluating quarterbacks-NFL teams are generally not able to take an inaccurate quarterback and make him accurate, at least without a significant effort to do so. While Stafford's development in terms of accuracy is a positive sign, he was only a 61% passer last year despite playing with some pretty good "skill position" players, one of whom is extremely likely to be a first round pick this year.
4. The LCF is somewhat of a self-limiting feature, in that it depends on there being a range of starts and completion percentages in the relevant draft periods. If teams use the LCF, either because of Lewin's research or they figured out the relevant factors on their own, then we should stop seeing inaccurate guys with few starts drafted. Keeping demand for quarterbacks fixed, though, what we're likely to see is guys with good LCF stats get drafted in the first two rounds because they have good LCF stats and not because in scouts' eyes they're a top 2 round talent. I believe Kolb is a good example of this phenomenon, and a good example of why we should be skeptical of the LCF qua the LCF going forward.

That skepticism notwithstanding, I believe we can still use the factors that the LCF includes intelligently. We have a relatively decent sized body of work on Stafford-2 plus seasons of starting. That body of work says that, while he may have an excellent arm and the ability to make NFL-type throws into small windows (he has at least 1 wow throw every game, I've found), we have serious doubts as to his ability to make the right throw on a consistent basis. For that reason, knowing what I do as some yoyo who watches too much football but is not a scout or a skilled evaluator of QBs, I'm very reluctant to spend a first round pick on Mr. Stafford.

27
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:22pm

The biggest problem with it is that it is a small-sample over-interpretation that I don't expect from Football Outsiders. Until they chart every college game they just stick to pro football.

88
by Yaguar :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:12am

"If Stafford stayed another year and was still considered a potential high first round pick, that's one thing. If he instead had a Brian Brohm-like plunge to the end of the second round or beyond, we're having a different conversation."

Don't you get the sense that he wouldn't even have a chance of being a first rounder next year, with Sam Bradford coming out and blowing him out of the water?

112
by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:12pm

Even if Sanchez also stayed, and also put up good numbers, and NFL scouts decided they really liked Colt and Tebow, if Stafford came back and played well, all that would mean is there would be a QB-heavy first round in 2010. It's not like anything requires only two QBs to be drafted in the first round; heck, we're kind of due for a QB-heavy first round soon, with only two taken in 2007 and 2008, and only 3 in 2005 and 2006. Heck, there hasn't been a 5-QB first round since 1999 (and other than McNabb, that was something of a bust of a class).

--
My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

36
by AlanSP (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:49pm

With the success of Ryan, Flacco and now Stafford and the failure of Kolb and Leinart you will realize that you should leave the scouting to scouts.

First, it's still probably too early in the careers of all of those guys to definitively deem them successes or failures. Remember the goal is to forecast their career, not simply their rookie season (or first few years in the case of Leinart and Kolb).

Even if those guys continue their current level of success, it doesn't mean that the whole system should be scrapped. No method of projection is perfectly accurate, regardless of whether it's based on scouting, statistics, or both. A few misses don't mean that there's necessarily a problem with the system.

And even if there do turn out to be flaws with the Lewin Career Forecast that make it tend to miss on certain types of players, our response should be to find a way to improve it, not to throw up our hands and say that stats are useless.

58
by lionsbob :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:56pm

Directly preceded by David Greene? Poor D.J. Shockley always the forgotten man.

Stafford I think is your classic boom/bust QB pick. He had an awful time as a true freshman at Georgia that kills his counting stats and the fact that his 1st 2 years-Georgia WRs were not that good at all. His OL the last 2 seasons have been hit by the injury bug as well (and played a lot of true freshman as well).

You got Sanchez, who has started the fewest games since Akili Smith...you got Josh Freeman-who could be the next Jay Cutler. The OTs are a mess-with a different one as the favorite it seems every week.

So do the Lions bite the bullet and go with the safe pick in Aaron Curry?

61
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:07pm

The stat shows one truth that the more film they get of a QB the better scouts are at rating them. The problem I have is the arrogance they have with this stat. When they say stuff like starts and completion percentage are the only stats that matter is ridiculous.

98
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:21pm

Yeah, a better way of saying it would be that those two stats are the only ones that are predictive (as stats.) That doesn't mean that other stats don't have uses in other ways, to scouts for example, as an aid to observation.

I think these things get exaggerated by some FO writers because they aren't statisticians and don't have those careful ways of generalizing about their statistics that statisticians do.

57
by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:55pm

Not that I'm necessarily sold on the greatness of the LCF, but calling Kolb and Leinart failures is a little over the top. Sure, Leinart has looked like a bust at times- but he's sitting on the bench behind a guy who's being mentioned as a potential HoF candidate. I think the consensus says he's not, but still- losing a starting job to Kurt Warner doesn't make Leinart a de facto bust. Kolb was brought in as the eventual successor to McNabb, and has only played in 7 games, throwing 34 passes (completing 17 of them). You can't criticize the LCF for overvaluing a small sample size and then cite Kolb as a example of the LCF being useless based on 34 passes.

Kolb's career stats at NFL.com

118
by Megamanic (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 3:16am

If Stafford stayed one more year and his completion percentage raised to 60% would he be a different QB?

Actually yes he would. He'd be more mature. The number of games could be filtering for many things including but not limited to:

  • Immature jerks cashing in on one good year
  • Greedy jerks cashing in on one good year
  • Guys with limitations that haven't been exposed yet
5
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 1:58pm

Query for Bears fans: how much of the decline in DE sack production is the result of less attention being paid to Tommie Harris, and how optimistic are you about Harris's future level of performance?

If these questions don't make it clear, I think Brown and Ogunleye both can be/are good starters. Neither is now (if he ever was) an elite edge rusher, and any perception he was is a function of the presence of another elite player (viz. Harris) making it look like he was. Yes, the Bears would be a better team if they had an elite edge rusher. The problem is, though, that elite edge rushers are hard to find and keep (e.g., the Vikings gave up a 1st round pick and a zillion dollars for Allen), so you have to look at whether an elite edge rusher is the best way to improve the Bears, or just a a way.

8
by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:15pm

I kind of agree with your premise but I think that the Bears' biggest problems have been inconsistent play in the defensive backfield, the decline of Hillenmeyer and most clearly, the void at right defensive tackle. I would have thought Olshansky might be a good fit for them there.

11
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:25pm

I think Tommie Harris's decline is absolutely the driving force behind the decrease in sacks. Brown has never been a dynamic edge rusher, and Ogunleye's big numbers came opposite Jason Taylor, so neither has been an elite pass rusher in his career.

However, both Brown and Ogunleye are very good all-around DEs. They play the run well. They're extremely disciplined. Brown, in particular, is good at backside pursuit.

An elite edge rusher improves the team, no doubt, and I hope they can find one somewhere. Both Brown and Ogunleye are great players to have in the DE rotation (maybe even playing tackle on passing downs?), but having them occupy both end positions does result in a lessened pass rush.

Of course, an elite interior pass rusher, like the 2005-2006 Tommie Harris or Albert Haynesworth (wouldn't that be sweet?), would fix this problem just as well as an elite edge rusher.

28
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:30pm

Weird thing is, Ogunleye's best year as Bears came in 2007, when Tommie Harris was injured much of the time and Mark Anderson was busy make the coaches look foolish. I really like Brown but obviously, pass rushing isn't his biggest strength.

16
by c_f (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:48pm

Tommie Harris has been playing on two bad knees for a couple years now. Maybe it's getting worse or maybe he just had a bad year last year. He was recently re-signed, so presumably the front office feels confident about him.

I'm not so optimistic, but 3rd round draft pick Marcus Harrison played quite well in relief duty this year, so hopefully he'll see more playing time and help keep Tommie fresher.

Brown and Ogunleye are decent starters, but not that special. Brown is better than you think vs. the run. Ogunleye's definitely declining. 3.5 of his sacks this year came vs. Det and banged-up StL.

A stud DE would be nice, but DL draft picks often take a year or so to develop, and I don't think the defense has that much time left.

14
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:37pm

I think you're missing an aspect from the fumble analysis. The Hall of Famers you name all played in eras in which the overall fumble rate for RBs was much higher. P-F-R's blog did a study of fumbles in the last year or so, and showed how RB fumble rates have steadily declined over the past 20 years or so.

Saying that Peterson will be OK because Walter Payton also fumbled a lot a few years is like saying Rex Grossman would be OK because Joe Namath also threw more picks than he did TDs. It's a different game today.

EDIT: There is a little bit of league fumble rate thrown in, but I don't think it's enough. Peterson fumbled 2.34 times per 100 carries last year. In 2006-2007 (I don't have 2008 data), RBs fumbled 1.08 times per 100 carries. Walter Payton, as an example, had rates of 3.93 per 100 carries in 1975, 3.06 in 1976, and 3.00 in 1975. The league rate during that period was 2.26. (Payton did figure out his fumbling problem, never again eclipsing 2.37 fumbles per 100 carries (1981).)

(The P-F-R study can be found here.)

42
by Pat F. :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:54pm

Doesn't the FO piece just say that backs who fumbled as often as Peterson in a given season on average basically cut their rate in half the next year? I don't see what league context has to do with that, at least not without more details about their calculations.

47
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:16pm

Eh, I think the era-adjustment is just missing. 1) Using 20+ years worth of sample, when fumble rates are drastically different seems suspect to me. 2) Peterson is much more of an outlier than someone with a similar fumble rate 20 years ago.

55
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:50pm

I think you're still missing the point a little: the guys who fumbled a bunch in one season came back and barely fumbled at all the next year. Even if the fumble rates have declined on average, this is just a statement that "the variability in fumble rates is too high to use a single-season average."

Not hard to guess this, considering "once every 90 carries" equates to 3 on a season for a 270-carry back. "Once every 45 carries" equates to 6 on a season. Statistically, the difference between 6/270 and 3/270 is negligible due to counting statistics.

66
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 8:26pm

Right, and I get that the fluctuation is there. But it doesn't seem right to compare Peterson with other backs who had similar fumble rates when those backs played in a era where the league average was twice as high. My point is that Peterson doesn't really have a true comparable among those mentioned.

132
by Q-bert (not verified) :: Thu, 03/26/2009 - 3:56pm

The other thing missing is that the comment seems to be implying that Adrian Peterson is this guy who showed up out of nowhere last year and fumbled once every 40.3 carries. It ignores the fact that Peterson played a bit in 2007 as well and fumbled once every 47.6 carries. I would think that is a bit more relevant than the fumble rates of other 300 carry backs.

12
by Marko :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:31pm

"Seemingly every Bears fan who doesn't immediately fall asleep or curl into the fetal position when the Chicago offense marches onto the field hopes for a quarterback or a wide receiver to come off the board with the 18th pick this year."

I must disagree. While casual fans might think this is the Bears' most pressing need (and the perception of fans of other teams is that the Bears' pass offense sucks), knowledgeable Bears fans realize what you did: The Bears' biggest need is to improve their pass rush (which will improve their pass defense overall, which was a huge liability last year). It was the defense, not the offense, that really let the Bears down last year.

Of course, we'll have to wait and see what the Bears do (or don't do) in free agency before being able to analzye what they should do in the draft. And we'll also have to wait and see who is available when the Bears' spot in the draft comes up. The Bears (like any team) shouldn't reach for a player to fill a specific need if a better player is available, particularly if the better player also can fill a different need.

In other words, while a DE who can get to the quarterback would be nice, I wouldn't be opposed to taking an OT or a WR if a player at those positions grades significantly higher than the DEs available. I really would like the Bears to get a playmaking safety (to fill our glaring need at FS), but I don't think there are any safeties in the draft who would be worth the 18th pick.

96
by jody (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:33pm

As a TExans fan and owner of the Bears D in fantasy, I saw how frustrating the Bears D was in the last game. Multiple times, Andre Johnson was wide open, not because of his own skill, but it looked like the defense let The Texans Offense Option #1 get open. Maybe better pass rush, better coverage, better coaching/scheming is needed for the Bears, but that DEF was frustrating to watch. So maybe the Bears draft a good DEF player in rd 1. I also think that they need a #1 type receiver; to me, Hester is not a #1, and probably is better suited as a 2/3 slot type of receiver. A #1 receiver, whether via draft (Crabtree, if the BEars could land him) or FA (would love to see TJ Whosyourdaddy as a BEar), would make the Bears clearly better, as many average QBS are made better when they have at least one very good REC.

15
by c_f (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 2:38pm

The problem with Lewin is that first rounders >>> second/third rounders: http://www.draftcountdown.com/features/23qb/23qbs.php
1992-2006: 31 quarterbacks. You got Brees, Schaub, Plummer and a bunch of busts and career backups.

He's on to something with the experience argument: the more starts a player has, the more film there is on him, so it is more likely scouts will find holes in his game.

Wasn't there something written about the "blow up year," that is, usually-Junior QBs who had one great year and left early flamed out a lot b/c that year was basically not representative?

It's a difficult business- no one predicted Matt Ryan would be as good as he was. Cutler didn't have sexy a comp% at Vandy. Leinart was probably overrated because he played with such good teammates.

18
by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 3:27pm

We are now half way through this round of Four Downs and thusfar Bryant McFadden has not appeared on anyone's "Who Could They Sign?" list, save of course the Steelers.

Very good, if it's indicative of what actually happens.

19
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 3:39pm

The Bears clearly had troubles at FS last year, especially after it became apparently obvious that Mike Brown was too slow to play the deep half of the field. Jerry Angelo seemed to hint that they want to see Manning on the field more (whilst also suggesting that they are keen to keep him as the primary kick returner), but the Chicago press seem divided on what Angelo meant by this. The Tribune are fairly forthright in declaring that he is moving to the troublesome free safety position whilst the Sun-Times seem to be sure that he is staying at nickel back. Whatever they do with him they need to leave him at the spot they choose, and if they do want to move him now is the time to do it so he can take a whole offseason to adjust.

If he is to be the free safety I have mixed feelings about it. At FS he would have excellent physical skills and could turn into a very good safety. However the play everyone remembers is his bizarre decision to set Reggie Wayne loose on a stick route to instead provide a third man in tight coverage on Dallas Clark, goodbye Superbowl! Is it fair to judge him too harshly on one play (however mind-numbingly mis-timed it was), even the very best players will make mistakes, and he was a rookie at the time. The guy ended up at Liberty College after failing to qualify academically for Nebraska, so it may be that the guy is a few raisins short of a full pudding (although I have no real idea how true this is having never taken any of the relevant exams) and as such he may always struggle to master the intricacies of a defensive system, it certainly make the coaching staffs choices to turn him into the defensive backfield's equivalent of an itinerant labourer seem highly questionable. This may tie into the managements decision to let Mike Brown walk. Brown had always been an excellent player while healthy, the kind of player you would want to build a position group around, but was often unavailable with injury and had clearly lost a step or too last season. Last offseason the team was high on Payne and wanted him on the field (which I would say has paid off) and wanted Manning on the field enough to shoe horn him into the nickel back spot as the desire to get Brown on the field left no safety spot available.

I would guess that the current intention is to move Manning to FS. To be honest I like the idea, both safeties would have good size and speed as well as pretty good hitting and ball skills. They would be a bit inexperienced but both have started at least 16 games at safety. It might leave a bit of trouble at nickel back, but the Bears have Tillman, Vasher and Harris and could maybe pick up a guy like Bodden if you aren't going to rely on them to start. McBride and Bowman may also be in the mix (but who the hell knows). It would be easier to find a third corner then a FS when the free agency cupboard is going to be very bare and consequently pricey whilst the draft seems to only have a few players in it at the posiiton, none of whom are a sure thing.

I suppose a big variable in the equation is what on earth has happened to Vasher? On this I have no idea, anyone else?

24
by Marko :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:15pm

That should be "Graham" rather than "Harris." I wish the Bears still had Chris Harris.

Vasher was awful last year before he got hurt, then was even worse when he came back (he wasn't fully healed, apparently). He played very tentatively. And the lack of a pass rush compounded his problems in coverage.

As for Manning, I hope he doesn't end up at FS. He played pretty well at nickel back (both in coverage and when blitzing), but he looks clueless at FS. As you mention, he blew the Super Bowl with his bonehead decision on the play that became a touchdown for Reggie Wayne. (I read an article after the fact saying that he got the defensive signal wrong, which is why he blew his assignment.) And he did basically the same thing in the season finale last year at Houston, leaving Andre Johnson wide open for a touchdown that turned the momentum around in a game the Bears were dominating early (just like the Super Bowl). That play (combined with his fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which led to Houston's go-ahead touchdown) cost the Bears a playoff spot. I just don't feel comfortable with his decision making at FS.

33
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:43pm

If you want to play a fun hypothetical game. If the Bears keep Harris, and don't sign Archuletta, I think there is a good chance the make the playoffs the past two years.

39
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:03pm

I you want to play this game, my personal favourite (or perpetual torment of my waking dreams) is the Bears to have signed Drew Brees as a free agent. Superbowl? But no, Rexy has(d) upside. NNNNNNNGGGGHHH

Alternatively replace the words Drew Brees with any of the following alternatives; Jeff Garcia, Kurt Warner, Kerry Collins, John Kitna etc.

Other strong contenders are ignoring Mel Kiper and his beloved draft board and taking Demarcus Ware or Jammal Brown instead of Cedric Benson.

I am going to have to stop now, my brains are starting to hurt.

43
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:03pm

Yeah, but the Harris for Archuleta thing you could see coming. Giving up on your first round QB who's hardly played, and looked good when he has is not as bad. Anyways I'm pretty sure Archuleta cost us 2 games in 2007, so replace him with Harris and we're 9-7, I'm not sure how the tie-breakers work out so I don't know if we would have made it, and this year we probably beat the Texans with Chris Harris.

Also, Benson has been a smaller bust than most of the top 10 picks that year. He did help us make the Superbowl.

38
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:50pm

Yeah, you're right I meant Harris but the message board won't allow me to edit my post to conceal my deficiencies.

I am not sure Chris Harris would make all that much difference, I prefer Payne as a SS, better range and a higher ceiling. They would still need a FS and very few options for getting one in either the draft or free agency.

I do entirely get your point about the field awareness (or lack thereof) it would leave at safety moving forward with Payne and Manning, but perhaps it is time for some of the young DBs to step up and assume Brown's leadership mantle. If it were at all likely that Mike Brown were to regain form and durability or if there were other options available I might prefer to keep Manning at NB, but there aren't.

The lack of range at safety last year was a contributing part to the lack of pass rush. Concerns about the deep ball stop the corners from sitting on the short routes making blitzing far less effective and hamstringing the pass defense as a whole. The Bears were seriously slow at safety last year, Payne might be quick enough to play SS but isn't really fast enough to be left deep in cover 1 coverage on a regular basis. Brown was too slow to play either. Repeated injuries to the cornerbacks didn't help all either. The bottom line as far as I am concerned is that the Bears need a FS and Manning is currently the best option on the roster.

32
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:40pm

I thought Bowman looked really good in the one game he played. Of course, he ended up getting hurt, and given his college history, that's not a good sign.

I was not as high on Graham as a lot of other fans. He was a good tackler, but that isn't very helpful when the receiver just caught the ball 13 yards down past the line of scrimmage. He did get better later in the year, so that's a good sign.

As for Vasher, he looks tentative and unsure. I think (more like I hope) he just needs to stay healthy, and knock some rust off. He has also become a terrible tackler after being pretty decent in 2005 and 2006.

Charles Tillman has become rather inconsistent, but that could be him trying to compensate for rest of the players in the secondary.

On an unrelated note, do you post on any Bear's forums?

40
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:29pm

On an unrelated note, do you post on any Bear's forums?

Do you mean me (I am unsure of exactly how the nesting works on the comments)? If so, no. I don't know of any good ones.

I concur with your thoughts about the Bears DBs, although I think Tillman has been one of the better CBs in football the last three or four years. If you were include forced fumbles in the Pro Bowl voting information he would probably get more consideration.

44
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:07pm

Yeah that was directed at you. You know, if forums get better posters, they get better ;).

50
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:30pm

Fair point, any of them any good?

52
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:37pm

Not really. I read dabearz.com a lot, but it is mostly just people complaining about Ron Turner and Jerry Angelo. There are a few good posters though. Enough to make me keep going back, and it's a good way to see what the majority of fans are thinking.

117
by Yinka Double Dare :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 8:50pm

I figured Bowman was basically just Mike Brown Reloaded -- a Nebraska DB who makes plays when he's healthy. Which isn't often.

22
by taxistan :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 3:52pm

As an avid GaTech fan I watch UGA carefully. Stafford is grossly overated. He's inconsistent, even within a game, and is a product of UGA's generally strong teams. Their strong running game particularly. He may not be a bust but will take alot of work and seasoning {see his poor pocket mechanics]. He has no chance of stepping in and doing what Ryan and Flacco did. So, of course, the Lions will take him #1.

26
by Illmatic74 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:19pm

That's fair but people said the same thing about Cutler and Ryan.

51
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:31pm

People said Cutler was the product of a strong team?

114
by Yinka Double Dare :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:08pm

I don't think people said that about Ryan either -- the reason Ryan's team was as good as it was: Matt Ryan. He didn't play with anything resembling the level of talent that Stafford had. This year, Stafford had a likely first round RB, a WR in Massaquoi who probably will go in the 3rd round neighborhood this year, and AJ Green, who had an outstanding freshman season and was the #2 WR in his recruiting class behind the also-excellent Julio Jones. He's a sure-fire NFL pick (barring injury or extreme off-field asshattery, of course), and probably a high one.

127
by witless chum :: Thu, 02/19/2009 - 12:15pm

We Lions fans, especially those of us who watched Stafford have problems leading a more-talented Georgia team over our Spartans in the Capitol One Bowl, are hoping that all the talk of Stafford as the pick is Martin Mayhew trying to attract a QB-desperate trading partner. One thing one of the local beat reporters noted was that Millen was apparently chatty Cathy to all his friends around the league, while Mayhew/Lewand are going to take the radical step of not broadcasting their intentions to everyone else.

LT Jeff Backus has reportedly told the Lions he'd be okay moving to guard, so maybe the pick is one of the elite tackle prospects. The Lions need a LG as bad as they need anything. Or that could be disinformation, being funneled to the Oakland Press by 'a team source.'

My own answer at QB is keep Dan Orlovsky. He at least mostly took care of the ball and was clearly the most effective starter this year. Resign him and have Culpepper/Kitna (Who cares which, though it's apparently going to be Daunte) as the backup and give Drew Stanton a chance to show something, such as the ability to make it through camp and preason without getting hurt. There's not an obviously better option available than Dan O, who's only 25, and seems to understand that jump ball to Megatron is often the Lions' best offense.

23
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:13pm

Mr. Barnwell - do you actually believe in DVOA ratings?

Matt Cassel - 6.2% DVOA
T. Jackson - 9.9%

Cassel did this with essentially the same offence that Brady was able to put up a 57% DVOA. Tarvaris Jackson was almost 20% better Frerotte. At a minimum this suggests Jackson is certainly better than an established mediocre NFL QB.

I'm all for a Leftwich coming in but Phil Simms? - he's 3.5 yrs older than Jackson and in roughly the same attempts Jackson is better in every passing category save a small difference in comp % (59.4 vs 58.4%).

If NE manages to trade Cassel to some team it will prove to me two things:

1) NE is really really smart, and
2) the team that trades for Cassel will be one of the worst teams in the league for years to come because they will have demonstrated their incredible stupidity.

30
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:36pm

I agree. I'm torn between wanting no takers for Cassel, so that NE has to take a ridiculous cap hit for two QBs, and the Vikings trading away picks and giving a ridiculous contract to get him, so that the only team that finished ahead of the Bears this past year gets weaker for years to come.

25
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:17pm

Adrian Peterson's biggest deficiency, assuming the fumble rate last year was a bit of a statistical blip, and doesn't get worse, is his very poor pass blocking. A playcaller's hands get tied, and a defensive coordinator's job gets much easier, when there is a running back on the field who can't pass block. If Peterson wants to be a truly historically great player, he MUST start to pass block better.

29
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:33pm

That's a very simple and true statement, Will. He's also only caught 40 passes over two seasons, though I believe that's more an effect of him being taken off the field on passing downs, due to his poor blocking.

Peterson is an elite runner. To be an elite running back, he needs to develop more skills related to the passing game.

31
by Greg Trippiedi (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:39pm

Bill, I'm not sure I'd pin the blame for Chicago's declining sack totals on the defensive ends. I think that the philosophy of a coordinator like Bob Babich falls under the category of what I call "the Blache effect", which basically means that a defense will perennially underachieve it's expected sack total based on it's talent thanks to an unholy marriage between it's coordinator and unhealthy blitz-happy schemes in the name of the abstract concept known as "pressure".

Watching the 6+ man blitz numbers for the Bears defense increase over the last two years, it's no wonder the sack numbers are down. It's such an easy scheme for a quarterback to prepare for, there's no threat of confusion, and even the most inexperienced of receivers can read the schemes.

There's no doubt that Ogunleye, Brown, and Anderson can still get to the passer if left to their own devises. Problem is, if the coordinator doesn't trust his guys, he's going to take matters into his own hands, which simply can't work.

34
by Sean McCormick :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:44pm

Jimm,

Wait for the AFC East column. Cassel's DVOA for the year wasn't especially good, but things look different when you look at the first half of the year versus the second half.

35
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:44pm

This is how I rate the free agent QB's for the Vikings

1) Leftwich
2) Garcia
3) Trade for Rosenfels if he can be had for 3rd or lower.

Warner would never sign, Collins wouldn't either but I think he was simply playing behind an incredible line so I wouldn't want him anyway.

49
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:27pm

Why wouldn't Warner sign?

They're a dome team with a great running attack, and a pretty good offensive line.

121
by Unverified Telamon (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 11:54am

If he objects to cold weather in general (rather than just on the playing field) I can understand why he would avoid Minnesota. Dunno if that's the case, though.

37
by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 4:50pm

Sean - since I've argued the same thing for Jackson in 2007 regarding improvement I will certainly read with interest.

41
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 5:42pm

I really, really, really, don't like extremely immobile qbs who have great, big, wind-ups, so it is indicative of how bad I thing the Vikings qb situation is going to be, excepting an unlikely large improvement by Tavaris Jackson, that I wouldn't mind seeing the Vikings sign Leftwich. If only, if nothing else, to put some pressure on Jackson. Sheesh.

45
by Keith (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:09pm

The other point that teams thinking about trading for Matt Cassel should keep in mind is that his performance this season comes with a giant Randy Moss-shaped asterisk.

The following QBs have all looked better when playing in an offense with Randy Moss than at any other time in their careers.

Brad Johnson
Randall Cunningham
Jeff George
Todd Boumann
Daunte Culpepper
Gus Frerotte
Tom Brady

and now, most likely,

Matt Cassel

48
by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:19pm

True, but I suspect that in ten years there will be a new list entitled, 'QBs who have had their careers assisted by defenses bieng rightly terrified of Adrian Peterson'. I am really hoping it will be a long list meaning lots of revolving door QB competitions and front office mismanagement leading to a Barry Sanders like career and disatisfaction with the team. If Bears fans like me will be in for a long ten years (or at least five).

46
by Key19 :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:16pm

I can't think of any reason why Chris Simms should start again in the NFL (barring injury to the real starter (and possibly backup #1)). He was bad. He will never be a franchise QB. I don't know why a guy can perform badly, then wait around a few years, and suddenly become like this sought-after prospect. As stated earlier, he has a lot of balls tipped at the line. He has not shown any quality performances since being injured. He is a backup to Vince Young. So why is everyone (in the media at least, and some fans of QB-desperate teams) thinking he is this hidden gem of an answer for the QB position? He has never been an above-average starter, and that was before his injury. I just don't see what all the fuss is about him. If I were a Vikings fan, I would much rather keep Tarvaris around than turn to Chris Simms.

Any chance Devery Henderson goes to the Bears? I know Hester is a speed guy already, but more than one wouldn't hurt, right? Plus, Devin is not exactly the next Iron Man. I think Henderson could be a decent fit in Chicago.

I had no idea that Matt Stafford had such a bad Lewin Projection. I didn't think he should be the #1 pick before reading this, and now I am pretty certain. This will be a good test to see if the Lions are for real on the upswing or not. On a side note, any chance they take Crabtree and evoke mass suicides by their fans? I'm not saying he's bad and will be like Charles Rodgers or Mike Williams, but just given the history in Detroit, I think it might push some people over the edge. I think the question on most peoples' minds (or at least mine) is who would FO pick if they were the Lions? I mean obviously you guys say "not Stafford," but how about giving some "this guy should be #1" insight?

What do you guys think of (IIRC) Charles Woodson possibly being a full-time safety now? Seems like a bad move. Why not just draft a great safety and plug him in? Seems like Woodson would be better fit for coverage.

53
by Kenneth (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:37pm

Any chance Devery Henderson goes to the Bears? I know Hester is a speed guy already, but more than one wouldn't hurt, right? Plus, Devin is not exactly the next Iron Man. I think Henderson could be a decent fit in Chicago.

I don't think you can count on Henderson as a fulltime starter. He's too inconsistent. Henderson would probably work well as a 3rd receiver, a guy who comes in and causes problems for the defense 5-10 times a game.

Of course, the problem is that that still leaves the Bears without a #1 guy.

54
by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:46pm

The Bears cap room is going to be a lot higher than 20 million. John Tait retiring freed up 6 million in cap room, and when the Bears picked up Hamilton off of waivers he had a 10 million dollar likely to be earned incentive. He didn't earn it, so the Bears get an extra 10 million this year.

56
by AlanSP (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 6:50pm

I guess this is as good a place as any for thoughts on the Lewin Career Forecast.

1. The limitation to the first 2 rounds seems problematic for a few reasons. First, it would obviously be nice to have some predictive power for the later rounds. Second, it's always seemed sort of ad hoc to me. Also, if you want to answer questions about who to pick, it can get sort of circular. Say you're Detroit in 2007 and with the 43rd pick, you're deciding between Drew Stanton and Trent Edwards. What do the Lewin numbers say about how those two will do in the pros? Well actually, they technically say nothing about Edwards since Detroit didn't take him and he ended up going in the 3rd round (had he gone in round 2, his Lewin forecast would have been fairly bad, as he had 31 starts and a completion % of 56.3).

I get that eliminating later round quarterbacks sort of acts as a proxy for the flaws that scouts find, so we aren't predicting NFL stardom for every Texas Tech QB that comes out, but this isn't much help when you're actually the one making the decision, and it seems like sort of an artificial solution that doesn't actually address the real issue. Stats from guys like Kingsbury, Symons, etc. aren't really comparable to other QBs because of something about the offense they play in, not because of their talent level. Say that Texas Tech recruits a QB with the physical tools of an NFL starter (i.e. scouts like him enough to take him in the top 2 rounds). He'd probably have an inflated completion %, for the same reasons that his predecessors did, but the forecast would project him as a superstar because he was taken earlier in the draft. This is arguably what happened with Kevin Kolb.

2. It seems like it's much easier to predict failure than it is to predict success. To oversimplify a bit, guys who aren't accurate in college very rarely become accurate in the NFL, but guys who are accurate in college may or may not be accurate in the pros. This seems fairly intuitive to me because a) you don't expect to see someone's numbers improve when they start facing much better defenses, and b)There are many systems that inflate a QB's numbers, but fairly few that "deflate" them (a QB's numbers might be dragged down by a lack of talent around him, as arguably happened with Cutler and Matt Ryan, but this is relatively uncommon as top QB prospects tend to be recruited to teams with other talented players).

3. Poor accuracy is pretty reliable on its own as a way of predicting busts. I haven't done the sort of extensive analysis that Lewin did, but I gathered data from the last collegiate year of all the quarterbacks drafted from 1998-2008, and found that you'd do pretty well with a crude system of simply avoiding any QB who completed less than 60% of his passes in his last year (regardless of round). The only notable guys you'd have missed out on are Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, David Garrard, and Mike Vick (who never became an accurate passer and is only notable because of his running). Meanwhile, you would have avoided Ryan Leaf, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Quincy Carter, Marques Tuiasosopo, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, J.P. Losman, and a slew of mid-to-late round QBs that never amounted to anything.

60% is obviously sort of arbitrary as a cutoff, and as I said, setting a cutoff is a crude system to begin with. I'd be interested in hearing any ideas as far as ways to more formally look at whether poor completion % is a stronger predictor of failure than a good completion % is of success, and if so, how to account for this in projecting future QBs.

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by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:01pm

Actually, I believe the Lewin system predicted Grossman to be slightly above average. Garrad was a 4th round pick, and David Lewin himself said that Cutler should outperform his forecast.

65
by AlanSP (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 8:19pm

I wasn't talking about the Lewin system in the last part, just something else that I did on my own. I included every QB that was drafted, didn't look at number of starts, and I only looked at college performance the year before the player in question came out (partly because that was the data I could find; it was hard enough just tracking down the college stats for the year before each player was drafted).

One thing worth noting is that the point about inaccurate college QBs not becoming successful pros is true for quarterbacks picked in any round, not just the 1st 2.

60
by dpease :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:03pm

So where does Matt Cassell stand in the Lewin Projection?

I'd like to know what the measuring stick is for determining whether a QB passes or fails. Jake Plummer posted pretty good DVOAs in Denver. Marc Bulger and Kerry Collins have had good careers, and I'm guessing they failed on either college starts or comp%. And what of Brett Favre?

With the extra picks from Dallas and the first pick in each round, Detroit has enough to build around Calvin Johnson and whichever QB they decide to take at #1.

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by tuluse :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 8:17pm

Cassell didn't play in college so he doesn't have a Lewin Projection, that's easy enough to figure out.

I can't find games started for Bulger, but he was a 3 years starter and had a very high completion percentage in college. Had he been drafted in the first two rounds, I'm sure his Lewin Projection would have been favorable.

Collins also had a really high completion percentage in college, however he was only a two year starter.

David Lewin only invented his system a few years ago, if you can find reliable stats for Favre in college, I bet an email could get your question answered.

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by Thok :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:48pm

Favre had a completion percentage of 53% in college, and seems to have missed only 3 starts in 4 years (his first two as a Freshman and one his senior year when he was recovering from a car crash) for a total of 43 starts. (I gathered this from multiple Favre retrospectives.)

Obviously the completion percentage is only OK and the number of starts is great. The fact that Favre was playing at Southern Miss needs to be taken into account (the 53% was apparently a school record at the time, and Southern Miss generally played a brutal non-conference schedule while Favre was there.)

62
by lionsbob :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 7:07pm

Honestly, I am kind of moving towards the Lions should take Aaron Curry boat. He won't cost as much as a QB, he is the "safest" player in the draft, he fills a major need at LBer, I don't know-the Lions as usual-picked a terrible time to have the 1st pick.

63
by Mark Weston (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 8:09pm

Am I the only one getting confused by the spelling of re-sign as "resign"? I rarely play the spelling/grammar nazi card, but after all there is another word that's already spelt "resign" and means almost the opposite of "re-sign". It took me 'til the third Four Downs article before I realised exactly what was being said.

Maybe it's standard usage in this field, and I'm just a noob.

69
by Marko :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 9:43pm

Yes, you are the only one.

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by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:52pm

No, you are not the only one. It's irritating to read "resign," a word that means almost the opposite of what's intended.

67
by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 8:30pm

Some thoughts:

- I think it's much more plausible that Moll -- who started at right tackle in college and as a pro -- takes the right tackle job than Colledge or Giacomini, who's a project. If you disagree with that being a good idea, that's fine -- I didn't pass judgment on it, either. Suggesting that the article needed review from a fan and that the idea is off-base is ridiculous, I'm sorry. Moll's by far the most obvious candidate for the spot.

- The Tarvaris Jackson true believers confound me. Jackson's behind a better line with the most talented back in football behind him. If your argument is that Jackson's thrown more touchdown passes... you're using the wrong stats, my friend.

- Lewin Career Forecast discussion is already pretty well-covered on both sides. There are some people in the discussion who pretty obviously haven't read the articles Dave put together (or read them close enough). Please do.

- Shockley didn't even get a full season inbetween Greene and Stafford. I guess he was the direct predecessor, but in reality, "the guy" before Stafford was Greene.

- Not sure about the decline of Harris -- he did have a big year as a pass rusher in 2007, although they definitely modified their defense some this year because they didn't think he was holding up well enough against the run. If you want to argue that Harris had the big year because they stopped doubling him, that's reasonable, I suppose. Anderson was supposed to be the elite edge rusher and he was ... for a year. They don't necessarily need an Allen-type who comes in on every down and dominates, just a guy who's a good pass rusher -- a Clifford Avril type.

- Pat covers the point about running back fumbles very well. The point is that one year isn't an indicator of anything. Peterson certainly isn't a much bigger outlier than someone with a similar fumble rate 20 years ago -- he isn't even a big outlier this season! Peterson fumbled nine times on 363 carries -- a rate of one per 40.3 carries. Frank Gore fumbled six times on 240 carries -- one per 40 carries.

- I think the Bears would be better off playing less Cover-1.

- I believe in DVOA ratings, but I'm not stupid enough to imply that Matt Cassel and Tarvaris Jackson should be judged solely by DVOA. Suggesting that I would believe or not believe in DVOA because Tarvaris Jackson has a DVOA inflated by an elite running back (whose own DVOA is depressed by the utter lack of a passing game around him) is absurd. Go read the DVOA Methods page.

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by Jimmy :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 10:17pm

Frank Gore fumbled six times on 240 carries -- one per 40 carries.

I know you are only picking an example, but I would say Gore has been a bit too fumbly for my liking over the last few years. I think part of that is I suspect once you get a reputation for it as a RB coaches will be pointing it out all week leading up to the game, if it were me I would be looking at every ball he had fumbled and looking for similarities. Peterson for all his amazing qualities doesn't always secure the ball particularly well, unless he starts to look to hold the ball more tightly next year he may fumble a bit next year too. I guess we will have to wait and see.

- I think the Bears would be better off playing less Cover-1.

Is there some secret charting data you have that gives you this impression, or are you just saying the Bears should be blitzing less? Not that I neccessarily disagree, just curious.

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by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:33pm

I'm not a Tarvaris Jackson "believer" - I just think he is the subject of waaayyyy too much hyperbole, such as saying "Chris Simms is a better option at quarterback." The Adrian Peterson argument doesn't hold as much weight due to comments above. Opposing teams know that they won't pass to Peterson, and also that he can't pass block, therefore when he's on the field, they'll most likely run. Using FO's adjusted line stats, MIN ranks 28th in the league in pass protection, so that argument is somewhat bogus as well. You want to say that Jackson was the reason for those sacks? Okay, well Matt Cassel behind the New England line was 26th with arguably as much talent on the line and *much better* receiving options.
Jackson is around a league average qb with some upside, and his DVOA speaks to that. Is he star that can carry a team? No, not many qbs are. But give him another receiving option alongside Berrian, strengthen the line a bit, and open up the playbook beyond 'Roll out right, hit Shiancoe on a 5 yard out' and I think they'll have a respectable passing attack. With improvement on defense (which was a disappointment this year), they can make a run. However, picking up the Simms and Leftwich's of the world is lateral movement.
FO is better than this - shifting around an argument (and ignoring stats you often use as gospel) isn't thoughtful performance analysis. Jackson is the same guy who had a higher DVOA than Elisha, which was pointed out by FO in the annual last year.

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by Flounder :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:41pm

Tony Moll has a better chance of being cut in favor of a younger player with more upside than winding up the starting right tackle.

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by Key19 :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:01am

To be fair, Minnesota hasn't exactly been overloaded with WR talent in Tarvaris' days. Berrian was good this year, yes, but he's not a top 10 WR by any means. And other than him, who else is really notable on that offense (besides Peterson)? Shiancoe came on at the end of the season a bit, but let's not kid ourselves. He is not an elite TE by any means. The 2nd ranked Vikings WR in DYAR was Bobby Wade whose -7 DYAR ranked 69th and his DVOA of -15.7% ranked 70th. The Vikings have one of the worst WR corps in the NFL. Luckily for them, they have another team with just as bad WRs in their Division!

Look, Tarvaris is not great. But Chris Simms? Seriously? People really think he is the answer here? I still think Tarvaris does have potential, and if he ever got some weapons he can use (Peterson operates almost completely independent from Tarvaris, so his aid is minimal), I think he would be a solid QB. He'll never be a superstar or a Pro Bowler (unless McNabb, Manning, Romo, Brees, Ryan, Hasselbeck, Warner, and Rodgers all get hurt/retire/get traded to the AFC and are replaced by people like CHRIS SIMMS), but he could get the job done with some decent weapons I think. Add Anquan Boldin to this team and you'd probably have a Super Bowl.

That's just how I see it.

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by lionsbob :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 9:28pm

Shockley was the full time starter in 2005 for the Bulldogs (Greene was starter from 2001-2004) and was the SEC Championship player of the game. Shockley missed one game-the Florida game because of a sprained knee. There was a one season gap between Greene-Stafford and Shockley filled that gap pretty well (finalist for Unitas Award, semifinalist for Maxwell Award, 1st team All-SEC). Like I said he is a forgotten man.

Though I do see that Stafford was the "guy" I think lots of Georgia fans felt that Shockley was someone who did not quite his chance either.

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by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 9:48pm

I have questions about starting any QB early in their career. It seems like many QB's are forced into starting too early in their career. These QB may learn bad habits (I think of Carr in Houston learning how to throw interceptions and getting "Happy Feet"), especially if they do not have a good running game, defense, and offensive line (Big Ben and Atlanta's Ryan had all of these). The Manning brothers are kind of football royalty, in my mind, and may have been able to overcome this.

Think about a number of good QB who do well after sitting on the bench and adjusting to the schemes and speed of the NFL game.

I do love Stafford and think he may be the most NFL-capable QB in college right now. However, I believe he would have been better with another year of growth. He does always seem to have one or more phenomenal throws in each game. He has the ability to make throws that most players cannot. However, he has a few bad habits:

He often throws too hard (and behind) on the short throws. This makes it difficult for his receivers to catch the ball (even when they get one or two hands on the ball).

Stafford had a tendency to wait too long to make a big throw rather than decisively throwing his 3rd or 4th read. After watching him lose (I also blame the coordinator) the game to NFL I saw Texas Tech beat Texas. Harrell (TT) never had the ball more than 3-5 seconds before a throw and this made a huge difference compared to Stafford's occasional 7+ seconds. After a certain time frame the pocket will break down and pressure will be applied.

Stafford often does not handle pressure well. He tends to fall into some bad habits (throwing with weight on the wrong leg or too much on back leg, throwing too hard and/or behind and/or too high).

In Stafford's defense, his WR were often dropping balls that good WR should catch. His OL never seemed to really gel and often went through so many injuries as to see 8-11 players start (often switching positions for those who had started). His WR corps has never been as good as Tebow has had (and he has been asked to do more with them).

I think Detroit would do much better picking a better value pick if they cannot trade down. OL from Alabama may be a good choice (if not a good Left Tackle, he could be a good or great Right Tackle).

Next year will be an interesting year for QB picks. As a Gator fan I am biased, but I think Tebow would make a decent Wildcat/H-Back pick in the third round and he has shown a willingness to play other positions. My biggest concern is whether he has the speed necessary to run routes at the pro level.

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by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 10:34pm

"Suggesting that I would believe or not believe in DVOA because Tarvaris Jackson has a DVOA inflated by an elite running back (whose own DVOA is depressed by the utter lack of a passing game around him) is absurd."

And exactly why is it that you know the causal relationship works in that direction? I mean every sane person can predict Peterson will go down as a better RB than Jackson will go down as a QB, but that doesn't mean there is one iota of evidence that Peterson actually helps a passing attack.

If great RB's made it so much easier for QB's to compile great passing stats than I'm sure we'd all remember the great QB's that played along side Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and OJ Simpson.

I could read your DVOA methods page until I'm blue in the face but there's simply no way you guys can tell how much of Jackson's performance, bad or good, is because of Peterson. Two of Jackson's better games came with Peterson on the sidelines (NYG, Oak 07). That's only two games, but if Peterson's presence is indeed so helpful to Jackson's performance it would seem unlikely Jackson would perform better with Peterson on the sidelines.

For the record, I'm not some huge Jackson supporter, I'd be happy to see a Leftwich or Garcia signed. But the nonsense that somehow C. Simms would be an obvious improvement is ridiculous. I would just like to see some support behind the statements that Jackson is so awful.

You have the easy side of this argument. Predicting a QB's failure is certainly easier, because most QB's fail. But the truth is Jackson has outperformed your projections of him so now your looking for reasons for this other than his own abilities. I don't find your supporting argument compelling.

73
by Eddo :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:08pm

One way to test Peterson's impact on Jackson's DVOA would be to break it into downs. Since (as Will mentioned above) Peterson comes off the field on passing downs, which are mostly third downs, it would be interesting to see if there's an unexpected drop in Jackson's DVOA between first/second and third downs.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:03am

You must not remember the 90s Lions. They ran the run and shoot, and their QBs generally did put up good stats. They just got hurt a lot because the Lion's o-line sucked and they ran the run and shoot.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/16/2009 - 11:16pm

Jimm, it does not follow at all that if a great running back makes it easier for a qb to compile great passing stats, we would then remember all the great qbs that played along side Payton, Sanders, or Simpson. Surely you understand this.

As for gathering evidence of Jackson's shortcomings, I employ a method, known as counting, and thus determine how many defenders are primarily devoted to stopping a running attack, as opposed to primarily devoted to stopping a passing attack. I have rarely seen, since the modern passing era began in 1978, an offense which so often sees eight, nine, and sometimes even ten defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage, as I have with the Vikings, since the Eagles game in 2007. At times it has bordered on the absurd.

Now, when this occurs, the obvious response from an offense should be to make a defense pay dearly, via the pass, for lining up in this way. The Vikings mostly have not been able to do so. This can only be due to the qb's performance, the pass blocking performance, or the receiver performance. I know from observation that the Vikings have at least decent pass blocking. Their receivers were awful in 2007, but improved this year. It is thus not at all unreasonable to surmise that Tavaris Jackson has been pretty damned bad at taking advantage of defenses which are primarily aligned to stop the run. Having said that, when Plaxico Burress shot himself, we saw a significant fall-off in Eli Manning's success, so it is likely true that the Vikings, and Tavaris Jackson, still suffer a lot from poor receiving.

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by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:17am

Show me where I've said Player A is better than Player B solely because his DVOA is better before. Please. Pointing out that Jackson had a better DVOA last year than Eli Manning in a player comment (that I didn't write) <> Saying Jackson's better than Manning. Suggesting that DVOA need be applied in every situation when it's useful in some (even, perhaps, the majority of) situations is foolhardy logic; Jackson's situation is an extreme case.

I'm not sure what the point in comparing Cassel and Jackson's adjusted sack rates are. They both have very little in the way of pocket presence, although Cassel went from being the deer in headlights over the first six weeks or so to the deer with a sorta-strong flashlight on him over the last eight weeks. It's ironic that you criticize me for going around and quoting stats to fit an argument right after you do exactly the same thing, though.

If you really watch Vikings games and think that Adrian Peterson is the one harming Tarvaris Jackson and not the other way around, I really don't know what to tell you beyond the fact that you are playing devil's advocate. You will not find an offense around the league that's made simpler for a quarterback except, perhaps, Oakland.

Jackson success rates last year by down:

First down: 35%
Second down: 46%
Third down: 25%

Before I get accused of doctoring up stats, I don't have the passing workbook handy, so I can't quote DVOA.

Bears' Cover-1 thing is just an observation. Not backed up by stats one way or another. Something I'll probably look into in the book chapter.

My bad on Shockley -- I thought he missed more time. Either way, he completed 55.1% of his passes as a starter.

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by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 9:49am

I wasn't suggesting that Jackson is a better qb than Manning - I was pointing out that FO went out of its way to say that Jackson had upside and used DVOA as the measure. Why wasn't it an extreme measure then? And how are we now supposed to know when DVOA needs to be applied?
Again, what's the point of adjusted sack rates if you can make excuses why player A is better at the skill and player B is worse at the skill, even though they have similar rates? My point was that many think Cassel will be a great solution for MIN - even though he and Tarvaris have similar DVOAs behind similar lines (with Cassel having the better receiving corps). Cassel has started one more game in his career than Jackson - I don't see how he's automatically a better option.
I wasn't accusing you of doctoring stats, I was saying that it's curious how FO's house stats work in every situation, except when it's convenient to make certain points. I would love to see how other qbs success rates stack up each down - I would guess they all drop on 3rd down, because more than likely the defense knows they're passing. What's the percentage of 3rd and longs MIN faces? Probably large, being that Peterson is a boom-or-bust back, which FO writers point out weekly in audibles.
Again, I'm not arguing that Jackson is the solution for Minnesota. I just think the level of criticism he receives is inconsistent with his performance.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:16am

Bill,

Thanks for the success rate by down figures. Is that out of line for all QBs? That is, do QBs normally see their success rates fall on third down due to defenses playing nickel or dime defense?

Also, this comment is a bit of a strawman:
"If you really watch Vikings games and think that Adrian Peterson is the one harming Tarvaris Jackson and not the other way around, I really don't know what to tell you beyond the fact that you are playing devil's advocate."

I don't believe anyone argued Peterson is harming Jackson's production, just that he might not be boosting it as much as it is implied. I know what I was trying to say was that the fact that Peterson gives a huge boost to Viking QB numbers is quite an assumption to make, given that the cause-and-effect relationships on a football field are very complex and difficult to fully understand.

78
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:25am

quick note:

Colin Cole turned down 3 years/7 mil in December. I doubt the Packers go higher.

81
by Megamanic (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:39am

Has anybody got the similarity scores for Sanchez on the Lewin projection? I'm guessing they won't be great (Akili Smith =8-0 ) but I'd like to know.

85
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:05am

Quick stats research: 16 starts (3 in 07, 13 in 08), 64.3% completion percentage. Akili Smith apparently had 11 starts, can't find completion pct. quickly-in his partial defense, he was a juco, and no juco will ever get a good Lewin projection because they simply can't get enough starts. IMO, Sanchez is a wonderful small sample size theater candidate who should be heavily discounted because of the talent around him and his performance within it. If he stayed another year, he could have joined Booty in the 5th round.

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by AlanSP (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:28pm

Akili Smith's completion percentage was 56.6% (323-571). At least with Sanchez, one of the two factors is a positive. His numbers are pretty similar to Aaron Rodgers (21 starts, 63.8%), and Alex Smith (23 starts, 66.3%).

86
by Key19 :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:10am

I think any team who takes Sanchez in the first round is making a big mistake. The risk outweighs the reward so heavily that it's not even worth it. If you can get him in the mid-to-late 2nd round, then I can see taking him then (maybe), but overall I just don't think he's really a top QB prospect overall. Does anyone see him becoming a team's franchise QB for the long haul? Yet he's getting a LOT of hype amongst some analysts. If he is taken in the upper-to-mid first round, I'd be willing to bet that this will not be one of that team's stronger draft classes.

Now that I'm thinking about where he might go, is there any chance Tennessee takes him? I mean Vince Young isn't exactly the heir apparent. I know that would be two young QBs behind Collins (or without Collins!), but I think Tennessee would be wise to take SOMEONE who's a QB this year (could be like a day two guy, wouldn't HAVE to be Sanchez).

90
by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:23am

I really don't understand the current infatuation with Sanchez running through the internet football sites like a bad case of dysentery. When I saw him play this year he seemed about the right size and shape, but not a lot else. Not particularly accurate, arm not all that strong and seems to make highly questionable decisions. I was shocked when he said he was coming out, but that was because there would be no way on earth I would want my team to draft that guy with a first day pick. Then all the talking heads start putting him in the first round, which makes me wonder if they ever actually watched him play.

I suspect that most of the people wirting the draft boards and mocks for the internet are simply hedging their bets. If they said there weren't any QBs this year worthy of a top ten pick then they might get caught out should Detroit plump for Piano Man MkII, or some other team takes a passer high. So they need to have at least one QB ranked high, but there are question marks over Stafford as well which means they have to have another QB to fall bac on should Stafford not be the first taken. Step forward Mr Sanchez. I saw a draft board the other day (on a reasonably reputed site) which had Stafford and Sanchez rated at six and seven repectively. I refuse to beleive that whoever produces these things watched hundreds of games over the course of last season and came to the conclusion that theses two players are all that closely ranked, one played three years the other two, one played for USC in the Pac10 and the other for Georgia on the East Coast. Different players around them, different competition, so many variables yet they come out with the same rank.

What it all boils down to is all the 'experts' think there is achance that a QB will be taken in the top ten, possibly top five for salary cap reasons as much as anything else and can't find a suitable candidate for the pick. If Sanchez hadn't come out all and sundry would have Stafford near the top of their boards as the only QB available. Now Sanchez has come out they are all searching for reasons to rak them both close together so it doesn't look like they got it wrong the day after draft day (which is the only day anyone bothers to look at what they wrote). Lets face it the only reason fans read this drivel is the illusion that the pundits are the closest thing a fan can get to an NFL team's draft board. Were theri boards to regulalry end up completely out of whack with the actual draft they would be written off as fools. Does anyoe ever go back and see what kind of hit and miss rate Kiper's draft board has? All this stuff is only relevant (if it ever actually is) until the draft.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 5:43pm

Does anyoe ever go back and see what kind of hit and miss rate Kiper's draft board has?

Do you mean predicting the who the team will incorrectly, or missing on how good the player will be? I think Kiper is pretty good at guessing who teams will take. If there were no trades, I think he could do a lot better, but with trades the whole thing gets way to complicated to try and predict with good accuracy.

I saw two USC games, vs OSU and at Oregon State. Both times Sanchez looked very good. In the first game, he didn't have to do much. Against Oregon State he really impressed me though. His offensive line was getting destroyed pretty much every play, and he was playing from behind the whole game, and he brought his team back. They ended up losing, but he wasn't Sanchez's fault.

95
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:28pm

The Titans are apparently interested in bringing back Simms. If they do that, I expect him to be penciled in as the starter in 2010. Organizationally, I don't think they're prepared to give up Young, and I doubt they'll carry 4 QBs, so the slots are filled if they re-sign Simms (note I'm assuming they reach an agreement with Collins and he probably retires after 2009). A practice squad guy is a possibility for this year, and a draft pick in 2010 once VY is gone (very likely, in my book) is likely unless they bring in a new starter.

87
by Flounder :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 10:12am

Because I just can't let it go, as it really is a ridiculous assertion.

From Bob McGinn's season-end grading:

Tony Moll: Started the first three games at RG and Weeks 14-15 at RT, giving him 18 starts in three seasons. The verdict? He's probably not the answer. He regressed as a pass blocker, giving up 16 pressures compared to 5½ in '07, and was charged with 7½ "bad" runs. Not only that but he drew a team-leading eight penalties. A TE for all but one season at Nevada, Moll turned markedly more aggressive in '08. That was a plus. However, he's stiff, lacks balance and makes too many mistakes. He's probably better inside. Grade: D-minus

Granted, nobody graded out very well, but I submit again: Tony Moll has a better chance of being cut outright that being the GB starting right tackle next year.

Unlike a player such as Giacomini, GB knows exactly what Tony Moll is: a mediocre to OK backup not capable of being a regular starter.

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by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:34am

Bill - so testy. All I've said is that I don't see compelling evidence that Jackson is so horrible. If he is in fact as awful as you suggest than Gus Frerotte must be incredibly bad.

With respect to your comment about Jackson - Peterson - obviously you have a point that Jackson more likely hurts Peterson than the reverse. I didn't say it clearly - my point wasn't which player negatively effected the other more just that Peterson's rushing abilities don't necessarily help Jackson compile better passing stats which I think was your point. Correct me if I'm wrong.

I think Peterson is an overrated player and I think Jackson is underrated. That's all.

94
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 12:17pm

For the record, and I think Bill would probably agree with me on this, I'm pretty confident Gus Frerotte is, indeed, incredibly bad.

100
by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 1:38pm

I think Peterson is an overrated player and I think Jackson is underrated.

OK I am only asking this so as to make sure we are both talking about the same people. By 'Peterson' you do mean the fellow who plays for the Vikings and not the roster-filler who plays for the Bears? Similarly when you say 'Jackson' you are in fact refering to the 'quarterback' for the Vikings and not a different Jackson (eg Andrew, ex-president)?

I also have to ask, have you actually watched them play? I know this may seem an odd question, but I really don't want to be ripping on the blind kid sitting at home hammering away on his braile keyboard (who's twisted father keeps telling him that Purple Jesus is letting the side down and TJ is having to try to do it all back there, just to f*** with his mind).

Now formalities aside, you have got to be F*****g kidding me! Sorry to be blunt but there is absolutely no way that AP isn't carrying that whole offense around on his god-like back. Yeah he is boom and bust, but that is a function of playing against eight or nine in the box. When there is always an unblocked defender on the line it stands to reason that they aren't coming up from the secondary to prevent the big play. If (or more accurately when) AP breaks three tackles, makes a couple more players miss and turns upfield there isn't anyone left to stop him as they were all at the line. Also if you score every single time you get level with the last defender you are going to see an awful lot of boom. So the guy isn't the world's greatest pass blocker considering the lengths teams go to to try to stop him running with the ball, to be having a deleterious effect on Jackson's passing he would have to be trying to trip him up in the backfield on every other snap (although some folks would argue that might actualy help). The Vikes could line up on second and fifteen with four wide and tell the opposition that they are going to throw and the defense would still crowd the line out of fear of AP. It isn't even as though the Vikes use him on passing downs, they bring in Taylor who is a very good pass catcher and blocker.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:17pm

I dunno; I would say your use of the term "god-like" to describe Peterson sort of proves his point.

Remember, Peterson is mostly rated as the BEST RB in the league. Peter King, for example, had him listed as his Offensive Player of the Year. And yet you even note that he doesn't play on passing downs because he's not good enough to do so. The best back in the league should be an every-down back, versatile enough to catch passes and block. Payton did it. Sanders did it.

So yeah, I'd say Peterson is overrated. Is he the most talented back in the league? Probably. But was he the best this past year? I'd say no. I think DeAngelo Williams, for one, had a better year. Do I still rate Peterson highly? Of course, but not #1 overall.

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by Jimmy :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:05pm

As a Bears fan aren't you getting sick of him treating the vaunted Bears D like a bunch of tacking dummies? I know I am.

Deangelo Williams averaged over 100 yards a game this year, that has to help balance up the offense. AP produces farcical numbers when you consider that he always sees eight in the box, and whilst Berrian has helped a bit he doesn't affect defensive gameplans the way Smith does.

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by Eddo :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 6:25pm

Oh yeah, I'm getting tired of it, but I'm also getting tired of seeing mediocre QBs like Brian Griese tear up the Bears defense. I'm not going to anoint Griese as a great QB because of that, though.

Generally, I'm more frustrated that the Bears are unable to expose Peterson's flaws, in a why-doesn't-he-fumble-against-us? sort of way.

Another poster in this thread said something along the lines of, "you can't only judge Peterson by his strengths", which is spot-on. Now, his strengths are indeed stronger than those of any other RB. But his weaknesses - basically, all his abilities in the passing game - are weaker than those of other top backs.

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by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:40pm

Deangelo Williams averaged over 100 yards a game this year

That is supposed to say Steve Smith.

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by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:45am

Will - I think you've hit the nail on the head with respect to the Vikings inability to take advantage of 8-9 men boxes. It's a combination of things. I wouldn't be upset to see Jackson replaced by a Leftwich or Garcia. But I don't expect some huge jump in offensive production unless that move is accompanied by a significant improvement at pass blocking as a team and better wr play.

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by Chip :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:31pm

Is Adrian Peterson's fumble-itis a cause for concern? (Check the box)

X Yes
No

I'm voting yes. One thing that is overlooked (and I'm shocked that no one brought this up), is AP's long history of fumbling. He fumbled once every 59.5 carries as a rookie and once every 43.9 carries during his college career (17 / 747 - search fumble here ). If anything, his fumble rate of once every 40.3 carries during his second year his more indicative of his true fumble rate, than anything else. The two knocks on him coming out of college was his injury history and fumble-it is.

If someone is willing to make a line - say 65 carries (halfway between 40 and 90), I will mortgage the house and take the under.

105
by laberge :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 2:46pm

I would think the Vikings passing woes have a lot to do with Chilly, maybe even more than substandard QB play. I keep hearing about ridiculous things in the game plan that would seem to make failure inevitable. In the playoff game with the Eagles, for instance, Jackson was told to stay in the pocket and not run. Even though his ability to run is one of the few things that give him "upside". Add to that very little flexibility to call audibles, even for old guys like Frerrote and Johnson, and I don't know how the pass game succeeds.

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by parker (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:05pm

Why is everyone so quick to say Flacco and Ryan are unadulterated successes. They each played in ridiculously run heavy offenses. Was I surprised by what they did? yes. However I was also surprised the first time I saw red hit ten times in a row in Atlantic City. I'm still waiting to see it again.

I seem to remember Shaun King having one hell of rookie season. I don't remember him doing much else after that.

Another thing Matt Ryan's career completion percentage was .599.

Does Joe Flacco even qualify to have a forecast after playing at Delaware.

You know who Joe Flacco reminded me most of? Mark Rypien in 91'. Bombs galore. He was never heard from again.

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by MC2 :: Fri, 02/27/2009 - 9:48pm

Did you really compare Matt Ryan to Shaun Freakin' King? I don't even know where to begin.

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by superbears (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:39pm

The Bears lack of sacks brings up an interesting chicken/egg argument. They had so many injuries in the secondary that I blame the lack of sacks on poor coverage. I can't tell you how many times there was a quick pass where it would almost be impossible to sack the QB. Don't get me wrong, at times during the season both DE's played poorly but I wonder how much the poor secondary played a part in the lower sack numbers.

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by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 3:57pm

Jimmy - Read the sentence. I think Peterson is overrated and Jackson underrated. That implies a general sense of their abilities which for Peterson - the best back in football and Jackson - among the worst QB's.

Peterson is clearly one of the truly gifted backs but he has holes in his game that most don't take into account when rating him. He is an very poor pass blocker. That is not an insignificant fact. He has trouble holding onto the ball (maybe it's a one year phenomenon - but as another poster pointed out he had the same problem in college). He also is a boom and bust runner and I don't think that is all on the 8-9 man fronts (nor do the coaches of the Vikings apparently).

I think Jackson is somewhere around below average not one of the worst QB's in the league. I think Peterson is one of the top 3-5 backs in the league. Not God-like.

By the way cursing isn't blunt - it's ignorant.

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by Jimmy :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:50pm

I don't agree that cursing is particularly ignorant (although I do try to avoid it and did in fact obliterate most of the troublesome text), it isn't a sign of a small vocabulary either. A small vocabulary is the actual sign of a small vocabulary. Personally I beleive expetives are (at times) a useful construct of language, providing a percussive emphasis tht very few other words or phrases can match. Now if a person over uses them that can also be a problem.

I was attempting to convey how entirely baffling I find your repeated and insistent rebuttals of all critiscisms of Jackson. I really don't get it, all I see is a QB who is mediocre in his best games and truly excreble in the rest. If I supported a team with quite a few talented players and he was the QB I wouls be thinking about organising mass street protests (or something, anything to try to get a better player), all you seem to want to do is explain away his myriad faults by pointing out that not all of the players around him are perfect. Good QBs mask deficiencies in the games of those around them, TJ just exposes them along with his own.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:00pm

West Coast offenses always feature fewer audibles; Chilly's is not unusual in this regard. It is really hard to fault playcalling when using a qb who has yet to demonstrate an ability to read the entire field, and when the running back most frequently on the field pass blocks on a near college Division II level. Personnel dictates playcalling much more frequently than most football fans acknowlege.

I am more than willing to rip Chilly, not because of playcalling, but rather because he has brought in qbs with the names of Tavaris Jackson, Kelly Holcombe, Gus Ferrotte, and Brooks Bollinger.

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by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:02pm

laberge - where did you hear that Jackson was told to stay in the pocket? It was driving me crazy in the Philly game as he seemed determined not to leave the pocket.

I heard a comment from one of the announcers that Philly didn't really fear his running because he was basically a pocket passer.

I think one of Jackson's great problems is that while he does run very effectively once he's taken off down field, he doesn't seem to have a knack of knowing exactly when to do it and he doesn't throw well on the run.

113
by BucNasty :: Tue, 02/17/2009 - 4:30pm

To AlanSP:

When applying the Lewin Forecast, I think it's better to base it more on where they were projected to go as opposed to where they actually went. That way there's not as much of an issue if the guy happened to fall by one or two spots. Remember that the intention is to project these guys before they're drafted. Looking back on previously drafted quarterbacks is a nice affirmation that the system works, and is how it came into being, but it doesn't do anyone much good to apply it right after the draft.

As for the system being more accurate at weeding out bad prospects than identifying good ones, well, if true that's not perfect but it's not necessarily bad, either. KUBIAK has that reputation, too, yet tons of people win their fantasy leagues thanks to the system. There's something to be said for wittling down your options and not taking Larry Johnson or Shaun Alexander in the first round (or at all).

ETA: Regarding late round picks, the fact is that it's probably impossible to develop a system that would allow you to mine later rounds for quality quarterbacks because there usually are none. I noticed over the last couple of years several people trying to apply the Lewin system to their team's 5th or 6th round pick, saying that had he been taken in the first two rounds he would have graded out nicely. I pointed out after last year's draft that I think that's not just flawed but completely broken, because a quarterback with a ton of starts but a low projection obviously has had several flaws exposed. The best method for taking a late round QB, in my opinion, would be to find someone with a low number of starts, a high completion percentage, and some good standard stats (like TD to interception ratio). If you're gonna gamble late, I prefer to take a flyer on a promising unknown than a surefire failure.

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by AlanSP (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 9:17am

I completely agree that weeding out bad prospects is extremely useful; busts, particularly those early in the draft can be very costly both in terms of money/cap space and in terms of the missed opportunity to draft another player. If you can avoid enough Ryan Leafs (Ryan Leaves?), it will increase your chances of finding someone good. Think of how useful the 50:50 lifeline is in Who Wants to be a Millionaire (kind of a lame analogy I know, but I just saw Slumdog Millionaire, so it came to mind).

If you think more along the lines of avoiding busts than identifying hidden gems, it might very well be possible to develop a system that does this for later picks as well. Even if we don't have a great way of identifying the next Tom Brady, we can better our odds by identifying and avoiding the next several Spergon Wynns.

120
by TN Packfan (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 10:12am

I went to the website listed and don't know how they came up with the $18 mil. GB and Milwaukee news reporters covering the Pack have them listed at around $25 mil in cap space for this year.

122
by jimm (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 12:17pm

Poor Spergon Wynn - gets saddled with the name Spergon and then because his name is so odd he routinely gets used as the example of horrible QB's. Just think if his name was Tom Smith he would have gone through childhood without the taunts of being named after a fish and would have slid into obscurity as just another QB who didn't quite cut it in the NFL.

125
by ammek :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 1:34pm

The family name 'Wynn' doesn't help either.

126
by AlanSP (not verified) :: Wed, 02/18/2009 - 6:54pm

The fish is "sturgeon," not that I'd expect kids to care. Fun fact: he's actually Spergon Wynn III. That's right: both his father and grandfather saw fit to inflict such a name on their own sons, despite having gone through it themselves.

Personally, I use him as an example because he was such a terrible quarterback even in college. Of all the QB's drafted since 1997, he had the worst senior season in terms of yards/attempt (5.1) and the 2nd worst completion % (49.8%), just edged out by Mike McMahon (49.7%). Unlike McMahon, however, Wynn has the distinction of having such awful production in I-AA. Plus he went ahead of Tom Brady (and Tim Rattay for that matter).

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by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 7:18pm

This cockfight is made more enjoyable by the fact that two of the participants are named "jimm" and "jimmy."

One reason for Peterson's boom-and-bustiness is precisely those 8-9 man fronts. Several times, he will get stopped at the line of scrimmage. But on the less-frequent occasion that he breaks through, there are no players in the secondary between Peterson and the end zone--they're all standing back at the line of scrimmage.

129
by taxistan :: Fri, 02/20/2009 - 7:23pm

Nice stuff in this thread FO fans. As an outsider in the great Jackson debate [I live in ATL and root for the Falcons] I think the Vikings took a shot on a player who, if he panned out, would be a steal. He's half panned out. Play calling and coaching haven't helped him

D. J. Shockley , incidently, is now the ATL third string QB.

131
by bblackwell (not verified) :: Tue, 03/03/2009 - 4:50am

I have a one note and one question.

1. While Matthew Stafford played under the same HC as David Greene, as a devoted UGA fan, I can assure you the systems were not the same. With Greene we saw heavy, heavy doses of 8 yard curls, and he was rarely asked to make tough throws under OC Mark Richt. Now, with OC Mike Bobo calling the plays, Stafford was routinely asked to make tough throws downfield, and UGA took many more risky shots on offense. The coaching staff has always been good at assessing what their QBs were capable of and molding the offense appropriately. 59% in Richt's old system is not as impressive as 57% in Bobo's system.

2. Now for my question. Is there any reliable comp to Stafford, and is there any consideration to a player's year when he posted certain numbers? Here's what I see when I look at the 5 players given in the article:
- Patrick Ramsey actually regressed from Sophomore to Senior season in terms of accuracy, going from 60.4% to 58.9% to 57.1%.
- Jake Plummer started 4 years, but never had a high completion %, as he turned in totals of 51.3%, 54.1%, 57.5%, and 57.2%. Note that he also played his SR season.
- You say you weed out the unique system guys, but you include Shaun King, who was drafted thanks to a successful season with Rich Rodriguez as his OC. Rodriguez hardly runs a conventional pro system. King also played his SR season.
- JP Losman as a JR completed 57.4% and as a SR completed 59.8%.
- Matt Ryan topped 60% twice in his career and played 4 years.

The reason I bring these year-by-year stats up is that I think it paints a bit of a different picture. Discounting Shaun King's spread offense stat numbers, we've got just 3 seasons of 60% or better. One was Patrick Ramsey's sophomore effort, and as the team got further removed from the Rich Rodriguez years, his completion rates dwindled. The other two belonged to the one success story in the bunch, Matt Ryan. Not all career 57% rates are the same, in other words. Some players, like Ramsey, regress. Some players, like Plummer, pretty much stay the same. Some players continually get better. Matthew Stafford is in the latter group, and much like Carson Palmer, got thrown into the fire before he was ready and suffered a low career completion % as a result. Stafford, if you compare the two, is actually further along, accuracy-wise, than was Palmer when he was a Junior. Palmer's completion % was 58.7 his JR season and 63.2% as a SR.

Is there really a great comp for Matthew Stafford? You compared him to 5 players who all played their Senior seasons, and of the 5, only Matt Ryan ever had a single season completion % as high as Stafford's 61.5% in 2008. Can you find a QB who started from his true freshman to junior season and consistently improved his completion % each season, culminating in a 60%+ season as a JR, while playing in a pro system? I'm not suggesting he's the first, but I do think it's a bit shortsighted to use raw career completion % as the tool when there seem to be some obvious trends that separate players within that accuracy range (notably the presence of a 60%+ season on their resume).