Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

BreesDre01.jpg

» Audibles at the Line: Week 16

The FO crew takes on the top contenders as the playoff field rounds into shape. Plus: the great Drew Brees debate of 2014.

17 Apr 2007

2007 Quarterbacks Draft Preview

by David Lewin

This year, as usual, a number of teams at the top of the draft are looking quarterback. The apples of scouts' eyes this time around are Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell. Quinn is the All-American boy, a four-year starter at Notre Dame, with all the measurables that teams look for. Russell, an early entry after his junior year, is more of a dark horse. He never achieved the level of success Quinn did in college, but he soundly outplayed Quinn in their head-to-head matchup at the Sugar Bowl and has ridiculous physical talent.

Still, if we've learned anything about the NFL draft in recent years it's that there's no such thing as a can't miss prospect, especially at the quarterback position. After Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Joey Harrington, Akili Smith, David Carr, etc. teams are more wary than ever about taking a QB high.

Last year, in Pro Football Prospectus 2006, I introduced a system for predicting the NFL passing performance of first- and second-round quarterbacks by looking at their on college statistics. (I may try to project running ability in the future, but it is not currently included.) After gathering and analyzing extensive data, I determined that games started and completion percentage in college were strong predictors of NFL success.

In fact, for first- and second-round quarterbacks these two variables explain roughly 65 percent of the variation in NFL performance. This is a remarkably high number given how much of an impact we believe that teammates have on a quarterback's play. The system accurately predicted Philip Rivers' breakout season, and the success or lack thereof, of many other young passers. With an eye on this research I take a closer look at the pro prospects of Russell, Quinn, and the other quarterbacks of the Class of 2007.

JaMarcus Russell

Russell is possibly the most physically talented quarterback prospect since John Elway. He's 6-foot-6, 260 pounds with an arm that makes Brett Favre look like Danny Wuerffel. Russell is also a good runner and his arm strength allows him to hit any open receiver while he is on the move. He has huge hands, which help him avoid fumbles, and remarkably quick feet for such large man. Physically, Russell compares favorably to Daunte Culpepper, Byron Leftwich, and Ben Roethlisberger, all of whom have had some degree of success in the NFL. Assuming he can get his weight under control, Russell figures to be more mobile than Leftwich and Roethlisberger, but not as good of a runner as pre-injury Culpepper.

However, hidden behind Russell's immense physical talent are a couple of major red flags. For starters, as recently as last summer's training camp, Russell was engaged in a fierce quarterback battle with Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux. There were rumors that Russell was gone to the NFL at the end of the season no matter how the year went, simply, because he was unsure that he'd be able to hold onto the starting job again. Russell emerged from the controversy to have a great season, but it was the first of his career in which he was statistically the best passer on his team. While this history doesn't doom Russell (Tom Brady had similar issues), I would still be wary of spending the number one overall pick and the 25 million dollar signing bonus that comes with it on a guy who wasn't even the clear-cut starter his final year in college. Less than six months ago, very few experts considered Russell a first-round pick. FO's own Michael David Smith, for example, wrote "I don't see Russell as a first-round pick at all" in the discussion thread for Seventh Day Adventure on September 17th. Late risers usually fail to live up to the hype.

An even bigger issue with Russell is that he is an atrocious decision maker. He consistently throws the ball into double and triple coverage. Like Favre he often gets away with it by making spectacular throws. Still, field vision is the single most important quality for a quarterback. You can get away with being average in this regard if you have superior arm strength and accuracy, but Russell still has a ways to go before he can be considered average at seeing the field.

Russell also has the tendency to simply throw the ball up for grabs when he gets confused. If you watched the Sugar Bowl you saw this happen on an early in the fourth quarter interception. Russell clearly blew his underneath reads, panicked, and just lofted the ball up. It went pretty much unnoticed because he played an otherwise stellar game, but it is a recurring problem. These passes didn't always end up picks in college because Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet (all future first day picks) did a nice job of winning jump balls. That won't fly at the next level.

Another concern is that Russell ran a fairly simple offense at LSU. The Tigers eschewed complexity partly to avoid confusing Russell, and partly because complexity was not necessary for an offense as talented as LSU's. Russell can make very difficult throws when he knows where to go with the ball, so the LSU coaching staff didn't have to get fancy. This will still be true to a degree in the NFL. In fact Drew Bledsoe did pretty well in his first few years in the league in a Patriots offense using similar principles. Unfortunately coaches often seem reluctant to play to their quarterback's strengths (see Vick, Michael) and try to force unique players into the cookie-cutter mold. Russell will struggle with an NFL-style offense at first, but if he's coached well (like Vince Young was last season) then this shouldn't be a prohibitive factor in his development.

All of these issues are related. Because of Russell's knack for making boneheaded plays at the worst possible times, he had Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux breathing down his neck his whole college career. Any team that drafts him must be prepared to tolerate some very questionable decisions interspersed with Russell's trademark spectacular throws. He is also known to get down on himself and get rattled when things are not going well. All in all he has a number of characteristics that you don't like to see in a young quarterback.

Russell's understanding of the game is questionable at best. He constantly infuriated LSU fans with his inability to manage situations properly. Pretty much everything that Russell is can be summed up by describing the final drive from this year's LSU-Auburn game.

LSU took over with 1:04 to go at their own 20-yard line trailing 7-3 with no timeouts remaining. On the first play from scrimmage Auburn sat back in a soft Cover-2 zone with the safeties deep. Russell didn't notice this until it was too late and threw the ball out of bounds over the head of Craig Davis who was open running a vertical route down the sideline. The LSU coaching staff called Russell over and pointed out that he could pick the zone apart by throwing the ball to Davis in the Cover-2 hole at the sideline 20 yards downfield.

LSU then went out and ran the exact same play two more times. Russell hit Davis for gains of 20 and 21 yards. Davis was immediately drilled out of bounds both times. The Auburn safeties came flying downhill because they knew what was coming, but they couldn't stop it. Russell simply got the ball there too fast.

All of a sudden LSU was driving. They had the ball on the Auburn 39-yard line with 50-odd seconds to go. Auburn, knowing they were in trouble, changed up their defense getting out of the soft Cover-2. Russell went back to pass, and seeing something different from what he was expecting, got confused. Luckily the protection was good and he was able to scan the field for four or five seconds. Still not seeing anything he liked, Russell began to roll to his right. He escaped the pressure and continued to move towards the sideline at a leisurely pace. Instead of throwing the ball away to stop the clock Russell decided to tuck it and duck upfield. He was tackled in-bounds at the line of scrimmage for no gain.

He got up without any sense of urgency and with a grin on his face. He seemed to be quite pleased with himself for avoiding a sack and maybe picking up a yard. After about a second he finally heard all the people screaming for him to spike the ball and began to hustle to the line. However by then it was too late. By the time LSU got set and spiked it there were only 25 seconds remaining. Russell had just wasted 20 crucial seconds. I have only rarely been angrier while watching a football game (not because I'm an LSU fan, I'm not, but because I like to see the game played intelligently).

Russell ended up bouncing back on the next play by hitting Dwayne Bowe for 20 yards putting LSU back in striking distance with under ten seconds remaining. However he followed that up with a stupid illegal formation penalty that pushed them back to the 24-yard line, and then hit Craig Davis for a 19-yard gain with no time left on the clock. Overall Russell's numbers for the game looked pretty good (20/35, 267 yards, no TDs or picks), but when it counted he made certain LSU would come up short. That pretty much says all there is to say about Russell. He will tantalize you with impossible throws, but there is significant evidence that mentally he doesn't have what it takes to be a great quarterback.

So, overall Russell has a pretty risky profile from a scouting perspective. He might be great, but he could be the next Jeff George (which, unless you're Jason Whitlock, is not a good thing). That could be enough to keep teams from taking him first, but probably not. Here's something that should: Russell started only 29 games at LSU. Over the past ten years, collegiate games started has been the single greatest predictor of NFL success for early first-round quarterbacks. Since 1997 seven quarterbacks who started fewer than 30 games in college have been drafted in the top ten: Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Michael Vick, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Alex Smith. Who's the best player on that list? Michael Vick? Alex Smith? I don't even know. All I know is that list does not leave me saying, "I gotta get me some of that."

There is one positive indicator among Russell's college stats: The player to whom he is most similar is Vince Young. Young started 32 games, Russell 29. Both completed 61.8 percent of their passes. Both lost starts because they platooned with an upper classman during their freshman year. Both are tall, strong, and obviously both are African-American. But the similarity only goes so far. Young started three more games than Russell. That doesn't seem like a significant number, but it is. Young has also been only moderately successful as passer and will probably never be one of the best passers in the league. As long as he's above-average, it's not a problem, because he brings so much to the table with his running ability. Russell, on the other hand, will succeed or fail based on his ability to pass the ball. He's decently mobile, but he is nowhere near Young's caliber as a scrambler. Even if he lives up to the comparison and becomes a slightly worse passer than Vince Young, I doubt people will consider that a success.

All in all, I would be very wary investing $25 million guaranteed in a guy who barely won his starting job in college, doesn't see the field well, is known to be immature, and has an unfavorable statistical profile. At least the Raiders will be able to admire the velocity and distance of Russell's passes on their way to the arms of opposing defensive backs.

Brady Quinn

Quinn is pretty much your stereotypical stud quarterback prospect. A four-year starter out of Notre Dame, he is used to having the national spotlight focused on him. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds he is physically reminiscent of another Charlie Weis pupil named Brady. In fact, he is definitely more mobile, and probably has a better arm than Tom. The big difference between the two is the skill for which the Patriots' Brady is best known: staying cool under pressure.

Quinn has been in the national spotlight for so long that people have started to feel the need to tear him down. If you look for faults long enough you will find them. This is a major part of the reason why games started in college is so predictive. Players with few starts have not given scouts time to find their faults.

Quinn's slide is reminiscent of another recent top quarterback prospect who chose to stick around for his senior year, Matt Leinart. People nitpicked Leinart to pieces his senior year which caused him to drop farther than he should have; teams that passed on him are starting to regret it.

The big knock on Quinn is that he buckles under pressure. Last season, against the top defenses that Notre Dame faced, those that really pressured the quarterback well, Quinn came up short. This was particularly evident in LSU's manhandling of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. Now, I think it makes sense that a quarterback might struggle when his offensive line is obviously overmatched, but still Quinn's ineptitude was worrisome. This is an important area for improvement, but it is far from a crippling weakness. Peyton Manning faced similar criticisms coming out of Tennessee and he seems to have done fine.

Quinn has a lot of things going for him. In addition to his good size and mobility, Quinn has an excellent arm. He doesn't throw the deep ball as well as Russell does, but he has great zip on his intermediate throws. Quinn has no problems hitting the deep outs, and loves to throw crossing patterns over the middle. He has had plenty of experience making these NFL-type throws after spending the last two years under Weis' tutelage.

Most people consider Quinn's time under Weis one of his greatest selling points. However, a few are somewhat concerned by the huge jump in Quinn's numbers after Weis' arrival. Was Quinn's success just a product of the system? I would suspect not, especially given the continued success of Tom Brady. Weis works wonders with quarterbacks, no doubt about that, but it seems that whatever he does to them is permanent.

In my opinion, Quinn's college stats match up pretty well with his scouting profile. He completed 58.0 percent of his passes in college and started 46 games. This projects Quinn as a good pro quarterback, but not a great one. Here is the complete list of players drafted in first two rounds over the past ten years who started at least 35 games and completed at least 57 percent of their passes: Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Drew Brees, Carson Palmer, Byron Leftwich, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jason Campbell, Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler.

Are there any bad players on that list? The worst according to my numbers is Eli Manning, and he's been decent (maybe not up to expectations, but decent). I would be happy to spend a top ten pick on most of those players.

Brady Quinn's closest comparables paint an even prettier picture. Carson Palmer, Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler all started 45 games, and completed 59, 58 and 57 percent of their passes respectively. If Quinn's pro career is as similar to those players as his college stats are, then he should be good enough to justify a high pick.

Charlie Weis recently said that Quinn is "a combination of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning." I'm a bit skeptical of that; it will be tough for Quinn to find time to both impregnate B-list actresses and teach the local kids how to boost an Escalade. All joking aside, Quinn is far from flawless as a prospect, but, in spite of his occasional shortcomings on the national stage, all evidence points to Quinn becoming a very good NFL quarterback.

Round Two

I've read in a couple of different places recently that the Raiders are thinking of passing on a quarterback in round one because they want to select Trent Edwards of Stanford in round two. I am unsure what to say about this decision. On the one hand, if they are really sure that Calvin Johnson is going to an outstanding player then they should take him. Drafting Russell so early would be a mistake, so avoiding that would have to be considered a positive.

On the other hand, Trent Edwards is not a good prospect either. He started 31 games at Stanford and completed 56.3 percent of his passes. He was never a particularly outstanding player, and he got hurt all four years. The projection system is not designed to handle injuries, and if he had stayed healthy Edwards would have played forty-some games, so perhaps he is better than the numbers say. Still, it's hard for me to believe that a guy who couldn't make it through a college season even once will be able to survive the NFL.

Teams looking for a QB in the second round should give Drew Stanton a long look. His play at Michigan State was uneven at best, but he has prototypical size, a strong arm and excellent mobility. Though he didn't start many games in college (29), he did complete 64.2 percent of his passes. It's tough to say too much about second-round QBs because there have not been many in recent years, but based on the limited data, completion percentage seems to gain greater importance in the second round. I wouldn't spend a first-round pick on Stanton, especially given his erratic play at Michigan State, but he has all the tools to be a quality NFL starter and could be a good value in the second round.

John Beck of BYU is another guy that may sneak into the end of the second round. He posted an excellent completion percentage at BYU and was a four-year starter. He lacks lacks elite talent, but he makes good decisions with the ball. He has the makings of a good but not great, prospect, a la Matt Schaub.

Conclusions

Last year at this time I wrote that, "I was almost hoping that [the system] would indicate that one of the three top prospects was going to be a bust, just so I could say that I called it. But the system projects all three to be good pros." Well, disappointed as I was with the lack of controversial predictions, I am glad that I stuck by the numbers. This year is different. The numbers are not quite black and white (Quinn's completion percentage is a little low, Russell has a number of starts a little above complete bust territory), but they are pretty clear: Brady Quinn is a much better quarterback prospect than JaMarcus Russell.

I am hardly pleased to call out Russell as a likely bust, and given the right situation and good coaching I am sure he could defy the odds and become a good pro. However, players like Russell rarely do.

Here's that under 30 starts list again: Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Michael Vick, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Alex Smith.

Sorry, Raiders fans.

For more about the method behind the College Quarterback Projection System, and projections for young quarterbacks already in the league, see David's expanded article in Pro Football Prospectus 2007, available this summer.

Posted by: Guest on 17 Apr 2007

214 comments, Last at 13 Nov 2012, 4:58pm by quality software

Comments

1
by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 12:39pm

First!

Great article, this is exactly what I have been thinking. Before the sugarbowl NO ONE was talking about Russell being the first overall pick and suddenly after one game everyone has him as the best player in College? No way, Im not buying it.

I also wonder if the Raiders come to their senses and pass on Russell and the Browns take Quinn, how far could Russell fall? Maybe Minnesota but I am not sure if they would use a first on a QB. If not them then I have no idea who would take him in the first. Your thoughts?

2
by Peter Shumate (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 12:45pm

Great stuff, David. I was going to write basically the same for New Era Scouting, but I'll just link to this instead.

3
by Riceloft (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 12:54pm

I love this stuff. Great analysis David.

4
by James C (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:00pm

Good article.

"Peyton Manning faced similar criticisms coming out of Tennessee and he seems to have fine." You seem to be missing a 'done'.

5
by perrin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:07pm

How does Troy Smith look as a second-round pick in the projection system? The numbers I found for him (which could be wrong) are 31 starts, 63.4 career completion percentage.

I'm sure people have soured on him as an NFL quarterback after Ohio State's dismal performance against Florida, and there was always concern about Smith being too short. I can see a team spending a first-day pick on him still, and am curious to know who he compares to.

6
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:16pm

I compared the two players on my posted link and echoed a lot of the same sentiments.

Jemarcus never had that season as a "#1 pick" for everybody to scrutinize every aspect of his game. Russells stock vastly increased after the bowl game where he "won the head to head matchup". Let's not forget that the game was basically a home game for Russell, and a road game against a tough defense for Quinn. Even in that game Russell had a dumb fumble ( which doesn't go against his QB rating) and Quinn had a potential TD pass that hit his receiver in the face mask in the endzone.

Quinn could have potentially been one of the top 2 quarterbacks selected last year and had to live his senior season under the microscope.

I don't know that Russell is as mobile as Rothlisburger, and I disagree that his arm makes Favre's arm look like Wueffell. There is a difference between a long toss competition and throwing a fastball down the middle of the field.

Do you think the QB's with less games started bust more often because their performance regresses over their inherent value ( and creating a lot of hype) and they get drafted with less experience and more hype and they bust?

7
by MJHD (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:16pm

Superb article. Great work David.

8
by Smeghead (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:18pm

“Peyton Manning faced similar criticisms coming out of Tennessee and he seems to have fine.� You seem to be missing a ‘done’.

That, or the name of a body part.

9
by Jesse (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:19pm

Love it, love it, love it. I've been saying this to anyone that would listen ever since the Sugar Bowl, but I never did a numbers analysis like this. It truly is astounding how one game makes everyone think Russell is so amazing, especially since that game was against one of the worst defenses in college football.

10
by Adam H. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:21pm

I'd like to call a moratorium on bashing Whitlock after his spurt of sanity during the Don Imus crisis. Also the Raiders and Russell seem like a match made in heaven, let the hilarity begin!

11
by Peter Shumate (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:22pm

In defense of Russell, he did have an outstanding season, he just wasn't noticed until the bowl game.

12
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:24pm

Russell:

He might as well be a combo of USS Lorenzen and Kyle Boller.

13
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:27pm

A bigger Kyle Bollier... Brilliant!

14
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:30pm

But in all seriousness, how do you let 1 game determine so much of the value for a player... 1 freaking game!

What if people hyped up the Colts/Texans week 16 game as a match between two former #1 draft picks. After the Texans beat the Colts, do we all run around and say that David Carr is better than Manning? Do we say that Manning can't win big games? That Carr is younger and has more potential? It's ONE GAME people. It was a basically home game on turf also, and Russell faced a weaker defense.

15
by Sam (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:32pm

David, I have a question about the low number of starts for Russell- how many of the QB's you listed with a low number of starts had left college early, as Russell is doing? if you included a variable for "left college a year early" would that be a positive for QB's in your study?

16
by Blair (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:41pm

Re 15:

I think you're on to something. I think I remember reading something a while ago on FO that if you include the 16 games of Alex Smith's rookie season in his projection, he comes out looking really good.

I still don't think Russell will be very good though.

17
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:42pm

Great article. Russell has always been worrisome to me, if I was fan of a team picking him at or near the top of the first round. People who compare him to Young, based upon statistical similarity, really are missing how different they are. Russell would really need to significantly outperform Young in passing stats to be Young's equal as a qb, given Young is a spectacular runner, and Russell merely o.k. to good. Also, Young's field command and game awareness in college was nearly unprecedented. Russell doesn't even come close. Luckily for Matt Millen, the Raiders are in front of them, and even if Al Davis doesn't go that route, I can't see Mike Martz endorsing Russell for his offense.

I do think that Quinn has been picked apart a little, and if he were to fall to the Vikings' spot, the Vikings would likely be smart to not put all their eggs in Tavaris Jackson's basket, who didn't come out well in David's system. I don't have, however, as good a feeling about Quinn as I did Matt Leinert, who to me was an obvious steal for the Cardinals. That could simply be the by-product of Leinert having far superior teammates, however.

Troy Smith's performance against Florida really shook my confidence in him. Yes, his offensive line was whipped, and playing from way behind will often make a qb look bad, but it really disturbed me that on many occasions Smith failed to throw to the wide open check down option when it was obvious his protection had collapsed. I had always been impressed with his ability to perform under pressure until then, and now, given his short stature, the fact that he wasn't a good decision maker against Florida makes me wary. Maybe he shouldn't be taken before the third round.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:49pm

I also actually Like Young's delivery of the ball better than Russell. Yes, Young's is unorthodox, but given his height, the sidearm aspect is tolerable. What I like is that it comes out quickly, where Russell sometimes has a tendency to have a bigger wind-up, which in the world of NFL pass rushers, can be a problem. Yeah, Russell's hands are huge, so he won't be easy to strip, but when there is too much time between decision to throw, and the ball coming out, things can often go awry, even if just in terms of completion percentage.

19
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 1:58pm

Will: Keep in mind the abysmal playcalling by Tressel that game, though. They leaned on Troy Smith far, far, far too much, especially early on. I think Troy got a little shell-shocked that game.

Then again, I think the point you might've been making is that he looked like an excellent decision maker before, and now he just looks like an above-average one. And he needs to be excellent to compensate. Second or third round is where I would've put him, anyway. Making decisions as a quarterback is a lot easier when your opposing defenses suck, and they faced a lot of meh defenses last year.

20
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:05pm

You know, of the 32 teams in the league, 14 of them start a QB who was not a 1st-rounder, and half of them are starting 2nd day selections.

These non-first rounders include Brees, Bulger, Delhomme, Brady.

I suspect some young QB out of the lower rounds of this draft will be the only one we'll be talking about in a few years.

21
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:08pm

#15
Early entry QBs have a bad track record. The only recent one to crack the top 20 in DPAR was Ben Roethlisberger.

I will discuss later round QBs and many other things in my article in PFP 2007. If anyone has any questions that don't get answered here you can contact me at dlew33-at-yahoo-dot-com.

22
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:24pm

David-Any late round qb's that you think can be very good (Zabransky, Palko, Leak, etc)?

23
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:25pm

Sorry, Raiders fans.

Your apology is premature. I say that it's more likely than not that the Raiders do not pick Russell, either because they decide to go with Calvin Johnson (or perhaps even someone else) instead or because they trade the pick.

24
by Bart (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:26pm

An odd article. If I understand this, completion percentage and starts are key in predicting NFL success. Now, no criteria is reported for either, but Russel is above average in completion percentage - 61.8 percent - and games started - 29, or just over 2 seasons. And, yet, the focus of the article is a critique of Russell outside of the numbers and why he still isn't worth the pick. Isn't the point of the numbers to get beyond this sort of analysis?

As to Brady, my real concern with him is that the quality of his coaching may make him an outlier. That is, he may not experience the kind of improvement that the previous QBs with his numbers experienced. None of them had great, pro coaching (Palmer was close, but McNabb worked with an option coach). So, Brady may be as good as he can get. In addition, how do you add Cutler as a positive comparison? He was above average for a 1st year guy, but it is a little early to consider a similar season for Brady to be a success.

25
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:32pm

Yeah, Pat, that's the thing. Smith really needs to be outstanding in regards to decision-making, and I have less confidence now than I did before that he will be, on the next level.

26
by DB (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:34pm

I think everyone is missing the point with the Young-Russell comparison. Young dominated the competition all season long, played him team into the National Championship and then SINGLE-HANDEDLY destroyed the best team in College in the biggest game of the year.

Russell did nothing close to this.

Any time you hear a players name mentioned as a potential top 5 pick for the first time After the season is over, that guy is always going to be a let down.

27
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:38pm

Re: 26

Any time you hear a players name mentioned as a potential top 5 pick for the first time After the season is over, that guy is always going to be a let down.

You mean like Vince Young?

28
by pawnking (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 2:58pm

I think the key to the whole article are the throwaway lines "This is a major part of the reason why games started in college is so predictive. Players with few starts have not given scouts time to find their faults."

Basically, this says to me that althogh Russell might become a good, even great, QB, there just isn't enough data, scouting or otherwise, to conclude that for sure. Similarly, when Brady came out, there wasn't enough data to conclude he would become a future HOF-er. If Brady had more starts, he surely would have been a first rounder.

I agree with the tone of the article that a first round pick is too dear for a pig in a poke like Russell.

29
by cjfarls (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:01pm

re:24

The criteria you're looking for were included in the analysis Dave did last year. Pick up a copy of PFP 2006 and you'll see that 29 games is actually low for a 1st/2nd round QB. 61.8% is indeed good, and Dave points that out

30
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:14pm

and why he still isn’t worth the pick.

He isn't worth the pick because a first-overall draft choice shouldn't be just an average passer.

If Russell fell to, say, the bottom of the first round, he'd be a good value pickup there. Pretty much just like Eli Manning would've been considered a very good pick if he was a late first-round draft choice, rather than a first-overall pick.

31
by Jim M (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:25pm

Excellent article. I think this kind of analysis is very valuable.

I think age should be considered strongly as well. Three of those

32
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:29pm

#24: the number of starts for Russell is low in this way of predicting. 29 starts is low for a college QB that will go in the first or second round; ideally, you have at least 30 or more.

Though the qualitative analysis did go weirdly with this metric, it seemed fairly sound and was a good anti-study from the hundreds of ZOMG Russell is the bestest lol! people out there. Russell seems like yet another workout wonder that is destined to fail despite really astounding gifts; honestly, QBs in the NFL can't make stupid mistakes like what he does and stay successful.

I don't think that the Raiders are going to pick him. I think they're going to go with Johnson and go for success this season; Davis can't wait for a rookie QB to pan out (or not).

33
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:29pm

I love the bashing of Eli. I wonder if you guys were bashing Drew Brees as a bust 2 years after he was a starter?

34
by perrin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:41pm

33: Eli "bashing?" I don't see it. He's been mentioned twice in this article/thread:

"...Eli Manning [has] been decent (maybe not up to expectations, but decent)..."

"Eli Manning would’ve been considered a very good pick if he was a late first-round draft choice, rather than a first-overall pick."

Honestly, Chris, your constant trolling is a drag. I think everyone realizes by now that you hold Eli Manning in oddly high esteem, and that you are convinced Michael Vick is a fantastic quarterback with a strong, accurate arm who is extremely underrated because he's a game-changing running threat as well.

Back to the article: Forgot to say in my earlier post, Thank you for the great work, David.

35
by Jim M (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:43pm

3 of the

36
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:59pm

Actually, Eli Manning's problems have similarity to Vick's. Vick's biggest problem is not his performance, although that certainly is an issue, but rather that drafting him had too high an opportunity cost, and that he consumes way, way, too much cap space, relative to performance. The opportunity cost of drafting Eli Manning was also way too high, and he also consumes way too much cap space, relative to performance. This may change, given more development by Manning, but I'm not very confident at this point that this will happen.

37
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:59pm

Actually, Eli Manning's problems have similarity to Vick's. Vick's biggest problem is not his performance, although that certainly is an issue, but rather that drafting him had too high an opportunity cost, and that he consumes way, way, too much cap space, relative to performance. The opportunity cost of drafting Eli Manning was also way too high, and he also consumes way too much cap space, relative to performance. This may change, given more development by Manning, but I'm not very confident at this point that this will happen.

38
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 3:59pm

How does Kevin Kolb look? I've been saying he's the 2nd best QB in the draft.

39
by PaulH (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:11pm

Finally, a good article regarding the 2007 quarterbacks.

I have long been a proponent of Russell, and obviously I'm not going to change that now. However, there are many valid criticisms and concerns regarding Russell, and this article touches on them quite nicely. I have no problem with that, that's just the makings of a good, intelligent debate. My problem is when people come out with the Daunte Culpepper 2.0 and the Bollier stuff like a bunch of third graders; that's the kind of crap I would expect in a Yahoo! chat room, not on FO.

As pointed out earlier, Russell had a lot of things going for him at LSU. He played in a very simple system, had good pass blocking, and his receivers were all spectacular. Bowe will probably be the second receiver taken after Calvin Johnson, and Davis will be a first day pick as well. Early Doucet was rated by many as the #1 WR recruit in the country a couple of years ago, and basically everyone has him as one of the top players for the 2008 Draft. Moreover, as was pointed out in the article, Russell's decision-making ability was questionable at times, no doubt there.

So, like I stated earlier, Russell is not a perfect candidate; he has plenty of flaws if you analyze deep enough.

However, I will say a few things in defense of Russell.

One, he didn't suddenly pop onto the scene with the Sugar Bowl. Sure, Sportscenter may not have blown any loads over him while they were hyping up Troy Smith and talking about how there should be an Ohio State v. Michigan rematch, but if you really followed college football well, you'd heard about Russell long before January 3rd, 2007. Moreover, while playing well against Notre Dame, the Sugar Bowl was actually one of his worst games of the season.

Second, yes Russell narrowly won the starting job at LSU. However, LSU is simply loaded with talent, so that isn't much of a criticism. That would be about like criticizing Frank Gore for barely beating out Willis McGahee at Miami. Russell barely beat out Flynn, but Flynn is a very good QB in his own right, and Perrilloux was considered by many to be the nation's top QB recruit a couple of years ago. It's not like he was barely beating out some fifth string walk-on from Opelousas.

Third, despite the talent around him, Russell had no running game to help him, for the most part, in 2006. LSU didn't have a solid back until very late in the year, and the line struggled to run block. While they could run the ball fairly well against the crappy teams, they couldn't do anything against the better teams. In the aforementioned Auburn game, the LSU backs combined to rush for 28 yards off of 19 carries. In the loss to Florida, they could muster only 71 yards rushing off of 21 carries. In both games, Russell was actually the team's second leading rusher. On the year, Devin Hester, the team's starting fullback, was actually LSU's leading rusher in terms of carries, yards, and touchdowns. That just goes to show how bad their run game was. Still, even with no support from the running game, Russell still led LSU as the top offense in the SEC, and arguably in the nation.

All told, as I stated earlier, Russell has some flaws, no doubt about that. But, the truth is everyone has some flaws, and there is never such a thing as a perfect draft choice. At bottom though, Russell, due to being a once-in-a-generation physical specimen, has a tremendous upside, and while there is risk that goes along with that, you just can't turn down that much potential. That's why he'll go most likely in the top three, if not first overall.

40
by Christina (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:12pm

Re 31, 35:
Are you trying to use a less than sign? The comment system is seeing that as html, which is why your comment is being eaten.

Great article, by the way!

41
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:12pm

I wonder what people would be saying about the Giants trade if AJ Smith didn't select Shawn Merriman, but say Thomas Davis ( the next OLB selected) instead.

The Giants never traded Merriman, they traded their pick and their "future first rounder".

Now that isn't a light package, but the media just loves throwing "Merriman" out there to prove their point. The pick could have easily been David Pollack who busted his neck and might have ended his career before it even started.

42
by CkSteelers (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:20pm

"Assuming he can get his weight under control, Russell figures to be more mobile than Leftwich and Roethlisberger"

Why is Leftwich's mobility compared to Roethlisberger's? One is a statue. The other is one of the more elusive QB's in the league, and maybe the best improviser.

43
by Kevin Eleven (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:37pm

Less than six months ago, very few experts considered Russell a first-round pick. FO’s own Michael David Smith, for example, wrote “I don’t see Russell as a first-round pick at all� in the discussion thread for Seventh Day Adventure on September 17th. Late risers usually fail to live up to the hype.

HA! I was the one who first (on this board) started talking about JaMarcus' NFL potential.

But I meant as more of a project, not the #1 pick overall. The guy has a cannon for an arm, but there's more to it than that.

44
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:38pm

Referring to Drew Stanton's play as uneven is quite the understatement. I did get a chance to watch many MSU games with Stanton and it was stunning. At times he looked like one of the best college QB's in recent years. Then other times it looked like he was playing the game for the first time. I personally wouldn't draft the guy, but David's correct in pointing out his mobility (excellent runner for his size) and strong arm. I'm sure that will be enough for somebody to take a chance on him.

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 4:45pm

Chris, it would have been less obvious then, but it wouldn't have changed the reality. Eli Manning isn't good enough to make it worthwhile to endure that sort of oportunity cost, and it was never very likely that he would be good enough. This is really no harsh criticism; just factoring the injury risk all players are subject to, such trades are nearly always a bad deal for the team trading up. Your David Pollack example proves the point. Giving up a shot at two good prospects, in return for a shot at one, is a losing game, even if you realy, really, like the one good prospect, especially in a game like football, where even the most important position is highly dependent on the performance at other positions, and the risk of career ending injury is relatively high.

46
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:07pm

#45: The draft pick cost isn't even the big deal. His cap size at this point is ridiculous already - (around $12M for the next few years).It gets even worse if Eli marginally improves in the next two years (but not significantly) when they have to resign him. It's unlikely that he'll take a pay cut, which means he'll continue to suck up probably $12-15M/year in cap space. He's just not worth that much.

47
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:10pm

#42
Byron Leftwich's career rushing totals: 120 for 364 in 44 starts. Roethlisberger: 119 for 311 in 40 starts. Leftwich is a much better runner than people think, I will probably have an article in PFP about this. People just think Leftwich is a bad runner because he is slow for a black guy.

#38
Kevin Kolb is a good prospect. He's a little tough to project because he could go anywhere from the late second to the fourth round. He started a lot of games and had a high completion percentage in college, but he doesn't have superstar talent. He's pretty similar to Beck in that he could be a good player, but probably not a great one.

I think Russell could be a good player, but he is too risky to take in the top 10. If he fell to the Panthers or the Packers that would be a more appropriate place for him.

48
by BB (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:14pm

Um, I know Troy Smith is rightfully slammed for his bad performance against Florida, but Russell didn't exactly light the world on fire against Florida either. His yardage and completion stats were better than Smith's (how could they not be?) but he threw three picks and lost a fumble.

Of course, this sent Smith tumbling down the boards, and Quinn gets slammed for performance in big games, yet Russell's shortcomings in their big early-season games are now forgotten because he turned it on after LSU was gone from national title contention. Seems a bit odd to me.

49
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:25pm

Re: 48

The suggestion that Smith went tumbling down draft boards due to the Florida game is, I think, a myth. I don't think there was ever great enthusiasm for Smith among NFL scouts. I think he was viewed as a mid-round pick before the Florida game and after it too. It's possible, I suppose, that if he had really lit it up that game that he might have gotten a 'bounce' from it but that's just speculation.

Re: 42

I wouldn't classify Big Ben as especially elusive (in the way that I normally think of the term), but he is very tough to bring down.

50
by C (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:26pm

#26: you are EXACTLY right. Young's performance against USC was incredible. Truly one for the ages against a great team. Beating ND in a Bowl Game isn't that impressive and hasn't been for some long time now (apologies to ABC, of course). Beating maybe the 15th best college team is not the same as what Vince Young did.

51
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:36pm

Oh, I agree, Pat, that the cap space consumption is the bigger issue. Getting to a Super Bowl is made much more difficult when any player's cap consumption exceeds his relative performance by many millions of dollars. Which is why it sucks to be picking at the very top of the draft. Even if the player is decent, there is a good chance that for at least a few years that the performance will lag cap consumption, and if he isn't decent, roster construction gets really screwed up.

Having said that, the problem gets magnified when you start out trading upper tier prospects two for one.

52
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:40pm

Great article. Thanks, David.

I can well imagine that there is very little data on QB's taken in the 2nd round, because I bet there just aren't that many. It seems to me that if a team NEEDS a franchise QB, they'll be under a lot of pressure to take one in the first round, and if they don't and just want to build depth and potentially find a diamond in the rough for the future (e.g. Tom Brady), they'll draft one on the second day.

53
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:43pm

#47 - Or maybe Roethlisbergermeisterstein is really fast for a white QB of aryan extraction. :) I'm being facetious, but some people get all bent out of shape over remarks like that. Leftwich is certainly a pocket passer, or, as the Philadelphia alternative sports media calls them, "sell-outs."

I meant to say earlier that I thought you wrote a good article. Some of the people on these boards are just asses and always looking for something to criticize.

54
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:44pm

#52 - you make a great point about second-round QBs.

55
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 5:49pm

#51: Not really. Manning's cap hits for the first two years were pretty small - something like $3M-$4M, if memory serves. The contracts are obscenely backloaded. $3M-$4M is consistent with what his production's been so far. The big problem for Eli's already started - he's shown just enough that they wanted to exercise that $5M buyback. If he had been a clear-out bust, they could've just let him go after next year. It's the David Carr problem. Gets even worse for Manning in a year or two.

56
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 6:09pm

What a super article. As a Colt fan, I pay scant attention to college QBs, so it was a real learning experience regarding the two men and the basic metrics for evaluation.

And some excellent one-liners: Come on, Brady Quinn can't impregnate b-list actresses AND teach kids how to boost an Escalade? That's why God made the off-season! As Tony Montana said in "Scarface," First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women." If they had Escalades in 1984, I'm sure there would have been a 4th part to the quote.

Joe T, (#20) it's tough to denigrate Brees as a non-1st-rounder, since he was the first pick of the second round. The money is surely different, but he could easily have gone 10 slots higher or lower. Not like he was a 7th round "hey, let's pick this guy from Michigan, he looks like a competent backup" type guy. Tom Brady stands out so much as the exception that it's unfair to use him as an example.

Will Allen, if somebody comes up with a device to measure opportunity cost across a broad spectrum of daily life, they will become rich beyond measure. In B-school, we had to pick alternate investments, products to develop, JVs to form--and measure down to a defensible dollar figure the opp cost vs an alternative. But when measuring humans, it's amazing when somebody does it right. Like SD trading the #1 (Vick) pick to get LT and Brees in Rounds 1 and 2. They clearly took some risk, but played that opp cost issue very well. I love the draft-day trade down; it's like alchemy. The trade-up sometimes works great too, but it seems more obvious to me.

57
by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 6:19pm

If Smith lasts to the 3rd round I think he will be an absolute steal for who ever selects him. However, the coaching staff may have to be creative to make him successful early on in his career ala Norv Turner with Alex Smith. Moving the pocket, lots of rollouts, etc.

58
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 6:59pm

I thought the NFL Network said that Russell ran a more complex offense then Quinn...from a Lions forum:

"There was an NFL Films analyst on the other day (Cosell). When he broke down the QBs, he said Quinn gets all this press because of Weiss and being NFL ready but the film told a different story. He said LSU actually ran a more complex NFL style offense with more motion, reads, routes and audibles than ND."

59
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 7:07pm

Food for thought.

Jamarcus Russell
yearstartsattcmpcmp%

------------------------ ----------------

2004414473 51

200512310 18760

200613342 23269

2007*12310 18760

------------------------ ----------------

411106 67961

*Assuming that he would've regressed
all the way back to his 2005 numbers (unlikely).

These hypothetical numbers would give him a better projection than Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb (4.17 and 3.75 resp.).

Projection Possibilities:

Russell's current projection turns out to be accurate (Patrick Ramsey-ish) and 'Dude! you should've stayed in school! You coulda been awesome.'
ProBowl QB, possible MVP candidate at some point - in line with the hypothetical career numbers above.
Something else and he becomes an outlier or the system is refined to give him a more accurate projection.

60
by CkSteelers (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 7:11pm

It isn't about rushing totals. It's about movement in the pocket. Roethlisberger isn't a runner, but he moves well. He's elusive. He has good awareness. He can throw on the move. Leftwich is a statue.

Besides size, Leftwich shouldn't be in the discussion of Russell. And Russell's movement reminds me a lot of Roethlisberger.

Russell isn't a runner (or at least doesn't take off much, given his college numbers), but he can move in the pocket and make people miss. He can also throw on the move.

61
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 7:14pm

Let's try this again without the table and list tags

Food for thought.

Jamarcus Russell
year---starts---att---cmp---cmp%
2004------4-----144----73----51
2005-----12-----310---187----60
2006-----13-----342---232----69
2007*----12-----310---187----60
------------41----1106---679----61

*Assuming that he would've regressed
all the way back to his 2005 numbers (unlikely).

These hypothetical numbers would give him a better projection than Drew Brees and Donovan McNabb (4.17 and 3.75 resp.).

Projection Possibilities:

[1] Russell's current projection turns out to be accurate (Patrick Ramsey-ish) and 'Dude! you should've stayed in school! You coulda been awesome.'
[2] ProBowl QB, possible MVP candidate at some point - in line with the hypothetical career numbers above.
[3] Something else and he becomes an outlier or the system is refined to give him a more accurate projection.

62
by Borat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 7:15pm

"But in all seriousness, how do you let 1 game determine so much of the value for a player… 1 freaking game!"

I agree, I would hate to see anyone make a determination of value based on one game by a certain Vikings QB

63
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 8:32pm

Curse you, David! Writing great articles like this that do serious damage to Russell's draft standing amongst FO readers prior to the reader mock draft is doing a serious disservice to those of us GMing teams set at QB and possessed of high first round picks. Still, nice work though. You're slightly higher on Brady Quinn than I thought you'd be.

64
by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 8:51pm

Some look at Russell and see Leftwich.
Some look at Russell and see Big Ben.
Me? I look at Russell and see Rohan Davey.
Watch out, NFL Europe!

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 9:18pm

#61: It's not quite that simple. The projection system "cheats" a little - it only works for high-round draft picks. By doing that, it's "stealing" a large amount of information from normal scouts. Therefore you can't just prorate stats out and say "well, if he would've stayed in school one more year..." - because the requirement is that he'd stay in school one more year, and still be a high-round draft pick. That information you can't really glean by prorating stats out.

66
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 9:29pm

#65: True. I neglected to mention that it is my opinion that a QB with Russell's physical attributes and skills at a big time football school who produces (at least) those projected stats is going to be picked in the first round.

67
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 9:47pm

#65: True. I neglected to mention that it is my opinion that a QB with Russell’s physical attributes and skills at a big time football school who produces (at least) those projected stats is going to be picked in the first round.

It's not that simple. If he would go back to school and throw 20 interceptions next year and be benched in the bowl game after throwing 3 interceptions, he wouldn't be drafted in the first round.

Scouts look at more than just completion percentage and games started. The projection system leverages that. Yes, if scouts still thought that he was a first rounder after having another similar year, he'd very likely be a top-shelf quarterback.

But, as David pointed out in the article, Russell almost didn't start the season. If his own coach wasn't sure he'd be the best quarterback on the team, there's a good chance scouts' opinions would cool on him as well if he didn't continue to shine.

68
by PaulH (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 9:48pm

Re: 48

Mawbrew pretty much nailed it on Troy Smith. A lot of the mainstream media was fawning over Troy Smith, and that all came crashing to an end in the BCS title game against Florida. However, the meltdown against Florida didn't really change Smith very much in the eyes of the NFL. Even when he won the Heisman, most didn't have him any higher than a 2nd round pick, and the criticisms of him were the same then as they are now. So, that didn't change much.

Re: 58

I watched LSU play about nine times this season (in person against ULL and Arizona, and then on TV against Auburn, MSU, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Notre Dame), and I'm not sure you could convince me that LSU's offense was more complex than Notre Dame's. That offense was honestly one of the simplest I have seen in ages. They just had so much talent in the passing game (between Russell, Bowe, Davis, Doucet, and a good OL) that they could be really simple, and they were. One of their favorite plays was the wide receiver screen. Opposing defenses were so afraid of Russell's arm and the WR's speed that they played the corners so far off that Russell could take the snap, throw it quick to the WR, and it would get 8-10+ yards every time. As an opposing fan, that was about the most frustrating thing possible to watch.

As for Russell against Florida, he didn't play that poorly. He went 24/41 (almost 60% completion rate) for 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, and 1 fumble. One of the interceptions, though, was actually a ball that hit Bowe in the hands but was jarred out before he could gain complete possession, and the fumble was actually a botched snap. Don't get me wrong, that's not a great game, or even a good game, but that's better than pretty much everyone else fared against Florida, and all things considered it's not that bad of a performance considering it came against the eventual national champion, with one of the nation's best defenses, on the road, all the while he had no help whatsoever from the running game.

69
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 9:58pm

#64: Almost. But Russell has a neck.

70
by DrKlopek (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:22pm

Its great to see these debates backed by actual data rather than just what people "feel" about each player. Great analysis. I wonder if some NFL teams will start jumping on this like the A's and Red Sox did with sabermetrics. A couple of comments (not backed by data). Comparing Russell to Young is silly. Michael Robinson is more like Young than Russell is. Russell absolutely has to pass much better than Young to be his equal in the NFL. I'm still not quite sold on Young being great yet, but its undeniable that he has the potential to be a great leader that "knows how to win." Re:39. I'll give you that Russell had a much better supporting cast compared to Quinn, but don't go too crazy drooling over the LSU WRs. Bowe is very good, but he certainly isn't a clear cut #2 behind Calvin. Ginn and Meacham are right there with him and both could easily be taken before him. Point taken though that he had a lot of weapons.

71
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:43pm

#67 By stating that it's my opinion that he would be drafted in the first round I've covered the scout angle. That includes the implicit assumption that nothing will happen his senior year that would knock him out of the first round in scout's eyes. Things like poor TD/Int ratio, major injury, legal issues, playing worse his senior year than he did in his sophomore year, being benched, etc...

I think that assuming that Russell would've put up numbers (all of them not just completion percentage) in his senior year at least as good as he did in his sophomore year is much more likely than him not starting, being benched, or performing worse than he did in his sophomore year.

The real point of my post was that if you make some conservative projections about how he would have performed in his senior season, you get a much better projection. This in turn raises a number of other interesting questions to think about including how important it is for QB's to not come out early.

It's fine to disagree with my assumptions but I think that I've covered the three major factors in the QB projection system - picked in first round, completion percentage, and games started.

72
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:58pm

Great article. Kiper et al could not come up with something like this in their wildest dreams.

I hope that Al Davis does not read this. As a Bronco fan I am openly rooting for the Raiduhs to select Russell.

I wonder if outside the 10 year window of this analysis there is a notable exception, perhaps Troy Aikman, Trent Green?

I know RBs are what he said he would analyze next, but to me it seems the bust rate, (Penn State RBs aside except LJ), for RBs is much lower than QB or WR.

If possible I think a WR predictive algorythym would be the most needed, as this seems to be the hardest position to predict. If he were to find something, he would be wise to sell it before posting on a free site.

73
by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 10:59pm

I hate the word upside, especially in situations like this. NBA GM's constantly screw up draft picks by ignoring the film on guys and instead going with "upside", drives me crazy.

Honestly how many times has a prospect lived up to his "upside"?

Memo to the Raiders: Look, the perfect specimen of a quarterback already exists in the NFL. His name is Michael Vick and he has unbelievable arm strength and is also probably one of the top 5 fastest players in the league, certainly the top 10.

Now after 6 seasons Vick has a career 75 QB rating and has thrown for 20 TDS in a season only once. So what is the one thing that everyone says Vick needs to learn to do? Read a defense and make more accurate throws.

So please Raiders dont use the 1st pick in the draft on a guy because of "upside". Do it because there is no question that he will unequivocally make your team better.

If and only if you are absolutely certain that you are taking a QB at #1(although I think Josh McCown is PERFECT for Oakland)atleast make the right choice.

Forget the names, what QB would you want in a situation like Oakland's?

A) A polished and experienced QB who has been coached for the last 2 years by a 3 time SB winning OC.

B) A QB that barely won the starting spot on his college team.

I am almost certain the Raiders will take Russell, and it will certainly doom them for another 3-4 years.

74
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:13pm

By stating that it’s my opinion that he would be drafted in the first round

You stated it was your opinion that someone who produces those stats (and with his skills/measurables) would be drafted in the first rounds. Scouts don't go by completion percentage alone. They watch game film. One bad game knocked Troy Smith back to Earth by pointing out that his flaws were, in fact, real. Russell hasn't had enough games yet for teams to see his flaws.

You can't "conservatively" project that he'd stay a first round pick in scout's eyes. You don't know what the scouts would see.

75
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:40pm

#60
Russell is similar to Leftwich in that he is 6'6 260 pounds, and they both have superior arm strength due to a long windmill type throwing motion. None of the above apply to Big Ben. Also, although running stats don't capture the whole picture, I think it is foolish to suggest that Roethlisberger is much more mobile than Leftwich when Leftwich clearly has been a more effective runner. Roethlisberger is AT BEST slightly more mobile than Leftwich, and I personally believe them to be approximately equal.

#74
It is perfectly reasonable for him to make the assumption that Russell if he went back to school and started and played well would be a first round pick. I think there would be probably only about a 75% chance of that happening, he could get hurt or play badly, or just not quite well enough, or even lose his job. But if he didn't then we would know that he is in fact a good prospect and I the projection system would view him more favorably. An interesting guy to watch in this regard is Colt Brennan of Hawaii. He would have been a late first or early second round pick this year, the third QB off the board. He chose to return to school after having statistically the best year of any quarterback ever. This is not smart, as regression to the mean suggests he is unlikely to duplicate it. The projection system was not particularly fond of him this year, but if he plays well enough to be rated highly by scouts again next year (he would have to play very well given the expectations of him and the inflationary effects of that offense) then the projection system will like him.

76
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 04/17/2007 - 11:58pm

#74
You stated it was your opinion that someone who produces those stats (and with his skills/measurables) would be drafted in the first rounds. Scouts don’t go by completion percentage alone. They watch game film. One bad game knocked Troy Smith back to Earth by pointing out that his flaws were, in fact, real. Russell hasn’t had enough games yet for teams to see his flaws.
My previous post already addressed these items.

You can’t “conservatively� project that he’d stay a first round pick in scout’s eyes. You don’t know what the scouts would see.

My conservative projection was that Russell's stats (all of them) are likely to have been better in his senior season than they were in his sophomore season. In order to back my conservative claim up with data I'd have to look at three-year college QB starter stats in general (major football schools only) and find that most of the QB's who performed better their junior year than they did in their sophomore year also performed better in their senior year than they did in their sophomore year. I'm assuming this to be the case. This is connected to my opinion that Russell would have been a first round pick after his senior season barring what I believe to be unlikely events. Let me also make clear that I'm assuming that he would actually play equivalent or better his senior year than he did in his sophomore year leading to equivalent or better stats.

Barring an amazing performance against Florida, I don't think that Troy Smith was going to be a first round pick anyway. But then again, neither of us know what the scouts would see.

77
by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 12:12am

Pat is exactly right; even if Russell came back for his senior year and posted his sophomore year's stats, what if he coupled it with more interceptions? More near-interceptions, which scouts will notice and the stats will not? What if he shows a couple more awful games against top defenses? It's entirely possible he slips down out of the first, especially if other QBs (Brohm, maybe?) overtake him.

Anyway, I find it amazing the degree to which I agree with Dave's thoughts on both players. I have never been a big fan of Russell's, nor Quinn's, but I always saw Quinn as the more reliable QB, and at least potentially deserving of a top 10 choice.

I'm actually quite surprised by the comments in this thread; seems like only a couple people disagree and find Russell to be worthy of a top selection. I guess I could be wrong, but it seems like in previous discussions posters on these boards have supported him to a greater degree.

78
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:22am

#77I don't think that anybody would or is disputing that it is entirely possible that if Russell
came back for his senior season, he could slip out of the first round. Pat is taking issue
(apparently) with my opinion that it is reasonable to assume that Russell (indeed most college
QB's) would perform better his senior season than he would during his sophomore season given
that he improved during his junior season, and that in so doing he would retain his status as
a first round draft pick. If Russell has a worse TD/INT ratio (or more near misses, etc...)
as a senior than he did as a sophomore, by my way of thinking, this is performing worse than his
sophomore season. I think that this is a less likely scenario than the one that I have proposed
as a condition for an interesting exercise - that of projecting Russell through 4 years to see
the differences in his QB projection.

This year's QB projection system will likely say that Russell is similar to Patrick Ramsey - a
borderline starter. I believe this is what he will turn out to be. I just find it interesting
that if my assuptions are reasonable (I believe that they are - although this can be quantified
and testing I'm not interested enough to actually do it) and if the QB projection system is
accurate, that Russell likely would have turned out to be a much better pro QB if he had
stayed for his senior year and obtained more game experience.

79
by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:26am

Another question for all of you out there?

If Russell would have had his exact same season last year where would he rank among the QB's? I would think he would be lower than the other Young, Leinart and Cutler.

What do you think?

80
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:52am

Pat is taking issue
(apparently) with my opinion that it is reasonable to assume that Russell (indeed most college QB’s) would perform better his senior season than he would during his sophomore season given that he improved during his junior season, and that in so doing he would retain his status as a first round draft pick.

Performance isn't the issue! It's not how well they perform. It's what the scouts see. Right now, scouts haven't had time to see Russell's flaws clearly, so they assume they don't exist (or assume they're more minor than they are). Since the vast majority of players do have flaws, simple statistics says that Russell's likely worse than they think he is.

It is perfectly reasonable for him to make the assumption that Russell if he went back to school and started and played well would be a first round pick.

I don't think it is - and I think that's what the projection system says. The only other way to view the starts correlation is that starting more games in college somehow makes you a better quarterback (i.e., it's causative, and not correlative).

An interesting guy to watch in this regard is Colt Brennan of Hawaii. He would have been a late first or early second round pick this year, the third QB off the board. He chose to return to school after having statistically the best year of any quarterback ever. This is not smart, as regression to the mean suggests he is unlikely to duplicate it. The projection system was not particularly fond of him this year, but if he plays well enough to be rated highly by scouts again next year (he would have to play very well given the expectations of him and the inflationary effects of that offense) then the projection system will like him.

That's exactly what I'm saying for Russell as well.

81
by Zac (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:14am

Yeah, that's the question. More starts (and better completion) = a better NFL career. But what's the cause? In some cases, the QB learns to be a better player in college. But it's not guaranteed. Sometimes it's just that it takes 30+ starts for the scouts to figure out whether a QB really is good or not.

It's kind of like how it sometimes takes 8 games for teams to get enough scouting film on a guy. Tony Romo didn't look as good in the second half of the year once teams had some time to figure him out.

Matt Leinart improved on most of his stats from junior to senior year, yet he fell (if reports are true) from being a definite #1 to being drafted #10. Scouts saw more of him, and decided they didn't like what they saw as much.

Teams aren't even sure if Russell is the best QB this year. Most think he's going to the Raiders, because his physical talents are coveted by Al Davis, but that's different than saying that each team, if they had the #1 pick, would make the same decision. If he stays and is still a first-round talent, it's because he stayed *and* got better. It's not just because he stayed another year.

82
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 3:19am

College football is basically the minor league for the NFL. The added mental requirements, (inteligence, handling pressure), of playing QB require actual competition which they can only acquire in college. These skills can not be developed by holding a clipboard in the NFL or getting killed playing for a non-competitive NFL team.

QBs who come out early are more likely to be character issues that are looking to get paid quickly and do not work towards developing a career where they could have more success and money. While I think that QBs that do not get a lot of playing time as underclassman are more likely to not have 'blue chip' talent. Obviously, there are exceptions to both of the above statements, but I think these are the reasons why games started has so much significance in determining the success of college QBs.

83
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 8:52am

Given that we don't really understand the reason that college QB starts correlates with NFL success, it's very risky to make assumptions about projections for starts not actually made. You can certainly develop a case that Russell would have performed as Tampa Bay Mike assumes. The problem is you could have made the same assumptions for Tim Couch, etc.

84
by Jim M (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 9:37am

40. Thanks - that was the problem.

I think age has to be considered as a factor. Three of the QB's listed with less than 30 starts were a year - two years older than Russell (Carr, Akili Smith, and Harrington).

Another point - Bill James noted in his studies of baseball prospects that huge jumps in performance before the age of 25 represented a new level of skill rather than an aberation. It seems to me Russell made enormous gains last years whereas Quinn slid back a little.

My bet is Russell has risen well past Quinn as a talent and prospect.

85
by James, London (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 9:41am

Great stuff, and particularly handy for someone who doesn't see any college fotball. I don't have much to add, but it seems as though Russell is too big a risk to take at #1.

86
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:34am

Why do starts correlate with success? If you were a good prospect coming into college, and were a 3/4 year starter than you were good to begin with and would seemingly get better with all of those starts. Not only would you be a good "prospect" coming in, but you would turn into a good "player".

If you sit on the bench for years, or have a low comp. pct. and then play out of yourself, or show off good skills ( potential) then were you really that great player?

As somebody noted, how many players live up to their "potential?. The percentage of the "potential" guys that work out will not be as great as those "starts guys" who had success all along as well.

I don't see Leftwhich and Rothlisburger in the same mobility category either. Just because their rushing yards might be somewhat similar doesn't mean they have the same mobility. I guess it depends how you define mobility. Leftwhich either stands in a single spot 5-7 steps behind the center ( a statue) or runs ( rushing yards)... Rothlisburger doesn't get rushing yards when he dances around behind the line and then throws a pass. A defense would need a more controlled rush when rushing Rothlisburger, while they could tee off on Byron. The whole reason coaches run waggles, screens, draws on 3rd downs is so that defenses can't just tee off on the spot 5-7 steps behind a quarterback. Gary Kubiak ran a lot of that stuff last year so that David Carr wouldn't get sacked as much.

87
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:50am

#68

Yeha I have seen Russell's LSU team about 6 times (once in person in 05) and I have no idea what makes an offense more like a NFL offense or not. It was loaded with speed at WR I know that much and they ran a bunch of crossing routes against Alabama.
trying to find another article that mentioned the NFL Network's comment about Russell and offense and I found something that said Mike Shula ran a complex offense-to my eye it looked like 2 straight runs up the middle and a pass on 3rd down 50% of the time.

88
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:54am

I can understand comparisons of Russell to Culpepper, Leftwich, or Rothlisburger. Russell is certainly younger and healthier than Culpepper.

I have concerns about any QB taken early in the draft. Will the team give him the year or so to come up to speed before putting him on the field? Almost every QB could use that year of growth and even Peyton Manning, the most NFL QB ever, struggled that first year.

If a team is not willing to wait a year (see Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, etc.) for a top draft pick to play then they should pick the most NFL-ready player, such as Calvin Johnson.

I think Troy Smith could be compared to a Drew Brees. However, due to the admittedly poor judgment in that last game I think Troy could get picked up no sooner than the 3rd round rather than the 2nd round like Brees.

89
by DrKlopek (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 11:23am

Re: 72. I'm not sure what the bust rate is at each position, but I'd bet there are plenty at every position. It would be interesting to see that broken down and see if there are any "safe" positions to draft. As for Penn State RBs, that bust myth is blown way out of proportion. There have been a couple of busts recently, but overall the Penn State backs have done pretty well. I'd say you could add Franco Harris and Curt Warner to the list with LJ of backs that have done at least OK! Enis is probably the biggest bust recently. A lot of people like to point to Ki-Jana, but he was on a horrible team and was derailed more by injury than by poor play. I suppose its still a bust of a high pick, but to characterize a broader group of people from a case like that makes no sense. This is another thing that would better be backed by stats than a common myth.

90
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 11:55am

It depends how you define "bust", and the paramaters of your research.

You might come away with something like safety is the safest first round pick, because so few Safetys have been drafted, and the ones that have, have enjoyed at least some success.

Your really looking for something more like QB, RB, WR, Line, D-line, LB, CB.

You'd might also want to look at "performance bust" vs "injury bust". Did the guy just not get it, or did he blow his knee out a couple of times?

91
by Kevin Eleven (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 11:59am

SI has a list of the 25 biggest draft busts:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/0704/gallery.n...

Any chance we can devote an extra points for this? :)

92
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 12:33pm

"You’d might also want to look at “performance bust� vs “injury bust�. Did the guy just not get it, or did he blow his knee out a couple of times?"

Chris, I completely agree here. There may be some way to tell if a player is going to be good/bad at the NFL level. There never going to be any way to predict that a player is going to have someone tackle him across the knees in the 4th game of his rookie season.

In a Pats example, Andy Katzenmoyer ended up being a waste of a pick. That doesnt mean it was a bad pick. Sometimes you just can't predict injuries.

If Roethlisburger had his motorcycle incident a year earlier, he'd look like a complete bust.

93
by CA (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 12:34pm

Re: 84

Another point - Bill James noted in his studies of baseball prospects that huge jumps in performance before the age of 25 represented a new level of skill rather than an aberation. It seems to me Russell made enormous gains last years whereas Quinn slid back a little.

I didn't know that Russell and Quinn played baseball!

I'm being facetious, of course, but it is important to keep in mind that the fact that something holds true in baseball doesn't necessarily mean that it translates to football. I'd like to see an FO or similarly inclined study of the importance of age to players' NFL prospects.

94
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 12:44pm

#84

I have looked at the effect of age on quarterback career progression. As far as I can tell the only significant effect is that players who enter the league at age 21 have a big jump from year 1 to year 2. Other than that once you account for years in the league age has no effect. Also, Russell and Quinn are only ten months apart, which is not a huge difference.

95
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:03pm

#80Performance isn’t the issue! It’s not how well they perform. It’s what the scouts see.
Right now, scouts haven’t had time to see Russell’s flaws clearly, so they assume they
don’t exist (or assume they’re more minor than they are). Since the vast majority of
players do have flaws, simple statistics says that Russell’s likely worse than they
think he is.

So scouts are more interested in uncovering flaws than in performance at the higest
level of college football? It's not that simple. Scouts see performance, level
of competition, measurables, workouts, and flaws. Russell has the performance and likely
would still during his senior year (I've already projected a huge regression back to his
first year starter days - which is unlikely), his competition is nop-notch, his measurables
are top-notch, his workout was great and likely would be as a senior, just leaving flaws.
I think that it's more probable that scouts will not see enough flaws to bump him
from possible first overall pick as a junior to out of the first round than it is otherwise.

I don’t think it is - and I think that’s what the projection system says. The only other
way to view the starts correlation is that starting more games in college somehow makes
you a better quarterback (i.e., it’s causative, and not correlative).

That is precisely what I think might be the case. Why is it so unreasonable to assume
that extra time practicing your craft during an apprenticeship (college ball) could
translate to your performing better when you are thrown into the fire (pro ball)? It
could affect skill level, pressure handling, confidence, etc...

That’s exactly what I’m saying for Russell as well.

I've already used Russell's first year starter numbers to (conservatively - i.e. less risk)
project his senior season. His junior year numbers are much better. I'm already accounting
for the (unlikely) event that his mean performance ability is his first year starter ability
and that he regresses back to that.

#83

The problem is you could have made the same assumptions for Tim Couch, etc.

Tim Couch's college numbers were inflated due to his offense (kind of like
Colt Brennan) as addressed in PFP2006. This is not the case with Russell.

96
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:14pm

I'm of the opinion that a lot of teams draft QB's on the basis of "upside" that end up busting because they incorrectly believe that "the mental discipline to play QB in the NFL can be taught, but you can't coach strength and speed".

This statement is probably incorrect on both counts. It's true that study, experience, coaching, and hard work can improve a QB's mental game, but it's probably like music. I can study piano for years and years and become competent, but I'll never be as good as someone who has a natural gift for it (who also studies for years and years). Some QB's, like Brady, Pennington, or Manning, seem to have an inherent mental ability to play QB, that study and coaching and experience only amplify. And I think a lot of teams underestimate the importance of that (or possibly, they ignore the signs that it is and will be conspiciously lacking...if a college QB has lousy decision making skills, it may be because he lacks football intelligence, or it may be indicative of a lack of work ethic, but in either case it's probable that simply "coaching him better" in the Pros will not fix either problem).

On the other hand, physical skills CAN be improved. Look at Manning improving his mobility last year, or Brady improving his long ball the year before. I know by age 23 or so you pretty much have the body you'll have, but you can tone it and improve it slightly, and the workout wonder freaks of nature will only retain their elite physical skills a few years before they regress to NFL averages (which are still pretty elite).

If I were looking for a QB, I would focus on one who has consistently shown a strong work ethic, good decision making ability, good instincts, and then at least competent physical abilities, in that order.

97
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:14pm

I will second the Drew Stanton observation as that dude was the personification of a bi-polar qb. One minute he's nailing a WR in stride 20 yards out and the next he's air-mailing some lame duck into quadruple coverage. It was bizarre. Kiper keeps hyping him, and I just do not understand what folks are seeing in the guy. I know I didn't see EVERY Spartan game, but I certainly saw at least half of Stanton's career starts in the Big Ten. And the MO never changed.

Here is Quarterback A from the Big Ten:

CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT

158 268 2185 59.0 8.2 17 6

And Stanton

CMP ATT YDS CMP% YDS/A TD INT

164 269 1807 61.0 6.7 12 10

Anyone care to explain why QB A is a nobody come draft day and Stanton is the "sleeper"?

98
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:24pm

Re: 95 - "Tim Couch’s college numbers were inflated due to his offense (kind of like Colt Brennan) as addressed in PFP2006. This is not the case with Russell."

Yes, this was addressed in PFP2006 but that explanation left something to be desired. It dismisses Couch and his deviation from the projection based on this 'system QB' rationale, but it doesn't address a number of other QB's that played in similar offenses (Leftwich, Roethlisberger, Brees) but whose projections have less deviation.

I really enjoy David's articles on this topic but I thought the 'system QB' explanation had some holes.

99
by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:31pm

There is another problem with Tampa Bay Mike's attempt to project Russell's future had he returned for his senior season. Yes, he probably would have played well enough to maintain a decent completion % and remain a high pick (remember, even if he falls into the second round the projection system still applies). But that does not mean that you can just add those theoretical numbers to his stats and alter his projection, because there is also the possibility that more starts in college mean more success because they represent more experience and learning. If Russell stayed for another year, he might have a better projection because he might actually be a better prospect than he is now, due to the additional experience he would have attained.

This is why games started is so useful. A high number of starts denotes skill (as the player has to beat the competition to earn the job), accurate scouting (as the scouts have lots of film), and experience.

100
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 1:57pm

#98

Couch is not much of an outlier at all. He didn't start very many games, and I believe that if he had gone back to school he either would have been exposed as a system QB and his stock would have dropped, or he would have gotten better and not been so bad in the pros (and he would have avoided being drafted by an expansion team which hurt his career).

101
by Tim Couch (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:14pm

Say what you want about me, my wife is hotter than yours.

102
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:20pm

Why is it so unreasonable to assume
that extra time practicing your craft during an apprenticeship (college ball) could
translate to your performing better when you are thrown into the fire (pro ball)?

Because I find it hard to believe that anyone would believe that college coaches are better than pro coaches. You're implicitly assuming that once they reach the pro level, they stop "practicing", whereas all evidence shows that they continue to improve.

The statistical bias explanation is much simpler, and doesn't require bringing in any intangibles like "it builds their confidence" or somesuch.

So scouts are more interested in uncovering flaws than in performance at the higest level of college football?

Yes. Hence the ginormous number of Heisman Trophy winners who don't get drafted high. Or at all. Lack of flaws usually equals strong performance. Strong performance does not equal lack of flaws.

103
by Kellerman (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:33pm

80:
It is perfectly reasonable for him to make the assumption that Russell if he went back to school and started and played well would be a first round pick.

I don’t think it is - and I think that’s what the projection system says. The only other way to view the starts correlation is that starting more games in college somehow makes you a better quarterback (i.e., it’s causative, and not correlative).

It takes chutzpah to argue with the man about what his own system says and what assumptions are reasonable regarding it.

104
by Kellerman (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:35pm

80:
"It is perfectly reasonable for him to make the assumption that Russell if he went back to school and started and played well would be a first round pick.

I don’t think it is - and I think that’s what the projection system says. The only other way to view the starts correlation is that starting more games in college somehow makes you a better quarterback (i.e., it’s causative, and not correlative)."

It takes chutzpah to argue with the man about what his own system says and what assumptions are reasonable regarding it.

105
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:58pm

"Because I find it hard to believe that anyone would believe that college coaches are better than pro coaches. You’re implicitly assuming that once they reach the pro level, they stop “practicing�, whereas all evidence shows that they continue to improve."

Pat, thats true, but there may also be aspect of learning at work.

When I was learning to wrestle, there were a couple of kids who were state champions. I couldnt learn anything from them because I simply wasnt good enough to keep up. I didnt have the base.

After learning from the poorer wrestlers, I started being able to pick up things from the good kids.

There may be some aspect of that here: the guys who got more college starts have a more sound base on which to learn. The guys who dont, may be too far behind to learn anything.

Its much easier to learn something at half speed (college) and then have it sped up, than to try to learn it at full speed.

106
by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 2:58pm

Re: 102

If you followed hockey or baseball, you'd notice that oftentimes young players who get rushed into the big leagues end up failing because they weren't ready, while players who get some time in the minors end up performing better down the line because they have the luxury of a shallower learning curve. Does that mean minor league coaches are better than major league coaches? Of course not. It just means that players need more time at the developmental level, i.e. college when talking about football.

Re: 103

Russell doesn't have to still be a first round pick. As long as he goes in the second round or earlier, the projection system applies. (In fact, the PFP2006 article notes that draft position within the first 2 rounds does not correlate with performance at all.) It would be pretty hard to imagine that Russell could suck so much or have flaws so big in his senior season that he'd drop all the way out of the second round.

107
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 3:11pm

Coaches want the guy with "high potential" because they believe they can tap into that. They want the guy with the rocket arm or mobility because they feel they can "teach" him the position. They want the raw talented prospect who gets into trouble because they feel they can heal them. ( Dic Vermiel and Lawrence Phillips)

Coaches overestimate their own ability.

108
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 3:42pm

Re: 100

A little memory is a dangerous thing. Perhaps I'm misremembering Couch's deviation from the projection and the discussion about it. I don't have the book in front of me, so that's certainly possible.

I certainly agree that his starting in Cleveland was disasterous for his career. I would go so far as to hypothesize that was the entire explanation for his performance (prior to his injury) falling below the projection.

I thought there was some discussion (in PFP2006) about Couch being a 'system QB' and that potentially accounting for some/all of the variation. That was the basis for my question about Brees and the others. Without much analysis, it seems there are as many 'system' QBs that meet or exceed their projections as fall short.

109
by SJM (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 3:49pm

Re: 108

Couch's failure is attributed to both the Browns and his being a system QB. Not all system QBs are failures, but Couch comes from the Mike Leach system which makes nobodies put up huge numbers. Even if he had been drafted by another team, his projection would have to have been downgraded a bit for the system (just like David suggests downgrading projections for QBs with low attempts per game).

110
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 4:06pm

So, based on Pat's argument, Lewin's projection system requires the selection bias of "highly-ranked in the NFL draft" to begin having a good correlation?

That's interesting. So a high rating in the draft is used as a normalizing factor for all other projections outside of the statistics...cool. That sounds pretty Q&D, but it's probably reasonable.

111
by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 4:10pm

Talking about QBs who had their stock drop dramatically - wasn't that the case with Orton? I know he looked like a legit heisman candidate for a short time. I'm not sure where he was projected to go before the wheels fell off and he messed up his shoulder though. It might be instructive to try and dig up other QBs that were projected to go high as juniors but stayed another year. Not all of them could be like Leinhart and only see a small drop like that.

112
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 4:18pm

Re: 109

What makes the 'Leech' system different from the 'Purdue' system that produced Brees and Orton?

The issue I've got, is that it's just too convenient to blame the 'Leach system' for Couch's falling below the projection. There's no way to evaluate the validity of that hypothesis because n=1. If we expand the view to other pass first, spread offense systems that have produced impressive stats I don't think there's much evidence they underperform the projection.

113
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 4:25pm

So who are the possible 1st round QB's next year? Brohm? Henne? Can Reggie Ball go back to school and come back? Maybe his mobility can add another layer to his game?

114
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 4:45pm

#112
It's impossible to say what the effect of Leach's offense was on Couch. My thoughts on the matter are that generally since the Ware/Klingler U Houston disasters in the early 1990s NFL teams have done a good job recognizing inflationary offenses and down grading QBs out of them. With Couch at the time no one knew that his QB coach/OC Mike Leach had a system that would go on to consistently produce the best passing numbers in the nation. Leach an offensive system that produces the best passing numbers in the nation, year in and year out without top notch talent. Hawaii's run and shoot is second in this regard. These systems put up much better passing numbers than Purdue or any other pseudo spread team. The point is that teams might not have known this in 1998. Still, overall, I think that expansion has much more to do with Couch's failure than his college system.

#113
As I've said before Colt Brennan is a fascinating experiment for the system this year. Does he fall from his first round status or does he justify it? Honestly, I'm guessing he has a let down year (similar to the last QB who went back to school after having a spectacular statistical season, Omar Jacobs) and falls out of the first two rounds.

115
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 5:38pm

There may be some aspect of that here: the guys who got more college starts have a more sound base on which to learn. The guys who dont, may be too far behind to learn anything.

The problem I have with that is that it implies that first round busts should be sent to NFL Europe, where they would improve. I don't buy that.

The main thing is that "not playing another year against lesser talent" is fixable, even after they're drafted. "Being an apparent statistical fluke" is not. And none of the busts listed every even remotely appeared fixable.

It just seems like a selection effect - just like Maurice Clarett, or Mike Williams. Too few games to realize that both wouldn't handle the NFL.

So, based on Pat’s argument, Lewin’s projection system requires the selection bias of “highly-ranked in the NFL draft� to begin having a good correlation?

Yes, basically. And the idea would be that you'd find a reverse correlation at the end of the draft - the guys with fewer starts drafted at the end of the draft are more likely to exceed their draft projection.

116
by witless chum (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 5:43pm

Re: 97:
"Anyone care to explain why QB A is a nobody come draft day and Stanton is the “sleeper�?"

Because (I hate to admit) Stanton played for a team with limited talent around him and Troy played for Ohio State. If you saw their game in 2006, there's your answer. Drew (who I think is the best QB I've seen at Michigan State, which goes back to Bobby McCallister) played with a handful of guys who are going to have NFL careers. Deandre Cobb and Chris Morris are the only ones who come to mind and they're both backups at best, thus far.

117
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 5:48pm

"The problem I have with that is that it implies that first round busts should be sent to NFL Europe, where they would improve. I don’t buy that.

The main thing is that “not playing another year against lesser talent� is fixable, even after they’re drafted"

Right, but what NFL owner is ballsy enough to send a first round guy who obviously doesnt get it to NFL europe? Can they really afford to be paying a guy $7-10m a year to play in europe?

118
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 6:55pm

#113:
Brohm should be the favorite who falls because he decided to come back-I think he is better then both Russell and Quinn.

Henne is much debated-I like him, but I am not sure if he is a 1st rounder.

Colt Brennan has already been mentioned.

I like Andre Woodson-he might move up boards if he has another good year.

and the JaMarcus Russell/Vince Young of the draft: Bobby Reid.

119
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 7:54pm

Right, but what NFL owner is ballsy enough to send a first round guy who obviously doesnt get it to NFL europe? Can they really afford to be paying a guy $7-10m a year to play in europe?

Uh, given that the alternative is paying him $7-10M/year to suck, I think the answer is "could they afford not to?"

Besides, first round players don't usually start costing a lot until year 3 or 4. First two years they're usually pretty cheap ($3-4M or so).

120
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 7:57pm

Oh, and I just heard an interesting quote today: Jim Tressel - you know, Troy Smith's coach - thinks Troy will be a third-round pick. His own coach. Tressel was ridiculously optimistic regarding Ginn Jr, Pittman, and Gonzo. Not so on Smith.

He also said that the team drafting Smith would have to not need a QB right away, since it would take time, and they would need to tailor their offense to him. Again: his own coach.

That just amazed me.

121
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 8:16pm

The reason sending them the NFL Europe won't work is that it is a step down from college. Also, once they've been exposed to the NFL often their confidence has been hurt so bad they will never recover. Not to mention getting sent to NFL Europe could hurt their confidence.

I think it's fair to assume that if Russell stayed in college another year, that 1) he would still be a 1st round draft pick (it's pretty hard to fall from possible #1 overall to out of the 1st round entirely), 2) he would improve, and 3) he would become a better pro.

122
by CA (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 8:25pm

Re: 116

Try again on identifying Quarterback A in #97 (hint: look at the name of the person who posted it).

123
by Jerry (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 8:26pm

So, based on Pat’s argument, Lewin’s projection system requires the selection bias of “highly-ranked in the NFL draft� to begin having a good correlation?

That’s interesting. So a high rating in the draft is used as a normalizing factor for all other projections outside of the statistics…cool. That sounds pretty Q&D, but it’s probably reasonable.

You could look at it as "Among QBs personnel people think are talented enough to be drafted in the first two rounds, this system projects which are most likely to succeed." Whatever the reasons are, it works.

124
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 9:08pm

The reason sending them the NFL Europe won’t work is that it is a step down from college. Also, once they’ve been exposed to the NFL often their confidence has been hurt so bad they will never recover. Not to mention getting sent to NFL Europe could hurt their confidence.

See previous statement: "The statistical bias explanation is much simpler, and doesn’t require bringing in any intangibles like “it builds their confidence� or somesuch." Confidence is also fixable.

I also don't agree that NFL Europe is a step down from college. I guarantee that any NFL Europe team could put up a better fight against, say, LSU, than a Division IAA opponent, for instance. Given that NFL Europe is pretty heavily populated with former college players, it seems difficult to imagine that it's worse.

(it’s pretty hard to fall from possible #1 overall to out of the 1st round entirely)

Not when your position as a first round pick is based entirely on your previous year. Russell, at the end of 2005, wasn't considered a first-round pick. Heck, Russell in late 2006 wasn't considered a lock for a first-round pick.

125
by Kelly (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 9:25pm

I appreciate the "apparently" lucid style of your writing but your bias shines through roughly immediately. I am an SEC fan(though not one of LSU), but Russell's story and ability is well documented and based on reality not conjecture, while your's seems to be based on second-hand notes. Russell was one of the leading passers in the NATION, and the SEC and he continually ripped the hearts out of his opponents. Your accusation against things like his vision or decision making prove you simply don't know what you are talking about. Sorry kid, we are glad to see Russell out of the league and you will be eating these words long after your own.....career, is over. Good luck at Denny's!!

126
by Chris (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 9:33pm

118- I'm not big on Henne but I've heard other people mention him. He's a big guy, but his size means a slower release. When USC had the pressure on him, he didn't get rid of the ball quick enough. That could be very indicitave of a potential pro career. He could suffer the Bledsoe ( at the end of his career), Warner, and Leftwhich syndrome. When you give him some time, he can beat you with his throws ( most 1st round quarterbacks can), but the slower release limits what he can do as a pro ( good bye west coast offense).

127
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:00pm

So CA, since nobody else is willing to proffer an opinion on why folks go ga-ga about Stanton and not John Stocco will you explain it to me?

Because I don't think John boy is going to do anything at the pro level other than maybe hold a clipboard on a bad team for a season or two. And yet with an inexperienced receiver corps (the best returning starter had a total of 4 career catches) and in a run first offense he produced more than Stanton, he was more consistent than Stanton, and he CERTAINLY did far fewer things to LOSE games than Stanton.

That can't ALL be the difference in the teams. Because until even after beating Auburn the majority of the posters here stated loud and clear that Wisconsin was a mediocre team who got lucky.

So learn me how Stanton has become "Dreamy Drew" and Stocco is so much pocket lint?

128
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:13pm

I'm with you 100%, Badger. I know if the Bears drafted Stanton I would be very upset. He did absolutely zero to impress me in college. Despite my disdain for all things UW (proud U of I displaced in Madison), I actually was somewhat impressed with Stocco, and I could see him being a serviceable backup at the pro level; he's a "safe" backup.
Stanton, on the other hand, seems like the type of quarterback who will crash and burn at an NFL level - too many stupid decisions and complete meltdowns. Granted, his coaching staff at MSU didn't help (my hapless Juice Williams-led Illini got their first Big Ten win in three years against John L. Smith's squad), but he just never struck me as being anything more than a mediocre college starter at best. I never even got the impression that he had the natural physical gifts that NFL scouts look for.

129
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:18pm

#127

Henne gets compared to the last Michigan QB more often-Navarre...for the same reason. I think Henne has a better arm and is more accurate, but his slow release and his habit of not being able to feel the rush hurts him I think.

130
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:24pm

Did #125 just tell me I'm going to be working on at Denny's because JaMarcus Russell is going to be a good quarterback? If every sports writer who predicted something and was then wrong had to work at Denny's, well you would be getting your pancakes awfully quick nowadays. Not to mention that it's not my prediction, it's based on a mathematical model.

131
by Jack (not verified) :: Wed, 04/18/2007 - 10:39pm

Brady's completion percentage of 58% is brought down by his freshman (47%) and sophomore (54%) seasons. Long time ago and different coaching. How many QB's even start their freshman year? The last two seasons have completion percentages in the mid- 60's.

132
by SJM (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 12:18am

Pat,

I think Tom did you a disservice by doing a poor job of explaining why teams don't send high pick busts to NFL Europe.

NFLE is definitely played on as high a level as college (although the stakes are lower). Also, the "once he's been exposed, his confidence is shattered forever" theory is unlikely. But it's not just confidence I'm talking about, it's polish and fundamentals and habits. Practice can help some but there's no substitute for in-game experience. However, if that in-game experience is in Houston or Detroit it could create bad habits and poor fundametals. Another year in college might have helped correct/prevent those issues (and maybe confidence issues as well, though I won't pretend to really know about that). NFLE could also help, but as someone pointed out already, there is too much stigma associated with the Europe league to send a high pick there. Also there is always the risk of injury, which teams are deathly afraid of in any non-NFL situation. Further, if a team picked a guy and started him in his rookie year with the intention of making him the permanent starter, they simply can't send him to Europe until he busts and is replaced by another starter on a semi-permanent basis.

Russell would be a great candidate for NFLE, if his team was determined to sit him for his rookie year and maybe sophomore too. Since this won't happen, the timing doesn't work for NFLE as the team will want him around for summer minicamps.

Still, if teams started sending raw high picks to Europe and treating it like a serious minor league instead of a slightly annoying chore, the careers of some players might be saved. The only problem is that you pretty much have to commit to not making the guy your expected starter going into his second year. Almost nobody on that under 30 starts list had that chance, which makes sense because it is a list of top 10 overall picks, and top 10 QB picks are usually made by teams that are desperate for a QB.

Ultimately what I'm saying is that Russell's best hope for a decent career is to be drafted by a team without a pressing need for him to start in his first two years, not to play significantly as a rookie and then go to NFLE before his second season (when he will again be a backup, at least going in). Of course, this will never, ever, ever, happen, so if I'm right then Russell will most likely be the next name on the bust list.

133
by Francisco (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 12:54am

I'm not sure if anyone has commented on this yet, but that "2 seat bicycle car" looks like certain death. I can just see that thing buckling beneath Mario Williams' Lamborghini.

134
by joe football (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 1:34am

You know, Carson Palmer pretty much sucked until his senior year, then he lit it up for one season, and nobody seemed to be troubled with him going #1. Of course, USC didn't have the talent of LSU during his run, but then again, the Pac-10 isn't the SEC

He also had a higher INTs/ATT in his career then the Russell. He was at school one more year(both players had a redshirt year) and started 10-15 more games. Which I know is important in The System. And I'm not a pro football scout. But they both seemed to be highly-touted prospects who put it together in their last year and shot up the draft charts.

135
by AR (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 2:04am

"Did #125 just tell me I’m going to be working on at Denny’s because JaMarcus Russell is going to be a good quarterback? If every sports writer who predicted something and was then wrong had to work at Denny’s, well you would be getting your pancakes awfully quick nowadays. Not to mention that it’s not my prediction, it’s based on a mathematical model."

If you watched film and came to the conclusion that Russell was going to be a bust, then I could feel your comments. Let me tell you where you really screwed up at, you never listed any negatives against Quinn. His decision making, especially under pressure (see HIS interceptions in the Sugar Bowl, one thrown while falling down which no QB should ever do and one thrown directly into double coverage) is below average. Quinn repeatedly buckles under pressure. I don't care if he started 100 games, when the pressure is on, he's not. You chose the Auburn and Florida games as your benchmarks, however neglected to mention that in the Auburn game LSU was in the redzone numerous times and were mysteriously peanlized each time to move them out of scoring range. Sure, go ahead and say it, "officials don't lose games", you have obviously not followed the SEC very closely. Another key point that you might have missed is that Will Muschamp, the former d-coordinator for LSU was hired by Tommy Tuberville for the precise reason of beating LSU. We see what happened to Auburn after they won their Super Bowl- they tanked the rest of the season. They were pumped for the game, and with a little help from the zebras, they prevailed. The Florida game was just one of those games- nobody played well. Being a scientist, I know that models can be tailored to fit a specific problem but they are not entirely accurate. Your model will not hold up with Russell- it's what happens on the field that you cannot predict with a model or a computer- the guy is a stud. Ask any coach in the SEC if they wanted him to come back for his senior season. Quinn is average at best and he is a system QB just as Tim Couch was. his numbers were inflated not because of the system though, but because of the water weak schedule that ND plays every season.

As for the complexity of the offense, I find it hard to believe that you or anyone not closely related to the LSU program could comment on the intricacies of the offense. Since I am close to the program, let me give you a little information. Russell routinely had 4-5 reads on each play and went to the line with two plays called- it was his choice to audible into or out of a given play. Russell was trusted by his o-coordniator and was allowed freedom at the line. He was responsible for all of the line (protection) checks, all of the defensive reads, and any other LOS details that were apparent. He basically had to be a coach on the field.

As for his "immaturity" this is the most bogus statement that your argument contains. You are reaching for straws to strengthen your case. Here is a guy whose teammates respected him. He housed 20 people in his apartment during Hurricane Katrina. Played through shredded wrist ligaments for over half the season in 2005 and led his team to the SEC championship game as a first year starer.

I understand that you are a quinn proponent however your argument against Russell is weak at best. I could take Quinn's games against Michigan and USC and write a similar argument using his two worst games of the season. Computers and models are fine, but you don't play football on a computer- you do it on the gridiron. Say what you will, but there is NO WAY to predict who will succeed and who won't.

136
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 2:49am

"you don’t play football on a computer- you do it on the gridiron"

This is a great point, it takes a smart guy to say something that insightful. No wonder people were puzzled when I showed up in the computer lab in full gear on game day.

137
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 4:16am

134

Anger management ?

How about saying :
As an insightful of LSU, I can tell you Russell had 4-5 reads etc.
[...]
As a scientist, I know each model has exceptions, I truelly think Russell will be one to yours.

What you say is very interesting and brings a lot of hope in Raiders' fans' heart, so say it a way we want to listen to you.

138
by The Big Lebowski (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 5:36am

#136
To be fair, a lot of what you wrote about Russell in the article seems to be based on watching him on tape and pointing out his flaws. Unless your mathematical projection system specifically indicates things like "his understanding of the game is questionable at best" and "he has a tendency to just throw the ball up when he gets confused".

However, I'll be damned if that wasn't one of the best comebacks I've seen on these boards in a long time.

139
by Sifter (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 7:26am

Thanks for the insight David. I enjoyed reading your article in the PFP and this has helped me solidify my own personal draft board (for those interested I now have Russell ranked at #7 and Quinn at #4, behind Johnson, Thomas and Peterson). I think it would be stupid to write Russell off just yet cause he didn't start enough games, but I agree it is not a good sign - your studies have proven that. I too was surprised that you analysed Russell more from a scouts perspective rather than a statistician's, but it is all good info for me. It also gives some decent perspective when listening to the same old, same old fawning over Russell by the talking heads. He does have some faults you know people...

140
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 9:23am

Re: 114 "These systems put up much better passing numbers than Purdue or any other pseudo spread team."

Well I guess that depends on which passing numbers you're talking about. From a yardage, YPA, and TD perspective, Brees' Purdue numbers are comparable to Couch's last two years (per game basis). Couch's completion % was higher (69 vs. 61). I haven't found all the college stats for the other NFL QBs that I mentioned. Speaking of which, does anybody have a recommendation for good way/site to find college stats for NFL players. It's always a tedious process for me.

Interesting to see the passion regarding Russell. Until this morning I thought Troy Smith was the only draft QB that could inspire such controversy.

141
by Jim M (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 9:51am

94. I think you are missing my point. The point I was making is that averaging 3-4 years of performance may work well in looking at a group of players it may not provide predictive value to an individual player if that player has made a huge jump in performance level.

What the sabermetricians found is that if you matched players of similar ability but there ages differed the career of the younger player would far exceed that of the older player. And, 1 year was a massive difference. So what I'm arguing is that the fact that Russell performed at a higher level (statisically) while being almost one year younger is perhaps a very significant predictor of their future career success.

It seems to me a worthwhile study to match a group of QB's by stats and then compare how the younger players careers compared to the older players of similar ability.

142
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 9:52am

136:

To be fair, your article at many points drifts from the statistical analysis to "tape analysis." Stick to what you can measure; all that "tape analysis" does is get you lampooned by homers. You know a thing or two about College Football fans and you're pretty familiar with how impossible it is to have a rational argument with them when you get into difficult-to-measure concepts like field vision. Trust the stats to capture those things indirectly and leave them out of your analysis entirely IMHO.

143
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 10:05am

Quinn threw a pick while he was being tackled to the ground in the Sugar Bowl?

Yes he was wrong, but he didn't exactly have a ton of time to run his offense ( even with that quicker release). Mcknight didn't exactly help him in big games ( with all those drops) and Smeregja had that TD dropped earlier in the sugar bowl

Why don't you bring up that fumble Russell had while he had a defender draped all over him. A small percentage of the time that play makes sports center ( in a good way), the rest of the time it ends up a pick of a fumble. If you have defenders draped all over you, protect the ball and take a sack... It shouldn't be the end of the world. It was very Daunte Fumblepeppereqsue. The slower release and "nfl long toss" potential have to remind you of fumblepepper also.

144
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 10:29am

Re 135:
This qualifies as the FOMBC, right? I'm glad my team won't be taking him.

145
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 10:48am

Re: 142

Certainly any subjective analysis is vulnerable to criticism by those with a different subjective analysis. But I appreciate it as a supplement to a simple table or recitation of sterile projections. I'd much rather have it (recognizing it for what it is) than not.

146
by james (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:12am

Call me a conspiracy theorist but if I'm one of the top GM's in the league I would start riling up the media and talking up guys like Russell.

That way you get these sorry teams who are stuck drafting Russell because their fans will be pissed if they don't.

If I'm Bob Kraft I start telling everyone that I know that I think Russell is best prospect since Elway immediately after the Sugar Bowl.

Then we get breaking news on Espnnews in which John Clayton's egghead comes on tv and tells us that NFL GMs are calling Russell the best prospect since Elway.

147
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:18am

145:

While the subjective stuff adds value, I'm afraid it's far too integral to David's argumentation in the article. Look at the points he makes about JaMarcus Russell, in the order in which they were presented:

1.) Large, like Daunte, Ben, and Byron
2.) Not a definitive starter in preseason
3.) "Bad decision maker"
4.) "Throws the ball up for grabs"
5.) "Ran a fairly simple offense"
6.) Long anecdote describing his "bad decisions making"
7.) Brief mention of his completion percentage and games started

Isn't that troubling? There are a good 2000 words devoted solely to relatively subjective analysis before anything objective (other than the player's measurements) is stated. I come here for stats and methodology and didn't get much out of this. I'm far more interested in the statistical methodology, and research that went into these conclusions than the subjective stuff. If I wanted to hear about how he's a "specimen" or a "bad decision maker" I'd go consult the broad swath of articles from professional scouts. Write to your expertise!

Once again, just an opinion. I enjoyed the article for what it was, but it contained meager statistical analysis or methodology and seemed like nothing more than a longer, unedited, inferior version of your typical ESPN scout article.

148
by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:24am

I mean, Charles, how much can he say? If he doesn't give his own explanation for why a prospect that's been so roundly praised might not work out, all he does is list off his completion percentage, games started, and then compare that to some other players. I guess he could give a DPAR/gm number like in the prospectus, but otherwise, the numbers don't tell you much. Dave was offering an explanation for the system's preference of Quinn over Russell.

149
by Charles the Philly Homer (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:27am

For example, if JaMarcus Russell is "a bad decision maker" who "throws the ball up for grabs," where is the comparison to other top prospects? Do we know how often he threw the ball "up for grabs" compares to other prospects? I certainly hope there is more than one anecdote to justify those claims. A chart or some stats from JaMarcus's games providing metrics for the risk profiles of Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell would have gone a long way toward explaining the "NFL-ready" argument we keep hearing about Quinn. Otherwise, it's just another opinion piece.

150
by mactbone (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 11:50am

Part of the problem I think is that this isn't an article on methodology. Really, you need to read the first piece on the projection system to understand where he's coming from. Then, we could just get a table or chart, but instead we're treated to a discussion about the reasons why the projection system might be right. It's at least more interesting than just "the projection system says x and last year it said y and was z accurate."

151
by DrKlopek (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 12:30pm

Re: "Quinn is average at best and he is a system QB just as Tim Couch was."

Fortunately for Quinn, that system is the one used in the NFL. I guess Brady is a "system" QB too?

152
by Riceloft (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 12:56pm

I think its fairly obvious that this WAS meant to be mostly an opinion/analysis piece. The down and dirty numbers and statistics will be available in PFP2007. If he gives everything away in this article, why bother buying PFP?

153
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 1:28pm

"Fortunately for Quinn, that system is the one used in the NFL. I guess Brady is a “system� QB too?"

Dont forget Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

154
by CA (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 2:08pm

Re: 127

So CA, since nobody else is willing to proffer an opinion on why folks go ga-ga about Stanton and not John Stocco will you explain it to me?

Well, since you asked...

I think you already know the answer. As you said, Stocco "was more consistent than Stanton," with fewer highs as well as fewer lows. NFL teams look at Stanton's occassional great play and say, "If we can get him to do that all the time, he'll be a great QB in this league." Stocco absolutely was the better QB overall last year, but he didn't display the flashes of brilliance to make people think that he has the potential to be a star. The other important factor that you are ignoring is their respective junior seasons. Stanton had a remarkable junior season. Stocco was very good too, but not as good.

As for Stocco's prospects, here's my layman's take: He was a better college QB than his predecessors, Bollinger and Sorgi, and I think he will be a slightly better pro than either of them as well. Bollinger has had multiple, if not impressive, NFL starts, and Sorgi is, according to Aaron, one of the best backup QBs in the league. Stocco looks to me like a 4th round pick. He's the kind of guy who may get a chance at a temporary starting job a few years down the road if the guy in front of him is injured or struggles (Bollinger), but more likely will have a career as a solid primary backup (Sorgi). I don't think that it's out of the question that he eventually could become a mediocre, so-called "game manager"-type starting QB in the NFL.

Stanton, on the other hand, I could see flaming out spectacularly, having a career along the lines that I described for Stocco, or maybe, just maybe, emerging as a long-term star starting QB. It's that final possibility that excites NFL teams and means that he'll be picked about three rounds higher than Stocco.

But, as I usually try to say when talking about prospects and the NFL draft, what do I know?

155
by Kaetab (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 2:24pm

One variable you may have overlooked in the formula, is the malice God has towards me (a Browns fan). Since He chooses to use the Cleveland Browns as a delivery vehicle for His wrath, I would like to apologize to Brady Quinn, because when the Browns draft him, I would expect a host of angles to rip his arm out of the socket, or something equivalent.

Good article though.

Sincerly,
Cleveland Browns Stadium
Section 506
Row 2
Seat 1

156
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 2:43pm

#152
Is correct. This is mostly an opinion piece backed up by some numbers. My analysis is represents my thoughts on these players beyond the obvious stuff that has been beaten to death (I figured you didn't really need another 1000 words on how far JaMarcus Russell can throw or about how Brady Quinn can't win the big one, it's all been said). I threw a lot of scouting analysis in there because I think it's impossible to evaluate prospects without it and because I think people find it more interesting. I did the same thing last year with for Young, Leinart, and Cutler, and I looking back at it it looks pretty good.

My conclusions are based entirely on the numbers, I'm not nearly as high on Quinn as the system is, but I trust it, so I wrote it that way. I don't mind if people disagree with my subjective evaluation here, I was just trying to contribute something readable and hopefully accurate. If you want exact predictions, methodology and more number type stuff (which I'm pretty sure is not what #135 was asking for) that will all be in PFP.

157
by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 3:08pm

146- Do you think that stuff ever happens? Do you think say the Broncos would ever go to the NFL gossiper ( Peter King) hyping up Russell for Al Davis?

Then a couple weeks later the old wash woman King say things like " I was speaking with personell people around the league and I've heard that Russell is the best prospect since Elway". Then the fans believe it and their team either is entrapped to select him, or their complain about taking the other guy.

At best you can try and pressure teams into taking a hyped up prospect... At worst you can piss off their fans for NOT taking that hyped up prospect.

158
by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 6:54pm

One thought that hasn't been brought up with Stocco v. Stanton (2007) is that Stanton is much faster and has racked up considerable rushing yards (687 (!) and 5 TDs his sophomore year, 338 and 4 TDs last year, 445 and 5 TDs this year, plus a neat trick play receiving TD) in comparison to Stocco (-20 and 4 TDs, -32 and 2 TDs, -79 and 1 TD). Part of that difference comes from sacks, where Stanton (4, 23, 19) again is ahead of Stocco (21, 37, 23). Stanton also has an inch and 30 pounds on Stocco, which isn't a huge deal, but probably matters some to NFL scouts.

Obviously in making that comparison, one has to be aware that Mich St. runs a lot of spread stuff, which encourages QB running and may discourages sacks (more quick drops... part of the reason his y/att is worse than Stocco's). Nonetheless, I'd say this is a clear reason to think Stanton has talents beyond Stocco's, even if they're pretty close in their throwing ability (which is also debatable, but whatever).

159
by Randy S. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 7:25pm

157 - Not to get all tinfoil here, but who's to say that hasn't been going on already? Matt Leinart was the lock number 1 pick when he decided to go back to school for another year, but with all of the draft talk surrounded his supposedly weak arm, he ended up dropping way down. Maybe some of those rumors about Leinart came about from teams that wanted him (the Titans, Cardinals, perhaps the Broncos).

160
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 7:38pm

re: 117

Right, but what NFL owner is ballsy enough to send a first round guy who obviously doesnt get it to NFL europe? Can they really afford to be paying a guy $7-10m a year to play in europe?

Ever hear of a running back named Lawrence Phillips? I'm sure he's not the only first-round draft pick to play in NFL Europe, he's just the one I'm familiar with.

161
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 8:28pm

#99 I don't think that's a problem. I was trying to establish a minimum projection for Russell (JR) his senior year
to avoid the regression towards the mean issue. What those numbers are saying (if you think that it is
reasonable to assume that JR's senior year would be better than his sophomore year) is that JR's projection
would have been at least Drew Brees.

#102

Because I find it hard to believe that anyone would believe that college coaches are better than pro coaches. You’re implicitly assuming that once they reach the pro level, they stop practicing, whereas all evidence shows that they continue to improve.

I'm doing nothing of the sort. I don't know whether or not college QB coaching is better than NFL QB coaching. But you're
assuming that the only (or primary) reason extra games are important is due to the coaching.
It might be just due to extra game experience or college QB's may be more coachable -
especially when compared to coachability after they're instantly rich and famous with all of the accompanying benefits/problems/distractions not
to mention that they're younger.
The only thing that I'm doing is noting that games started in college may not only correlate with better success in the pros, but that it might actually contribute towards better success in the pros. This is not an unreasonable hypothesis.
It may be wrong but it is not unreasonable at this point.

Yes. Hence the ginormous number of Heisman Trophy winners who don’t get drafted high. Or at all. Lack of flaws usually equals strong performance. Strong performance does not equal lack of flaws.

We just disagree on this point. I think that all of the other items that I listed previously are
very important to scouts as well. It's not like there's been a shortage of workout wonders at QB that have been taken in the
first round.

162
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Thu, 04/19/2007 - 8:51pm

Jamarcus Russell black John Elway. Raiders going to zone blocking scheme, good personal on line. Have best WR core in league. Just need good QB with arm. Rusell's arm best in league as soon as he steps on field in his 1st game. Raiders going to be force to reckon with. Defense already top.5

163
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:14am

The Raiders have good personnel on the offensive line, and the best receiving core in the league? Um, what?

164
by Raiderjoe (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 12:30am

Raiders o line good. Problem in past was scheme. Raiders goign to zone blocking. Suits linemen better. All have experience in zone schemes. Alex Gibbs to work with Raiders a little.
Raiders WRs are very good. You will see when they make the playoffs this year. R Moss 6'4" 210, J Porter 6'2" 220, RCurry 6-2 220, J Morant 6-"4 220 add up to best WR core in league. You had your fun last year. The Raiders will be back in 2007.

165
by SJM (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 1:42am

I can't figure out if raiderjoe is trying to be Tonto or Tarzan. Considering that he's a Raiders fan, I'm guessing Tarzan.

166
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 10:10am

Chris (#146 )--
Do you think that stuff ever happens? Do you think say the Broncos would ever go to the NFL gossiper ( Peter King) hyping up Russell for Al Davis?
...
At best you can try and pressure teams into taking a hyped up prospect… At worst you can piss off their fans for NOT taking that hyped up prospect.
Which reminds me of the enormous pressure that was put on the Eagles front office in 1999, to pick Ricky Williams instead of Donovan McNabb.

Vocal Eagle fans were indeed pissed off. But even the most dedicated McNabb critic must concede that, on the narrow decision of McNabb vs. Williams in the '99 draft, the Eagles made the better choice.

167
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 10:31am

166- I thought of that too. The best case scenerio for eagles haters would be for the eagles to get pressured out of taking a good player, and instead selecting an Akili Smith.

The other scenerio would be for the Eagles to get their guy Mcnabb, but be heavily booed and have their fans pissed off.

The Ironic part is that fans would be happy to take a hyped up player like Smith ( but unhappy in the long run), but they would be pissed to take Mcnabb ( but happier in the long run).

There isn't really a win/win scenerio for the team. Either way it pisses off Eagles fans in either the short or long term.

168
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 2:28pm

It might be just due to extra game experience or college QB’s may be more coachable -

They get game experience in the pros, too. The second comment doesn't make a lot of sense. QB X, in college, is coachable, but when he gets to the NFL he's not, because he's not in college? There's no real explanation there. He's the same person. I can't think of a credible explanation as to how the situation would be different.

especially when compared to coachability after they’re instantly rich and famous with all of the accompanying benefits/problems/distractions not to mention that they’re younger.

Age doesn't work, as David Lewin mentioned earlier. The "maybe the problem is that they become instantly rich and famous"? Maybe, but it's a severe stretch. College has plenty of other distractions as well. It's also hard to believe that nearly everyone who enters the NFL without a significant number of starts would struggle. People handle distractions differently.

The only thing that I’m doing is noting that games started in college may not only correlate with better success in the pros, but that it might actually contribute towards better success in the pros. This is not an unreasonable hypothesis.

It's not a hypothesis. It's a statement. You haven't given any plausible reason as to why this would be true. All the explanations you've given don't really explain the available facts.

I'd really love to hear a credible reason as to why starting additional games in college helps a quarterback in ways that can't be done in the NFL. And just starting the games: not starts against good/bad competition. Just starts. That just screams "scouting bias", because the only person who gets something out of Ohio State beating the crap out of San Diego State or somesuch are scouts.

169
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 4:00pm

#168

They get game experience in the pros, too.

Is it your point that to assume that there is a difference between the effects of pro and college game experience upon a QB is not credible? We disagree. Others in this thread have addressed this item well.

The second comment doesn’t make a lot of sense. QB X, in college, is coachable, but when he gets to the NFL he’s not, because he’s not in college? There’s no real explanation there. He’s the same person. I can’t think of a credible explanation as to how the situation would be different.

We just disagree on what's credible and what makes sense. I think that there are several credible possibilities, several of which have been submitted in this thread by myself and others. Some are more likely than others according to each person's judgement.

Age doesn’t work, as David Lewin mentioned earlier. The “maybe the problem is that they become instantly rich and famous�? Maybe, but it’s a severe stretch. College has plenty of other distractions as well. It’s also hard to believe that nearly everyone who enters the NFL without a significant number of starts would struggle. People handle distractions differently.

You don't think that it's reasonable to postulate that there could be a qualitative difference between college distractions and 1st round QB distractions? I disagree.

It’s not a hypothesis. It’s a statement. You haven’t given any plausible reason as to why this would be true. All the explanations you’ve given don’t really explain the available facts.

Yes it is a hypothesis. Look up the definition of the word if you like. It may or may not be a scientific hypothesis (i.e. testable) but my usage of the word is correct. I've given plenty of plausible reasons, we just disagree on this point.

I’d really love to hear a credible reason as to why starting additional games in college helps a quarterback in ways that can’t be done in the NFL. And just starting the games: not starts against good/bad competition.

There have been plenty of credible reasons suggested by myself and others during this thread. It's just your opinion that they're not credible. We just disagree. I'd love to hear a credible defense of how scouts value flaws above all other factors when evaluating potential first round QB's especially given the workout wonders who've been drafted in the first rounds of the past. I'd also love to hear credible reasons why my assumptions are not credible.

I think that for most people, my assumption that JR would've performed at least as well as a Senior as he did as a Sophomore is reasonable/credible (and conservative).

I think that for most people, my assumption that JR would've been picked somewhere in the first round is also reasonable/credible given his current physical aspects (NFL scout's dream), workout, game performance, and flaws.

I think that for most people, my hypothesis that extra game experience would have caused JR to project as a better NFL QB is also reasonable/credible given that it is one of the three factors that are correlated with success according to the QB projection system. Again, it may not be correct, but until more data is uncovered pointing one way or the other it is reasonable/credible. Whether or not an individual finds it convincing is entirely up to them.

170
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 5:27pm

You don’t think that it’s reasonable to postulate that there could be a qualitative difference between college distractions and 1st round QB distractions?

All of the 'social' explanations - 'confidence', 'distraction', etc. - they're all weak because you're looking for an effect which is nearly universal. It's tough to believe that the reason that every sub-30 start quarterback failed is because they couldn't handle the distractions to continue to learn in the NFL.

Moreover, it's tough to believe that a GM/coach wouldn't recognize that distractions are preventing him from learning and changing that.

There have been plenty of credible reasons suggested by myself and others during this thread.

Which one?

I'm just trying to hear any suggestion which doesn't treat college as "magic" somehow. Keep in mind - all of those sub-30 start quarterbacks never got better, which means the 'effective damage' from not starting that last year has to be irreversible. It also has to be universal - similar effects for all players - or otherwise variation would wash out the correlation.

A poor scouting job (due to lack of information) is obviously irreversible on its own. It's also universal, since it's a feature of scouts rather than the players, and the players come and go, but the scouts are always there.

’d love to hear a credible defense of how scouts value flaws above all other factors when evaluating potential first round QB’s especially given the workout wonders who’ve been drafted in the first rounds of the past.

Because usually those players either don't have a lot of starts, or don't have a lot of games against significant competition. Therefore there aren't really any flaws for them to have. The workouts give them upside, with no flaws. Poof, first rounder.

Mike Williams is a prime example. This is usually true of most "workout wonders" who fail in the NFL.

but until more data is uncovered pointing one way or the other it is reasonable/credible.

The best data would be whether or not the correlation with starts weakens/disappears/reverses as you move out of the first round. If it does, it's hard to believe that it's causative. If anything, players deeper in the draft should have a stronger need for "magic College Start juice".

171
by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 5:57pm

To summarize: Pat and I disagree.

Translated back to the playground:

Mike: Hey look what happens if I do this! Cool, check it out!

Pat: You can't do that.

Mike: Yes, I can.

Pat: No, you can't.

Mike: Uh-huh

Pat: Nuh-uh

Mike: Uh-huh

Pat: Nuh-uh

Mike: Uh-huh

Pat: Nuh-uh

(pause for breath)

Mike: Uh-huh

Pat: Nuh-uh

Mike: Uh-huh

Pat: Nuh-uh

.

.

.

.

.

172
by Jerry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 6:56pm

Moreover, it’s tough to believe that a GM/coach wouldn’t recognize that distractions are preventing him from learning and changing that.

Like Jeff Fisher and Pacman Jones?

I’m just trying to hear any suggestion which doesn’t treat college as “magic� somehow. Keep in mind - all of those sub-30 start quarterbacks never got better, which means the ‘effective damage’ from not starting that last year has to be irreversible. It also has to be universal - similar effects for all players - or otherwise variation would wash out the correlation.

Thinking out loud: Even the best college defense isn't going to be as good as professionals. Maybe that extra year of reading coverages and pass rushes that are a bit slower and/or less complex than the NFL is a useful step toward starting in the pros, while trying to do it at the NFL level is just too overwhelming in most cases.

173
by Oily Harry (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 8:01pm

re: 163

Raiderjoe is our resident drunk, it seems.

174
by Mikey Benny (not verified) :: Fri, 04/20/2007 - 9:40pm

#47: Sorry to diverge from the thread topic, but I had to speak up.

I grew up near Pittsburgh and lived more than half my life in Jacksonville, so I am both a Steeler and a Jaguar fan. As such, I watch almost all Steeler and Jaguar games when they don't conflict.

That said, it is almost laughable to me that people are arguing there's a comparison between Roethlisberger's and Leftwich's mobility. I don't care about the rushing yards; neither one is a "running QB" a la Vince Young or Michael Vick. Rushing yards don't tell the story in this case.

Leftwich, while a decent QB, is a sitting duck in the pocket. Just watch him play. Roethlisberger's trademark through his short career has been making rushers miss (hopefully he'll recover from last year's disaster). He is MUCH more willing to scramble to buy time than Leftwich.

I like both teams... just my opinion. It just made me chuckle to see two people on this thread say that Leftwich and Roethlisberger are similarly mobile, and I had to say something.

Cheers.

175
by PantsB (not verified) :: Sat, 04/21/2007 - 11:52pm

Great article, this is exactly what I have been thinking. Before the sugarbowl NO ONE was talking about Russell being the first overall pick and suddenly after one game everyone has him as the best player in College? No way, Im not buying it.
Exactly. If LSU doesn't dismantle ND (the most loved and hated team in America) in the 2nd half of the (home game) Sugar Bowl, Russell isn't a top 10 pick. When you're talking about the athleticism and arm of a QB, the QB is probably not going to be much good at the pro level. Vince Young went on a winning streak at the end of the season but passed poorly (and will have to overcome people having tape on him now) so even if Russell is the "poor man's Vince Young", that doesn't indicate worthiness of a #1 pick.

Weis' "combination of Brady and Manning" comments about Quinn are clearly a coach pumping up his QB but he still has to be rated as one of the best prospects in recent years. Essentially, a big game for Quinn has been defined as one he didn't win - 5 out of 6 of his upperclassman losses came against top 10 teams. Without his earlier success, no one would have held those against him. No one killed Jay Cutler for not achieving what Quinn has and the talent level got so bad at ND that Vandy wasn't far behind.

176
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 1:18am

I'm not saying this isn't somewhat worthwhile, but it really oversimplifies the whole thing and isn't really a system, persay. Great, so guys who start more games and have higher completion percentages in college tend to do better in the NFL. For some reason, I have a hard time calling it a "system" because there is very little substance to it.
I do agree that Russell would be a poor pick if someone were to take him top 5, but that has more to do with what I've seen of him and heard about him than how many games he actually started.

177
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 2:52am

"talent level got so bad at ND that Vandy wasn’t far behind."

I nominate this as my favorite joke of the thread so far. Because there's absolutely no f'ing way you could possibly be serious.

178
by SJM (not verified) :: Sun, 04/22/2007 - 8:17pm

Sid,

Read the article in PFP2006, and you'll see how accurate this "system" is. It's amazing, and the fact that it's really simple is irrelevant. Actually, as people have pointed out, the issue of games started and why it is predictive is not simple at all and may include a number of important factors (talent/skill, scouting ability, experience/learning, established consistency, etc).

One of the important points of the system is that things that scouts emphasize like arm strength, height, running ability/athleticism, moxie/leadership, etc. might not be important at all past a certain minimum. That by itself is a pretty bold statement.

179
by MC2 (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 1:22am

Good article, and interesting comments. However, I have a couple of problems with the projection/analysis.

First, if the Auburn game exposed so many of Russell's flaws, why are the scouts still so high on him? Most of the scouts seem to agree that his decisionmaking needs improvement, but they all seem to feel any flaws are outweighed by his potential. Did none of these guys see the game that "summed up pretty much everything that Russell is"?

Also, it seems a little strange that the projection totally ignores strength of schedule. For example, starting 40 games and completing 60% of your passes in a tough conference like the SEC would seem to be a better indication of NFL-caliber talent and ability than posting the exact same numbers against a schedule filled with the likes of the service academies.

180
by Kuato (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 4:28am

MC2,

I think the strength of schedule issue is preemptively taken care of by the scouts. This system only correlates with prospects that get drafted in the first or second round. All the QBs out there with 4 years of starting experience and a 75% completion percentage against the Hanover Panthers (my tiny alma mater) of the world are already weeded out before the projection system is even applied to them. This of course assumes that the scouts are able to properly identify 1st and 2nd round talent.

181
by fact check (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 7:11am

David, very insightful article. You seem like a intellectually honest guy who is genuinely interested in learning and sharing knowledge, so allow me this feeble attempt at both.

First off, the "fierce competition" for LSU's number 1 QB spot wasn't nearly as close as many in the (national) media believe. Most folks capable of rational analysis in Baton Rouge know that perception was intentionally perpetuated by LSU staff to: 1. Keep Flynn from transfering; 2. Help placate and indulge a very talented though very immature Ryan Perriloux. I encourage you to investigate this claim further.
Next, you make excellent points regarding Russell's decision making struggles. Only the most irrational Tiger Fan could dispute the veracity of these particular insights. (Disclosure: I am an LSU fan, though hopefully not of the former variety.) My only addition to your point is that Russell's two or three very poor decisions in the referenced Auburn game was not the major factor in their lose. I realize this sounds simplistic but it was more the atrocious play of his teammates (Roughly 15 drops!) And I know there is no more storied cliche than a fan who complains about the refs, but David, you seem like an intellectual. I routinely chew out the people who whine about the refs, but that game is different. Again, I encourage you to review the game to verify these limited points. The Florida game was an entire disaster for the whole team and Russell's 2-3 bad plays didn't help. But he, as he normally did, made enough plays to keep them in it when they should have gotten blown out. They played that poorly. I am not sure how fair it is to judge a guy definitively on top ten SEC roadgames, especially considering Quinn's record against non-Juco teams.
I save for last my thoughts on what I felt was the weakest aspect of an otherwise stellar article. It is true that Russell has at times made bad decisions, but I disagree strongly with your assessment that "Russell gets rattled when things don't go well." You must not have researched this. Russell has between 7-9 late 4th quarter comebacks on his belt, many of which were against Top Ten SEC caliber opponents on the road. This stat undermines your implication that Russell lacks leadership ability or mental toughness. I can assure you as someone who has watched him closely, he has vast amounts, not to mention the physical abilities. (But your point remains valid: several of these games were close due in part to poor Russell decisions. But I believe we are both fair enough to distinguish guts, humility, heart, leadership and freakish physicality from occasional poor decisions, which admittedly are an issue.)

182
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 12:07pm

#180: Which the Massey-Thaler study shows they can - if you take a look at the "performance level by round of draft" chart in that graph, it's perfectly monotonic.

But it's not just that they ignore QBs who play against poor competition. They just weight it properly, which is really impressive that they can get it anywhere near right, recognizing that Roethlisberger beat the utter trash out of his competition when they were on an equal footing and only lost when the team was greatly overmatched, for instance.

183
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 5:05pm

#181

Thanks for the helpful feedback. I agree with most of your points. This article came out a bit more negative on Russell than I actually am because I felt the analysis should line up with the results suggested by my formula.

I know that the QB controversy this past year was largely to placate Flynn and Perriloux and to light a fire under Russell. This would not be a problem for me if we were talking in general about Russell's chances as a pro prospect. However, when considering a guy for the number one pick I would want a guy who was truly an exceptional player, and truly exceptional players are not in danger (regardless of how slight) of losing their jobs heading into the final year of their collegiate career.

I realize there were other reasons that LSU lost the Auburn game, and I don't mean to place that loss on Russell's (broad) shoulders. My point was merely that his conduct on the last drive of that game suggested a guy who had no idea what as going on. That worries me a little bit. He did have numerous other excellent fourth quarter drives and comebacks, but I can't help but be a little unnerved by what I saw in the Auburn game.

184
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Mon, 04/23/2007 - 5:15pm

178

It is an interesting statement, and for some reason I'd never thought about it until now - you sort of think after all this time, NFL teams know what they're doing, but maybe they really are just being blinded by raw physical ability and think they can teach accuracy, pocket awareness, and reading defenses. I can't think of any QB offhand that's playing at any sort of significant level now that suddenly learned how to read defenses and become accurate after becoming a pro. I guess there's a reason why the Chad Penningtons are suiting up an the Kyle Bollers are on the bench.

185
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2007 - 3:09am

I can't see Russell working out for the Raiders.

We're mostly agreed that Eli Manning, for example, isn't living up to his draft status. So people start calling you out as a bust if you're putting up fairly league-average stats in your third year.

Now consider what Russell's facing. There's a general perception that having a terrible line can permanently ruin a young quarterback and screw up his development. Also, having two headcases at WR probably doesn't help either. When those guys are purged, Russell might have to work with new rookies, or with overrated free agents. It's going to be a far cry from blasting apart college opposition with Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. It's probably too big of a transition to expect him to make. That crazy learning curve alone probably could set anyone back for years.

How good do you think Russell needs to be to overcome that and start putting up league-average stats in a terrible offense by his third year? Philip Rivers-good? Carson Palmer-good? Tom Brady-good? Unless Russell's the sort of quarterback who can single-handedly turn an offense around by himself, people will be calling for his head by 2009 or so.

186
by Alex (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2007 - 4:17pm

"There’s a general perception that having a terrible line can permanently ruin a young quarterback and screw up his development."

From what I understand, this can be corrected with good coaching/change in scenery. For instance, Steve Young was atrocious in his first two seasons with Tampa Bay, but when given better coaching/O-line play in San Francisco he was able to turn things around quite nicely. Of course it's better to just avoid developing those bad habits in the first place, so that you don't have to lose valuable time relearning things, but it won't necessarily cause permanent damage.

187
by War N Peace (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2007 - 5:01pm

Someone please help me out...

I'm trying to find the location of the line from 2006 (maybe in PFP or an online article) where David specifically names Russell as a candidate for bust if he has a spectacular season in 2006. I appreciate the help...

Also I love this article...

Just as a brief anecdote about the starting fewer games in college before jumping to the NFL. I'm currently 2 months away from getting my PhD in physics (no i'm not saying this to show that I'm smart.)... I've served as a graduate school adviser for many in-coming graduate students, and I've spent a lot of time investigating the how poor undergraduate preparation for graduate school can curse you to fail when it comes to taking your comprehensive exams.

Student A can come in with a pretty poor background, but has some other outstanding quality, 1. good research experience, 2. very insightful in one particular area... but has a very poor understanding of general physics principles and manages to hammer through classes, bs'ing a few homework assignments here and there... and gets good enough grades to pass but all the while harbors these deeply flawed ideas. When it comes for the huge massive exam, many of these students fail and can't comprehend why...

My sample size is only the past 5 years, but it's pretty easy to identify people in this category versus...

Student B: Comes in with poor background and through guidance or intuition realizes they need to hammer away at the basics if they are going to continue succeeding. There rare talents (e.g. deep insight into high-level concepts) doesn't help if they haven't worked really hard at all the basics....

Sorry, a bit long-winded and for most completely unrelated, but I think it's an interesting parallel (at least from my standpoint) to players with some elite talent, that, do inadequate preparation on an appropriate level, may very well meet insurmountable challenges when the gradient for improvement becomes to steep.

Just to re-cap I'd really like to find that quote.. cuz I think it's brilliant. I hope it's not just something I've made up...

188
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2007 - 10:53pm

I mention Russell in my Leftwich comment in PFP 2006. Lets just say I saw this coming a mile away.

189
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Tue, 04/24/2007 - 10:58pm

Forgot to mention above that it's on page 440

190
by War N Peace (not verified) :: Wed, 04/25/2007 - 2:06am

Bless you sir.

I distinctly remember reading that at the beginning of last year.. and as this whole year unfolded I was just licking my chops... God Bless Statistics.

191
by fact check (not verified) :: Thu, 04/26/2007 - 7:59am

We are all genuinely impressed by your physics achievements, and a hearty congratulations to you. Well done. If that were our topic you can rest assured I would cease talking/typing rapidly. But we are discussing athletes so allow me to respond if you would kind sir.

By the way, I am a Yale Law Grad and I have seen the exact kind of student you describe, and they can do what you describe because generally they are just smarter. It stings but we have to face facts.

I respectfully disagree that 29 starts in today's SEC is "poor preparation." I believe 29 equals 39 in any other conference, and I certainly acknowledge and concede a certain amount of bias. This specific argument, however, can be made with rational thought, completely divorced from bias. Please see my earlier entry so I may attempt to avoid redundancy.

Russell's decision making woes are a fact. But they are the exception, not the rule. I submit Russell did ok on the final: 25-4; 8 late 4th quarter comebacks, 4 against ranked teams on the road; an anemic run offense when playing real teams and yet he leads the SEC in pass efficiency (hardly the place where poorly prepared, lazy idiots reside) and leads LSU to no. 1 in total offense.

Don't allow his race or freakish athleticism to foster stereotypes or to blind you to the fact that this kid may be special. Overall, he is way smarter than he is being portrayed and his heart and leadership are truly second to none.

In every respect, ND's glorious and well-earned past accolades afford them a current level of respect and deference that they have not earned in quite a while. I believe this currently extends to many of their individual players as well. I recognize that Russell had superior athletes around him--news flash, so do most teams in the SEC. Thus he is playing better people almost on a weekly basis. And please don't argue SOS; that system is more flawed than the BCS. LSU was only the 2nd team in NCAA history to play 4 Top Ten Teams on the ROAD. They went 2-2. How did ND do on the road against non-juco teams?

Underestimate and stereotype Russell to your own detriment. If you know anything of his history, you know people have done precisely that all his life.

192
by Absurd (not verified) :: Thu, 04/26/2007 - 2:54pm

All hail the SEC, greatest of all the conferences, so dominant that its starts count double and correlations mean naught; home to not -1, not 0, but 1 of the top fifteen NFL quarterbacks!

Truly, all should praise Russell for struggling through with a one-dimensional offense, which finished just second in the SEC in rushing yards per game (only 166!). If you weren't so racist, Dave, you'd mention that Russell was on the road four times this season, and won HALF of those games! Do you realize that in those matchups, he threw six touchdowns, and just six interceptions? That his QB rating for those games was 126.8, well over what any NFL quarterback accomplished this season?

Don't try to confuse me with facts like strength of schedule, news flash, 60% of facts are made up. Russell dominated the SEC QB rating standings, head and shoulders above other future NFL stars like Andre Woodson and Blake Mitchell. He also came through in the clutch time and again; in fact, he began throwing interceptions and spiking the ball to spot his opponents points, intentionally challenging himself to rally late in the fourth, which counts way more than the rest of the game.

Underestimate Russell at your peril; did you know he was only the second rated quarterback in his high school class (yet another example of disrespect) and only Mr. Football in his state, not the nation? Don't be a fool because he's black and not as pretty as Quinn the golden boy; Russell's heart and toughness will show you and everybody else where it counts: in individual workouts.

193
by Tom Brady Jr. (not verified) :: Thu, 04/26/2007 - 6:24pm

I don't like the cheap shot he took at my dad; my mom is not an impregnated B-list actress...she wishes...

194
by K. Hobbs (not verified) :: Fri, 04/27/2007 - 4:43am

Pure and simple, Brady Quinn is not a winner. He will get eaten alive in the NFL.

195
by Jivas (not verified) :: Sat, 04/28/2007 - 3:37am

Sixty-eight percent.

Why haven't I seen that number *ANYWHERE* on this page? JaMarcus Russell completed 68% of his passes last year - sure, his career completion percentage is 61%, but he improved from 50% to 60% to 68% in his three years of game action. Does this trend not seem relevant to anyone?? I understand and am a fan of the system, but you're telling me that he's a bust, but it's obvious that if Russell returned for one more year and repeated his 2006 season he'd look like a superstar by the system.

I expect more scientific analysis from this site. Blech.

196
by mike (not verified) :: Sun, 04/29/2007 - 7:17am

I like this post, and I will say it for you, black QBs are always overrated!! They have big arms but can they think? Brady Quinn is by far smarter than Russell. I understand what you are trying to say without having to spell it out!!

197
by Tom Piakowski (not verified) :: Mon, 04/30/2007 - 11:22am

Leading up to the draft I was hearing all my black co-workers say the media seems to be over hyping Brady Quinn. I disagreed and said the proof will be in the pudding on Saturday. I knew that the NFL wouldn't fall for media's propaganda if he wasn't as good as every one said. Then on Saturday he wasn't drafted until the 22nd pick. With Miami needing a QB they passed on him. Could it be that the man speculated to go possibly go number one, didn't go until late. I have a lot of friends and we often discuss the racism and prejudices in sports. I use to think they were just paranoid and sensitive. But now I do see that all racism is blatant, and intentional. If fact most is accidental or subconscious, like the contents of this article. Let's face it, America is extremely racist country. The NFL is a reflection of America. Certain jobs for certain people. What else could it be when you have Jamarcus dropping jaws with what he can do physically, and what he did in the SEC while missing his starting and second string RB, and his private work out. Now compare those very real and tangible attributes to Brady's. He is intelligent, he is more ready for the NFL and he played for Weis. None of that can be measured. Then you throw in the hidden facts not mentioned until after he dropped to the 22nd pick. Brady doesn’t throw the deep ball well, and he cracks under pressure. The QB doesn’t have to be computer scientist or brain surgeons as much as the media and NFL would love you to believe. Will Brady Quinn be a better pro than Jamarcus, only time will tell? But based on his physical stature, arm strength and ability to think and read coverage, it’s a no brainer why he went first. It is what underlying thoughts contained in this article that’s so troubling. We live in a racist country, governed by racist, inhabited by racist, and fueled by those of us that ignore it. I can no longer ignore it.

198
by Caleb Speight (not verified) :: Mon, 04/30/2007 - 1:44pm

The only thing i'm going to say is that Jamarcus Russel played in a much harder conference and had much more success. Brady Quinn, an outstanding quarterback, played well against teaams they were supposed to demolish. When it was big game situations, he couldn't hold a candle to Jamarcus's ability to come back in the fourth quarter. Sorry, but in the NFL i want the guy who always finds a way to get the W. Oh yea, and watch ESPN, he's much better than an "average passer."

199
by Elve Jones (not verified) :: Mon, 04/30/2007 - 3:14pm

Brady Quinn, the Hype! Complete Media Hype! You guys stated last year that Vince Young would not be able to understand Norm Chow's system. Well, what happened? Great games and a promise for the next season at the Titans camp! Now to the Media Hyped Poster Boy and Model, Brady Quinn, he will have to be able to get over the pounding at the NFL level. He could not do it at the college level. That one game against LSU was a make or break. Take a look at the number of players from the SEC that were taken in the draft! Think about the wording of your article. I hope he does not receive a "Welcome to the NFL" de-cleater like Reggie Bush! I think that he will quit football and model Hanes with his girl friend.

200
by kleph (not verified) :: Mon, 04/30/2007 - 6:01pm

inre 199: You guys stated last year that Vince Young would not be able to understand Norm Chow’s system.

actually, that's not what was said on FO at all. please read the articles on the site before you troll.

201
by zachary (not verified) :: Tue, 05/01/2007 - 7:13pm

Last year I really wanted Matt Leinart in Silver and Black. Didn't happen, and now he looks like a stud-in-the-making. This year I was really hoped for Brady Quinn, despite all of the Jamarcus hype. Didn't happen, and I'm having Todd Marinovich flashbacks.

202
by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2007 - 2:02pm

Looks like Gil Brandt stole this study and claimed it as his. Nice job, Gil.

203
by RMGreen (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2007 - 3:49pm

After Gregg Easterbrook referened the Gil Brandt article in his most recent TMQ, I sent a message to GE telling him about Lewin's work. He later edited the TMQ article to give Lewin and FO credit for their work in the area. Apparently GE asked Brandt if he'd seen Lewin's work, and he said he hadn't. Personally, I think it's likely that this is true, especially since I didn't see any reference to completion percentage in Brandt's piece. But Lewin should definitely get credit for breaking first ground with the FO projection system.

204
by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2007 - 4:00pm

He mentions completion % very often in the piece. The table of QBs has exactly two stats - completion % and starts.

205
by Kal (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2007 - 4:07pm

Whoops, I totally misread it. never mind. Yeah, okay, it's mostly starts. I could've sworn there was completion % as well. Sorry.

206
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 05/02/2007 - 11:59pm

Thanks for having my back guys, if you check out the ESPN 2007 NFL draft guide that FO contributed to you'll see where Gil's paragraph came from. Also, Gil writes, "There seem to be two important predictors for success when drafting quarterbacks. One is games started." He nevers specifies the other, almost as if that quote was taken out of context from somewhere else...

The situation is being addressed through the proper channels.

207
by Daniel (not verified) :: Thu, 05/03/2007 - 3:47pm

David,

Can you please, please, please show a chart of the QB's from the draft (and the free agents) and their projections? I'm dying to know how Kevin Kolb stacks up against the rest ... Go Iggles!!!

208
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Fri, 05/04/2007 - 4:02am

Kolb's gonna be a stud, but you are going to have to wait for PFP for the chart with exact numbers. Sorry.

209
by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Fri, 05/04/2007 - 4:07am

That's probably not going to happen until the prospectus comes out, Daniel. If we're lucky he'll give us something vague, like "Kolb looks good." He has a crapload of starts, but his completion percentage wasn't particularly awesome until his senior year. Beck had two years of really good completion percentages, and was at 35 or so starts, but who knows how it averages out. Stanton only had 29 starts, though his completion percentages were good. I'm guessing Quinn comes out looking the best out of everybody.

210
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sun, 05/06/2007 - 3:50pm

David, do you believe there is an extent to which the projection for Kolb is likely to be higher than it should because of the context (system) in which he posted that completion percentage?

I've suggested on the FO forums that it seems NFL scouts and GMs are (Al Davis aside) increasingly aware of the importance of accuracy and decision-making, as indicated by completion percentage, in evaluating college quarterbacks, and that arm strength is no longer as prized as it once was. If this is the case, should we expect the system to become slightly less accurate or require tweaking, as guys like John Beck who five years ago might not have been taken in the second now are? To put it another way, if scouts are now turned on to the system or something like it, does that not devalue the scouting input to the system, in the form of the cut-off after pick #64?

211
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Wed, 05/09/2007 - 1:36pm

#210

Perhaps. The system is based on which statistics have been undervalued recently. Eventually scouts will catch on, and the mis-valuation will disappear eliminating the system's effectiveness.

212
by Michael Beckwith (not verified) :: Sun, 05/20/2007 - 3:43am

Outstanding. I read last years' FB Prospectus and I'm glad I found your page. I agree with your Quinn assessment btw...

213
by Joe (not verified) :: Tue, 12/25/2007 - 7:48pm

Hey Dave, I am a first time poster here and this post may seem a little late lol.

But I was purchased your 07 Prospectus as a Christmas Gift (my mom didnt understand it wasnt a review of the season but a preview of it) and couldnt help but notice a misconception in the amount of games Russell has played in. If you count games he had substancial playing time in but didnt start the figure comes to 39 Games Appeared in with a completion % of 61%. Not to bad figures.

214
by quality software (not verified) :: Tue, 11/13/2012 - 4:58pm

ӏ like the helpful іnfο you provide in youг articles.
ӏ'll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite certain I will learn a lot of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!