QBASE 2022: Can Pickett Prosper in Pittsburgh?
NFL Offseason - Guest column by Alex Olbrecht and Jeremy Rosen
Projections for the 2022 rookie quarterback class were lukewarm at best going into the draft, and NFL teams largely agreed. With the exception of Kenny Pickett, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, all the quarterbacks predicted to go highly fell into or past the third round.
Because the 2022 draft had not yet occurred when we published QBASE 2.0 at ESPN.com and Football Outsiders, we used Scouts Inc.'s projected draft position as an predictor variable instead of actual draft position. However, the model is designed to use actual draft position, so after the draft, we always update our projections accordingly. We would ordinarily release our updated projections next spring, but for this class, the differences between projected and actual draft position were quite large. In addition, we need to drop Sam Howell and Carson Strong from our projections because neither of them was drafted in the first three rounds, a requirement for QBASE 2.0. Therefore, we are releasing the updates in this column.
First of all, Kenny Pickett's projection improves very slightly since, at 21st overall, he was drafted one spot ahead of his Scouts Inc. projection (22nd overall). But this change is not significant, and we still find that he has about a 50/50 chance of being an adequate NFL starter.
However, there are significant changes in our projections for Desmond Ridder (projected by Scouts Inc. to be drafted 36th overall, actually drafted 74th overall), Matt Corral (projected 34th, drafted 94th), and Malik Willis (projected 21st, drafted 86th) because they were all selected well below their projected draft positions. As such, their projected bust rates increase significantly, and their chances of being an adequate, upper tier, or elite starter decrease significantly.
|Postdraft QBASE Projections, 2022 Draft Class|
|Bust: < 0.00 TDYAR/A; Adequate Starter: 0.00-0.75; Upper Tier: 0.75-1.50; Elite: > 1.50|
However, we present Willis' projection with a significant deal of caution. Ultimately, how much to trust his projection comes down to why he fell so far. If his fall was due even in part to NFL teams using internal models that resemble QBASE 2.0 (which always preferred Pickett over him), then actual draft position will have become correlated with the rest of the model. Therefore, including it means we are effectively double-counting it, which in turn gives Willis an overly harsh penalty. So, for example, while it is safe to say that QBASE 2.0 does not love Willis' chances of being a good NFL quarterback, we would not be shocked if he ends up being one.
In conclusion, QBASE 2.0 projects that this year's quarterback class is now even more likely to descend into obscurity (like the 2007 and 2013 classes) than it was before the draft. However, even with these perhaps overly pessimistic projections, there is still a 13.5% chance that at least one of these quarterbacks will be elite, and a 78.1% chance that at least one will be an adequate starter or better. In addition, NFL teams can consider unquantifiable information that statistical models cannot. For example, the Steelers have been able to watch Pickett for four years, as they and the University of Pittsburgh practice in the same facility. Therefore, if Pickett is successful, it will illustrate that drafting quarterbacks is still very much an art, even as statistical models continue to become a more instrumental part of the process.
Jeremy Rosen is a doctoral student of economics at Georgetown University. Alexandre Olbrecht is a professor of economics at Ramapo College of New Jersey and the Executive Director of the Eastern Economic Association. The views in this column are expressly our own and do not represent the views of Georgetown University, Ramapo College, the State of New Jersey, or the Eastern Economic Association.