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The 2020 QB Statistical Breakdown vs. Toughest Competition Project

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@blakemurphy7 breaks down the metrics and performances from this year’s top crop of rookie quarterbacks—how did they fare against their toughest competition in college?

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Hello all you football fans & scouting nerds.

It’s that time of year again. For those unfamiliar, each year since 2017 (and a bit dabbling in 2016) I’ve tried to put together a scouting method that streamlines the process for determining the good or bad or “meh” NFL quarterback prospects using the scouting processes that I was given.

I’ve evolved those over the years featuring different metrics such as the Height/Weight/Speed, # Of Games started vs. % could have started, ball velocity, even checking the “Parcells Rules” and creating my own version. You can check out the last few years below:

2017

2018

2019

That said, there’s a few things that my numbers have pulled away which I’ve found VERY interesting.

The first is that in determining a jump from the college game to the NFL game, production is one of the biggest keys in seeing what a “typical” game might look like for a prospect. Some of the things to look for are a 2:1 QB to INT ratio in the pros (with 3:1 being a threshold for “franchise QB” material in terms of a guy you pay the big bucks to and can win you a super bowl, as well as putting up high yardage and production AGAINST the best teams and defenses that you will face.

It also translates across games as well—if you’re a D-II school, but your toughest competition was a Power 5 conference game, then that is your competition. For my metrics, I pick and choose games usually against ranked opponents or opponents w/ unusually highly ranked defenses if not so. But, in Big 12 terms, if an opposing offense is scoring, well, you’ll have to produce too, and I’ve found it’s all evened out.

Over the years, the “Tier 1” quarterbacks have separated themselves with the following average stats per game against the BEST teams they’ve faced in college:

  • A 65% completion percentage
  • 325+ yards passing/rushing combined in a game
  • 3 TD’s, 1 INT’s in a game
  • Win on average (example, if 5 games scouted and 3-2 record, they average a win)

The following quarterbacks I’ve utilized with this method are the ones who tested into the Tier 1 category, in order:

  1. Patrick Mahomes (only exception to the “Win” rule going 1-4 in his big games)
  2. Kyler Murray
  3. Deshaun Watson
  4. Dwayne Haskins
  5. Lamar Jackson

What I’ve found that’s been interesting is how the impact of rushing yards and their inclusion drastically altered some of my formula. For example, in 2018 Lamar Jackson’s “pedestrian” passing numbers were lower than the other QB’s in his class (Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen, Allen) at only 262 yards passing...BUT he averaged a crazy 98-112 rushing yards A GAME against the likes of SEC and ACC teams.

That thrust him into the 350+ yardage total and he clearly tested into the “Tier 1” category. Long story short, his unique rushing ability showed me that rushing WAS production...and it prepped me to factor that in for a Kyler Murray season the following year in which his yardage never dipped below 400 yards in a game...wow.

That’s the list. The ones below that at around 315 yards, 2 TD’s 1 INT ended up testing into a “second tier” of quarterback where they could be come steady options at the next level with talent around them, but so far have fallen short of “stardom”. Drew Lock and Baker Mayfield (I lowered my expectations on him when his TD/INT ratio dipped from 5:1 to 2:1 as soon as he played games outside the Big 12, to be frank)

Lower than that received other round grades with a few interesting options such as Daniel Jones, Josh Allen and DeShone Kizer ended up having under 200 or so passing yards with either 1:1 TD/INT ratios or worse and have ended up in a 3rd tier. What’s interesting is that while Josh Allen’s been able to overcome that though his 2nd season in the NFL, he still doesn’t quite have the 2:1 TD/INT ratio and when it’s a game about ball control and scoring, that’s a big factor...but his legs and rushing ability was something I didn’t account for like I should have, and did with Lamar Jackson.

So in short:

  • Tier 1=Franchise QB, elite potential
  • Tier 2=Solid starter potential
  • Tier 3=Upside spot starter/backup
  • Tier 4=Backup QB

In any case that’s more just a bit of the context leading up to the MAIN EVENT.

And in case you’re wondering...yes, there was a QB this year who surpassed some of that production...but didn’t quite SHATTER it like I thought he might.

That would be the new Tier 1 QB in Joe Burrow.

Here he is with the rest of the grand totals in the chart below, and I’ve got a link right here to the entire spreadsheet for your viewing pleasure!

2020 QB Project—Overall Game Summary

QB Name Games Scouted Completions Attempts Comp. % Yards Rush Yds Total Yds TD's Rush TD's Total TD's INT's TD: INT Ratio W/L
QB Name Games Scouted Completions Attempts Comp. % Yards Rush Yds Total Yds TD's Rush TD's Total TD's INT's TD: INT Ratio W/L
Joe Burrow 2018-5 Georgia, 8 UCF, 1 Bama 2019-13 Bama,4 Georgia, 3 Clemson 144 228 63.16% 1983 257 2240 16 3 19 2 9.5 5-1
Tua Tagovailoa 2018-4 LSU, 4 GA, 4 OU, 2 Clemson 2019-2 LSU, 24 A&M 123 206 59.71% 1783 13 1796 14 1 15 7 2.1 3-2
Jordan Love 2018-11 Mich St, 21 Boise St 2019: 5 LUS, 20 Boise St, Fresno St 124 196 63.27% 1429 3 1432 6 1 7 7 1.0 1-4
Justin Herbert 2019- Boise St, 2018 7 Stanford, 7 Wash 2019 8 Wisconsin, 5 Utah, 16 Auburn 126 184 68.48% 1354 92 1446 7 3 10 4 2.5 3-2
Jalen Hurts 2017-6 Auburn, 2 Clemson 2019 1 LSU, 7 Baylor, 11 Texas 89 147 60.54% 981 410 1391 10 4 14 2 7.0 3-2
Jake Fromm 2017- 4 Bama, 2 OU, 2018: 1 Bama, 2019: 7 Baylor, 2 LSU 101 172 58.72% 1218 -46 1172 9 0 9 4 2.3 2-3
Jacob Eason 2016: 8 Auburn, 14 Florida 2019: 10 Boise St, 12 Oregon, 9 Utah 111 179 62.01% 1236 -63 1173 10 0 10 3 3.3 2-3
Anthony Gordon 2019- 19 Utah, 18 ASU, 11 Oregon, Washington, Air Force (Bowl) 182 267 68.16% 1783 -42 1741 10 1 11 6 1.8 0-5

Now, let’s take a look when dividing the total games by the # of the to see what their AVERAGE game might look like (and this is where it gets interesting and easier to understand):

2020 QB Project—Individual Game Averages

QB Name Average Game Completions Attempts Comp. % Yards Rush Yds Total Yds TD's Rush TD's INT's W/L
QB Name Average Game Completions Attempts Comp. % Yards Rush Yds Total Yds TD's Rush TD's INT's W/L
Joe Burrow 2018-5 Georgia, 8 UCF, 1 Bama 2019-13 Bama,4 Georgia, 3 Clemson 24 38 63.16% 331 43 373 3 1 0 W
Tua Tagovailoa 2018-4 LSU, 4 GA, 4 OU, 2 Clemson 2019-2 LSU, 24 A&M 21 34 59.71% 297 2 299 2 0 1 W
Jordan Love 2018-11 Mich St, 21 Boise St 2019: 5 LUS, 20 Boise St, Fresno St 25 39 63.27% 286 1 286 1 0 1 L
Justin Herbert 2019- Boise St, 2018 7 Stanford, 7 Wash 2019 8 Wisconsin, 5 Utah, 16 Auburn 21 31 68.48% 226 15 241 1 1 1 W
Jalen Hurts 2017-6 Auburn, 2 Clemson 2019 1 LSU, 7 Baylor, 11 Texas 18 29 60.54% 196 82 278 2 1 0 W
Jake Fromm 2017- 4 Bama, 2 OU, 2018: 1 Bama, 2019: 7 Baylor, 2 LSU 20 34 58.72% 244 -9 234 2 0 1 L
Jacob Eason 2016: 8 Auburn, 14 Florida 2019: 10 Boise St, 12 Oregon, 9 Utah 22 36 62.01% 247 -13 235 2 0 1 L
Anthony Gordon 2019- 19 Utah, 18 ASU, 11 Oregon, Washington, Air Force (Bowl) 36 53 68.16% 357 -8 348 2 0 1 L

So with a MOUNTAIN of information and data let me put up a summary of each QB prospect for you followed up by some of the film work I did in examining and watching these games:

Joe Burrow: (Tier 1)

The cream of the crop of this year’s class and boy does he deserve it. Some questions will come about the arm strength on the film but you can’t argue with the production—

  • 370 yards with 4 td’s and less than 1 INT a game....whew that’s right up there with what Mahomes & Watson did (although they did it over 3 years with Burrow doing it in just one really talented team)
  • The way he extends plays and has his arm questioned by scouts as to the strength, to me, is the same sort of way Deshaun Watson was picked apart. And I do wonder if people would call Burrow a “running” quarterback when he was pretty equal in rushing yards with Deshaun...but for those surprised it wasn’t a 5 TD’s a game average...I always try to factor in earlier years to avoid a “total” one hit wonder (and did that with Kyler Murray).
  • It all works out anyways and Burrow is a guy I liken to Tony Romo at the next level and think he’s as surefire a thing as Kyler was looking to be last year, despite any risks that pop up, as a prospect my concerns are minimal.
  • His rushing production FLOORS the competition in this class (with one exception) and that’s led me to a new QB theory:
  • In today’s NFL you have to be athletic and able to extend plays and run with the football for positive production...taking negative plays w/ negative rushing yards, to me, is not going to be sustainable at the next level with all the new athletes. In short...the typical “pocket QB” is dead and gone with a few older ones like Brady and Brees hanging around in systems where they don’t need to run...but I don’t foresee many more QB’s making it in the league who are pocket only and can’t make positive plays or avoid sacks/hits in making plays.
  • Speaking of which....the surprise of the draft came next for me:

Tua Tagovailoa (Tier 2)

Tier 2!?!?! (Here come angry comments...)

That’s right. Tua to me is NOT one of these sure-fire franchise QB’s after going through this for two reasons.

The first=production is obviously lower (and some might say it’s b/c of all the talent at Alabama) but remember these are games looking at the TOUGHEST teams and defenses.

And what happened when Tua played tougher teams??

His Interception numbers went up and his passing yardage went down.

To me, that’s a definite sign of a non Tier 1 QB because for pretty much every other Tier 1 quarterback on this list, once their competition got tougher and they couldn’t run the ball on teams, the coaches turned to them to step up their game and their attempts, yards and touchdowns all increased...but the turnovers and negative plays didn’t.

That’s what creates an elite QB prospect in my mind.

  • With Tua, that was not the case as he didn’t even hit 60% completion against the toughest teams he played (Burrow almost hit 70%...imagine Burrow completing 20% MORE passes for every pass that Tua threw on a level playing field). He threw the ball 34 times (which was the 3rd most of any QB I examined) but only completed 21 of those in an average game, the 2nd lowest margin. I don’t think he’s as accurate a QB when windows are tighter, guys aren’t as open and he’s under pressure overall. While he’s made some INCREDIBLE plays under pressure, that doesn’t seem to be the norm.
  • He didn’t average 300 yards passing against the toughest teams (which remember, around 300-315 is the Tier 2 that I have)
  • Averaged 2:1 TD to INT ratio. And that’s something that no one has talked about...against the toughest defenses, Tua’s production was 14 passing touchdowns to...7 interceptions. The best QB’s I find HAVE to be a 3:1 TD/INT ratio threshold.
  • The final note on Tua, and it’s one I had similar to a Carson Wentz...but the rushing yards despite his athleticism being so low is concerning as it’s not a pocket QB league anymore. I would watch plenty of plays where he wouldn’t protect himself and would get BLASTED as he threw for a touchdown and had some “dumb” interceptions in a few big games. While those were rarer for his career, these tougher competitive games are where the coal turns into diamonds.
  • To compare—in the games I watched, Burrow was athletic enough to escape and get away and pick up some yards...and Tua wasn’t. And I wonder if either the injuries have taken their toll or if this idea some scouts have about Alabama players coming into the league as somewhat “damaged goods” might be true as well.

So in the end, I would take Burrow at 1 and I would give Tua a 1st round grade. Top 15 at the most. As scary as that might be for teams, it’s why I’m not surprised why he might be falling in the draft. I think that calling him a “top 5 lock” is more just because he’s a quarterback.

He’s not falling due to injury. I think, if anything, he’s going to go closer to where he should, but if it’s and in THAT case, if he falls out of the top 15 picks, then he might be a steal for a team that wants him.

On the other end of the spectrum...my surprising QB3:

Jordan Love (Tier 3)

Love was REALLY polarizing to me as I dislike any sort of 1:1 TD to INT ratio in terms of quarterback play. Essentially that’s what you’d call a “gunslinger” where a guy can stare down a target for a pick-6 and then on the next play throw a perfect 60 yard bomb for a TD. That’s Love. And while it might behoove some people to have him ahead of Justin Herbert (when Herbert has a better TD:INT ratio) there’s a big reason for it.

And it’s Herbert. More on that later.

But for now in seeing Love, he does a lot in terms of passing yardage and production against bad teams, and hey, production doesn’t care if you’re behind or if it’s garbage time or not. I saw a live arm and while there were some deep accuracy questions at time on tape with uncatchable balls, there was some steady strikes in a quick passing game and some GORGEOUS throws on the move.

He’s going to turn it over but I think your biggest failure is if you take him in a range that’s putting expectations on him equal to that of a Tua or even a Dwayne Haskins versus grabbing him late 1st round for the 5th year option in the contract. A team that runs RPO’s and has a defense that can put up with the interceptions can probably win with him in a similar way to how the Bills win with Josh Allen or the Vikings with Kirk Cousins.

I emerged a bigger fan than I thought...that said, with how high the standard for QB play is, it’s still not nearly the upside that “perpetually winning” teams can have to build around for the next decade, in my opinion. Still...a safer bet than the next guy (who will be a surprise) and that’s that. I will praise a team taking him more than I thought I would with all the turnovers.

(Yes, I officially rescind any Blaine Gabbert comparisons...my bad)

Jalen Hurts (Tier 3)

My final Tier 3 quarterback...Jalen Hurts was a fascinating study and a great example of how including rushing production drastically can alter a quarterback in today’s NFL.

  • Hurts couldn’t hit 200 yards against the top teams as a passer...yet averaged (!) 82 rushing yards a game as a quarterback. That’s a VALUABLE skillset, especially for a dual-threat QB team like Dallas, Arizona, Seattle or even Philly/KC/Chicago to use in run-pass options.

It’d be fun to see a team TRULY make him their own version of Taysom Hill as he’s a MUCH better passer than Hill was with a lot more starts and is just as dynamic of an athlete. He wins a lot of games, and I believe that while the production isn’t there when the pressures on against a good team...he’s able to make smart plays with his legs.

If anything I think I would like him more than Fromm/Eason and he’s shown that his overall upside is higher than theirs. I think Late 1st is a reach for him but would probably give him a 2nd round grade similar to Justin Herbert.

His TD:INT are the 2nd best in this class. As he doesn’t turn the ball over and has additional rushing scores to add. While he’s not as accurate as Tua, I think you can acknowledge that, to me, he’s probably my QB4 in this class in the right scheme. Maybe that’s worth taking late 1st? I don’t think so...he might also flame out pretty quick if he has to start and I think Love’s shown the ability to do more. But I think he’s safer than the next dude...

Justin Herbert (Tier 3)

He’s still in Tier 3 but while I’d give a Round 2 grade to Jordan Love, Herbert’s would be likely Top 50 or a “late round two” and for a pure and simple reason.

Even though his TD:INT totals are much nicer there’s two MAJOR red flags I see with him from the data.

  • He has the highest completion % against the toughest teams of ANYONE in this QB class that I scouted....and also has the 3rd lowest overall yardage total with the second lowest number of attempts.

Those two things only go together in one way: he’s throwing a LOT of short passes and screens. This is something that when I went to the tape to check out why the yardage totals were so low despite high completions it stood out immediately.

When Herbert played tougher teams, he didn’t attempt as many passes and had a VERY high completion % because I lost track of how many screens he actually threw (was counting and quickly gave up). It means that his coaching staff likely didn’t trust him, and I’ve seen this said from some film experts as well.

It’s one thing to say that from seeing film, but it’s another to see the statistical numbers back that up. I think that there’s pretty balls and throws from Herbert but if you’re seeing a coaching staff turtle at the first sign of trouble....that’s a yikes from me.

Still, the hope I would express is that he did NOT turn the ball over there as a result, and has the 3rd highest rushing totals out of this class, meaning he can probably do well enough if a team uses him in a game manager role at the next level.

It would scare the crud out of me to take him in the top 5, however. Absolutely

Jake Fromm & Jacob Eason (Tier 4)

I’m putting these two QB’s together because shocking to maybe no one who saw them play at Georga,, they had incredibly similar stats against top competition:

  • Both averaged 234.5 yards a game with 2 touchdowns and one interception
  • Both hovered around 60% completion
  • Both were in the negative rushing yards, showing that they’re limited as pocket passers
  • Both in their tougher games averaged a 2-3 record out of the 5 games used (sorry, Georga fans...)

That said, I did notice a few key differences...Fromm seemed to be a much smarter and more progressive quarterback but also had a lot more talent up front and while I think his arm talent is a bit underrated (and he had drops in the games I watched) I think it comes down to that he just has more physical limitations than the other guys on this list.

Whereas Eason had a stronger arm and also threw for more touchdowns, but it was a bit more erratic as well which cost some plays and yards that weren’t needed versus making the smarter play.

It’s obvious to me now why Georgia chose to roll with Fromm being a teach with a TON of rushing talent as well as receivers who just needed a field general to manage the game.

With both of these QB’s I’d give them a 3rd round grade and think they have backup/spot starter capability. Fromm at least maybe could blossom into a Nick Foles in the right place while I think Eason’s probably got a ceiling in that area, but I might be wrong on those.

For brevity’s sake (and a touch of irony) I put them together. Now for an intriguing question...will there be another Gardner Minshew in this class out of Washington State?

Anthony Gordon (Tier 4)

Ok, maybe not.

Gordon’s an interesting fellow as he doesn’t have the same production Minshew did last year (I didn’t even scout/grade him he was so low, and that was a mistake!) but he still had ASTOUNDING numbers in the Wazzou Mike Leach Air Raid.

Well, in the passing game anyway.

  • Averaging 350 yards a game against the top teams looks impressive...but it was done with the most attempts of anyone in the class 15 (!) more than the next guy in Joe Burrow.
  • With those extra attempts to get to the same yardage, he’s clearly not as efficient and the touchdown numbers left something to be desired. A 1.8 TD to INT ratio...not even 2 to 1 and the franchise QB threshold’s 3 to 1.
  • So that’s fine. The rushing numbers were low but that’s to be expected in the typical Air Raid that works from the pocket under Leach...what’s curious here is the -8 rushing yards. While Gordon didn’t take NEARLY as many sacks or negative plays there, he didn’t create in the running game either to make an overall positive.
  • He’s probably a guy that I think you like him where you take him in round 4 versus spending a 2nd rounder on a Fromm or Eason. And for that he’s valuable to me ranking in the same tier as those other prospects. Still, a starter in the NFL he is not (I’ve been wrong before, though).

That should wrap it up. To summarize:

Tier 1:

Burrow

_

_

Tier 2:

Tua

_

Love

Hurts

(yes it does)

Tier 3:

Gordon

Fromm

Eason

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Or if you want still to #TankForTua and am furious upon reading this article please address any and all hate mail to Justin Higdon at @afc2nfc on Twitter.