New Grantland: True Grit — How a formula (and a secret ingredient) can help us evaluate Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, and the 2015 QB class

It’s now up over at Grantland:

Drafting an NFL quarterback is risky business, and the lesson of Druckenmiller’s story and others like it is that no one truly knows which players will succeed in the pros. Even the brightest GMs and coaches can whiff badly: By nearly any measure, fewer than 50 percent of passers drafted in the first round wind up as quality NFL starters, while fewer than 20 percent become stars. The odds are even worse after the first round, with Tom Brady and Russell Wilson serving as rare exceptions that prove the rule.

Yet there’s no question that teams must continue drafting quarterbacks; the position remains the most important on the field, and since it’s nearly impossible to find a franchise QB via free agency, teams are forced to keep braving the murky waters of the prospect pool. The question is how clubs can get better at drafting quarterbacks. Fortunately, research on improving decision-making in unpredictable circumstances can help us craft a formula for evaluating quarterback prospects in general, and the 2015 crop of Bryce Petty, Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston in particular.

Read the whole thing.

  • IrishBarrister

    After finishing the article, which was good, I was left with the question: if you (Chris) believe that grit is important to judging a prospective quarterback, a notion I agree with, then why not include it as one of your dimensions? It just struck me as odd to leave it out.

  • smartfootball

    This is a good question and I am working on a post following up on this. Some of it was the constraints of the article, but the upshot is I do think an NFL team should use effectively a 7 factor test with grit being one of the factors. I don’t think I made that all that clear in the piece, and as I said I will have more to say about this.

  • Mr.Murder

    ….think there is some weird composite they make of this that includes things like Wonderlic or other academic measures and off the record interviews with University brass, etc.

  • IrishBarrister

    I’ve been grading draft-eligible quarterbacks since 2006 using a similar, though in some ways very different, grading system. I figured I’d share my approach.

    For the number of points, I use 1-10 rather than 1-5. I lump decision making and timing/anticipation together because, in general, I do not know the receiver’s route conversions. I do not have a pocket presence category, but instead a “Mental Toughness” category. The way I grade it would probably be best described as a combination of pocket presence and “grit”. E.g., I gave Matt Ryan and Terry Bridgewater 9/10 in Mental Toughness.

  • whatyouthinkimprejudiced

    Just got a chance to catch up on my reading and was able to check this one out.

    How can Jameis Winston get a 4 for “decision making” when Hundley only gets a 2. Or, how can Winston get a 4 for “accuracy” when Hundley only gets a 3. Which games are you watching? What stats are you looking at?

    Jameis Winston v. Brett Hundley – lets how they do against just about the same level of competition. It’s really the best metric for predicting future success. The short version: Jameis Winston struggles against good teams and Brett Hundley is underrated.

    The long version:

    Jameis Winston:
    @Ok State: 25/40; 370 yds; 9.25 y/a; 62.5%; 1 TD and 2 INT
    Notre Dame: 23/31; 273 yds; 8.8 y/a; 74.2%; 2 TD and 1 INT
    @ Louisville: 25/48; 401 yds; 8.4 y/a; 52.1%; 3 TD and 3 INT
    @ Miami: 25/42; 304 yds; 7.2 y/a; 59.5%; 1 TD and 1 INT
    @ Florida: 12/24; 125 yds; 5.2 y/a; 50%; 2 TD and 4 INT
    Oregon: 29/45; 348 yds; 7.7 y/a; 64.4%; 1 TD and 1 INT

    Brett Hundley:
    @ AZ State: 18/23; 355 yds; 15.4 y/a; 78.3%; 4 TD 0 INT

    Utah: 16/21; 269 yds; 12.8 y/a; 76.2%; 2 TD 1 INT
    Oregon: 26/37; 216 yds; 5.7 y/a; 70.3%; 2 TD 1 INT
    USC: 22/31; 326 yds; 10.5 y/a; 71%; 3 TD 1 INT
    Stanford: 17/32; 146 yds; 4.6 y/a; 53.1%; 1 TD 0 INT
    Kansas St: 12/24; 136 yds; 5.7 y/a; 50.0%; 1 TD 0 INT

    This past season, Hundley had 0 games where he threw multiple interceptions; Jameis had 5 games of multiple INTs (three of those being against the above-listed better competition). Hundley had 6 INTs this past season, Jameis had 18. Can’t think of the last good NFL quarterback that had 18 INTs in a college season. Last season, Hundley had 2 games where the threw for under 60%. Jameis had 4.

    On a per game average, when looking at roughly the same (good) level of opponent, here’s the stats:

    Jameis: 23/38 for 303.5 yards, 7.9 y/a, 60.4%, 1.67 TDs and 2 INTs

    Hundley: 18/28 for 241.3 yards, 8.6 y/a, 66%, 2.17 TDs and 0.5 INTs

    Note that Hundley 10 less attempts per game. Lower volume and higher production. When factoring attempts per TD and attempts per INT:

    Jameis: 1 TD per 23 attempts; 1 INT per 19 attempts.

    Hundley: 1 TD per 13 attempts; 1 INT per 56 attempts.