Drafting a QB in the 2011 NFL Draft

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So, get ready!  This is a rather long one – mostly with a lot of info in tables for your digestion!  If you want to see the tables better, just click on them to enlarge.

My first table compares combine and background information to include projected draft position.  As you can see they are all roughly the same age — either 22 or 23 years old.  Mallett and Kaepernick stand out from the group in terms of their height.  But, I was surprised to note that other four are the same height – 6’ 2”.  Mallett stands out in weight, arm length and hand size – he is truly a beast at QB.  But, I thought it was important to note that Kaepernick has particularly small hands which may make him susceptible to fumbling.  Lastly, it is important to note that Dalton and Kaepernick stand out in terms of experience – they are both 4 year starters.

Next, I took a look at their 2010 college passing statistics.  These are particularly interesting. The items in red are where I’d like to focus.  First, Mallet, Kaepernick, and Dalton had completion percentages in the mid 60’s.  McElroy had an amazing 70.9% (like Chad Pennington), Ponder was is in the low 60’s (like Chad Henne), and Locker was in the mid 50’s (like Mark Sanchez).  Not surprisingly, Ponder’s and Locker’s TD/INT ratios are also low.  If your completion percentage and TD/INT ratio are low in college, it is not likely to rise in the pros.  Therefore, I am not a fan of Ponder and Locker for this reason.  The relatively low TD/INT ratios for Mallett and Kaepernick are also of concern, whereas the ratios for McElroy and particularly Dalton are impressive.

Second, I really like to look at a QB’s yards per pass attempt (YPA).  This is a real indication of the success of a QB to move the ball down the field.  To put things into perspective, Phillip Rivers had the highest YPA of all starting NFL QBs in 2010 at 8.7.  Tom Brady had 7.9 and Chad Henne had 6.7.  To further put things into perspective, Jamaal Charles (RB) had 6.4 yards per rushing attempt.  Anyway, I digressed for a moment. McElroy, Dalton, and Mallett all had YPA over 9 with Kaepernick slightly lower.  Locker and Ponder were in the Chad Henne range.  Again, YPA is not likely to go up in the pros.  Therefore, I am not a fan of Ponder and Locker for this reason.

Third, I think it is also important to point out the number of sacks taken by each QB.  This is an indication of the QBs ability to avoid negative plays – and, we know how Tony Sparano feels about these.  To put things into perpective, Jay Cutler was the most sacked starting QB in the NFL this past year at 52.  Eli and Peyton Manning were the least at 16. In college, whereas McElroy had good completion percentage, TD/INT ratio, and YPA numbers, he took the most number of sacks at 30 – which happened to be the same number as Chad Henne took.  Dalton and Kaepernick took the least at 8 and 10, respectively.  Mallett, Ponder, and Locker were just about or in the 20’s.

Next, I took a look at the performance of each QB in their 2010 Bowl appearance.  This gives you an idea how well they played in a big game.  The table also notes the opponent of each. Locker had a horrible performance.  Ponder got injured.  Mallett and Kaepernick were relatively average and below their season stats.  McElroy had an outstanding game against Michigan State posting numbers well above his already high season stats.  And, Dalton had a great game in the grand daddy of them all, the Rose Bowl, against a very tough opponent, Wisconsin.  He had numbers that were very consistent with his season stats.

Finally, I took a look at their career stats for completeness.  The career yardage numbers for Dalton and Kaepernick at over 10,000 are truly impressive.  This is reflective of them both being four year starters.  They both showed steady improvement to their senior years in completion percentage, YPA, TD/INT ratio, and the number of sacks taken.  One likes to see this kind of experience and improvement in young players.

In conclusion, after seeing and comparing what these players did in college … one can hardly argue with game performance … I will give you my thoughts about draft value of six 2nd tier players in the 2011 NFL Draft.  First, I am not impressed with Ponder and Locker at all based on their low completion percentage, TD/INT ratio, and YPA numbers from college.  The accuracy of these two QBs bring into question whether they will make good pro QBs — sorry FSU fans.  Honestly, I really do not see what all the hype is about with these two guys – especially, Locker in the first round.  They could not put up even good stats in two conferences not known for their defenses.  I don’t think the Dolphins should draft either of them in the first, second, or third rounds.

Mallett is an impressive physical specimen with a cannon for an arm.  As a senior, he had an impressive completion percentage (66.7%) and YPA (9.41). However, he had a low TD/INT ratio (2.67) and he took a lot of sacks (25 – almost 2 per game).  This bothers me because it reminds me too much of Chad Henne, who has trouble finding receivers and getting the ball to them.  Pro defenses will only exacerbate these numbers.  When I watched Mallett closely at the NFL Combine, his foot work left a lot to be desired.  Quite frankly, many will be impressed by his arm, but I think he is too high a bust risk as a first or second round pick.  I don’t see the Dolphins sticking out their necks for Mallett until maybe the third round, if he is still on the board.

McElroy has a lot of attractive numbers.  As a senior, he had an outrageous completion percentage (70.9%), high YPA (9.54), and very good TD/INT ratio (4.0) – all these in a tough SEC.  However, he took a lot of sacks (30 – more than 2 per game).  This bothers me because it indicates that he has trouble reading defenses and shows a reluctance to throw the ball away (which would reduce his completion percentage) – Tony Sparano will not like this.  This could be corrected over time with proper coaching.  I must admit that I did not watch him closely at the combine.  I think that McElroy would be a good pick in the fourth or later rounds and then handed the clipboard to watch a seasoned vet for a few years – he reminds me of Matt Cassell.  However, I don’t think this is a good fit for the Dolphins.

Kaepernick is another impressive physical specimen – although his small hand size gives me pause.  His height allows for him to see over the OL, but his low release point negates some of the height advantage.  As a senior, he had a very good completion percentage (64.9%) and YPA (8.42). But, he had a low TD/INT ratio (2.63).  He took a very low number of sacks (10).  What does not show in my stats is his ability to run the football.  But, I am not that high on QBs running the ball because pro defenses are bigger, stronger, and faster than college ones.  So, unless your Michael Vick type quick and agile, a QB running the football in the NFL can be downright dangerous – and, Kaepernick is not Vick.  I think that pro coaching could correct his release problem along with his poor foot work I saw at the combine – but, this will take time.  I struggle understanding his low TD/INT ratio – especially in the same conference where Kellen Moore had a whopping ratio of 5.83.  I do not think Kaepernick is worthy of a first or second round pick.  He might be worth a third round pick, but he will probably take a few years to develop.  I question whether he is a good fit for the Dolphins.

Finally, that brings me to Andy Dalton.  As a senior, he had a very high completion percentage (66.1%), high YPA (9.04), and outstanding TD/INT ratio (4.5) — solid numbers.  He only took a mere 8 sacks (0.61 per game) in the entire 2010 season.  He played in a big Rose Bowl game with a lot of pressure against a good Wisconsin defense and maintained his impressive season stats leading TCU to a big victory.  He is a four year starter showing statistical improvement each year.  He was a team captain and graduated last December from TCU with a degree in Marketing.  He is intelligent, humble and a leader.  I watched him at the combine and his foot work and release were pro quality indicating that despite playing in a spread offense he can easily pick up a pro style offense under center.  Besides, it is important to point out that Manning and Brady took more than 60% of their passing attempts from the shotgun – unlike Henne who is scared of it.  I think Dalton is much like Chad Pennington in accuracy and ball security, only he can move his feet and throw better plus he has not been susceptible to injury.  I think this guy is the most pro ready QB in the draft – he just doesn’t have a “media” cannon for an arm – although, I believe his arm strength is very underrated.  I think he would be a good third round draft choice for the Dolphins and be a steal in the fourth round.  I say the Dolphins should pick him in the third round and hand him over to Chad Pennington to teach him how to be a pro – by the way, doing this while the players are locked out by the owners.

Okay!  There you have it.  This is my thoughts on the QBs in the 2011 NFL Draft.

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Tags: Andy Dalton Blaine Gabbert Cam Newton Chad Henne Chad Pennington Christian Ponder Colin Kaepernick Greg McElroy Jake Locker Jeff Ireland Miami Dolphins NFL NFL Draft Ryan Mallett Tony Sparano

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