Yesterday was Eagles focused, but today will be split. I will start by looking at potential reasons for the way the draft played out for the QB class (focusing mainly on Barkley and Nassib); then I will discuss what the Matt Barkley selection REALLY means for the Eagles and Chip Kelly.
As everyone knows, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib were drafted in the 4th round. The fact that these two players were “widely regarded” as 1st round talents make this an unprecedented occurrence. Typically, QBs get OVERDRAFTED, in that teams draft them above their presumed ratings. I’ve addressed this in the TPR system and explained that since QBs offer the largest potential reward, they should be “overdrafted” to a degree. However, we did not see that this year. In fact, Barkley and Nassib fell much farther than anyone would have sanely predicted prior to the draft.
To make things clear before I get to explanations, Barkley’s average rating (from NFP, ESPN, and NFL.com) was 85.96. That’s not great, but it does usually represent a 1st round grade. Nassib’s was actually higher at 87.42, due mostly to the fact that NFP had Nassib as its #1 overall player.
Those ratings are why this was an unprecedented event.
So what happened?
I’m going to advance a few theories here. There is no substantial evidence to work from so I’ll we have is intelligent speculation. I’ll leave it to you to decide which theory(ies) you believe.
1) They’re just not that good. This is obviously the least exciting and, in my opinion, the most likely scenario. Knowing what we do about how QBs are usually drafted, the fall of Barkley and Nassib means that, outside of the Bills, NOT A SINGLE TEAM agreed with the media scouts’ draft ratings. If just one team had graded either QB as highly as the Consensus scores did, that player would have been chosen much earlier. Teams just don’t let QB’s they like fall down the board like that.
So what we have is a clear disagreement. The media scouts think Barkley and Nassib will be good QBs, and the ENTIRE NFL (minus the Bills since they drafted a QB in the 1st round) thinks otherwise. Based on that, I’m going to say the odds are in the NFL’s favor. That means Barkley and Nassib were simply very overrated by the media.
2) The cynical angle. This may or may not tie into the 1st reason. Regardless of how this plays out, it has identified a potential weakness in my TPR rankings. The ratings I use come from ESPN, NFL.com, and the National Football Post. Now take a second and think about why that might be trouble.
Got it yet?
Whenever someone or something behaves very differently from how you expect them too, it’s usually best to follow the money. So here we go:
– The NFL Draft is a huge event that makes a lot of money for all those involved.
– The NFL Draft was broadcast by two networks, ESPN and the NFL Network (familiar?)
– Casual fans gravitate towards the “glamour” positions, especially the QB, since that is the most recognizable player on almost every team.
Is it possible that the NFL network and ESPN overrated the QB class on purpose? Yes, that’s entirely possible. If you don’t think the NFL or ESPN would consider something that dishonest, then you haven’t been paying attention. Now that wouldn’t explain NFP’s grades, but the fact that 3 scouting services all rated these QBs highly is what makes the situation so interesting. Having one outlier grade would not be unusual.
3) Teams are jealous of the Redskins and Colts. It’s possible that the pendulum has swung (for this draft at least) to far towards the “get your guy” school of thought when it comes to the QB position. Every QB-needy team saw what the Colts were able to do with Andrew Luck and had to be a bit jealous. Perhaps they said to themselves, “rather than take someone in round 2 or 3 just because they’re a decent value, we should build the rest of the team and wait until next year when we may really love a QB prospect”. I think this is completely possible.
I’ve been arguing against the “get your guy” strategy for a long time. The issue is that it typically completely ignores the value of each pick and places too much faith in scouting evaluations that are far less precise than team’s want to believe. A common refrain when it comes to drafting QB’s is that you have to “love this prospect”, or something like that. But why?
I realize that QB is the most important position in football, but it isn’t so different as to require a completely different analysis and draft strategy. Perhaps Barkley and Nassib’s flaws made them too risky for 1st or 2nd round selection. I realize that nobody “loved” either QB. Regardless, by the third round the value proposition has shifted so dramatically that it makes sense for almost any team to take a flyer on one of these players, let alone QB-needy teams. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that passing on these players in the third round is PROFESSIONAL NEGLIGENCE if your team does not have a solid QB.
The fact is, scouting evaluations are very uncertain, and they can miss low just as easily as they can miss high. The opportunity cost of a third round pick (what you give up to take a QB) is very low. If I was a team that needed a QB, I would have been thrilled to take one of these kids there.
If teams hold out for a “perfect” QB prospect, they’ll might be waiting for a LONG time. Not everyone can have an Andrew Luck-level draft pick, they’re just not that common. Meanwhile, you don’t need an “elite” QB to win. Which means that if either Barkley or Nassib can merely meet the “good enough” threshold, they’re unprecedented value picks.
So how bout them Eagles?
A lot of initial reaction to the Barkley pick was as you’d expect; flawed, stupid, overstated, poorly reasoned, etc…. For the most part, everyone recognized the value. However, many “analysts” completely bungled the “meaning” of the pick. Let me start with the value:
At the first pick in the 4th round, Barkley was an incredible VALUE for any team in the league, regardless of QB situation. The opportunity cost of a 4th round pick is very low. For example, here are some recent 4th round selections by the Eagles:
Casey Mathews, Mike Kafka, Keenan Clayton, Clay Harbor, Mike McGlynn, Jack Ikegwuono
Was Matt Barkley worth it? Hell yes, regardless of how his career plays out. If you’re looking for comparable players for Barkley, you’ve got Drew Brees on the high-side and Colt McCoy on the low side. Interestingly enough, Colt McCoy was just traded to the 49ers for essentially a 5th round pick (the 6th and 7th that changed hands cancel each other out). That means, even if Barkley ends up on the low side of his projection, the team will be able to recoup almost the entire value it spent on him.
Ever hear of a free call option? That’s close to what the Eagles just found.
Now about the meaning:
Count me among those who believes this is GOOD for Nick Foles. Prior to the pick, the only real “information” we had to go on was the fact that the Eagles brought Dennis DIxon on board. That would clearly indicate that Kelly was leaning in Vick’s direction, since you typically want backups who have similar skill sets to your starters.
Adding Barkley flips that equation around dramatically.
In general, I think many people have been wrongfully conflating the “read-option” with a “fast-paced” and “no-huddle” attack. You can run one without the other and I do not believe Kelly will run the read-option with the Eagles.
Tommy Lawlor at Igglesblitz.com made a great point last week (and one I’m embarrassed I didn’t see earlier):
The Penn State offense might be the best example of what Chip Kelly will look to run with the Eagles.
For those of you who don’t know, Bill O’Brien is the coach of Penn State, and was previously the QB coach and Offensive Coordinator of the New England Patriots. Since moving to Penn State, O’Brien has installed a more balanced version of the Patriot’s offense, relying on multiple RBs and TEs. Sound familiar?
Note that the quarterbacks for the Patriots (Tom Brady) and PSU (Matt McGloin last year) are as far from “running QB” as you can get. This is where I believe we can divine the best intelligence on the Eagles QB situation.
Chip Kelly, if he uses a similar system, will require a QB that can stand at the line of scrimmage and quickly identify mismatches. Then, after the snap, the QB must be able to make several progressions. If none of those are available, the QB must be smart enough to throw the ball away.
Above all else, this requires poise, intelligence, and short-to-intermediate accuracy.
Note those are all things Nick Foles has (and Matt Barkley has in spades). Also note that those are all relative weaknesses for Michael Vick.
Therefore, at this stage, I’m inclined to double-down on my prediction for the Eagles QB situation. I think Nick Foles is the starter day one. I just think Michael Vick, at this stage of his career, takes more off the table than he puts on it.
At the end of the day, Kelly will look at his QB depth and see Foles/Barkley on one side and Vick/Dixon on the other. To me, the scales are tipped pretty strongly in the Foles/Barkley direction.