Draft Recap Part 2: Examining the QB Class

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.


4 thoughts on “Draft Recap Part 2: Examining the QB Class

  1. Completely agree with you and Tommy about the Penn State comparison. I was thinking the same thing after they drafted Ertz and Barkley. O’Brien does a great job of using his TE’s to present mismatches for the defense. He lines them up all over the field. If the defense brings in more CB’s to cover, O’Brien calls more running plays. If they bring in LB’s to stop the run, he puts his TE’s out wide and throws the ball. The logic is quite simple but at the same time, innovative and brilliant. Chip said he plans to do something similar this upcoming season. I can’t wait to see it in action.

    • Exactly. That’s what everyone should be focused on instead of all the “read-option” nonsense. I think Kelly’s main concern is creating mismatches and getting a QB that can take advantage of them. It’s a lot different from Andy Reid’s offense, which did not really emphasize mismatches (except when the team had Brian Westbrook).

      The downside is that you’re dependent on your top players and more susceptible to injury, since no team has enough depth to create mismatches with their backups.

      On Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 2:46 PM, Eagles Rewind

  2. I gotta say I feel like there’s a really big point being missed here, and its one that you really don’t need a lot of equations and/or metrics to tell you (though I really like the site and I find the TPR stuff interesting), which is; that ESPN and NFL Network and the like simply are NOT GOOD at scouting. A fact which was no doubt exacerbated this year in particular by the odd and overall lacking element of the draft. You say follow the money, which is true because I think the big networks are comfortable putting out a product without caring about it’s quality because who is really going to go back after the fact and look to see just how very wrong they all were and then make a big stink about it? I mean, we all know these guys are terrible for the most part, and yet we still listen to the things they have to say.

    Sure, they can gather opinions and thoughts from scouts and various FO sources around the league in order to put together mock drafts and rankings and whatnot, but at the end of the day they’re still amateurs. And not only are they amateurs, but they’re amateurs being fed information by people with a vested interest in said information getting out or not getting out. If they were really and truly good at scouting they’d probably be working in a FO and not at commercial entities focused primarily on reporting what has already happened, not telling you what will happen. Now, of course there are exceptions like Mayock and Cossell, guys who could probably work in a scouting department and do a damn good job of it. But McShay and Kiper and the endless amount of talking heads and randoms on the internet who put out mock drafts just don’t know what they’re talking about and end up building big boards and mocks based on groupthink, ie; one person someplace says that player X has great movement skills so they’ll be a high pick, whereas everyone in the scouting community knows that’s just plain wrong. Just like everyone thought Jesse Williams was a second round pick, then we find out after the draft that he was just overrated by the media. Or everyone was sure Geno was going to be a first round pick. Or Damontre Moore. Or Jarvis Jones. Or Barkley. Or that Jordan Poyer would go 3/4. Or Kyle Long would go 2/3. Or EJ Manuel would be high 2. Or so on and so forth.

    **(As an aside, I know that the human element is a big part of the draft. All it takes is one team to love a player to make that player a high pick and completely throw off the rankings. But your TPR was based primarily in building consensus, so that’s how I’m approaching it.)

    Now, I myself love draft season and I know the multitude of articles and opinions devoted to it are entirely in the spirit of fun and projection. But if you’re wondering about a flaw in your metric, I’d have to say it’s not a conspiracy by the sports networks to play up the glamour positions as much as it’s just inherently flawed to base your rankings on data gathered from people who frankly, just don’t know what they’re talking about for the most part and year in and year out turn out to be so very wrong.

    I’m not saying your viewpoint on the draft, and the Eagles in particular isn’t interesting. Quite the contrary, I really like the site and a lot of the conclusions you come to (Foles, 2013) and I visit on a regular basis. But I guess my point is just that maybe re-adjusting the TPR to use your own rankings, or the rankings of more reputable and/or reliable sources (a matter of opinion, I know), could be beneficial. Or at the very least cutting out ESPN and NFL Network from your data.

    • It’s certainly possible that McShay and Kiper aren’t good at evaluating players. I’ve looked at the data I have, and it seems that while they aren’t “good”, they also aren’t as bad as some teams have been. However, now that I have their rankings, I’ll be tracking them so we can see exactly how good/bad they actually are.

      I’d love to get more sources to help balance the TPR system, but the only numerical rankings systems I’ve found are the ones I’ve included.

      Regardless, it’ll be fascinating to see how this plays out. One side is very wrong, and as you suspect, and think it’s likely to be the Kiper/McShay side.

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