More on Foles

After putting yesterday’s post together and getting a helpful twitter suggestion, I decided to take a look at how Foles stacked up against a larger sample of rookie quarterbacks.

I pulled together the rookie stats for every quarterback drafted in the first round since 1999.  Including Nick Foles (I realize he wasn’t a first round pick), that gave me 38 QBs.  I then eliminated 7 QBs that played in fewer than 5 games in their rookie seasons (Losman, Russell, Grossman, Rodgers, Pennington, Rivers, Quinn.)  I did not include this year’s other rookies, as we don’t know yet how their career’s will progress, though it certainly looks like each will be successful.

That leaves us with 31 QB’s.  Here is the sample charted by rookie Passer Rating, with Nick Foles in red:

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The interesting takeaway is that there are very few “false positives”.  Of the 8 QBs with higher rookie ratings than Foles, the closest there is to a “bust” is Tim Tebow, who is still relatively young and has a chance (however slight) to turn his career around.  Jake Locker doesn’t really impress me, but he did make progress this year and it’s fair to say the jury is still out on him (also note that he played in just 5 games his rookie year, the minimum for the sample.)

Other notes from that chart:

-Eli Manning’s rookie rating, with 9 games played, was just 55.4.

-Donovan McNabb’s was just 60.1.

Now let’s look at completion percentage:

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We see a similar story as with the Rating graph.  Only Big Ben, Culpepper, Matt Ryan, and Carson Palmer completed a higher percentage of throws in their rookie seasons.

If Foles had been taken in the first round, there wouldn’t be any talk of even looking at other potential quarterbacks heading into next year.  Additionally, he would have played a much larger role in the head coaching search, and we’d be hearing stories of how “Coach X is really excited to work with Foles”.

The fact is, statistically, Foles had a VERY strong rookie season, especially when one considers the patchwork O-Line he was playing behind.

Now I’ll get back to the draft…

 

Guess who…

Let’s take a break from the draft research and play a quick game.  See if you can identify the following three quarterbacks.

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Better yet, with no additional information, which one would you choose?

Any answer is right, because there is almost nothing there to differentiate the three players.   So who are they?

Most serious Eagles fans will know that Player B is Nick Foles.  His 6/5 td-int ratio is a giveaway.

The other two players will both be leading their teams this weekend in the NFC/AFC title games.  Player A is Joe Flacco, player C is Matt Ryan.

Anyone out there who doesn’t want Nick Foles to start next year?  Otherwise, feel free to join me on the bandwagon.  Still plenty of room.

Illustrating the Roster

Everyone likes graphics, so I put one together showing the holes in the current Eagles roster (only starters.)  I realize not every player will return, but as of this moment, this is what it looks like. First, the offense:

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There’s going to be some disagreement, but on the whole most of the Eagles are easy to pin.

– Kelce is a question-mark because of his injury, but he certainly has the potential to be an above-average center.

– Celek is a bit of a fan favorite, but the fact is there is a clear upper-echelon among league TEs and he isn’t among them.

– Foles is an unknown, but I see no reason why he can’t be at least a league-average QB.  Obviously it’s hard to win if that spot isn’t green, but that’s a separate issue.

– Kelly made some progress, but I don’t see his ceiling as anything higher than league average and think it’s more likely he ends up as a career depth player.

Overall, a pretty good lineup, and the biggest reason why the Eagles have a chance to rebound quickly from this year.

Unfortunately, we do have to look at the defense:

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Much more to debate here, but at the very least, there is far too much red in this picture.

– Kendricks gets a rainbow because he’s shown signs of being everything from a scrub to a pro bowler.  I think it’s likely he ends up as a slightly above-average LB, maybe more, but he has some big weaknesses that could hold him back.

– Can’t believe Nnamdi gets the yellow/red, but there’s really no way around it after the season he had.  Maybe he bounces back, but it won’t be for the Eagles.

– This is the first time since 2006 that Cole doesn’t grade as well above-average, but he had a very quiet year.  Showed very little ability to beat his man one-on-one (which he used to be great at.)  Let’s hope it was a fluke, but at age 30 (31 next year) that may be wishful thinking.

Now look at both pictures and it should be pretty easy to see why I’d like the Eagles to use the #4 pick on the best defensive player available (hopefully the DT.)  As nice as a stud OT would be, the talent level on defense is far too low.  Unfortunately, there’s no top safety or corner this year, so we could be looking at a trade down situation.

New coach might like to make a splash with such a high draft pick, but the best way to build the team could very well be moving down, picking up extra picks, then drafting a safety/lb/corner where it makes sense.  It’d be a very unsatisfying use of the #4 overall pick, but then again, watching a similarly bad defense next year would be far worse than unsatisfying.

Fitting End For The Youngsters

First off,  happy holidays to everyone.  Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope everyone was able to enjoy a few days off with friends and family.

Unfortunately, the news for several Eagles rookies over the weekend was not good.  Foles broke his hand and Cox/Kendricks were both concussed against the Redskins.  I don’t expect any of them to play in the final game (Foles is definitely out, still waiting for info on Cox/Kendricks, but why play them?).

Therefore, I thought a quick note reflecting on each of their performances this year was in order:

Nick Foles – Foles is garnering a lot of attention, and for good reason.  Here are Foles’ final numbers for this year:

60.8% Completion percentage

1,699 yards passing, 6 TD/5 INTs

79.1 QB Rating.

Rushed 11 times, picking up 5 first downs.

Overall, I think there is plenty of reason to be excited about Foles and do not understand the detractors.  I believe a large part of the negative analysis is the performances being made by the Luck/Griffin/Wilson combo, to which Foles does not compare.  However, in general, Foles performed very well for a rookie, especially given the circumstances surrounding the team.  (See the post from last week showing the rookie performances of some other current NFL QBs.)

His accuracy, pocket awareness, work ethic (anecdotally), and poise all appear to be strong.  His only big weakness thus far has been the deep ball accuracy and perhaps a reluctance to throw into tight windows (tough to grade him down on that.)

Though there is still one game to review (full Rewind will be posted tomorrow or Friday), I’ve seen more than enough to feel comfortable with Foles heading into next year.  There is no QB in the draft worth the #3-#4 pick, and there is little sense in bringing in a mediocre veteran, so the best use off assets for the Eagles is to commit to Foles for next year, rebuild the rest of the team, and see where that gets them.

Behind a strong OL (a possibility for next year) and with McCoy/Brown (if the team doesn’t ignore him), Foles has a chance to be a very productive QB.

Cox As most readers can probably tell, I am very excited about Cox.  It’s rare to find a DT with the pass-rushing skills this kid has, and he plays with energy every play.  He’s got some work to do against the run, but the talent is there and he has the potential to be a real force for the Eagles for a long time.  A lot will depend on the next coaching regime, but if he’s allowed to attack and put with the right players (perhaps a gap-filling NT….Lotulelei?), he’s gonna wreak havoc on opposing QBs.

Kendricks  Kendricks will probably end up as one of the bigger disappointments of the season.  He started the year with a few strong performances, and it looked like Eagles had found a playmaker at LB. However, his play tailed off as the season progressed.  He did rebound in the past two weeks when he was switched back to the WILL spot, but overall a very inconsistent year.  Still looks like he has the potential to be a good LB, but there are definitely some holes in his game that will need to be addressed (both tackling and reading.)

In total though, this Eagles rookie class looks stronger than any they’ve had in while.  I’ll add some more color once I review the Redskins game, but fans should be encouraged by the overall play of the rookies (we’ll do a full rookie breakdown after the season), especially in comparison to other recent draft classes.

 

Nick Foles Perspective

Sensing a few people jumping off the Foles bandwagon.  He had a rough game against a good defense, but let’s not get crazy (i.e. suggesting a trade for Kirk Cousins.)  Figured I’d add a little perspective on what rookie QBs often look like.  Below are the first year QB ratings and TD/INT ratios for each QB (first year = first year with significant playing time).

Alex Smith – 74.8 rating, 16/16

Peyton Manning – 71.2, 26/28

Drew Brees – 76.9, 17/16

Joe Flacco – 80.3, 14/12

Eli Manning – 75.9, 24/17

Obviously there are first year QBs that have done much better, but the point is that it really isn’t rare for QBs to improve dramatically from their early performance.  I’m not suggesting Foles is going to be Manning/Brees, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that giving Foles the starting gig next year is a smart play (not just because he is the only real option).

At this point, here’s what we know:

Foles has prototypical size for a QB.  He is very accurate on short-medium throws. He has trouble spotting his deep throws.  He’s very slow but moves very well in the pocket.

It’s not much, but it’s enough that I’m intrigued to see what he can do with an upgraded line and starting-caliber weapons.  He’s obviously going to be a focus of the Game Rewind the next two weeks, but for now there’s no reason to be anything but hopeful about his potential.

Does Nick Foles = Bobby Hoying 2.0?

(See today’s Philly.com article by Phil Sheridan)

Short Answer:  I don’t think so.

Longer Answer: While there are some eerie similarities, there is a large piece of evidence that points to Nick Foles having a higher probability of long-term success than Bobby Hoying had after his promising start.

Phil Sheridan points to the team adversity as a reason for Hoying’s failure.  Although that didn’t help, perhaps a larger factor was the accuracy of Hoying.  There are a number of attributes necessary for QB success, but accuracy is among the most important (if you don’t believe me please look at the current leaderboard).  While completion percentage is an imperfect measure (not accounting for drops, distance, throwaways, etc…), it still provides a decent indication of how good a QB is at getting the ball to where he wants it to go.  Furthermore, it is a measure that is rarely every significantly improved upon by players making the jump to the pro’s, that is, completion percentage in college is a good indication a player’s potential professional completion percentage.

Bobby Hoying’s college completion percentage was 58%, which is not terrible for college, but a very weak measure for aspiring pro’s (there are currently only two starting NFL QB’s with worse, Jay Cutler and Matt Stafford).

Nick Foles’ college completion percentage was 66.9%. (Of note: Michael Vick’s was 56.5%, which would be by far the worst in the league if he was still starting).

Counterpoint: There is a substantial (and obvious) flaw in the direct comparison of Foles to Hoying: Time.  NFL passing offenses have grown significantly in scale/importance/sophistication since Hoying played, and QB performance has risen substantially.  Hoying’s rookie year, the average NFL completion percentage was just 56%.  The current average for starting QBs is 61.62%.  However, there is a strong case to be made that as teams have emphasized passing, they have changed the methods for scouting QBs, weighing things like completion percentage more heavily than in the past (while lessening the attention paid to “intangibles”).  I believe its fair to say that overall QB play in today’s game is substantially better than in 1997 (Hoying’s rookie year).  In fact, it’s likely that if Hoying’s college career was evaluated for the draft today, he would be a much lower draft choice than #85 (if he was drafted at all).

Regardless, the relative comparison of each player’s college completion percentage to the league at the time of their respective rookie year’s suggests Foles has much more potential for success (relative to league average).