Photo: Lindy Sports in NFL Leadership Draft/LandryFootball.com.
Michael was kind enough to share his NFL Draft QB profiles on Reddit’s NFL Draft subreddit. After looking at his catches and asking his permission, I used many of his points in the comments, both positive and negative below, because spotting QBs and playing with a calculator are very different things. And I can only do one of these things well.
And as always, you can follow me for random Bears and NFL charts and data from @ButkusStats on Twitter.
Now let’s dive into the details of the 2021 NFL Draft quarterbacks.
I’ve spent some time looking at various 2015 NFL QB stats, trying to determine which traditional college-era statistic correlates the most with their career NFLLEPA + CPOE composite score.
- What is the EPA: To calculate the EPA (Expected Points Added), take the number of points a team is likely to score before the game starts and the number of points a team is likely to score after the game starts. The difference between the two results in expected points was added up. These expected point values are based on models that take into account line of descent, distance, and yardage lines. Statisticians then compare the model’s predictions with actual results to verify its effectiveness.
- What is the CPOE? CPOE refers to the percentage of completion relative to what is expected. These statistics are calculated by Next Gen Stats, using proprietary tracking data to estimate the probability of a given pass being completed on the throw, averaging all of these expected percentages, and then subtracting them from the player’s actual completion percentage for each game.
- What is an EPA + CPOE composition? It’s just a composite of the two statistics. This statistic is considered one of the most revealing to evaluate a QB’s performance from year to year.
So I looked at all the traditional QB statistics (Kickoffs, Completion %, Passing Yards, Total Yards, Total TDs, Total INTs, Passing Yards/Covers, Total Yards/Covers, Adjusted Yards/Covers, Passing Yards/Covers. Total Yards/PU, TD/PU, INT/PU, TD%, INT%, Relative Sports Score) and found a correlation coefficient with the EPA + CPOE composite of the QB groups for their NFL time.
The QB group included 39 QBs developed between 2015 and 2020. The following four statistics have the highest correlation with NFL success, and no other statistic has a correlation coefficient greater than 0.30.
- Relative sport value : 0.304
- Total yards/play at : 0.35
- TDs/Game in progress: 0.41
- Yards / Play on : 0.413
If you look at those stats and try to adjust the groupings based on statistical ranges, you’ll see that since 2015 there have only been five QBs who have had 100+ TDs, 300+ yards/GS, 3.0+ TDs/GS, and a SIR above 8.0. I created a composite score for each player that shows how close they are to these parameters, and it has a correlation coefficient of 0.515 (a strong positive correlation).
We can see that a high level of college production and athletic ability seems promising for success in the NFL.
Who would have thought the QBs with the most TDs and yards would be the best, right? But I think one of the important differences is that to be a top professional, you have to have done it for years. But having two TDs per game in 50 games doesn’t get you to the same level.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, no QB officially met all four criteria, mainly because there was no NFL Combine and no athletic records available for Trevor Lawrence. Assuming Trevor Lawrence achieves an SIR score of 8.0, he is eligible for this first tier.
Here are the QBs who met all the other criteria but didn’t make 100 TP. They mostly failed because they didn’t play enough games and came into the NFL with less experience:
The less experienced group mentioned above has really mixed results. For the 2021 NFL Draft, only Justin Fields meets this group of criteria. His SIR must have been scored because he didn’t do all the exercises required for the SIR, but I think it’s safe to assume he would have scored higher than an 8.0.
Here are the QBs who met all the other criteria but didn’t score a 3.0 TD/GS:
The aforementioned group includes players who spent four years in college but never consistently scored a TD. There is no 2021 QB draft. Here are the QBs who met all the other criteria but didn’t get an 8.0 on RAS:
The latter group consists of players who have consistently played at a very high level for several seasons, but lacked athletic ability. There is no 2021 QB draft. Finally, here are the QBs who meet two or fewer of the criteria discussed:
And here’s the 2021 NFL Draft QB:
*SARs for Lawrence, Fields, Lance, Newman, Wilson, and Thomas were estimated based on comparisons with last year’s values.
It should be noted that evaluating QBs goes far beyond numbers. I think a combination of statistics and film should be used to assess these prospects. A player like Sam Ehlinger is a good example. He has been productive in the years he has played in college and has tested well athletically. But there are plenty of other problems in his game that bring him down on this board (see outlook below).
Below I have provided an analysis of each prospect with their positives and negatives, a comparison based on composite scores and similarities to similar QBs from the last six drafts, as well as a comparison based on their ceiling, most likely and least likely development scenarios. In addition, I added a Design category to each profile. This is not a prediction, but rather an estimate of what I think each QB is worth in a vacuum.
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*Certainly valid for players 21 years of age and older in Illinois and Iowa.
* denotes an estimated number
Since the first year of the NFL playoffs, NFL fans around the world have been waiting for a chance to see Trevor Lawrence play on Sunday. He is the most coveted QB since Andrew Luck, and is expected to be a game changer. In some circles, however, opinion has changed somewhat.
The goal for each NFL team is to find a talented QB who will be a game changer and get all boats up. Lawrence seems like the kind of player who has something special in him.
- Elite Talent Hand. The ability to place the ball on the field with speed. Can fall off any platform and out of the loop.
- Good agility to run or dodge and pressure. A playmaker made for today’s game.
- High football IQ with a fast processor; determined. Lift it up to cover the diaper and quickly find the holes.
- Can have tunnel vision and look down on targets. Slight tendency to let defenders know where he’s going.
- He often stumbles on contact by lowering his shoulder. A taste for sex. We need to move more.
- Costly accuracy errors can lead to defensive opportunities. We need to reduce the costs associated with these errors.
Ceiling: John Elway.
Very likely: Justin Herbert
Paul: Jay Cutler.
Lawrence is very difficult to understand. It’s very rare for a prospect to combine his size, arm talent, speed, athletic ability and insight. There’s a reason we’ve been talking about this for over three years. Elway is a huge athlete with a huge arm, but he doesn’t have the size and speed of Lawrence. Justin Herbert is probably his next comparison in terms of size/speed/brakes/athleticism. I chose Cutler because he is an athlete with an unlikely arm. But his size and speed don’t compare to Lawrence’s. A more favorable comparison on the field might have been Stafford, but I thought he was too high for the field.
The goal for every NFL team is to find a game-changing talent at the QB position that lifts all ships. Lawrence seems like the kind of player who has something special in him.
Fields tried to model his game after Russell Wilson. Since size is the only real differentiator in terms of capabilities, I thought it was a good idea. McNabb is the one that fits him best. Fields is more explosive than McNabb, but I feel like they play similarly. An athlete with big hands who keeps his eyes on the field, Mariota will be seen on the floor. They have similar athletic traits and size and come from similar universities with QB stories that pay off more than their individual talents.
- Increased accuracy / ball placement
- Elite toolbox with potential for unused hands
- A rare combination of size and mobility
- Predefined readings. Often choose the clutch and leave out the best options.
- The mechanics of the throw can become dislocated without delivering a clean spiral (unused hand talent).
- The tendency to be heroic can lead to poor ball security.
Two words to describe Wilson? Explosive and funny. Wilson is a player who stands out and does a lot of interesting things on the field. He raised the billboards, and the raise is well justified. Although he hasn’t played in the Power 5 conference, the talent he shows clearly shows that he is a good prospect. He can throw a rock on the field, work from the script and gain yards with his feet. He will need to work on being less reliant on bad CB play, find more consistency in his throws, and stay healthy in the NFL with a reconstructed shoulder (2019 injury/surgery).
I’m not sure he has the arm to throw 20 yards in tight spaces, but certainly enough to make all the throws. He is very accurate from the platform and deep, but is shaky or absent from the pocket to short and waist. There is no doubt that he is a wizard and throws one of the most memorable deep balls. Wilson got going very quickly with an ultra-aggressive attitude that paid off for him. He plays with dynamics and has good leadership qualities.
- A pure playmaker. Works well off script for home run plays in all parts of the field. The ball bounces off his hand.
- Adaptability: Changing arm angle, ball speed, throwing platforms to challenge the defensive front.
- Trust. He played with a special kind of confidence and boldness in 2020. That’s his game, and everyone else is playing along.
- Take risks. He throws a lot of 50-50 balls, and he gets away with it because the league is so tough.
- Accuracy is good or bad. Better to be outside the script than inside the system.
- Little things: going back to Los Angeles, selling AP, paying for trips if nothing else.
Steve Young is the ceiling here, as he is a mobile playmaking machine who likes to go downhill and whose development may depend on finding the right system. Tony Romo is probably a guy who did a great job playing an ultra-aggressive style, but he had some injury problems that shortened his career. Same story with the floor here, with McMahon a fiery warrior with a flurry of drama, whose injury problems ended his career very quickly. Two of the three compilers are BYU QBs, not bad at all!
Moves like a running back. His dexterity prevents defenders from playing close to the defensive line in an attempt to limit the passing game. Expect an increase in pain at first, which will hopefully subside over time, especially with regard to anticipating and hitting passes.
In the NDSU, it is assigned to perform pre-call and read after read. He may not apply to most NFL-style offenses, but he does have some NFL-style experience. If he ends up with a coach who masters the playbook and capitalizes on his strengths early in his career, he can certainly become one of the best QBs in the class. He fits the recent trend of top NFL QBs with an elite combination of arm talent and mobility.
- The power of elite weapons.
- Features full instrumentation as well as the highest speed and maneuverability for the job.
- He is able to withstand pressure with composure, get into the pocket and make quick throws.
- Throws to a WR. Problems leading to PRs on intermediate and vertical routes because he can’t get into the throw.
- Processing speed. Still doesn’t anticipate good passes enough, uses the arm with skill and athleticism.
- Experience. Only one year of experience as a starter and he made it to the FCS level.
Lance may have the best raw numbers in this class. And the top is solid and looks like Randall Cunningham Avenue. But the downside is also huge. Raw talent is risky, and when it pays off, it pays off a lot. Probably Josh Allen, because I expect Lance to need a few more years before he’s really what he can become. Paul is Paxton Lynch, a raw instrumentalist who didn’t stay in the NFL. In this scenario, Lance would be surprised at everything he doesn’t know and disappear from the NFL.
Jones is a traditional pocket passer. He has more speed than he looks, but he’s certainly not the guy you expect to get a lot on the ground. Jones is able to program a pre-latch and set a post-latch after his years. It is very accurate when properly protected and can read the terrain quickly to take several consecutive measurements. He put up numbers at Alabama while playing at the most talented college football of all time.
Jones also has the ability to work the field quickly and get the ball where it needs to go in time. Ultimately, he’s a top player who can lead an offense with well-defined talent around him, but he can’t propel others up the ranks without the help of scheme/OL/skill positioning. Overall, Jones has limited upside, but his downside is that he is a serviceable starter.
- Elite treatment. Repeat the previous and subsequent readings and adjust the second and third readings as necessary. Active eyes to see the whole field.
- Click and ball location. Throw the ball consecutively into the basket at all levels. Give the WRs a chance to play.
- It’s time. Hit the WRs in stride and give them a chance to get YACs in space.
- Pocket passenger. Few opportunities to extend the play and gain yards on the ground.
- Talent for weapons. The hand is adequate, but unable to leave. I’m sure it reads well because it doesn’t fit in many narrow windows.
- Work pressure. Habit of falling on the back foot when pressure is applied, without the talent of an arm to compensate.
The ceiling for Jones would be the MVP version of Matt Ryan when Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator. That includes a good defense, a good scheme and a set of skills that surrounds them. Kirk Cousins is the most likely case as a QB who is as good as anything around him, yet could be short-lived. His level is the same as Sam Bradford’s, who was good enough to start but never good enough to succeed in the NFL.
Monday is a mystery in scouting circles. He’s a QB who has the potential to split draft rooms, because no one is sure what kind of player he is or will become. His past experiences can show us what is most likely for him. Monday can be a very good QB at times, but he can have consistency issues that always cause groans.
Just the talent of his arm and his mobility are very attractive. If he can get his mechanics right and improve his read defense, Monday could become a solid starting QB in the NFL and probably be worth the risk in the middle rounds.
- Talent Rawhand. Maybe just give passes that most QBs can’t.
- A powerful runner with good agility.
- Shows signs of handling pressure with aplomb, stays in the pocket and delivers with the added ability to throw off the platform.
- Consistency. He has ups and downs, and can look like a different QB from week to week.
- Placement of the ball. Tends to drop passes on the sideline; not all of his hands are talented.
- Inconsistent decision-making. Probably some reversals with feedback or dense reversals.
The best case for Monday would be Duck Prescott. As he develops his skills, he becomes an effective playmaker who has the tools to win in many ways. However, the most likely outcome is Mitchell Turbiskey, rather than a QB with good tools who never gets his throwing mechanics or field reads right. The bottom line is that Kizer is a QB who never really takes developmental steps when he comes into the league and slows down after a few years, despite his tools.
Newman was pulled from Wake Forest after the 2019 season. He then announced that he will transfer to Georgia to finish his senior year in 2020. Despite this, Newman decided to cancel, and the reasons have been the subject of speculation ever since.
There is something good about Newman’s play on film. His arm is hand held with a strong zip and throws impressively from different angles and platforms. But there are still questions about the accuracy of his job, and he needs to improve his mechanics if he wants to become more consistent. Newman could be an interesting mid-tier player for an NFL team with boom/bust potential.
- Plus the talent of the hands. The ball jumps out of his hand. He has good speed when he needs it, but he also throws a good vertical ball.
- Mobility. Rugged athleticism with strong running instincts and the ability to throw from the run.
- Aggressive. Look down and dig deep. Has made progress with reading, but still needs to work on it.
- Placement of the ball. He often disrupts the scoring and makes the WR’s job harder than it needs to be.
- Mechanical. Error due to poor throwing technique. We need to find consistency in his throwing motion.
- Experience. Only 16 departures. Retired from the 2020 season. Timing issues.
Size and a well-characterized athletic profile for McNair. But Newman still has a lot of work to do to reach those lofty heights. Brissett seems to be his centerpiece as a beefy fight starter who serves better as a backup, though Newman is more athletically gifted than Brissett. His gender would be similar to Cordell Stewart’s. With his strong arm and athletic ability, he has value on the roster. But its value could be based on specialized packages and non-standard use of QBs if it doesn’t continue to grow. I was also thinking of Aaron Brooks.
After his final season at Arkansas, there was a noticeable growth that makes one hope he is less successful than he is.
At the NFL level, Franks needs to improve his reads on the field, his effort on touchdown passes and his overall feel for the game. If things go the way he wants and he continues to develop, he could make the roster at the next level in hopes of becoming a more important player.
- Length. Long arms, long legs, big frame, long stride. The ability to gain yards and avoid defenders. Stray bullets.
- High school. He has made great strides as a QB candidate since leaving Florida. Improving accuracy and decision making in 2020.
- NFL frame. The 6-foot-3, 234-pounder offers good size combined with solid movement and arm skills.
- Inconsistent arm talent. Shows signs of having a good arm, but needs to keep it under control. Does not always find the right speed or distance.
- Anticipation. Should get better as a downfield scanner and throw for the WR.
- Clarification. Despite the progress made, it is still too imprecise. Must continue to improve in repetitive movements and delivery.
Franks’ ceiling can be heavenly, as can Josh Allen’s. But it’s much further from that ceiling than most mentioned with similar potential. A career more akin to Nate Sudfeld’s, who does have some size and tools, but serves as a backup. In a few years, he won’t be in the league, just like Paxton Lynch.
Trask had an incredible campaign in 2020, perfecting Dan Mullen’s offense for the Florida Gators. At times he showed impressive accuracy and touch in a very talented set of skills for the Florida Gators.
At the next level, Trask will have to overcome his lack of mobility to succeed in a league that is going in a different direction. His arm strength leaves something to be desired, but in the right system and with the right weapons, Trask could be a solid starter. His ideal situation would be that of a game master.
- Large frame. 1.80 m high and 90 kg in weight. Can attack defenders and still shoot.
- Efficiency. Makes regular key passes when available. Works best in short/medium mode.
- Height of the game. Throws with a high release point and avoids passes with the ball. He sees the whole field and has a good vantage point for deep chances.
- Still. It’s a statue. They’re not going to play games or put their feet up.
- Inability to change pitch. Equal speed on all throws and limited ability to change arm angle.
- Overwhelmingly poor talent. Can add some power with improved mechanics but limited arm strength. Often there is a deep or transverse passage.
Trask is a great QB who lacks arm strength and has unmatched accuracy, but can win smartly if he has a good scheme and talent around him. These properties are like his cover, Nick Falls. The question now is whether he can do it at the NFL level, as Foles did. The most likely scenario is Mike Glennon, who will likely get starting opportunities here and there, but generally acts as a solid backup. His lower limit would be closer to Mettenberger’s, which as a backup doesn’t offer enough to keep him in the league.
A five-star recruit out of high school, expectations were high for Davis Mills at Stanford. However, he never got regular playing time to form a strong rating. On the field, he showed promise that might interest scouts and recruiters.
Mills excels in the short passing game when he can make quick passes and play with his feet when needed. He throws well out of the box and shows nice touches at times, but he lacks the deep offense. He’s shown a penchant for sloppy play, which rightfully makes one wonder what he has to offer at the NFL level.
- More mobile than expected. Coupled with a quick release, moderately able to prolong the game.
- Throw the numbers out and across the field. Good placement of the ball on these throws gives WRs a chance at YAC.
- Efficiency. Works well in the pocket. When he’s good, he finds targets quickly with impressive ball placement.
- Inconsistent filing times. I usually worked with a shotgun or a one stage dropper. There may be a problem with the rhythm and time system.
- Overwhelmingly poor talent. Contradictory for 20 meters. Perhaps with improved mechanics.
- Experience. He only played in 14 games and started even fewer.
The best case scenario for Mills would be to give him time to develop as a center pick with tools and a good offensive plan around him, like Kirk Cousins did. But the most likely scenario would have been for him to serve as an intern with some potential, like Derek Anderson. The lower bound for him would be similar to that of Garrett Gilbert, a former top rookie who never recovered from a college career that turned out to be worse than expected and either floundered in the league or didn’t last as a backup QB.
Book is an outstanding leader with a knack for the game, who had a very good college career. He knows how to create playability and has a stable mental balance because he works from the script. But his arm is not up to NFL standards. He can contribute enough as a pass rusher and make an impact in the locker room to stay on the roster, but it’s unlikely he’ll ever find a regular starting role.
- Mobility. Can easily maneuver and climb. Agile runner.
- The piece is not written. At best, when everything fell apart.
- Quickly. His game is based on quick decisions, quick feet and quick throws.
- Throwing technique. He relies on his throws, which leads to inaccuracies and a loss of power.
- Talent for weapons. Below-average hand force without specific characteristics (e.g. angle of hand, ability to leave platform, etc.)
- Leading PRs. The throws often force WRs to slow down or stop their routes to get YACs.
After his great performance at Texas against Notre Dame, Buechele, once considered a future first-rounder, has come a long way in the discussion of the draft. When Tom Herman took over as Texas’ head coach, Buechele was benched midway through the season in favor of Sam Ehlinger. Buechele transferred to SMU the following year to play in Sonny Dykes’ Air Raid.
At SMU, Buechele led one of the top 5 offensive groups in the country. Buechele does a good job within his athletic ability, keeping his eyes on the field and quickly building his base to play the ball out. However, its mechanism is probably in need of a complete overhaul, as it is currently causing failures in both accuracy and performance. There are legitimate concerns about his ability to be a serviceable NFL starter.
- Under pressure. He goes into the bag and looks down.
- Adaptability. Able to throw from different angles to complete passes in closed spaces.
- The work of a football player. Reliable base and good construction for fast delivery. Find WR in the room.
- Feel it. Makes too many mistakes and shoots goals.
- Bad mechanics. The shape sits above the waist (which can cause problems with contact and tipping). Slowly rotate your hips. Combining the upper body with the lower body can make a big difference.
- Irregular arm strength. I don’t know what to expect from this litter.
The award-winning Longhorn from Texas, who can score more points than he will in his career, looks a lot like Ehlinger as a college QB. While his mobility and durability are attractive features, there are many red flags that revolve solely around his performance as a passer. In the draft process, Ehlinger will have to make big strides to prove that he belongs as a QB. If not, he could claim a useful role in the NFL.
- An impressive athlete with a good build. Potential to be a good red zone doubler.
- Anticipates a throw from midfield well. Can work with timing routes to reach windows on posts and slants, especially near the red zone.
- The strength of the bag. Handle the dirty bag well by constantly moving it up and down by touch.
- Talent for weapons. The balls are wobbly, the arm strength is mediocre at best and the consistency is poor.
- Feel it. Lack of feel for the deep ball. Often deep lenses are tilted or pushed.
- Treatment. Take it easy and read beyond the numbers. Good reader in midfield, but struggles with boundaries.
Thomas had an eventful career at Appalachian State that will be long remembered. As an NFL prospect, however, there are some question marks. Thomas is a fast QB with a quick release and agile legs. He is able to work well in the short game and create for himself. Nevertheless, he struggled with his overall arm talent and lack of anticipation on his throws.
- Quickly. Shoot the ball quickly with a compact release.
- Mobile. Does not run, but can move well when needed.
- Play. Outside, Thomas is very efficient. Turns out he can look down and read while driving.
- Talent for weapons. Decent speed, but generally weak arm strength to take the ball, which limits his ceiling.
- Rigid windows. Not enough momentum on the ball to compete by closing windows and giving the defender a chance.
- Anticipation. Doesn’t read options and is often late on throws. Missed opportunities due to hand limitations.
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