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PFF's Pre-draft QB analyses

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I like data and so do the guys over at Pro Football Focus. Their mantra is "every player/every play" and they did that with almost every college player who is going to be available in the draft. They watched them, tracked them and graded them. Their QB analysis is both informative and counter to much of the rankings you are going to see elsewhere.

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Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Here's some breaking news for you: The Denver Broncos are in the market for a starting QB. There's an athletic freak of a QB in northern California that we have been rumored to want, but I'm not going to beat that dead horse in this post. I'm going to drop some knowledge on you about the QBs available in the draft. This is some knowledge that was dropped on me earlier this week by the awesome analysts of Pro Football Focus. They couple film study with stats from their own film study (not just relying on the numbers of the stat guy at Football Factory U.) to come up with some very different analyses of some of the QBs in whom Denver has expressed interest.

Here is there overall rankings and their superlatives from this class. There are an average of 12 QBs drafted each year over the past five years.

PFF Draft Guide 2016

Rank Player School Round
1 Jared Goff California Top 5
2 Carson Wentz North Dakota State 1st
3 Paxton Lynch Memphis 3rd
4 Connor Cook Michigan State 4th
5 Brandon Allen Arkansas 4th
6 Cody Kessler USC 4th
7 Matt Johnson Bowling Green 4th
8 Brandon Doughty Western Kentucky 4th
9 Vernon Adams Oregon 4th
10 Trevone Boykin TCU 5th
11 Kevin Hogan Stanford 5th
12 Jeff Driskel Louisiana Tech 5th
13 Jacoby Brissett North Carolina State 5th
14 Dak Prescott Mississippi State 7th
15 Cardale Jones Ohio State 7th
16 Everett Golson Florida State UDFCA
17 Nick Arbuckle Georgia State UDCFA
18-22 Christian Hackenberg Penn State UDCFA
18-22 Joel Stave Winsconsin UDCFA
18-22 Jake Rudock Michigan UDCFA
18-22 Nate Sudfield Indiana UDCFA
18-22 Jake Coker Alabama UDCFA

Superlatives:

Best arm: Carson Wentz

Most accurate: Cody Kessler

Best under pressure: Jared Goff

Best pocket presence: Jared Goff

Best Deep Ball: Matt Johnson

Best running threat: Dak Prescott

Best accuracy vs. single coverage: Jared Goff

Best accuracy vs. tight coverage: Connor Cook

Before you start typing your comment to defend your favorite QB prospect you should read about how PFF generates these rankings. They watched every play of these QBs this season against (and only against) FBS teams and graded every play. Directly from PFF below is their signature stat overview for QB analysis

Signature Stat Overview:

Accuracy Percentage (QB) Taking the commonly-used Completion Percentage a step or two further, we’ve accounted for a set of factors that help better define a quarterback’s performance on passes that were actually aimed at (and delivered to) a targeted receiver. We add back in dropped passes to give the QB credit for getting the ball to its destination and take away ‘attempts’ that were actually throwaways, spikes, or balls that were batted at the line and those that fluttered from his hand when hit as he threw. The result? Top Completion Percentages typically approach or climb slightly past 70%, while Accuracy Percentage leaders will be looking at numbers closer to 80%.

Advanced PFF QB stats for 2015 = only against FBS competition

First Last Team Dropbacks Att. Comp Drops TA BP SP HAT Drop% Acc.%
Everett Golson Florida St. 252 222 147 16 19 1 1 2 7.2 81.9
Brandon Doughty Western Kentucky 567 545 388 38 13 6 1 4 7.0 81.8
Cody Kessler USC 501 447 298 21 24 6 1 8 4.7 78.2
Jake Coker Alabama 447 393 263 21 18 5 0 4 5.3 77.6
Paxton Lynch Memphis 479 443 297 30 15 3 0 1 6.8 77.1
Matt Johnson Bowling Green 627 567 379 22 30 9 0 0 3.9 75.9
Jake Rudock Michigan 442 390 250 21 15 10 0 8 5.4 75.9
Nick Arbuckle Georgia St. 532 487 307 37 25 8 0 1 7.6 75.9
Kevin Hogan Stanford 347 307 207 18 3 2 2 3 5.9 75.8
Dak Prescott Mississippi St, 529 480 316 29 8 5 2 7 6.0 75.3
Vernon Adams, Jr Oregon 311 259 168 16 8 3 0 1 6.2 74.5
Brandon Allen Arkansas 405 370 244 10 17 5 0 5 2.7 74.1
Jared Goff Cal 580 531 339 33 18 5 2 3 6.2 74.0
Trevone Boykin TCU 447 397 257 26 7 2 1 1 6.5 73.3
Cardale Jones Ohio St. 202 176 109 8 10 3 0 2 4.5 72.7
Carson Wentz North Dakota St. 227 208 130 10 6 2 0 6 4.8 72.2
Jeff Driskel Louisiana Tech 491 450 281 24 15 6 2 1 5.3 71.6
Jacoby Brissett NC St. 470 398 237 19 27 5 2 5 4.8 71.3
Nate Sudfeld Indiana 438 413 247 31 13 4 0 4 7.5 70.9
Joel Stave Wisconsin 401 372 225 26 4 5 1 6 7.0 70.5
Connor Cook Michigan St. 440 412 229 29 9 9 1 5 7.0 66.5
Christian Hackenberg Penn St. 420 362 192 27 10 8 0 2 7.5 64.0

TA = throwaways, BP = batted passes, SP = spikes to stop the clock, HAT = Hit as QB is throwing

Passing Under Pressure (QB) A telling set of stats when considering a quarterback’s composure, we’ve assembled tables of data to show how often they find themselves under duress and how they operate in those situations. Who throws it away and who takes the sack? Whose pressured passes have been picked-off most frequently and whose have usually found an open receiver? Every pressured drop-back is counted here.

Passing Under Pressure

Name Team Sacks Att. Comp. TA HAT Drops TD INT Pressure % Sack% Comp% Acc%
Everett Golson Florida State 15 80 43 17 2 4 3 1 41.3 14.4 53.8 77.0
Paxton Lynch Memphis 16 105 58 13 1 6 6 0 29.0 11.5 55.2 70.3
Jake Rudock Michigan 19 124 67 13 8 5 4 2 36.0 11.9 54.0 69.9
Cody Kessler USC 38 136 72 17 8 4 7 3 36.1 21.0 52.9 68.5
Brandon Doughty WKU 15 138 77 11 4 7 6 3 27.5 9.6 55.8 68.3
Trevone Boykin TCU 10 63 33 7 1 4 5 3 20.6 10.9 52.4 67.3
Vernon Adams Jr. Oregon 25 77 40 8 1 4 8 3 38.6 20.8 51.9 64.7
Jared Goff Cal 26 134 67 15 3 8 12 6 29.7 15.1 50.0 64.7
Matt Johnson BGSU 38 119 57 23 0 5 12 3 26.3 23.0 47.9 64.6
Jeff Driskel Louisiana Tech 20 115 60 11 1 6 7 0 29.3 13.9 52.2 64.1
Nick Arbuckle GSU 31 136 60 22 1 12 5 4 32.3 18.0 44.1 63.7
Jake Coker Alabama 25 112 52 16 4 5 9 5 34.7 16.1 46.4 62.0
Brandon Allen Arkansas 15 113 55 12 5 4 8 5 33.6 11.0 48.7 61.5
Kevin Hogan Stanford 19 72 36 2 3 5 5 1 30.8 17.8 50.0 61.2
Dak Prescott Mississippi State 31 131 65 6 7 7 5 1 33.3 17.6 49.6 61.0
Nate Sudfeld Indiana 12 88 37 9 4 8 5 3 24.2 11.3 42.0 60.0
Cardale Jones Ohio State 14 51 22 9 2 2 2 4 35.1 19.7 43.1 60.0
Joel Stave Wisconsin 23 109 50 4 6 8 4 6 34.2 16.8 45.9 58.6
Carson Wentz NDSU 8 59 25 4 5 3 5 2 32.2 11.0 42.4 56.0
Jacoby Brissett NCSU 37 116 46 25 5 1 2 3 35.5 22.2 39.7 54.7
Connor Cook Michigan State 16 117 47 9 5 8 1 2 31.4 11.6 40.2 53.4
Christian Hackenberg Penn State 37 118 41 8 2 10 3 5 40.0 22.0 34.7 47.2

There is also a comparison of how each QB fared on deep passes that you can find in the guide but I am not going to reproduce it here.

Now that you have seen the data (and there is plenty more available) you can start to understand why they grade Paxton Lynch as a 3rd round prospect and Christian Hackenberg as undraftable. You also see why they have a much higher opinion of Cody Kessler than most draft expert sites.  From the link above here are some really eye-opening pieces of information about Hackenberg.

Completion percentage can be affected by many things, but if you dive a little deeper and look specifically at his ball placement, things get even worse. Hackenberg completed 192 passes this past season, but when we charted ball location for quarterbacks in this draft class, 55 of those catches were badly located passes. He was only accurate on 48.1 percent of attempts when throwing to open receivers. By comparison, Cody Kessler was accurate on 73.2 percent of his attempts to open receivers, Carson Wentz was at 61.2 percent. Even Cardale Jones, our inaccuracy comp in this exercise, was 5 percent better when throwing to open guys.

-Sam Monson, staff analyst at PFF

it gets even worse

I have never seen a quarterback consistently miss as many wide receiver screens as Hackenberg. Receiver screens are supposed to be high-percentage plays. In college, the average receiver screen pass is only off-target on 4.75 percent of attempts. In the NFL that figure becomes 3.45 percent, and the worst mark any QB has posted over the past three seasons is Chad Henne, at 8.47 percent. Last season, Hackenberg was off-target on 15.8 percent of his receiver screen passes — around five times more inaccurate than the average NFL QB.

The story only gets worse on passes 11 to 20 yards down the field. He is accurate in ball-location terms on just 27.5 percent of them (the best QBs in this class are up around 50 percent). From 21 to 30, yards he is down at 12.0 percent (with the best marks around 40 percent).

Hackenberg is capable of occasionally brilliant passes, and every now and then, exceptional accuracy. But when looking at his entire body of work, our assessment is that he is far too inaccurate to play in the NFL.

-Sam Monson

Yikes, but wait what about the argument that goes like this: "The talent around him was horrible, you have to look at his freshman season (2103) when he had good coaching and good receivers to work with." Yeah, that argument fails if you look at what he was able to do in his freshman year and compare to the rest of this QB class in any of their years.

That should put any thoughts of drafting Hackenberg (other than as Mr. Irrelevent) out of your mind. He's not any NFL QB and he needs to improve more than any other QB in this draft class in order to even get to the level of an NFL backup QB.

Moving on to other QBs, Cody Kessler gets a lot of love from PFF as do Brandon Allen and Brandon Doughty. All three are physically limited, but were able to do great thing in college. All three could be steals in the draft. PFF does not do a full review of Doughty, but they had some good things to say about him beyond the fact that he was the second most accurate of the 22 draft eligible QBs in 2015 (he was also similarly accurate in 2014).

Another impressive number for Doughty: he was sacked only 9.6 percent of his pressured dropbacks, best in the class

Of course Doughty played at WKU so while he was technically playing against FBS competition, the Sun Belt conference is a big step down from the Power 5.

While they like Kessler's accuracy, his limited physical tools and marked regression in 2015 relative to 2014 hurt and they only see his NFL ceiling as being a career backup QB.

Bottom line: Cody Kessler showed a lot of promise in 2014, but the drop in his play this season is a concern. He doesn’t fit the ideal measurable profile teams look for, but has shown the ability to overcome his relative lack of arm talent with high-level pocket passing ability. If he is going to succeed in the NFL he needs to be able to succeed in the face of pressure consistently and eliminate the lows in his game, because he won’t receive the same chances as a higher-rated prospect.

-Sam Monson