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Updating college QB performance and how it translates to NFL performance

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Can we learn anything from Drew Lock’s college stats to predict how he will perform in 2020?

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Lock completed 56.9% of his passes in college and had a TD:INT ratio of 2.54:1.00 (99 TD and 39 INT). Keep that in mind as you read this study.

So I wrote this in 2017 when we were all wondering if Trevor Siemian could become an average NFL QB (spoiler: he couldn’t) based upon his terrible stats from college. That got me thinking about whether or not college QB stats, particularly from pass-wacky offenses, had any real bearing on NFL performance. So I dug into the numbers. This will update that study with QB stats from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

The original study included 52 starting QBs, but did not look at players who played FCS or D2 in college, so I will continue to use that method. The original study also focused on two stats: completion percentage and TD:INT ratio. So will the updated study. Only guys who were starting QBs for multiple seasons in the NFL are included (starting 8 or more games at least twice) over the last 15 NFL seasons. The game has changed quite a bit since 2005.

Change in Completion Percentage

Rank QB NFL COMP% College/Univ College COMP% Change in COMP%
1 Josh McCown 60.2% Sam Houston St. 51.2% 9.0%
2 Kyle Boller 56.7% California 47.8% 8.9%
3 Drew Brees 67.6% Purdue 61.1% 6.5%
4 Matt Ryan 65.4% Boston Col. 59.9% 5.5%
5 Matthew Stafford 62.5% Georgia 57.1% 5.4%
6 Matt Hasselbeck 60.5% Boston Col. 55.6% 4.9%
7 Jay Cutler 61.9% Vanderbilt 57.2% 4.7%
8 David Garrard 61.6% East Carolina 57.0% 4.6%
9 Tyrod Taylor 61.6% Virginia Tech 57.2% 4.4%
10 Trent Edwards 60.6% Stanford 56.3% 4.3%
11 Derek Anderson 54.3% Oregon St. 50.7% 3.6%
12 Russell Wilson 64.5% Wisconsin 60.9% 3.6%
13 Carson Palmer 62.5% USC 59.1% 3.4%
14 Brian Hoyer 59.1% Michigan St. 55.8% 3.3%
15 Dak Prescott 65.8% Miss. St. 62.8% 3.0%
16 Kirk Cousins 66.9% Michigan St. 64.1% 2.8%
17 Chad Pennington 66.0% Marshall 63.6% 2.4%
18 Patrick Mahomes 65.9% Texas Tech 63.5% 2.4%
19 Tom Brady 63.8% Michigan 61.9% 1.9%
20 Colin Kaepernick 59.8% Nevada 58.2% 1.6%
21 J.P. Losman 59.2% Tulane 57.8% 1.4%
22 Philip Rivers 64.7% North Carolina St. 63.6% 1.1%
23 Ryan Tannehill 63.5% Texas A&M 62.5% 1.0%
24 Joey Harrington 56.1% Oregon 55.2% 0.9%
25 Aaron Rodgers 64.6% California 63.8% 0.8%
26 Kyle Orton 59.5% Purdue 58.8% 0.7%
27 Marc Bulger 62.1% West Virginia 61.6% 0.5%
28 Jacoby Brissett 59.9% North Carolina St. 59.5% 0.4%
29 Andy Dalton 62.0% TCU 61.7% 0.3%
30 Trevor Siemian 59.2% Northwestern 58.9% 0.3%
31 Michael Vick 56.2% Virginia Tech 56.0% 0.2%
32 Jared Goff 62.4% California 62.3% 0.1%
33 Josh Allen 56.3% Wyoming 56.2% 0.1%
34 Quincy Carter 56.5% Georgia 56.6% -0.1%
35 Chad Henne 59.3% Michigan 59.7% -0.4%
36 Eli Manning 60.3% Mississippi 60.8% -0.5%
37 Ben Roethlisberger 64.3% Miami (OH) 65.5% -1.2%
38 Josh Freeman 57.6% Kansas St. 59.1% -1.5%
39 Christian Ponder 59.8% Florida St. 61.8% -2.0%
40 Derek Carr 64.0% Fresno St. 66.7% -2.7%
41 Matt Schaub 64.2% Virginia 67.0% -2.8%
42 David Carr 59.7% Fresno St. 62.7% -3.0%
43 Teddy Bridgewater 65.2% Louisville 68.4% -3.2%
44 Alex Smith 62.4% Utah 66.3% -3.9%
45 Marcus Mariota 62.9% Oregon 66.8% -3.9%
46 Vince Young 57.9% Texas 61.8% -3.9%
47 Robert Griffin 63.1% Baylor 67.1% -4.0%
48 Mitch Trubisky 63.4% North Carolina 67.5% -4.1%
49 Jason Campbell 60.3% Auburn 64.6% -4.3%
50 Blaine Gabbert 56.2% Missouri 60.9% -4.7%
51 Jameis Winston 61.3% Florida St. 66.0% -4.7%
52 Nick Foles 61.9% Arizona 66.8% -4.9%
53 Sam Darnold 59.9% USC 64.9% -5.0%
54 Sam Bradford 62.5% Oklahoma 67.6% -5.1%
55 Rex Grossman 55.2% Florida 61.0% -5.8%
56 Cam Newton 59.6% Auburn 65.4% -5.8%
57 Andrew Luck 60.8% Stanford 67.0% -6.2%
58 Blake Bortles 59.3% Central Florida 65.7% -6.4%
59 Case Keenum 62.4% Houston 69.4% -7.0%
60 Baker Mayfield 61.5% Oklahoma 68.5% -7.0%
61 Byron Leftwich 57.9% Marshall 65.1% -7.2%
62 Mark Sanchez 56.6% USC 64.3% -7.7%
63 Geno Smith 57.9% West Virginia 67.4% -9.5%
64 Colt McCoy 60.7% Texas 70.3% -9.6%

Of the 64 quarterbacks in the study 31 of them improved their completion percentage in the NFL relative to what they did in college. The average change over the whole study was a 0.6% drop in the NFL relative to college numbers. Most of the QBs that significantly improved their completion percentage are not currently starters in the NFL but a few are - Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Russell Wilson, and Dak Prescott. The standard deviation of the college completion values was 4.8 percent. The average change was -0.7 percent.

On the other end of the spectrum you have about the same number of current NFL starters who have gotten significantly worse in the NFL: Mitch Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Nick Foles, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, Case Keenum, and Baker Mayfield. I did not realize before writing this that Colt McCoy completed more than 70 percent of his passes in college.

Touchdown to Interception Ratio

While it appears to be relatively “easy” to improve upon college completion percentage once you are starting in the NFL, it is much more difficult to improve upon college passing TD to interception ratio. Only twelve of the QBs in the study were able to do that.

Rank QB NFL TD/INT College/Univ College TD/INT Change in TD/INT
1 Tom Brady 3.0 Michigan 1.8 1.2
2 Aaron Rodgers 4.3 California 3.3 1.0
3 Patrick Mahomes 4.2 Texas Tech 3.2 1.0
4 Matt Ryan 2.2 Boston Col. 1.5 0.7
5 Tyrod Taylor 2.7 Virginia Tech 2.2 0.5
6 Matt Hasselbeck 1.4 Boston Col. 0.9 0.5
7 Matthew Stafford 1.9 Georgia 1.5 0.4
8 Josh McCown 1.2 Sam Houston St. 0.8 0.4
9 Drew Brees 2.3 Purdue 2.0 0.3
10 Trevor Siemian 1.3 Northwestern 1.1 0.2
11 Carson Palmer 1.6 USC 1.5 0.1
12 David Garrard 1.6 East Carolina 1.5 0.1
13 Nick Foles 2.0 Arizona 2.0 0.0
14 Kirk Cousins 2.2 Michigan St. 2.2 0.0
15 Josh Freeman 1.2 Kansas St. 1.3 -0.1
16 Trent Edwards 0.9 Stanford 1.1 -0.2
17 Jay Cutler 1.4 Vanderbilt 1.6 -0.2
18 Ryan Tannehill 1.8 Texas A&M 2.0 -0.2
19 Russell Wilson 3.3 Wisconsin 3.6 -0.3
20 Dak Prescott 2.7 Miss. St. 3.0 -0.3
21 Jason Campbell 1.5 Auburn 1.9 -0.4
22 Michael Vick 1.5 Virginia Tech 1.9 -0.4
23 Marc Bulger 1.3 West Virginia 1.7 -0.4
24 Kyle Boller 0.9 California 1.3 -0.4
25 Derek Anderson 0.9 Oregon St. 1.4 -0.5
26 Quincy Carter 0.9 Georgia 1.4 -0.5
27 Christian Ponder 1.1 Florida St. 1.6 -0.5
28 Ben Roethlisberger 1.9 Miami (OH) 2.5 -0.6
29 Andy Dalton 1.7 TCU 2.4 -0.7
30 Josh Allen 1.4 Wyoming 2.1 -0.7
31 Jacoby Brissett 2.4 North Carolina St. 3.1 -0.7
32 Vince Young 0.9 Texas 1.6 -0.7
33 Matt Schaub 1.5 Virginia 2.2 -0.7
34 Brian Hoyer 0.8 Michigan St. 1.5 -0.7
35 Philip Rivers 2.0 North Carolina St. 2.8 -0.8
36 Kyle Orton 1.5 Purdue 2.3 -0.8
37 Eli Manning 1.5 Mississippi 2.3 -0.8
38 Jameis Winston 1.4 Florida St. 2.3 -0.9
39 Colin Kaepernick 2.4 Nevada 3.4 -1.0
40 Jared Goff 2.1 California 3.2 -1.1
41 Blaine Gabbert 1.0 Missouri 2.2 -1.2
42 J.P. Losman 1.0 Tulane 2.2 -1.2
43 Rex Grossman 0.9 Florida 2.1 -1.2
44 Sam Darnold 1.3 USC 2.6 -1.3
45 Teddy Bridgewater 1.5 Louisville 3.0 -1.5
46 Chad Henne 0.9 Michigan 2.4 -1.5
47 Blake Bortles 1.4 Central Florida 2.9 -1.5
48 Mark Sanchez 1.0 USC 2.6 -1.6
49 Andrew Luck 2.1 Stanford 3.7 -1.6
50 Colt McCoy 0.8 Texas 2.5 -1.7
51 Joey Harrington 0.9 Oregon 2.6 -1.7
52 Case Keenum 1.6 Houston 3.4 -1.8
53 Byron Leftwich 1.4 Marshall 3.2 -1.8
54 Chad Pennington 1.6 Marshall 3.6 -2.0
55 David Carr 0.9 Fresno St. 3.0 -2.1
56 Derek Carr 2.3 Fresno St. 4.7 -2.4
57 Mitch Trubisky 1.7 North Carolina 4.1 -2.4
58 Cam Newton 1.7 Auburn 4.3 -2.6
59 Baker Mayfield 1.4 Oklahoma 4.4 -3.0
60 Robert Griffin 1.5 Baylor 4.6 -3.1
61 Sam Bradford 1.7 Oklahoma 5.5 -3.8
62 Geno Smith 0.8 West Virginia 4.7 -3.9
63 Alex Smith 1.9 Utah 5.9 -4.0
64 Marcus Mariota 1.7 Oregon 7.5 -5.8

The top four are all still starting QBs in the NFL (and five of the top seven). On the other end of the spectrum you can see that many of these QBs were not able to get anywhere close to the TD:INT ratio that they posted in college. The standard deviation on the college TD:INT ratio was 1.3. So 21 of these QBs have been (were or still are) significantly worse in the NFL than they were in college. This should surprise no one. What should stand out to people is the fact that, of the bottom ten here, eight of them were either the first or the second pick in the draft. Only Geno Smith and Derek Carr were not.

What does this mean for Drew Lock (if anything)?

In his five game audition in 2019, Drew Lock was able to complete 64.1 percent of his passes. That’s a 7.2 percent change for the better relative to his college career. Were he to maintain that, he would be #3 in this completion percentage table. Lock threw seven touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. That ratio of 2.33:1.00 is fairly close to his college performance (2.54:1.00). The average change was -1.0, meaning that most QBs got significantly worse in the NFL relative to college. The standard deviation of the NFL TD:INT ratio was 0.74.

It would not surprise me if both Lock’s completion percentage and his TD:INT ratio stay the same in 2020 relative to 2019. The league average for completion percentage in 2019 was 63.5 percent. Only four teams completed fewer than 60 percent of their passes and the worst team in the NFL, the Bungals, still completed passes at a higher percentage 57.8 percent than Drew Lock did in college. Lock’s improvement in completion percentage is almost to be expected since his college completion percentage was so low. Both Lock and Josh Allen had their draft stock hurt by their “poor” college completion percentage. Their stats are even more glaring when you realize that seven different BCS starting QBs last season completed 70 percent (rounding up) or more of their passes.

Year Name Team Yr G Att Comp Pct. Yards Yards/Att TD Int TD:INT Rating
2019 Joe Burrow LSU SR 15 527 402 76.3 5671 10.8 60 6 10.0 202.0
2019 Tyler Huntley Utah SR 14 301 220 73.1 3092 10.3 19 4 4.8 177.5
2019 Kedon Slovis USC FR 12 392 282 71.9 3502 8.9 30 9 3.3 167.7
2019 Anthony Gordon Wash St SR 13 687 493 71.8 5579 8.1 48 16 3.0 158.4
2019 Ty Storey Western Ky SR 11 345 241 69.9 2567 7.4 14 7 2.0 141.7
2019 Jalen Hurts Oklahoma SR 14 340 237 69.7 3851 11.3 32 8 4.0 191.2
2019 Jack Coan Wisconsin JR 14 339 236 69.6 2727 8.0 18 5 3.6 151.8

Poll

What is more likely to occur in 2020 for Drew Lock?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    maintain both his completion % and his TD:INT
    (104 votes)
  • 37%
    Improve both
    (202 votes)
  • 14%
    Improve completion % and maintain TD:INT
    (78 votes)
  • 13%
    maintain completion % and improve TD:INT
    (75 votes)
  • 5%
    get worse in both
    (32 votes)
  • 5%
    get worse in completion % and maintain TD:INT
    (28 votes)
  • 4%
    get worse in TD:INT and maintain completion %
    (25 votes)
544 votes total Vote Now