In 2001 a young pitcher named Danny Almonte took the baseball world by storm. He became a household name after striking out 16 en route to a perfect game in the Little League World Series. He showed the kind of skill and velocity that led people to envision a future big league star. Danny dominated the competition. The only problem is that Danny was 14 years old, two year older than the competition, and too old to be playing in the tournament.
After recent RotoViz articles have explored the impact of age on running back and wide receiver performance, I thought it might be time to factor it into quarterback projections. Because those positions rely on speed, youth is a key factor. For quarterbacks, I’ve never paid much attention to age, except in Weeden-like instances. Think about it: Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both past their 35th birthdays and still going strong. How many 35 year old running backs are still toting the rock? Who cares if a QB is 22 or 24 when the expectation is that they could play for another decade?
But what if age DOES matter for quarterback prospects?
I plugged an age function into my quarterback database to consider the possibilities. Similar to how baseball uses July 1 as their cutoff, I decided that October 15th is the midpoint of the college football season. What I began to notice is that quarterbacks who play their final college season at 23+ are an unusual bunch, both in quantity and future performance. This list was drawn from my spreadsheet of (almost) every QB drafted since 1995. Consider the following:
|QB||Final NCAA Season||Age||College||Readiness Grade||Draft Round|
|Weeden, Brandon||2011||28||Oklahoma State||102.3||1|
|Druckenmiller, Jim||1996||24||Virginia Tech||100.5||1|
|Tannehill, Ryan||2011||23||Texas A&M||84||1|
|Hoying, Bobby||1995||23||Ohio State||100.1||3|
|Weinke, Chris||2000||28||Florida St||92.6||4|
|Cousins, Kirk||2011||23||Michigan St||87.5||4|
|McGee, Stephen||2008||23||Texas A&M||0||4|
|Kingsbury, Kliff||2002||23||Texas Tech||97.7||6|
|Brandstater, Tom||2008||23||Fresno State||72.6||6|
|Harnish, Chandler||2011||23||No Illinois||105.3||7|
|Van Pelt, Bradlee||2003||23||Colorado St||90.8||7|
|Robinson, Zac||2009||23||Oklahoma State||65.7||7|
|Harrell, Graham||2008||23||Texas Tech||108.4||UDFA|
|Volek, Billy||1999||23||Fresno State||90.3||UDFA|
|Hoyer, Brian||2008||23||Michigan St||62||UDFA|
|Doege, Seth||2012||23||Texas Tech||97.9||?|
|Klein, Collin||2012||23||Kansas State||92.2||?|
**Harrington, Dalton, and Edwards were less than 15 days shy of their 23rd birthday at the cutoff, but I thought they were interesting enough to include.
Who on that list had the best NFL career? Chad Pennington? Besides him it looks like a bunch of fringe starters, doesn’t it? Similar to Almonte, these guys were all older than their competition meaning they were more physically mature and had more football experience than their competition. No wonder people thought they were high-end talents; they were…relative to their opponents. The problem is that all those advantages went out the window when they went to the NFL.
(Check out the follow up to this article: Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers hate my old QB theory)
In baseball, a development schedule might look like this. While nothing concrete exists in the football world, it seems like the most talented guys are in the NFL at 23, if not sooner. For reference, guys like Sam Bradford, Cam Newton, and RG3 played their final college season at age 21.
So why does age matter? Consider that Jordan Rodgers will be 25 for week one of the upcoming season. By comparison, his brother Aaron Rodgers had four NFL seasons under his belt by age 25. Those four years of premium coaching, dedicated training regiments, and practice against the best seem to make all the difference.
Looking ahead to the 2013 NFL draft, I would be wary of the highlighted bunch. Landry Jones or Tyler Wilson might provide depth, but history would suggest that they won’t provide much more. If that’s the case, why bother drafting someone who seems unlikely to ever contribute?
Oh, and so you don’t get sucked up in the whirlwind next year, A.J. McCarron, Tahj Boyd, David Fales, and Brynn Renner will all be 23+ this fall. They’ll look great, but history won’t be on their side.