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Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, and Quarterback Readiness
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Image via Football Schedule/Flickr

Shawn Siegele recently looked at starting NFL Quarterbacks through his college-to-NFL projection method and then used that to examine the 2013 class of QBs. Because Shawn and I have different methods, I thought it would be interesting to put my spin on the Quarterback world.As you saw in my Tom Brady or Ryan Nassib articles, I like to isolate on games played against bowl eligible teams in a player’s final college season. In the strictest sense of box score scouting, looking at full season numbers can be misleading. Players can pad stats against weak opponents while their true abilities get masked. Yes, you’re correct to think “just because they have a winning record, doesn’t mean their defense is good” but whether it’s a defensive battle, or an offensive shootout, I think there is something about those games that requires a quarterback to elevate his game to another level. That “other level” is my baseline for NFL readiness, or the minimum gear that a player will have to bring to the NFL every single day of their professional lives. Unless a franchise plans to let a guy sit for a season or three (Brees, Schaub, Kaepernick, Rodgers) it’s critical that they demonstrate a high level of NFL readiness before entering the NFL Draft.

Consider how these current NFL starters faired in their last college season:

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*Note that Tony Romo and Tarvarris Jackson have been omitted due to lack of game-log data.

A few observations:

– Sam Bradford’s lost junior year forces us to use his sophomore (Heisman season) numbers. I still think he’s going to be a top 10 quarterback in the league, but the injury history muddles his lofty grade here.

– I am dumbfounded that RG3, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck all score so highly. That 2012 QB class was special. Speaking of which…

– Brandon Weeden grades highly for NFL readiness, but that readiness is also probably indicative of his ceiling due to him being a ‘non-traditional’ prospect at 28 years old.

– It’s interesting to see Nick Foles rate almost identical to Tom Brady on the readiness factor. People seem eager to dismiss Foles but I think the Eagles are going to roll with him.

– It probably seems self defeating to show that I have guys like Brees or Eli Manning in the “below average” bunch, but I think it’s important to view this as an “NFL readiness” scale. Brees didn’t start until year two and Eli probably got a longer leash than normal because of his last name. As late as the middle of 2007, Giant’s management publicly questioned Manning’s ability to lead the franchise.

It’s interesting to note that guys like Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub have similar overall ratings while achieving vastly different flag-scores. Sometimes troublesome metrics can be masked in the overall grade. To combat this, I created the following chart and assigned one point for a green flag, zero points for a yellow flag, and one negative point for a red flag. This will come in handy when evaluating the 2013 class and trying to determine their place in history:

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Now that we understand how current NFL starters faired in their final college season, we can put the 2013 quarterback class to the test. Stay tuned to see how Geno Smith and EJ Manuel grade…and also to learn about a sleeper prospect.

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