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Jordan Lynch, Cameron Stingily, Joey DeMartino, and The S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: “This Guy’s a Winner!”
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With the NFL regular season winding down and the college football bowl season in full swing, we at RotoViz are beginning to transition our focus from 2013 to 2014. In particular, we’re in the middle of a series of Bowl Game Previews calling your attention to intriguing players in each contest. Here are the ones we’ve done so far (they still make for good reads):

As the bowl season progresses, more previews (and other pieces) may be found at my RotoViz Author Page. Want to compare one college WR with another? Check out our College Career Graph WR App. Want to talk about other college prospects? Hit me up on Twitter. And, yes, my name is really Matt Freedman. No, I’m not nine years old.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas. Let’s get to it!

The S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC)
The guy to watch in this game is Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois’s redshirt senior QB, the guy who finished #7 in Heisman voting last year and #3 this year. Just think of the 6’0” and 216-lb 23-year-old as this year’s bigger-and-probably-less-athletic QB-to-RB/WR-hybrid Denard Robinson. Even though I’m not sure if Lynch will be willing to switch positions in the NFL, the Poinsettia Bowl is almost certainly the last game he’ll play as a QB (unless he plays professionally outside the NFL).

Why don’t I think he’ll play QB in the NFL? For one, he’s probably too short. Michael Vick, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson have had success as shorter QBs, but all of them have (or have exhibited at some point) talent as passers—a fact that brings me to my second point: Lynch has failed to distinguish himself from his peers as a passer.

To analyze QBs, I’ve started looking at large collegiate peer groups (all the QBs in a three-year span) and calculating Z-Scores for efficiency metrics, such as completion percentage, yards/attempt, adjusted yards/attempt, and TD:INT ratio. Then, I average these separate Z-Scores into a couple of different composite Z-Scores.

Here’s a table (organized by the last column) that compares Lynch with some of the other current draft-eligible QB prospects in college:

Year

Player

Z-Score Pct

Z-Score Y/A

Z-Score AY/A

Z-Score TD:INT

Avg Z-Score Pct-AY/A

Avg Z-Score Pct-Y/A-TD:INT

2013

Teddy Bridgewater

1.71

1.77

1.99

2.41

1.85

1.96

2013

Derek Carr

1.69

0.74

1.23

2.3

1.46

1.58

2013

A.J. McCarron

1.24

1.3

1.66

1.47

1.45

1.34

2013

Johnny Manziel

1.51

2.44

1.92

0.04

1.72

1.33

2013

Zach Mettenberger

0.76

2.91

2.31

0.2

1.54

1.29

2013

Blake Bortles

1.33

1.87

1.67

0.4

1.50

1.20

2013

Tajh Boyd

1.24

1.87

1.73

0.45

1.49

1.19

2013

Aaron Murray

0.74

1.5

1.34

0.27

1.04

0.84

2013

Brett Hundley

1.28

0.93

0.83

0.04

1.06

0.75

2013

David Fales

0.62

1.21

1.08

0.09

0.85

0.64

2013

Sean Mannion

0.96

0.36

0.5

0.11

0.73

0.48

2013

Jordan Lynch

0.44

-0.02

0.31

0.48

0.38

0.30

2013

Tom Savage

0.1

0.17

0.31

-0.02

0.21

0.08

As you can see, by both averaged Z-Scores, Lynch is the second-worst passer on this list. Compared to all the QBs from 2011 to 2013, he’s been merely a tad better than average this season as a passer.

So why would talent evaluators pay attention to Lynch? The dude can run the football. Here are the non-passing stats from his two seasons as a starter.

Year

Att

RuYds

RuAvg

RuTD

Rec

ReYds

ReAvg

ReTD

Games

*2012

294

1815

6.2

19

0

0

0

0

14

2013

274

1881

6.9

22

1

17

17

1

13

Clearly, the way in which QBs and RBs earn scrimmage yards differ in nature, but Lynch is a bona fide runner. He finished last season as #4 in the nation in rushing yards and #10 in rushing TDs. This year, he’s currently #2 and #3 in those categories. He is NIU’s offense, and he didn’t finish the season as a Heisman Finalist because of his passing.

I’m ordinarily incredulous about players who make position changes in the NFL, but I think that Lynch actually might be able to serve as a decent RB because he (unlike Denard Robinson) has decent size. He’s bigger than Montee Ball—and he might even be faster. He’s the same weight as Zac Stacy. Hell, he’s basically the same size that Adrian Peterson was as a prospect. In general, I like productive runners who are at least 215 lbs (regardless of their 40 times), and Lynch fits the bill.

The odds that Lynch becomes a serviceable NFL RB are low, but he’ll probably still be drafted anywhere from the fifth to seventh round to serve as a special teams, jack-of-all trades, RB/H-Back hybrid, emergency QB type of player, especially if he interviews well at the Combine and can be thought of by personnel guys as a glue/locker room/high intangibles winner. I can already hear Mel Kiper’s instant analysis when Lynch is drafted:

This kid’s a two-year starter from Northern Illinois. Making the shift from quarterback to running back, probably’ll need some time to adjust. Tough, hard-nosed, a good runner up the middle, not exceptionally athletic, won’t make many people miss, but will fight for tough yards, contribute some on special teams, and be a good teammate in the locker room. Nice pick. Every team needs guys like Lynch, high-effort, good intangibles players who can help them win games, and this guy’s a winner.

In an ideal situation, Lynch could be as an RB what Julian Edelman (the former Kent State QB) has become as a WR: A solid, dependable contributor with surprising potential. That’s his upside. Maybe he could be what I want Rex Burkhead to be. (They have similar size and [I think] similar athleticism.) Lynch’s downside? Something like what Tim Tebow would’ve been if he had agreed to move to RB.

One other NIU player to watch is lead RB Cameron Stingily. The 6’1” and 244-lb redshirt junior probably won’t declare for the 2014 Draft, but the 22-year-old rusher should consider it. Paired with a “running QB,” Stingily strikes me as a poor man’s Beanie Wells. Here are the stats from their junior seasons:

Player

Year

Att

RuYds

RuAvg

RuTD

Rec

ReYds

ReAvg

ReTD

Cameron Stingily

2013

192

1081

5.6

9

6

38

6.3

0

Chris Wells

*2008

207

1197

5.8

8

8

47

5.9

0

The comparison isn’t perfect, as Beanie was a twenty-year-old first-rounder with a higher nQBDR (0.69), but Stingily’s nQBDR (0.6) isn’t bad, especially for a large runner (bad nQBDRs don’t seem to matter all that much for big RBs), and the two guys are very similar in their size and lack of proven ability as receivers.

Although I’ve just compared Stingily to Beanie, I think his NFL upside is probably closer to LeGarrette Blount (0.44 nQBDR): A big low-round/undrafted RB who can pound the rock and achieve a couple top-30 positional finishes. His most likely future? Anthony Dixon. His downside? Terrance Ganaway. (I like huge and productive low-round/undrafted RBs way too much.)

Utah State (8-5, MWC)
Since Utah State’s starting QB (junior Chuckie Keeton) is injured, the main Aggies player to watch is Joey DeMartino. In his first season as the lead RB, the 5’11” and 200-lb redshirt senior has had some good production. Here are his 2013 stats:

Att

RuYds

RuAvg

RuTD

Rec

ReYds

ReAvg

ReTD

Total nQBDR

Games

198

1078

5.4

12

12

117

9.8

1

0.63

13

DeMartino is roughly the same size of Vintavious Cooper and Adam Muema (both of whom I’ve talked about here and here), but I prefer them to him. Both have multiple years of production, whereas this year has been DeMartino’s only productive season outside of junior college.

And in the case of an RB who has only one year of strong production in his college career, I prefer an RB with either great size (think of LeGarrette Blount at 6’0” and 241 lbs or even Stevan Ridley at 5’11” and 225 lbs) or truly great production in that year (Jamaal Charles with 1800 scrimmage yards in his final season)—and preferably both (think of Le’Veon Bell with 1900 scrimmage yards at 6’1 and 230 lbs and Eddie Lacy with 1500 scrimmage yards at 5’11” and 231 lbs). DeMartino’s not bad, but he doesn’t fit the bill. Betting on smallish RBs with only one year of production and without exceptional pass catching abilities isn’t something I like to do—better odds can be found elsewhere.

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