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2016 NFL Draft Prospect: Jared Goff, The Cal QB You Need to Know

On Tuesday Dec. 29th, the California Golden Bears will go against the Air Force Falcons in the Armed Forces Bowl. If there were only one reason to watch this game, it would be Cal’s quarterback: Jared Goff.

Goff is currently the top-rated QB in the RotoViz Scouting Index. Many see him as the top QB in this class, and almost everyone has him in their top two. Buzz is that he’s likely to be the first QB drafted in 2016, and a surefire first round pick. I can’t tell you whether or not that will come to fruition- things can change quickly in draft season. But I can attempt to answer the question: Is he a good prospect for your favorite NFL team and your fantasy teams?

Passing Efficiency

I want to start with Goff’s age. He turned 21 in October, so he’ll still be 21 at the start of his debut NFL season. It may seem strange to start with age, but it provides us the context we need to evaluate his actual passing performance. It’s better for NFL QB prospects to be young, and 21 is the best age for a rookie QB to be. So far, so good.

My go-to stat for evaluating QBs at the both college and NFL level is adjusted yards per attempt, a variant of yards per attempt that accounts for touchdowns and interceptions. You want QB prospects to throw for at least 9.0 AY/A in their final collegiate situations, and I personally use 8.5 AY/A as kind of a rough cutoff, putting a premium on higher efficiency. As of right now, Goff’s AY/A is at 8.9. That’s good enough for me, and he could easily raise it in his bowl game.

Goff also happens to be an accurate QB, completing 62.2 percent of his career passes. There’s some cause for concern for QBs who don’t completely 60 percent of their passes, but we don’t have to worry about that for Goff. Overall, Goff checks out as a passer but doesn’t blow me away.

Strength of Competition

Goff and Cal started out the year strong, winning five straight games while Goff threw 15 TDs to only four INTs. I remember hearing people say around that time that their fortunes would reverse once they started playing quality competition, and sure enough, that’s what happened. They lost their next game to Utah, their first opponent that would finish the season in the AP’s top 25. They would lose four more games, including two against the only other teams they faced who finished the year in the top 25: Oregon and Stanford.

But this isn’t necessarily a reason to be concerned about Goff. Here are his numbers from those contests:

Rank School Completions Attempts Yards TDs INTs Y/A AY/A
20 Utah 25 47 340 2 5 7.2 3.3
15 Oregon 18 41 329 2 1 8 7.9
5 Stanford 37 54 386 2 0 7.1 7.9

And here’s how he fared against ranked teams compared to unranked teams:

Ranked Unranked
YPG 352 355
TDPG 2 3.4
INTPG 2 0.8
Y/A 7.4 9.1
AY/A 6.4 10

Goff was certainly better against unranked teams, but that’s to be expected. His AY/A against top teams compares to Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill. They may not be top QBs in the NFL, but they’ve certainly been successes who have had fantasy utility. On a more abstract note, his similar yardage and high number of attempts suggests his team didn’t try to hide him when the going got tough. They seemed to think he was still their best chance to win.

Rushing Efficiency

Goff only had eight rushing yards in the 2015 season, and a career total of -98 rushing yards. Scouts don’t seem to consider him a rushing QB either. But that doesn’t make his rushing efficiency, or inefficiency, irrelevant.

Five Thirty Eight identified Marcus Mariota as the top QB prospect in last year’s draft, and they did it using only two variables: scout grades and rushing efficiency. We know Goff checks out with the scouts, but his career yards per rushing attempt is -0.6. He’s extremely unlikely to get the rushing bump that Mariota did.

It is important to keep in mind that sacks are counted in college QB rushing stats. Football Study Hall’s Bill Connolly has sorted out that Goff actually had 29 rushing attempts for 204 yards so far this season. Using some basic subtraction we can calculate that Goff had 25 sacks for -196 yards. I’m just providing this data for descriptive purposes- while there may very well be a way to analyze sack numbers to project QB prospects, I do not know of it.

The Unanswered Questions

There are still a number of things yet to be determined about Goff’s future, including:

  • How will he perform in the Armed Forces Bowl?
  • How will he measure up at the combine?
  • How early will he be drafted?
  • Who will draft him?
  • And most importantly, will he declare for the draft? All indications are that he will, but crazier things have happened in the football world.

Bottom line: As of right now, I would consider Goff a good-but-not-great prospect. I would probably rank him lower than I had Blake Bortles1 and above Derek Carr.2 Note that just because both of those QBs seem to be successes it does not mean that Goff will be. Projecting QBs is a hard business, and even the pros frequently get it wrong. There is still much to be determined in regards to Goff.

  1. Who was more efficient as both a passer and a rusher  (back)
  2. Who was older, slightly less efficient as a passer, and more efficient as a rusher  (back)

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