Last time I talked about the NFL Draft, I came up with the average percentage that an average starting NFL QB rushes and discussed how that percentage has dropped 2% over the last decade. Of the 18 QBs who attended this year's NFL Combine, only one matched the average run percentage (7.1%) from 2005-2009: Arkansas' Ryan Mallett. Luckily for the other guys, the rushing percentage range for NFL QBs from 2000-2010 was usually between 3.5 and 21.5%.
The high watermark for rushing percentage (27.2%) was Atlanta's Mike Vick in 2004. That means that Auburn's Cam Newton (47.1%), Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor (31.5%) and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick (30%) all rushed during their college careers at a higher average than the maximum output by an NFL starting QB from 2000-2010.
Using the Positive Impact Factor (to find out more about this stat used as a replacement for Passer Rating, see this article) I broke down the Combine invitees. To see the full data sheet, click here.
Ranking the Combine Players by Career Positive Impact Factor
- Cam Newton, Auburn/Florida, 71.8
- Colin Kaepernick, Nevada, 61.8
- Pat Devlin, Delaware/Penn State, 58.4
- Andy Dalton, TCU, 55
- Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, 54.3
- Josh Portis, California (PA)/Maryland/Florida, 53.8
- Blaine Gabbbert, Missouri, 53
- Greg McElroy, Alabama, 51.3
- Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M, 49.3
- Jake Locker, Washington, 46.6
- Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin, 44.9
- Christian Ponder, Florida State, 43.7
- T.J. Yates, North Carolina, 41.8
- Ryan Mallett, Arkansas/Michigan, 40.4
- Ricky Stanzi, Iowa, 34.5
- Ryan Colburn, Fresno State, 34.2
- Jeff Van Camp, Florida Atlantic, 32.2
- Nathan Enderle, Idaho, 31.6
Five of these players had their best PIF season in their final season as starters: Blaine Gabbert (54.4), Tyrod Taylor (58.5), Scott Tolzien (57.7), T.J. Yates (50.1), and Pat Devlin (68.1).
Looking at five key components of the PIF (Incompletion %, INT/Incompletion %, Fumble Lost %, Turnover % and Negative Play %) helped me to determine which QB is the best value in the Draft.
Best Value: Pat Devlin
Pat Devlin may have finished his career at an FCS school but he has good size (6'3", 225 lbs.) for an NFL prospect at QB. Moreover, Devlin is the only one of the 18 QBs listed above who finished in the top five in each of the five component categories. Devlin's best category was percentage of interceptions thrown on incompletions. He ranked first at a rate of 4.4%. The average staring NFL QB is in the high 7s in this stat. Devlin only turned the ball over on 1.58% of his plays in college (2nd among the Combine guys to Newton's 1.56%). The average NFL starter averages turnovers on more than 3% of their plays. The categories where Devlin finished the lowest (4th) were incompletion percentage and negative play percentage. Devlin threw incompletions on 34.8% of his throws in college and threw an incompletion, took a sack, or fumbled (negative plays) on 34.4% of his plays. In both of these categories he is well under the NFL average of high 30s in incompletion percentage and low 40s in negative play percentage.
Most Overrated: Jake Locker
Locker ranked dead last among the Combine invitees in incompletion percentage at 46% for his career, well over the average NFL starter's percentage. He rushed on 24.9% of his plays for Washington which is above the range that an average NFL starter rushes. His other percentages from the components listed above are already around the NFL averages. Locker's fumble percentage in particular is a concern as that typically goes up once a player reaches the NFL. Among the five component categories, Locker did best (10th) in percentage of interceptions thrown on incompletions (6.6%) and fumble lost percentage (3.1%).
Biggest Bust Potential: Ryan Mallett
Mallett runs as much as the average NFL starter, but that is about all he does that is average. No one should take him in the first round of the Draft. Twelve guys at the Combine threw incompletions at a lower rate than Mallett's 42.2%. You can get away with such a high percentage if you produce TDs, which Mallett did on 7% of his plays in college, only if you don't turn the ball over much. Mallett turns the ball over at a rate of 2.8% overall but loses fumbles on 5.2% of his rushing plays (a percentage which become multiplied in the NFL). The most concerning thing has to be Mallett's negative play percentage of 44.3% which ranked 16th. Mallett did improve last season in incompletion percentage and negative play percentage but threw more INTs and fumbled at a higher rate. Mallett will not be playing for Bobby Petrino anymore. If he's hooked up with the wrong coach and/or personnel he could backslide and be out of the league in a hurry.
Dalton or Gabbert: Gabbert
Why Gabbert over Dalton? Gabbert is coming off his best PIF season whereas Dalton's best season was his Sophomore year. Dalton, who is certainly no Mike Vick, runs entirely too much at 21.6% of his plays. Gabbert's rushing percentage of 16% can be more easily scaled back by an NFL team. Dalton's advantage in incompletion percentage is .78% yet he throws an INT at virtually a 1% higher rate than Gabbert. Gabbert loses fumbles slightly less often than Dalton (the margin is .2%). Dalton turns the ball over 2.3% of his plays compared to Gabbert's 2%. Both Gabbert and Dalton finished in the top ten of all five component categories (no one else did this except for Devlin). This was a really close call but I'm going with Gabbert over Dalton because of the difference in run percentage and fewer turnovers.