Football Outsiders has released its annual QBASE projections for this year’s quarterback class. It’s a great day for those — like me — who find value in statistical projections. Even more, it’s important this season because in the public view, this year’s group of quarterbacks don’t stand out from each other. Sure everyone has their favorite, but there’s no one prospect that’s clearly better than the rest and unquestionably worthy of being the first quarterback taken in the draft.
QBASE, however, appears to disagree.
Before we get into what QBASE says, let’s quickly go over what it does. For that, here’s how Football Outsiders founder Aaron Schatz frames it:
It looks at college performance, experience and expected draft position (to incorporate scouting information that college stats will miss). To allow some time for development, QBASE projects a quarterback’s efficiency (passing only) in Years 3-5 of his career, according to Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) metric. 50,000 simulations produce a range of potential outcomes for each prospect, with players drafted later generally having a larger range of possibilities.
QBASE takes statistics like years/games started, adjusted yards per attempt, completion percentage, and team passing efficiency. It also accounts for the skill level of teammates and opponents.
The full QBASE list and article can be found here (ESPN Insider needed). I highly suggest reading the article in full with all the information presented, but for now let’s look at a few things we can take away from this year’s quarterback projections.
Baker Mayfield has the most star potential
It shouldn’t come as a surprise the quarterback with the best statistics in this class is at the top of a stat-based projection. But maybe what is surprising is how far ahead of the pack he is. Mayfield’s mean projection of 1480 DYAR is not just the top of this class, it’s the fourth-best mark for a quarterback since 1997 behind Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, and Donovan McNabb.
Mayfield has just a 29.3 percent bust rate (less than 500 DYAR projection) while no other quarterback in this class is below 40 percent. 28.2 percent of Mayfield simulations came in “elite” territory, and while that shouldn’t be the expectation, 70.7 percent of the time the Sooner came out as at least an adequate starter.
The next three QBs are clustered together
After Mayfield, there’s three quarterbacks who aren’t too dissimilar in the projections. While that meshes with the general thinking of this class, the third quarterback being Lamar Jackson might be a surprise to some. Jackson actually comes out as the No. 2 quarterback strictly by the projection (656 DYAR) though he’s followed closely by Josh Rosen (623). Darnold is third in the group (412), but Schatz notes the difference in projection should not be enough to dissuade a scouting department that ranks Darnold ahead of Rosen.
Now one quick note for each quarterback:
- Jackson’s projection is only as a passer. It does not factor in the value he would bring as a runner, which if used correctly could be a more dangerous weapon than his arm.
- Rosen’s 10.4 percent “elite” rate is the second-highest of this class behind Mayfield.
- Darnold’s stats were not dominant enough to overcome the fact he was only a two-year starter, which is taken as a negative by QBASE.
QBASE doesn’t like Josh Allen
This might not be much of a surprise, either, but the stats really don’t like Allen’s resume. He’s the only quarterback in this class with negative mean DYAR and he has a bust rate of 62.7 percent. He just wasn’t good enough against bad competition and that’s while factoring in the lack of talent around him.
The history of quarterbacks selected with a below 58 percent completion percentage in their final season and the history of first-round quarterbacks with a negative QBASE projection suggest Allen would need to be one heck of an outlier to be worthy of a top selection in this year’s draft.