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Drafting a Quarterback? The QB2B Analytics Guys Are On It

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Wandering through the massed cloud of football pundits is tiring at times. But then a site gets clicked, and my eyes open wide... QB2B Analytics is an intriguing site. Knowing there's a very real chance the Los Angeles Rams take a top quarterback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft, I began to search for ways to parse the mind-numbing data and opinions, filling the current NFL Combine interwebs. With their amazing track record, I ask the experts at QB2B a few questions... How did it start, and who came up with your metrics for measuring quarterbacks?

"A little over 3 years ago, we were talking about the daily work grind and how cool it would be to crunch numbers on something that we were passionate about instead of determining how much damage a hurricane would cause or how strong a company's reserves were.  We immediately started scouring the internet to see if anyone had attempted a "Moneyball" approach to football and were pleasantly surprised when the search essentially concluded there were no reliable options out there yet.  We then discussed our possible next steps and decided the best place to start would be the draft and what better position than the quarterback.  Drafting the wrong QB high has gotten many GM's the pink slip and set franchises back many years, while drafting the right QB has teams vying for the Lombardi trophy every year.

"We wanted to remove as much subjectivity as we could from the analysis and really let the data determine the metrics that make a productive NFL QB.  Given the robustness of our data set, we were able to isolate plays down to their most granular level and applied a step-wise factor analysis to determine the ones that created the biggest statistical differences among the different quarterback tiers.  With that said, we had our initial biases towards certain types of plays (e.g. 3rd-and-long, deep outs, etc) that are clear differentiators when you look at the pro game."

The seeming "intangibles" of great quarterbacks in college, versus in the NFL, are pretty hard to define, let alone forward predict. A case in point would be Tim Tebow. An awesome college quarterback, he had only fleeting success at the NFL level. Tom Brady - a future Hall of Fame quarterback - was a 6th round pick few in NFL scouting circles held high on their lists. How does QB2B intertwine basic statistic with the unknown intangibles great quarterbacks in the NFL seem to possess?

"Of course, there will always be intangibles that can't be quantified, but we would say the quality and robustness of our data set enables us to identify key game situations that highlight many of the intangibles that make a quarterback great.  Our data set collects about 120 unique data elements for every pass play that allows us to dig into a play much better than traditional stats would allow.

" Tim Tebow put up fantastic stats at Florida.  In fact, many would argue he was the best college football player of all time, but if you dig into the minutia of the plays, there were glaring signs that his game could potentially have big trouble translating to the NFL.  For example, he has a very elongated release, and there were many plays where a defender was just a hair too slow to reach him or a defender was too slow to react to his target.  In the NFL, the unrelenting pass rush would likely get to him or his passes that were off-target would likely either be deflected or intercepted.  In the case of Brady, he more often than not seemed to make the big throw in tough game situations relatively consistently.  Even when he was relegated to splitting time with Drew Henson, when an opportunity arose for Brady, he consistently executed it successfully."

Give us your list of the QB2B Top 10 quarterbacks for the 2016 NFL Draft class, and how you arrived at their placement?

"From the 2016 QB prospects that we've analyzed so far, our preliminary results indicate that it seems to be a 3-QB race (possibly 4) with Carson Wentz leading the way, followed by Jared Goff with Connor Cook lagging and Cody Kessler a distant 4th, according to our approach.Although, we would add that Cook looked significantly improved prior to suffering a shoulder injury and his score was impacted by his later play where he short-armed a lot of throws and was behind receivers.  Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, and Dak Prescott are all about equal in the second tier, and the third tier has Jacoby Brissett and Trevone Boykins.  Given that, if Lynch goes as highly as some think he will, that could be a big risk.

In short, we derive our predictive scores based on evaluating performance in key game situations that have shown credibility and accuracy in predicting future NFL success. We derive an overall score, as well as likelihoods of developing into each of three tiers (All Pro+, Capable Starter, or Backup Level) and derive four key performance metrics (Throwing Ability, Playmaking Skills, Pocket Presence, and Decision Making) to provider greater insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the quarterbacks.

We would also like to note that these are our initial scores and while we do not expect them to change dramatically, they may fluctuate as we are still working on or waiting for several key variables in our analysis, such as Wonderlic results which have yet to be compiled at the Combine and impact the Decision Making score.

Using the Los Angeles Rams as an example, can you use QB2B metrics to parse the quarterbacks currently on their roster: Nick Foles, Case Keenum, and Sean Mannion? Does their experience of already having a few NFL seasons under their belts sway the QB2B metric when you compare them to your Top 10 QB list?

Based on our ranking system, Foles has the most upside of the trio, but he is still more likely to perform at a backup level than a capable starting level (in other words, the Rams could use some help at QB!).  Once a player gets a few seasons into the NFL and has established a solid baseline for his career trajectory, our assessments would have less value.  Our process is strictly reliant on only a QB's college football performance as our goal was to take an unknown commodity and predict his potential success in the NFL.  Once a QB begins to have data on his performance level in the NFL, pro personnel can apply a different set of criteria to assess the player.  Although, we would say the combination of a QB's pro performance in his early years partnered with our predictions would likely be best, but as he establishes more years in the NFL, his performance in college carries less weight.  For example, if you looked only at Josh Freeman's first two years, you likely would’ve thought he would be on a solid career path, but his past weaknesses in the college game were eventually exploited in the pros.

Looking at your top 10 list, can you match the players to teams they'd fit best?

Since the Browns will likely cut Johnny Football and have the second pick, they should give Wentz a strong look as he seems to be the top QB prospect, and his strong pocket presence will help win over fans in Cleveland.  With that said, if another QB-hungry team trades up with Tennessee looking to make a splash and select Wentz, we feel Cleveland could benefit by selecting another cornerstone player (such as Joey Bosa, the in-state stud lineman) with their first round pick and going with Kessler in a later round, given Hue Jackson has had good success and impact on a similar game manager-type quarterback in Andy Dalton.

While Jerry Jones is more likely to select a defensive player in the draft and make a splash with a reclamation QB project behind an aging, injury-prone Tony Romo (ahem! RG3 or Manziel)....we think they would be better suited selecting a strong-armed QB like Goff to take advantage of an elite receiver in Dez Bryant and be better prepared to play tough December road games in the northeast.

We can see Chip Kelly getting excited over an accurate QB like Wentz, and his big frame will make him better able to handle the beatings that Sam Bradford, Foles, nor Mike Vick could endure for a full season.

Cook seems to be a good fit for a Jeff Fischer team, as his best attribute was his Playmaking Skills (and perhaps his Throwing Ability was impacted by injury).

Given that the Texans are likely to miss out on Wentz and Goff based on their draft position, they could also be suitors for Kessler, as he could help as a game manager-type QB that can surprise with a little zip to utilize an explosive threat in DeAndre Hopkins while reducing turnovers and letting J.J. Watt and that stringent defense put the offense in better scoring position.

Looking at your Bios at QB2B, you're all actuarial-s in every day life... Just out of curiosity, do NFL fans of losing teams - versus winning teams - live longer or shorter lives? Do people who regularly follow Kim Kardashian have a greater tendency to step in front of a bus? What are the chances Donald Trump - if elected President of the United States- fires the entire world?

We would say that rooting for losing teams hardens you to heartbreak and better enables you to manage the highs and lows of life later on; therefore, you should prepare to be miserable on the sports front for a longer time than your happy front runner friends.  This is all anecdotal, of course!  Steve can refer to his family as guidance.  The old-time Jet fans are still complaining, while all the elder Giants fans are tossing the pigskin around with Wellington Mara at the Pearly Gates.

Ha!  Can you even remember a time when there wasn’t a Kardashian in the news?  I think their followers are more likely to walk in front of a bus because they are too busy sexting and forgot to look both ways.  Darwinism at its finest!

Regarding 'The Donald', let's hope that doesn't happen, but we can see him getting tennis elbow in both arms from all the pointing he will be doing!


Hope to see 'round the Twitter-verse: @thenovelroad If I don't... "YOU'RE FIRED!"

If you have the itch to dive into the quarterback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft, I recommend heading over to QB2B for a thorough study on the subject. While I personally believe a Kardashian fan actually WANTS to step in front of a bus to make all the voices in their heads stop, that's for another day. Today, getting ready for "Quarterback Day" at the NFL Combine may very well be something you want to do, and QB2B has everything you need to get all the angles...