The 2018 NFL Draft begins with the first round on Thursday night, and there's a good chance we'll see four or five quarterbacks taken before the night's over. While it's been the most important position on the field for a long time, it seems that now more than ever, the quarterback determines the fate of an NFL team.
The quarterback decides more than just games; it decides livelihoods. If your team drafts the wrong one, people are going to lose their jobs. Members of the front office and coaching staff are often tied to their QB. That's why teams have put so many resources into trying to figure out which quarterback is the right quarterback.
It's something I've done myself, even though it doesn't affect my daily life. Last year, I introduced you to my QB rankings. Something I've now been doing for seven seasons in an attempt to find a correlation between a quarterback's performance in college and how he's likely to perform at the next level. I haven't found the answer. If I had, I wouldn't be here writing this.
There is, however, a way that at least sheds a little more light on a QB's chances to succeed: by looking at stats against top 50 defenses (using S&P ratings from Football Outsiders), in third-and-long situations, and inside the red zone. That said, the formula does not account for a QB's ability as a runner. This is strictly a way to rate the QB as a passer, which will be his primary function at the NFL level.
The final results are also limited by the sample size. Some QBs start multiple seasons at the college level; some only get one. Guys at smaller schools don't tend to play as many of the nation's best defenses, meaning I may only have a two or three game sample in their entire career to judge. Still, over the years I've found that what I do have may not provide perfect clarity, but does give a fair reflection of what we can expect.
So how do the QBs of the 2018 draft class stack up? Here are the rankings of the 19 FBS QBs eligible to be drafted this week. Apologies to the three FCS QBs as I do not have access to the statistics needed to include them in my formula.
|Rank||Quarterback||School||Fornelli Rating||2017 Passing Stats|
4,627 yards, 43 TD, 6 INT
4,143 yards, 26 TD, 13 INT
3,882 yards, 28 TD, 8 INT
3,053 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT
4,257 yards, 38 TD, 9 INT
3,593 yards, 30 TD, 13 INT
3,963 yards, 33 TD, 10 INT
3,115 yards, 25 TD, 14 INT
4,904 yards, 37 TD, 9 INT
3,290 yards, 17 TD, 7 INT
2,463 yards, 16 TD, 2 INT
1,812 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT
3,756 yards, 26 TD, 10 INT
3,660 yards, 27 TD, 10 INT
3,207 yards, 25 TD, 9 INT
2,911 yards, 25 TD, 6 INT
4,177 yards, 26 TD, 8 INT
3,143 yards, 23 TD, 16 INT
1,427 yards, 10 TD, 5 INT
As you can see, Mayfield has the highest score in the 2018 class at 989.16. What you can't see is that Mayfield's score is the second-best score I've recorded in my seven seasons doing this. Only Andrew Luck's 990.21 was higher. Taking it a step further, Mayfield's score against top 50 defenses was better than any other QB I've ranked, and his score in third-and-long and red zone situations ranked second all-time. Using this formula, he's the clear No. 1 QB in the 2018 class.
There's also a nearly 16-point gap between Mayfield and USC's Sam Darnold, but while that may seem significant, the truth is it only looks that way because Mayfield's score was so impressive. The truth is Darnold's score is the sixth-highest I've recorded since doing this, finishing ahead of Jameis Winston (968.207) and Marcus Mariota (962.310). Yes, that means Woodside finished with a better score than both of them as well.
While there is no set parameter, generally you want a QB that scores a 950 or higher, and even then I'd feel safer with a score of 960 or better.
You've also noticed how low down the board names like Allen, Rosen and Jackson are situated. Well, those aren't just poor scores in relation to this 2018 class but historically as well.
For comparison's sake, those same three scores would have ranked 14th, 15th, and 16th -- respectively -- in last year's class. They simply aren't good scores, and it makes me question how good of a QB class this 2018 class truly is (well, more than I already had been). While many pundits are comparing this to the 1983 draft class, I think the comparisons will be more accurate when it comes to the number of QBs taken in the first round, not on how their careers turn out. To me, that's more a reflection of the desperation to find a QB than the QBs available to be taken.
None of this is to say that these three won't be successful in the NFL. In fact, if Lamar Jackson ends up in the right situation, he could prove to be the best QB in this entire class. The concern is they might not be as ready to take over an NFL offense as some teams may need them to be from Day One.
While many will be surprised to see Woodside's name so high, I'm not. He didn't have much of a sample size against top defenses, but he spent a few years playing in a prolific passing offense. He also had the second-highest score in third-and-long and red zone situations, finishing behind only Mayfield in those departments.
The larger surprise is Barrett. I don't even know whether Barrett will be drafted, let alone as a QB. NFL teams won't be fans of his size or arm strength, but at Ohio State, he was put in a position to succeed and was extremely efficient in that offense. He was at his best in third-and-long and red zone situations, but his score ranked only seventh overall against top defenses, and he had a larger sample size against them than any other QB I ranked in this class. That's a bit of a red flag, but his score in other areas was high enough (and everyone else's was low enough) to finish fourth in this class. That last tidbit should tell you more about this 2018 class than Barrett.
Finally, for what it's worth, if I were to rank the QBs of the 2018 class based on my opinion of them rather than what the data says, it would look like this: Darnold, Mayfield, Rudolph, Rosen, Jackson and Allen. After those top six, you're basically splitting hairs.