2018 NFL Draft: Non-First-Round Quarterbacks Who Stand Out
This year's crop of quarterback prospects for the NFL draft seems pretty juicy. There's a legitimate chance that six separate guys could go in the first round, which hasn't happened since 1983. It's deep.
We've already spilled plenty of digital ink talking about those top six players. We've broken down their stats, looked at how they've performed against quality defenses, and discussed their blend of age and experience. Info on those guys won't be hard to find.
But what about the rest of the hopeful draftees for the 2018 class? So much time has been spent on the top end -- and rightfully so -- that the others have slipped through the cracks, largely going unnoticed. We'll discuss why this makes sense later on, but given the importance of the position, it bears investigating whether any hidden gems are flying under the radar.
So let's try to amend that today. Let's go through what the other quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class have to offer statistically. If we can peg any under-appreciated studs, it may provide a bit of relief for the teams that miss out on their guy at the front end of the round.
Before kicking this off, it's worth noting that Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph will not be included in these discussions. It's possible they go outside of the first round, but we've already gone over their resumes in the pieces above (and both looked pretty solid across the board). If they start to slip on draft boards, it'll be worth examining whether they could be these diamonds in the rough.
But, outside of those two, let's see who else could surprise beyond the first round.
What History Says
It would be disingenuous to go through this exercise without first discussing the long odds facing quarterbacks who go outside of the first round. You'll have your exceptions like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson, but for the most part, successful quarterbacks come off the board early.
Among quarterbacks to enter the NFL from 2000 on, only seven non-first-round quarterbacks have had multiple seasons as top-10 passers, based on numberFire's Total Net Expected Points (NEP). Total NEP shows the expected points added -- or subtracted -- over the course of the year while factoring in a player's ability as a rusher, as well. Basically, it shows us the 10 most effective guys at the position. Having only seven non-first rounders make that list on more than one occasion is pretty jaw-dropping.
If we expand this to include the passers who have made the list at least once, we're left with 17 quarterbacks. It's still definitely not an inspiring number, but it does at least provide some hope. It also means there's a decent chance at least one of these guys will be a top-10 passer at some point in his career.
With that in mind, what should we be looking for in these later-round guys? It can help to look at the resumes of overlooked passers in the past who have wound up being successful. They could provide us with a template, allowing us to know what teams should be looking for.
Here's the median collegiate resume for each of the non-first-round quarterbacks who have managed to crack the top 10 at least once. The efficiency metrics refer exclusively to the quarterback's final season in college, and the "games played" refers to the number of collegiate games in which the player had at least 10 pass attempts.
|Category||Median For Successful Non-First Rounders|
|Pass. Eff. Rating||145.6|
It's hard to appreciate these numbers without context. But that games played number is simply massive.
Since 2000, there have been 48 quarterbacks to go in the first round of the draft. The median number of games played for them is 34. The median for successful first-round picks is 36 games played. The late-round gems in the draft are above that.
Among our 17 quarterbacks, only three of them found NFL success after logging fewer than 33 games played in college. One of them happens to be Brady, but this seems to give us a pretty clear edict: late-round quarterbacks need to have gobs of experience in college. That's an important takeaway.
Beyond that, the efficiency stats don't seem to tell us too much. The medians for successful first-round picks in those two categories are 157.7 and 9.2, respectively, and the non-first rounders fell well short of that. Additionally, only three of our 17 quarterbacks had an AY/A higher than 9.0 in their final collegiate seasons (though one was Wilson all the way up at 11.8). It doesn't seem as if collegiate efficiency is as important for the late-round guys as it is for the first rounders.
Who Fits the Mold in 2018?
Now that we've got an idea of what we're looking for, let's turn our attention back to the incoming class.
The table below shows the resumes of each incoming rookie invited to the combine who was not discussed in our previous pieces on the top six. Because games played popped as being so important before, the list is sorted by those with the most experience under their belts.
|Player||College||Games||Pass. Eff. Rating||AY/A||Total QBR|
|J.T. Barrett||Ohio State||45||160.1||9.0||82.7|
|Mike White||Western Kentucky||42||140.8||7.7||50.9|
|Luke Falk||Washington State||41||137.0||6.8||56.8|
|Quinton Flowers||South Florida||39||142.1||8.9||67.6|
|Nic Shimonek||Texas Tech||14||152.1||8.5||72.1|
Let's go through some of the names on this list.
J.T. Barrett was never short on surrounding talent with the Ohio State Buckeyes. But even after guys like Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, and Curtis Samuel left, Barret still managed to have a productive season this year. He had an AY/A of 9.0, his second year of 9.0 or higher after he also did so in his freshman season. His production and experience are both right where we want them to be.
On top of that, Barrett's combine measurements were intriguing. He's not the tallest guy at 6'1", but he's still built at 224 pounds with 9 7/8" hands, the third-largest hands at the combine. He checks a whole lot of boxes.
Scouts have questioned Barrett's accuracy, and there's a reason he's not considered a high-end pick. But he played at the highest level for most of four seasons, produced well, and has a lot of what you want physically. The scouts' evaluation of Barrett absolutely matters because they are generally good at what they do, but Barrett is at least a name to keep in mind late in the draft.
Mike White's final-year efficiency was disappointing for a guy playing for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, but it's not as if he has never flashed in that department. Back in 2016 -- his first year as starter for the Hilltoppers -- White had an 11.5 AY/A with a 181.4 passing efficiency rating. Those were both tops among Conference-USA passers for the season. With 42 games under his belt between Western Kentucky and the South Florida Bulls, he also fits what we want.
It's largely the same story for Luke Falk. He had posted an AY/A of at least 7.4 each of his first three years with the Washington State Cougars, but then he fell off this past year. Falk impressed at Senior Bowl practices and is projected as a mid-round pick, making his level of experience a bit more intriguing. He largely fits what we're looking for, but you would have liked for it to come with a bit more efficiency.
|Collegiate Resumes||Games Played||Pass. Eff. Rating||AY/A|
This isn't to say that Lauletta can't wind up being a success. It's moreso to say that comparisons between the two aren't necessarily accurate, and Lauletta is far from a sure-fire thing.
Beyond Barrett, the other two quarterbacks best able to blend experience and efficiency are Logan Woodside and Danny Etling. Neither is projected to be drafted, and Woodside was the lightest quarterback at the combine, checking in at 201 pounds. But Woodside did post big numbers with the Toledo Rockets, and Etling threw only two picks in 275 attempts with the Louisiana State Tigers. We shouldn't be expecting them to succeed because scouts are so low on them, but it's good to be aware of what they have done.
It's worth reiterating that the odds of finding a stud outside of the first round are slim. But it does happen from time to time, and there are several players who could fit what we're looking for.
More often than not, these later-round gems are guys who were horses in college. They came into the league with gobs of experience, often even more than many of their first-round contemporaries. This helps us narrow the list a bit and focus on the guys in this year's class who fit that mold.
Among those projected within the first six rounds, Mike White and Luke Falk are the two who stand out as being the most desirable. Neither had great seasons in 2017, but both had flashed efficiency in the past and enter the NFL with a ton of experience. They provide at least a glimmer of hope for teams hoping to snag a potential future starter late.
Finally, in the complete bargain bin, J.T. Barrett, Logan Woodside, and Danny Etling all fit what our model says is encouraging. It's just a question of whether or not the scouts agree. If not, then they'll quickly slide off the radar. But if they can convince a team to take the plunge late or as an undrafted free agent, it'll be interesting to see whether or not they can gain some traction.