The Vikings Got it Right with Teddy Bridgewater
Bravo, Minnesota. You decided to look past Teddy Bridgewater's mutant webbed feet, his third head, and the pentagram etched into the back of his neck. You win the draft.
Last week, we named Bridgewater the "top statistical quarterback" in this year's draft based on his collegiate numbers. We had looked back at the traits and statistics of previous quarterbacks that were drafted in the first round to see which stats we could use to determine a player's future NFL success.
If you haven't read that piece yet, I recommend doing it now, especially if you're a Vikings fan. It will explain why we believe in Bridgewater better than I will below, and it includes links to the studies we did to see which stats were most significant.
Of the five quarterbacks from this year's class that we looked at (the others were Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and A.J. McCarron), Bridgewater had the highest adjusted yards per attempt (factors touchdowns and interceptions into a player's yards per attempt) and second-highest passer efficiency rating. These two stats had the highest correlation with a player's average Net Expected Points in the NFL. If you're new to the site, you can get a full explanation of NEP here. Basically, it's a measure of how many points a player adds to his team's expected point total compared to an average player.
The thing that Bridgewater had going for him that gave him an advantage over Johnny Football (who was better than or nearly equal to Bridgewater in most categories) was the number of games he played in college. That stat was actually the best predictor of the ones we looked at of future success because it gives evaluators a better sample set from which to study a player. Bridgewater's 37 games played made him more likely to be a star in the NFL than Manziel's 25, although the comparison was pretty close.
If you're comparing Bridgewater to the non-JFF quarterbacks in this class, forget about it. He ran circles around Bortles, who even played in the same conference as Bridgewater. Teddy's collegiate stats show that he should be in line to succeed in the NFL, and the Vikings should be stoked about that.For the Vikings, the need here was pretty obvious. They finished 25th in the league in Passing NEP last year at -31.53. That means if they had just had an average quarterback, they would have scored 31.53 more points last year. Matt Cassel wasn't terrible, but he wasn't anything great, and he'll be 32 when the season starts. The team already declined the fifth year option on Christian Ponder which will make him a free agent after next year and cement his status as a bust. The Vikings needed Teddy Ballgame.
When you surround Bridgewater with guys like Adrian Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson, you're setting him up for success. This team has some serious weapons, and it's about time they got a quarterback that can properly utilize them.
Also in play here is Greg Jennings. Jennings showed last year that he's still not a bad receiver when he has a mildly competent quarterback getting him the pigskin. In the seven games in which Cassel attempted at least 15 passes, Jennings averaged 70.14 yards per game. In the eight other games in which he played, he averaged 39.13 points per game. Just a teeny different.
This doesn't even tell the whole story for the Vikings. After the dismissal of Leslie Frazier, Mike Zimmer brought in Norv Turner to be his offensive coordinator. Our own Jeff Miller did a study on "The Norv Narrative" to see what effect Turner had on offenses in his first year as coordinator. If you haven't yet, read it here. The basic gist: Norv makes offenses really freaking good. In Minnesota, he's got all the tools to do that again.
Here at numberFire, we have a pretty sweet tool called READ. What READ does is it takes a player's combine numbers, dimensions, and team in their rookie year and spits out players in similar situations. This helps control for the conference in which Bridgewater played and all of the other stuff we talked about above to show what this dude should be able to do in his first year.
Because the situation Bridgewater is entering was not very good last year, Bridgewater's READ comparisons may not be as kind as they would be to someone like Brandin Cooks, who entered an offense that was already excelling. The Vikings didn't exactly do that.
If we look at Bridgewater's top comparables, we get four names: Patrick Ramsey, David Carr, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson. Two of those quarterbacks were very good! Two of those quarterbacks were very...not.
Remember, this is all based on Bridgewater's measurables, combine performance, and the situation which he is entering. Because Bridgewater isn't totally reliant upon his athleticism, these numbers may not matter as much for him as they would for, say, Johnny Manziel. But it's still worth noting for fantasy purposes that Bridgewater, according to his READ, is very much a boom or bust type of player, especially because the Vikings offensive situation is not much better than it was last year outside of the quarterback position.
Bridgewater in Minnesota has the potential to do great things. The Vikings added who statistics and history said was the best quarterback in the class. Both sides come out smelling like roses and daylilies. The only negative here is that we have to wait until August 8 to see it.