Is There Any Hope for Brian Quick?

Brian Quick is entering his third season with the Rams. Will he finally live up to expectations?

My mind must be stuck in celluloids today, because when someone says to me “6’4”, 220 pounds, 4.55 40-yard dash, and 34” vertical jump, but has "emained invisible for a long time”, all I can think of is Harvey the Rabbit.

If you haven’t seen the movie Harvey, Harvey is a 6’3.5” invisible rabbit spirit who supposedly follows Jimmy Stewart’s character around as a friend and guide. Yet no one besides Stewart’s character can see Harvey or speak to him. No one believes that he exists, but most of his friends just play along and assume that Harvey is merely a by-product of a mental breakdown.

This has been the daily struggle of those of us still in the Brian Quick fan club. Welcome. There’s coffee over on the table there.

Brian Quick, after being selected 33rd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft out of teeny-tiny Appalachian State, was considered – quite fairly – to be a project. The Rams saw a player with extremely gifted measurables and selected him highly, knowing him to have a very high ceiling for production. While none of us expected him to be a star by now, I think we’d also hoped for more than 29 catches on 64 targets. So what gives? Does Brian Quick still have value, both in the NFL and for fantasy owners?

“For Years I Was Smart…”

Let’s be very clear here: small-school receivers tend to not pan out as NFL prospects. There are often reasons why major college programs don't accept players that are immensely physically gifted; sometimes concerns are academic or behavioral, but more often than not, college programs find a way to get those talented players under their wings early.

Quick was not seen as a gifted prospect. He played basketball in high school, only playing one year of football before attending Appalachian State and playing three years there. However, his NFL Combine numbers were fairly impressive for a player of his size, as many 6’4”, 220-pound men cannot run a 4.55 40 (Harvey could, but Quick has half an inch on him). Quick was rated 10th in the 2012 wide receiver class of the NFL Draft, but was still drafted ahead of Bears' phenom Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle of the Giants, and Stephen Hill of the Jets, all of whom also had sterling physical profiles and much more pro-level production.

Sure enough, Quick hasn't produced nearly anything in his time in the league, unlike most of his other compatriots, who have at least had spurts of relevance. The table below shows Brian Quick’s first two years in the league, using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. NEP is a measure of how much a player contributes to his team’s chances of scoring on any given drive, measured in expected points.

YearRecReception NEPTargetsTarget NEPRec. NEP/ Target

So, there’s good and bad here. The bad is that Quick has produced very poorly in the NFL thus far, ranking 97th in 2013 Reception NEP (cumulative NEP gained on successful receptions) and 103rd in Reception NEP per target (efficiency; value of receptions per opportunity). That's not what we would hope for from nearly a first-round selection in the draft.

The good, however, comes when we look at Quick’s growth between Year 1 and Year 2, especially in terms of his efficiency and reliability. Quick’s 2012 rookie Target NEP (NEP gained on all targets) was a paltry -11.29, ranking 174th out of 183 in the league among all wide receivers. In 2013, as noted before, he jumped into the middle third of the league by this metric (4.10), and a 71 slot increase in value should not be sniffed at.

In addition to this reliability upgrade, Quick was able to simply do more with his opportunities in 2013. He doubled his total value between the two years on just eight more targets, nearly also doubling his per target efficiency. With added volume, one could see Quick being a very valuable piece in this St. Louis Rams offense. This may be the case soon, as with Sam Bradford back under center the Rams should no longer have to rely on 25-rush games from running back Zac Stacy.

“… I Recommend Pleasant”

While this seems very rosy, and although Quick’s physical profile indicates that he could have the upside of star wide receivers like Dez Bryant, what happens when we look at Quick in the context of draft prospects around his same value?

I pulled together the NEP data for all NFL wide receivers drafted in the late first and second round of the NFL Draft from 2007 to 2011, examining their first three years in the league. As Quick was selected around then, I wanted to see what the players the league valued at this price had done in their careers and if there was a solid trajectory we could expect for Quick in this, his third year.

One interesting thing to note right away is that five of the 27 players in this study either never saw the field at all in their career (Dexter Jackson) or bombed out of the league after only one or two seasons (i.e. Limas Sweed). The table below shows the average career course of the remaining 22, represented in our NEP data.

Year in LeagueRecRec NEPTargetTarget NEPRec NEP/ Target
Year 13542.896214.630.69
Year 24352.007419.100.70
Year 34454.917525.280.73

We see via this table that there often is a decent-sized jump between Years 1 and 2 in the league for receivers at this range, but Year 2 and 3 look nearly identical in terms of Reception NEP. However, a key to this is that there seems to have been little volume growth in either receptions or targets for these receivers between the latter two seasons. The Target NEP of these players grows massively with each year, though. There's a steady increase in per target efficiency as well, especially between the second and third seasons.

By the numbers, we see for the average player at his draft range, Quick should see another growth in his reliability as a target (Target NEP) as well as advancement in his per target efficiency again (Reception NEP per target) entering Year 3 in the NFL. With a projected starting role for Quick, additional volume should be easy to obtain, meaning that additional value is certainly within reach. All he has to do is win and retain the starting job in St. Louis - no small feat, but not entirely too difficult considering the middling talent around him. With a young and still-rising quarterback in Sam Bradford slinging him passes as well, Quick could become not simply a de facto WR1, but a true high-volume, high-value option in the league.