Josh Rosen's Value: Using Similarity Scores to Assess His Worth After Rough Rookie Year


Josh Rosen is their guy in Arizona … for now. The Arizona Cardinals have the first overall pick, a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, and all options are on the table. Arizona has the opportunity to move on if they so choose now, or commit fully to Rosen and move forward by using the top pick on an elite player at another position.

Rosen, the 10th overall pick a year ago, had a rough rookie year. He threw 14 interceptions in 13 games, four of which were returned for touchdowns. He averaged a dreadful 5.8 yards per pass attempt. He was sacked on over 10% of his drop backs. If you go by quarterbacks who threw the league-qualifying minimum of 224 passes, it is the second-worst season of the last decade, behind only Jamarcus Russell in 2009. (In Jared Goff’s rookie year, he threw 205 passes and just missed the cutoff).

How much does that season affect how we should view his prospects going forward? It would be naive to say it is meaningless, but we should try to put it in perspective.

Using the same method as last year when I broke down the rookie class of 2017, I found the 10 most similar rookie seasons since 1978 for rookies who were age 21 or 22 (Josh Rosen just turned 22 a few days ago). Here is that list:

Now, Rosen is younger than most of those guys. It’s still not an overall pretty list. I think you’d call Stafford and Goff successes, and Darnold is a TBD. Bortles and Fuller fall in to that serviceable category and Freeman had one good year. Still, I’d rate the odds of “success” of being a competent NFL starter at around 20-30% after looking at that list.

So now let’s put that in context of what the normal hit rates are. Here’s a list of every quarterback drafted in the top 250 picks from 1978 to 2018.

Here are my estimates of the hit rates for quarterbacks by position. And my definition of hit here isn’t a high bar requiring a potential league MVP. It’s guys capable of starting several years with multiple above average seasons. Sam Bradford is right around the cutoff for “hit.”

Most first overall picks are at least competent starters that stick around, even if they don’t become stars. Even before he took the field, you would have said Josh Rosen had a slightly under 50% chance of working out based on his draft position.

Now, that outlook has gone down. But he still has value, and he can absolutely turn it around with a better situation, a better offensive system, and another offseason to train. I would put his value at around late 2nd round range. This is another way of saying that I would project Dwayne Haskins, if he is a Top 10 pick, to have a better career than Josh Rosen armed just with the knowledge of what Rosen did as a rookie. But I would consider it a draw if we compared him to a quarterback drafted in the late 2nd, and would probably opt for Rosen to turn it around.

That is the question for the Cardinals, or another team, if he is really on the block. We already wrote about the possibility now that New England can swoop in and get him as the QB of the future to sit behind Brady. It would be a reasonable risk to take for New England with a second round pick.