The 2014 Rookie Quarterback Comparisons: Plenty of Questions, Including with Teddy Bridgewater

By Jason Lisk
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Three rookie quarterbacks threw more than 200 passes in 2014, and this post will be about them. Another one drew 200 headlines, but we don’t have enough game participation to include him. Johnny Manziel is trying to go the Brett Favre career path, partying and pissing off the organization that drafted him after just one year. He’s probably not going to simulate the rest of Favre’s career, though.

For the other three (Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater, and Derek Carr), I looked at a list of rookies to throw 200 or more passessince the merger and compared them in league adjusted passing measures, age, and draft position. The league adjusted numbers allow us to compare the completion percentages of today (where almost everyone completes over 60%) to the 70’s, where completing more than 55% was excellent. Things like interception rate and sack rate have also gone down over time.

At pro-football-reference, they have the league-adjusted numbers, where a score of 100 equals a player who was exactly league average in a category. Every 15 points up or down is one standard deviation away from average. Most MVP candidates at QB will be near a score of 130, while the truly awful seasons are at the other extreme, near 70.

I took each rookie’s score in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown rate, interception rate, sack rate, and overall adjusted net yards per pass attempt, and compared it to other rookies. (Every point of difference was multiplied by 5 and subtracted). I also took away 40 points from the similarity score for every year of age difference, and 1 point for every draft position difference.

Here is a summary of the most similar rookie years, with the top ten (plus all other players with a score of 600 or higher) listed.

BLAKE BORTLES

The shine is off Bortles a little bit after year one. His mechanics were inconsistent, and his numbers across the number were poor. By raw numbers, he is 11th-worst on the list in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (26th worst in passer rating, league adjusted).

The good news is this. A handful of quarterbacks who were top prospects put up across the board bad numbers as rookies, and turned out okay. A hit rate of 4 of 14 here is probably a good number to set on Bortles (27% chance of panning out). Year two, and this offseason, is going to be key in determining Bortles’ path.

  1. Steve Fuller (785)
  2. Rick Mirer (699)
  3. John Elway (693)
  4. Jimmy Clausen (690)
  5. E.J. Manuel (687)
  6. David Carr (683)
  7. Neil Lomax (655)
  8. Troy Aikman (653)
  9. Christian Ponder (651)
  10. Kyle Boller (649)
  11. Geno Smith (624)
  12. Donovan McNabb (614)
  13. Blaine Gabbert (613)
  14. Tim Couch (603)

DEREK CARR

Carr is an interesting profile for a rookie. He avoided interceptions. He didn’t take sacks at a high rate. But he didn’t make many big plays and his yards per attempt is historically low for a rookie, once we adjust for league average. In fact, his 5.46 yards per attempt is tied for lowest among all the rookies here, with Donovan McNabb (but he is different than in all other areas, so he doesn’t show up on this list).

There’s not a whole lot of upside on this list. The hit rate was similar (Kosar, Dalton, and Bledsoe could all be classified as hits) but it’s not filled with stars.

  1. Sam Bradford (675)
  2. Steve Walsh (665)
  3. Mike Pagel (663)
  4. Trent Edwards (654)
  5. Jack Trudeau (639)
  6. Andy Dalton (634)
  7. Bernie Kosar (600)
  8. Bruce Gradkowski (597)
  9. Drew Bledsoe (595)
  10. Joey Harrington (582)

TEDDY BRIDGEWATER

Teddy Bridgewater had an interesting season. He was great in his debut as a starter. Then, he went through a seven game stretch where he never hit 6.5 yards per attempt, completed 60% of his passes, averaged a paltry 5.76 yards per attempt, and had more interceptions than touchdowns.

Then, he was on fire for the last five weeks, completing 68% of his passes in all of them. He averaged 72% completions and 8.79 yards per attempt, two figures that would have put him near the top of the league if he had done it all year.

So that’s promising. Still, his historical comps surprisingly don’t show as much promise. Given the names nearer to the top (Flacco, O’Brien, Chandler, and McMahon) there’s a good chance he will be a solid starter. But what gives here?

It’s a combination of things. The poor sack rate coupled with the decent yards per attempt and completion rate is the primary one. His outlook would be a lot better if he took fewer sacks while putting up those other numbers. (so that needs to be kept in mind when considering the below impressive stat–maybe he needs to be less accurate by turning some sacks into incomplete passes.)

Also, if he plays like the last five weeks, and that’s not just the randomness of both halves balancing out, well, he’ll blow this list away.

  1. Dennis Shaw (818)
  2. Joe Flacco (751)
  3. John Reaves (742)
  4. Ken O’Brien (697)
  5. E.J. Manuel (689)
  6. Chris Chandler (686)
  7. Jim McMahon (683)
  8. Colt McCoy (677)
  9. Cam Newton (654)
  10. Tim Couch (649)
  11. Cade McNown (645)
  12. Patrick Ramsey (645)
  13. Matt Leinart (638)
  14. Rick Mirer (635)
  15. Byron Leftwich (610)
  16. Ryan Tannehill (601

Related: Blake Bortles’ Girlfriend Seems Genuinely Psyched They are Heading to Jacksonville

Related: Derek Carr Passed to an Offensive Lineman, Who Fumbled

Related: Cam Newton Had one of the Five Best Rookie Seasons Ever

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