Dave Berri Responds

Stumbling On Wins author Dave Berri responds to my analysis of the debate regarding whether top draft pick QBs are really any better than later picks. He has a good point about Elway.

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6 Responses to “Dave Berri Responds”

  1. Alchemist says:

    I read Berri's response and he makes a lot of good points. It looks like the central argument lies in how to measure performance in those who are not given an adequate opportunity to perform. I'm not sure that there's a "correct" answer to the conundrum. Whether you exclude them altogether or substitute some kind of default value for their putative talents, it has the capability to skew the data towards one conclusion or the other.

    My favorite line from his analysis comes in the last paragraph:

    "performance of quarterbacks in the NFL is hard to predict even when we are using past NFL performance to make the prediction"

    This really says it all. If you can't rely on a QB's own NFL-specific experience to at least reasonably project his future performance, what can you use?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Is there more "value" to be had from draft pick in teh later rounds, in the sense that you can pay them much less? Sure.

    But I still don't see him addressing the point that coaches are better able to evaluate their players in training camp than from college performance. You can't just say that Brady was a 6th round pick who made it. You have to look at how many late round QBs end up making it. The coaches ARE able to evaluate players at training camp, at least to some degree. Belicek was impressed with Brady in training camp when he started. Doesn't mena he would have started without Bledsoe getting injured, but his talent was recognized.

  3. Buzz says:

    I think Dave’s example with Elway is a good one. However, we also have to remember that the decision to keep starting Elway (or any other QB) isn’t determined solely based on their in game performance. Coaches have college game film and more importantly they have the ability to watch a QB day in and day out during practice, OTA’s, training camp, watching film, etc. This practice time and the chance to monitor a QB’s performance is immensely valuable. Take Kevin Kolb (or Aaron Rodgers) for example.

    Kolb was drafted in the second round number 36 overall, just a few picks ahead of John Beck and Drew Stanton. He was also drafted way below Sam Bradford who went #1 overall this year. Kolb has a whopping 130 pass attempts with a passer rating of 68.9 for his career. This along with his so-so draft position wouldn’t make you think you are looking at a super star in the making. However, we also know that the coaching staff has seen enough of Kolb in practice, OTA’s, training camp, watching film, etc to know that they are confident enough to trade away a very good and experienced QB on a team that is a super bowl contender in order to give him a shot at the starting position. This is information we don’t have on Sam Bradford. If you asked me right now who I would pick to have a better career between Kolb and Bradford I would say Kolb, and it has very little to with his 130 career pass attempts.

    The same situation was the case with Aaron Rodgers, the Packers had very little real game film to go on but they were confident enough to let Favre walk and give Rodgers a shot and it turns out they were correct. This is one of the reasons I grabbed Rodgers in most of my fantasy leagues when others were viewing him as extremely risky, I figured the coaches had enough data on him to know he probably wasn’t any more risky than your average starter.

    At the same time Beck and Stanton also haven’t had a chance to play much but I can’t make the same assumptions for them that they are looking to be good and it also has little to do with their actual playing time. They don’t have their coaches coming out and publicly saying that they trust them to make decisions, show promise, etc. This was probably determined from watching these players practice, not the few pass attempts that they have had in live games. Maybe if Beck or Stanton were given a chance to start they would focus more in practice and improve their game film watching practices or whatever was keeping them from starting in first place and would put up great numbers, like Kurt Warner for existence. But I would guess that those would be the exception more than the rule. Maybe they would perform better than the bottom 5% of the league as they continued to develop but to think they would be “fine” just because they got a chance to play, I kind of doubt that would be the case.

  4. Ryan says:

    That's a good point about Kolb. I've always wondered that about players like Kellen Clemens, also a 2nd rounder, who seemed to be the Jets QB of the future before they decided he was terrible. I often think QBs like that need a lot more than 8-9 starts before you find out if they're actually going to make it, even if they sit for a year or two... but you're probably right that the coaches know a ton more than we do based on practice, training camp, etc.

    The Rodgers point is interesting, too... I remember leading up to the 2005 draft, Rodgers & Alex Smith were regarded as the top two QBs, and it was essentially a toss-up. Why did Rodgers fall to #24? Because the Niners picked Smith, and nobody from 2-23 wanted a quarterback. So it's kind of tough to judge worth based on draft position when it's so need-based... nobody really takes the "best available player" when it comes to QBs.

  5. Ryan says:

    Come to think of it, I wonder if actual draft position is a better or worse indicator of performance than the "experts'" projected/mock draft position, since those are usually pretty accurate and more based on best-available (speaking of Rodgers, I just came across a footballsfuture.com 2005 mock that had Rodgers going #5 to TB). For example... is anyone going to be that surprised if Tebow is a bust? If he performs like a 5th rounder or worse, won't most everyone - except the Broncos - have been right about him?

    The Jets famously passed on Marino for Ken O'Brien, because they "know something we don't know" ... I think it's just one of those instances where the Masses might be better at predicting future outcomes than a couple of experts.

  6. Anonymous says:

    When you evaluate players you need to consider team objectives. For most teams the first objective is make the playoffs. And the first round is the best place to find a QB that will lead your team to the playoffs and playoff wins. As pointed out at http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/04/steven-pinker-vs-malcolm-gladwell-and.html there have been 460 playoff games since the NFL was formed (920 QB starts)376 of these QB starts were first round picks, 194 of the 460 winning QBs were first round picks. The next best place is draft positions >8 (including undrafted) where 213 QB starts and 96 wins are found.
    Another way to look at whether or not teams evaluate QBs correctly
    136 QBs were drafted in the first round 64 (47%) of them started at least 1 playoff game. (677 total QBs were drafted (all draft round) or signed as undrafted free agents. This total is probably off by a few because of AFL, USFL, and CFL QBs). So no matter how you look at it, the best place to find a QB to lead your team to the playoffs is in the first round.
    If you assume that teams draft in hopes of finding a QB to lead them to the playoffs, then they don't do too bad a job.

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