During the 2010 college football season I tallied statistics from all of the top quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and defenders and listed the results in the prospect tracker. You can find the numbers in the new menu bar under the title ‘prospects‘.
I chose the players I expected to get the most attention on draft day, so it’s quite telling that I decided against adding Andy Dalton. Whenever I watched TCU in 2009 or 2010 I never saw him as anything more than late round fodder and a career backup. Depending on who you believe, he might have a chance to go in round two on Friday and I understand he’s the third quarterback on Seattle’s draft board. Either I made a major error in grading Dalton, or he’s seriously over rated.
Using the prospect tracker I wanted to compare the performance of Colin Kaepernick, who I believe is receiving serious interest from the pacific north west. The stats are based on regular season performances only, so they don’t account for a 192-yard, one touchdown performance against Boston College in the Kraft ‘Fight Hunger’ Bowl.
Despite opting not to declare for the 2011 draft, I kept Andrew Luck’s name on the list if only for the basis of a comparison. After all, this is the poster boy for college football at the moment and the man everyone expects to be the #1 overall pick next year. His numbers at Stanford in 2011 were very impressive, yet distinctly similar to Colin Kaepernick’s.
Luck went 245/349 passing for the season with an excelent 70% completion rate. Kaepernick wasn’t far behind, going 213/326 for a 65% completion rate.
Very little separated each players yards-per-attempt (8.9 to 8.7 in favor of Luck). Kaepernick had 2830 passing yards compared to Luck’s 3051. Both players threw seven interceptions, but Luck recorded seven more passing touchdowns. To compensate, Kaepernick’s running ability in Nevada’s pistol offense generated 1184 yards and an eye catching 20 touchdowns compared to Luck’s 438 yards and three scores. Of course, Luck ran a very different offense where his mobility and sneaky athleticism was merely a bonus and Kaepernick’s rushing qualities were a focal point for the Wolfpack.
Numbers only tell one side of the story of course, because using pure statistics you’d find it hard to seperate the pair. I’m not trying to say in this article that the two are on an equal footing, something I’m sure Colin Kaepernick – being a humble individual - would accept himself. Kaepernick will not be the first overall pick this year even if he does find a home in round one. Luck’s throwing mechanics are uniquely perfect for a college quarterback and he has some experience of pre-snap reads and adjustments, although a lot of those appeared to be scripted.
Level of competition also has to be taken into account. Kaepernick did beat Boise State, California, Fresno State and Boston College but Nevada’s schedule was also padded out with Eastern Washington, Idaho, Louisiana Tech and Utah State. Stanford negotiated the PAC-10 with some style, only losing to eventual BCS Championship runners-up Oregon on the road.
One thing the numbers do back up is Kaepernick’s elusiveness. He was sacked just ten times in 2010, which is a lot less than other mobile quarterbacks such as Jake Locker (19), Cam Newton (23), Blaine Gabbert (23) and Christian Ponder (23). Again though, you have to wonder about level of competition considering Andy Dalton’s eight sacks at TCU running a similarly weaker schedule. Andrew Luck was sacked an incredible six times, testament not only to his ability to get the ball out quickly but also to Stanford’s superb offensive line.
It is interesting to see that Kaepernick had a better completion percentage than both Locker and Gabbert, significantly so in Locker’s case. Again this perhaps doesn’t tell the whole story as Kaepernick was never faced with an almost impossible situation against Stanford and Nebraska, although performances such as Locker’s against UCLA proved he wasn’t entirely blameless. Another interesting note on Gabbert is that his 62% completion rate came despite throwing more passes (418) than anyone other than Nathan Enderle (478). Gabbert also had the lowest number of touchdowns (15).
Looking at Kaepernick’s previous years at Nevada also hints toward some level of development as a passer. He took less sacks, significantly improved his completion percentage (he averaged in the mid-50′s before 2010) and maintained a low turn over ratio, throwing just 24 interceptions in four years of starting football.
On the face of it the numbers are very impressive and you want to see that development, particularly as a senior. It’s one of the criticisms labelled at Jake Locker who would almost certainly, in my opinion, have been the fourth overall pick last year to Washington. His inability to pass in the 60% range – whatever the reason – gave ammunition to the critics. Statistics can be manipulated in both a positive and negative way and rest assured had Locker been a 60-65% passer, even if the performance wasn’t ultimately much better, people would’ve spoken about him in a more favorable manner. It’s really only a 3% improvement in terms of completions, which is nothing.
Kaepernick did make that jump and the team who ultimately drafts him this week will hope that it’s just the start of further development as a passer, because that is how he’ll be successful at the next level.