Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Should the Skins Not Have Chased Daniel?

Embarrassingly bad wordplay aside, for those of you who do not read Football Outsiders (FO), firstly, you should start reading them, and secondly, the writers have devised an accurate system for predicting the pro success of college QBs, called the Lewin Career Forecaster. The system is actually pretty simple; after running all kinds of ideas through regression analysis, it turns out that games started in college and completion percentage are the 2 stats that matter, that's it. Not TD passes, wins, INTs, or anything else, and to be clear, completion % is relative to that of other QBs at the school to account for consistently high-scoring spread offenses or QBs coming from bad teams. The system is only applied to QBs selected in the first 2 rounds of the NFL draft, so as to incorporate some eyball scouting.

This metric system isn't foolproof: FO did list Colt Brennan as the top QB prospect going into the 2007 college season due to his absurd production at Hawaii, but did note that his production could only go down in his senior season. The 2007 FO annual book also said about JC, "This year he is ready to make the leap to Pro Bowl-level performance, firmly establishing himself as the best quarterback to come out of the 2005 draft." His weak competition from that draft (Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith) aside, maybe this is one of the reasons the rookie QB projection was dropped from the 2009 edition of the FO book. In 2008, FO was still bullish on Colt, particularly as a fit in a West Coast Offense, but does note that the system works best for QBs taken in the top-2 rounds of the draft. This year, FO states "...there is room for encouragement.", but also notes that Brennan "...doesn't have the the arm, or feel for play-action..." to play outside of a West Coast Offense.

Using this system, we should be able to determine whether the Skins made the right choice in dropping Chase Daniel. Unfortunately, FO only ran their projections for college QBs in the 2006 and 2007 editions of their book, so I did a little research to create this comparison:

Chase Daniel - 40 games started (3 year starter), 68.0% (1094/1584), age 23 season in 2009
Colt Brennan - 37 games started (3 year starter), 70.4% (1115/1584), age 26 season in 2009

Not much difference looking at the stats, the biggest difference is the age, which indicates that Colt is running out of time to 'figure it out', whereas Daniel has a season or 2 to learn the ropes.

Both of these guys have great completion rates, but how do they compare to the QBs preceeding them? Colt followed a guy whose name might ring a bell, Timmy Chang, who holds the NCAA all-time passing yardage mark, but what concerns this discussion is just his completion %. Chang's last 2 seasons where 58.7% in 2003, and 59.5% in 2004. In 2008, Colt was followed primarily by Greg Alexander, who was up to 62.9%, although the Hawaii QB group as a whole combined for 59.2%. These are all solid completion rates, but well below the standard set by Colt.

Chase Daniel is a bit tougher to evaluate, as his predecessor was Brad Smith, who is in the NFL, but as a WR for the Jets. Smith managed 59.4% in 2005 and 51.8% in 2004, but was a running quarterback, so not comparable to Daniel. Blaine Gabbert, a top recruit is following Daniel now, and was at 75.8% in his first game this season and should provide a much better barometer of Chase Daniel's collegiate performance.

In conclusion, we have 2 qbs with similar collegiate stats. Colt Brennan significantly outperformed his predecessor and successor, whereas Chase Daniel does not have a basis for comparison yet. On the other hand, Chase Daniel is 3 years younger than Colt Brennan, and the history of QBs suddenly putting it together with limited experience at age 26 or later is not strong.

My take is that the Skins didn't love either guy but have a fan-favorite and teammate-favorite who has experience in the system. But what if Chase Daniel had been around last year to become the fan favorite 3rd QB (always happens), and garner the friendship and trust of his teammates? Daniel has the better chance of success given his age, and will now learn the ropes behind fellow undersized QB Drew Brees in New Orleans. I don't think we just let go of the next Tom Brady, but we probably did hold on to the wrong guy. Colt had an "injury" that allows us to keep him without using a roster spot - couldn't we invent an injury for Chase Daniel?

(Image courtesy of wai.redskins.com)

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