Normally, I could care less about NFL draft stories, even when they involve former Georgia players. I wish ’em the best, and the publicity helps the program, but the door has closed on the part of their careers that matters to me. That being said, Michael Elkon’s got a thought provoking post up that’s the exception to my rule.
Michael’s starting point is with the ESPN projection of Matt Stafford’s career from Georgia to the NFL. It’s not overly sanguine about his prospects. One reason why I found particularly interesting.
… another easy way to control for system quarterbacks is to compare the quarterback to the previous starter at his school.
Stafford was directly preceded at Georgia by the recently retired David Greene; both spent their entire college careers under head coach Mark Richt in similar offensive systems. Stafford’s college numbers are actually worse than Greene’s, with the latter completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 8.01 yards per attempt to Stafford’s 7.83. If Stafford was really a star in the making, wouldn’t he have put up better numbers, in the same system, than a guy who washed out of the NFL without taking a professional snap?
First off, I have to be a little skeptical of an analysis that overlooks D. J. Shockley’s senior season. And I grow even more so when I breakdown the quarterback stats from the last seven seasons. They look like this:
(By the way, if you told me that David Greene’s best season from a completion percentage standpoint would be the year he took snaps behind that sieve of an offensive line, I would have chuckled.)
Notice which season on that list is the best from a statistical standpoint? To me, the compelling argument to make from seeing that chart is that Stafford would have been looking at a helluva season in 2009 if he’d have stayed in college. (His bank account, on the other hand, not so much.)
Stafford’s got the highest completion percentage on the board, the largest number of TD passes, the best QB rating and the highest yards per passing attempt – all from his last season. The closest seasons Greene and Shockley have to Matt’s ’08 numbers are their senior years.
Where Stafford falls short compared to the other two is in interceptions. He never had a season where he threw less than ten. Greene and Shockley, on the other hand, excelled in this area. (Cut Greene some slack on the ’03 numbers, again considering what he had for a supporting cast during that season.) And here’s where I think Elkon makes a valid point about Stafford.
… his technique is inconsistent, which causes him to have accuracy problems. The ESPN article nails the issue:
College quarterbacks don’t typically improve their accuracy in the NFL. If his decisions were at all suspect against SEC opponents, then it’s reasonable to wonder how he will react to professional defenses.If Stafford didn’t have consistent footwork as a junior in the SEC with two seasons of experience under his belt, then one has to wonder whether he’s really driven like a great athlete. In other words, he might be like you, me, and the vast majority of humanity in that he isn’t obsessed with mastering his craft to a microscopic level of detail. Wouldn’t it be fair to say that the reaction of most Georgia fans to Stafford at the end of his career was “he was good, but there was always something missing?”
I think that’s a fair observation. Matt never completely trusted his offensive line to give him the time he needed – certainly understandable – and that affected his mechanics. It’s another reason I would have liked to see him come back this year. But that’s water under the bridge now.
By the way, I think that this focus on whether Knowshon has the ultimate speed to succeed at the next level is one of those forest-for-the-trees kind of things. Moreno’s game has always been more about vision, balance and cutting back than about foot speed.
Besides, it seems like he’s been fast enough.
Michael draws a conclusion from this that I’m not sure I buy all that much.
If Football Outsiders is right about Knowshon Moreno being a suspect prospect because of his speed score and FO and ESPN are right about Stafford being overrated because of his accuracy issues, then isn’t the corollary that Georgia’s 2008 season wasn’t really that disappointing? We were excited all summer in large part because the Dawgs had bona fide stars at the offensive skill positions. What if we were just wrong about that strength? Isn’t the implication positive for UGA in 2009? And does this mean that my conclusion from the season that Richt is behind Saban and Meyer is faulty?
Whatever the problems were with Georgia’s 2008 season, I don’t think you can lay them at the feet of the offensive skill position players. Georgia finished with the top rusher in the SEC, the top conference passer and two receivers in Green and Massaquoi that finished first and third in receiving yardage. Whatever optimism I’ve got about the upcoming season stems from getting several key players back from injuries (particularly on the offensive line) and a sense that the whole program is more focused at this point than it was going into last season. It’s not because Stafford and Moreno are gone.
UPDATE: The SEC doesn’t keep individual stats from the 2001 season, so I had to do a little digging around to find David Greene’s numbers from his redshirt freshman year. He threw for 2,789 yards on 192 of 324 passes (59.3%), with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His average yards per attempt that year were the best of his career (8.61). I don’t know what that translates into as a passer rating, but I suspect it falls somewhere between his ’02 and ’03 ratings.
That’s the primary reason why Greene’s career numbers surpass Stafford’s. There’s no comparison between Greene’s (redshirt) freshman performance and Stafford’s (true) freshman performance. On the other hand, it would have been interesting to see the whole tale told if Matt had stayed in school for his senior year. He may turn out to be a textbook example of why college quarterbacks that stay all four years turn out better on the next level than those who don’t.
UPDATE #2: Here’s the link to the Football Outsiders QB breakdown. All I’m gonna say is that any formula that ranks Josh Freeman as a better pro prospect than Matt Stafford based on their college careers is questionable on its face.