Home > Draft, FNQB, NFL > FNQB: What is Really Causing Ryan Mallett’s Depressed Draft Stock

FNQB: What is Really Causing Ryan Mallett’s Depressed Draft Stock

Tonight, LiveBall Sports takes a look at Arkansas QB Ryan Mallett, and why his draft stock would possibly be falling at a time when Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are cruising towards the top of the draft.  Put it this way: if Newton and Gabbert are top five picks, what would be the reason that Ryan Mallett shouldn’t be in play to head to the Vikings at no. 12 overall.

Mallett is not a top ten value as a quarterback, but he’s got a somewhat decent chance to be the best QB in this class.  While I can’t give anyone a strong reason to pick him over Blaine Gabbert, I can show you why they are similar.  Here are three quarterbacks from this NFL draft class, and their college stats:

Player A: 292 passing attempts, 65.4% completion, 30 TDs (10.3%), 7 INTs (2.4%), 23 sacks (7.3%)

Player B: 955 passing attempts, 57.8% completion, 69 TDs (7.2%), 24 INTs (2.5%), 61 sacks (6.0%)

Player C: 933 passing attempts, 60.9% completion, 40 TDs (4.3%), 18 INT (1.9%), 43 sacks (4.4%)

Those are the three highest rated players in this upcoming draft, in order: Cam Newton (A), Ryan Mallett (B), Blaine Gabbert (C).  My point is to show you that Newton is a very different player statistically from the other two (lots of completions and touchdowns, small sample size, higher sack rate).  But Gabbert and Mallett are pretty much the same player as a passer.  Gabbert is an athlete, while Mallett is a statue.  Mallett is taller and uses the pocket better.  Again, they are more similar then they are different.  I would have Gabbert first, given the choice.

With Blaine Gabbert nearly certain to be drafted in the top ten picks, then, why is Mallett widely perceived as a second rounder?  Sure, his true value may be closer to the top of the second round than the top ten, but we know all about how needs at the position are driving up the value of similar players.  After Gabbert and Newton are gone, why not Mallett?

One possible explanation revolves around the depth of the class after the top two, namely, that Jake Locker, Colin Kaepernick, and Christian Ponder can challenge Ryan Mallett to be the next quarterback taken.  For sure, Ponder’s stock appears to be on the rise.  But this explanation is, at best, insufficient, and at worst, nonsensical.  There are, by my count, nine different teams who are looking to come away with at least some QB help in this draft.  Not all nine are going to try to address the need in the first two rounds, but this is because the supply of available quarterbacks draftable in the first two rounds comes up short of nine.  Even for teams that believe in Dalton/Kaepernick/Locker, that’s — at most — seven players who will be drafted in the first two rounds.

That’s why Mallett’s stock should be heading in a forward direction.  And it may be now.  But that’s still a wide gap between where historical comparables of Mallett would be taken, and where Mallett is projected.

All Low Completion Percentage Quarterbacks

I am now taking a look at the fortunes of players with some of the problems that Mallett’s detractors cite.  Mallett left his fifth year on the table to go pro before his birthdate became a liability to his draft stock.  Historically, the average (since 2005) pro NFL prospect completes between 61.5% and 62% of his collegiate passes, though players who don’t exhaust their college eligibility tend to be a bit lower than that.

Mallett’s not really a “low” completion percentage player (Jake Locker: 54%, for example) at 57.8% for his career, but that’s nearly 4% below the average draft propsect.  If we look at all players at least two percent below average in completion percentage and no less than six percent below average, we get the following list of comparables:

  • Brady Quinn
  • Trent Edwards
  • Chad Henne
  • Matt Flynn
  • Matt Stafford
  • Josh Freeman
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brodie Croyle
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Kyle Orton
  • Charlie Whitehurst

The first rounders from this list (Quinn, Stafford, Freeman, Cutler) have actually faired OK as a group [combined NFL DYAR: 2437, mostly from Cutler and Freeman].  The least productive player on this list actually is not Quinn, but Stafford.  Stafford was also the only player of that group picked in the top 10, so perhaps theres a reason for it.  Feel free to lump Stanzi and Kaepernick into that group in terms of mid-rounders.

Quarterbacks who lack athleticism

College football judges sack yards as rushing yards lost.  Ryan Mallett actually never posted positive rushing yards in a college season because of that.  My look at these players tries to determine lack of athleticism by looking at players who did not post positive rushing yard totals in a career.

  • JaMarcus Russell
  • John Beck
  • Matt Ryan
  • Chad Henne
  • Brian Brohm
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Jimmy Clausen
  • Matt Leinart
  • Brodie Croyle
  • Andrew Walter
  • Dan Orlovsky
  • Derek Anderson

That’s not really a very impressive list.  Matt Ryan exceeded expectations.  Chad Henne probably has exceeded expectations.  As has Brian Hoyer.  Other than Orlovsky, everyone else on this list has struggled to live up to their draft billing.  The first rounders, Russell and Ryan, couldn’t be less telling as a group.  One knew right away how to succeed from the pocket in the NFL.  The other never learned.

Conclusions

Ryan Mallett ranks consistent or better with the typical first rounders in all categories except the two above.  Both are concerns, but the difference between Mallett’s completion percentage and what is expected for a modern college quarterback doesn’t concern me as much as it would for, say, Jake Locker.  There are plenty of recent comparables to achieve success from this accuracy range.

It’s a little harder to swallow the lack of athleticism that Mallett comes with.  Typically, players without functional mobility aren’t taken in the first round.  That could be why Mallett is falling in the draft.  Too many teams don’t think they can develop him into a top passer because modern pocket passers have mobility.  Oddly, the comparable for success could be the guy who proceeded Mallett at Michigan, Chad Henne.  Henne plays for a team that has no apparent interest in developing him as a player, but has come along pretty well for a second rounder.

Clearly though, for players with Mallett’s skill set, a lack of development is a troublesome reality about the pro level.  Mallett may be falling for very legitimate reasons; though his arm, physique, and passing vision should translate nicely to the next level, QB coaches don’t seem to know how to administer a learning curve for a player who can’t get out of the pocket and make throws.  Swallowing failure is more difficult these days.  And so, character issues aside, Ryan Mallett could be the victim of a set of NFL coaches that just doesn’t really know how to win with a statue like him.  And with the limited opportunity offered to QBs in the modern passing era, it could be an uphill climb for him to impress enough to hold down a starting job in the next level.  I just want you to know: the team that takes Ryan Mallett is probably getting a steal, no matter what happens with his development as a professional quarterback.

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  1. sandra
    March 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I agree with your comparison. I do feel Mallett is the best out of the bunch as far as the throwing is concerned. He has a great arm. I simply don’t see the hype in Blaine except for a real good agent, so I won’t even waste my time supporting him.

    The problem I see with Mallett seems to be more of he intagibles than just the numbers. He doesn’t seem to have a real fire in his belly to win and it’s clear to even a person like myself who don’t really follow College Football. It’s like he gives off the attitude that his arm is good enough to get him where he needs to go. Him and Cam have been scrutinized. Cam WAY more than him, but none-the-less the sport media is playing “Puritans” with their past.

    Cam seems to have that fire in his belly attitude, that “me against the media,” mentality that can translate well to coaches who is looking for that rookie who is going to help their team WIN. He has more than proven he has both the physical skills and intangibles to success at a high level but is always being underminded by the sports media for the sake of Blaine. But, he doesn’t give up.

    Mallett doesn’t show that drive at all. He gets to his Presser at the Combine with all levels of attitude and on his Pro-Day didn’t even seem physically ready to show more athleticism outside of a good arm.

    I always root for the underdogs and IMO, Cam, Mallett, and Jake are my three underdogs. Cam may not appear to be an underdog. Some see him as being overly hyped but I don’t consider intentionally turning someone into a ligtening-rod by negatively labeling them and over scrutinizing everything they do “HYPING” them.

    I personally want all those kids to succeed and as much as we love to play the comparison game, pass players statistics cannot replace what is going on inside of a kid’s head. Mallett seems to rest on the fact that he has a good arm. While every other QB knows that more is expected of them.

    Cam Newton messed up at 18 and he turned that negative time of his life into a National Championship win for his Junior College. The media attack him and intentionally took what clearly was an isolated incident with one school and used him to stir up more hate and annimosity between to rivalling colleges. He smile through it all and took his team to a 14-0 National Championship season. He is under an unrealistic and extremely unfair amount of scrutiny and he goes out and plays his heart out.

    If you don’t believe Coaches and Owners notices those real “intangibles” you’re not understanding why Mallett stock isn’t rising. Mallett comes across as if he simply does not care. I’m rooting for Mallett and want him to succeed but he needs to stop having the attitude of that employee who feels he can show up to work whenever and get the job done cause he has the mechanics. Attitude speaks louder than action.

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