The First-Round Quarterback Formula

Bill Parcells had a formula that he liked to use when he was evaluating quarterbacks for the NFL Draft while with the Giants, Patriots, Jets and Cowboys.

It was 26 – 27 – 60.

That’s at least a 26 score on the Wonderlic test given to potential draft choices. That’s at least 27 starts in college football, the equivalent of two full seasons. And finally, a completion percentage of at least 60 percent during his college career.

26 – 27 – 60.

This year there’s a wide variety of different types of quarterbacks among the top 15 to 20 players in the quarterback pool. There are athletes, there are athletic passers, there are cerebral passers and there are guys that somehow get things done.

When Stanford’s Oliver Luck decided not to leave school early and enter the 2011 NFL Draft it created a vacuum at the top of the position and likely at the top of the draft order. Less than two weeks from the first round and there is not a general consensus on anything related to the quarterbacks.

Is the best of class Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton or Mizzou’s Blaine Gabbert (above left)? These are the only two that most teams consider guaranteed first round selections. Some teams have them rated among the top five or six players in the class. Yet other clubs rank both of them no higher than the middle of the first round, some even lower into the low 20s.

The important numbers on the top 20 QB prospects in this year’s NFL Draft.

 Carolina has the No. 1 choice and they have not given any indication they’ve zeroed in on one player, let alone a potential quarterback.

“This year is not like last year where there were two clear-cut guys at the top,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, referring to QB Sam Bradford and DT Ndamukong Suh. “This year, there’s no one (consensus) guy. We’ve got six-to-eight guys targeted who are most surely guys who can impact us.”

Sitting in the No. 2 spot in the first round are the Buffalo Bills, who relied on journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick last year in working with head coach and QB guru Chan Gailey. Will the Bills jump in the QB water? Only if their guy can do what the head coach expects.

“The two most important things about playing quarterback in this league: accuracy and decision-making,” Gailey said. “Would you like to have a guy that’s mobile? Yes. Would you like to have a guy that is extremely intelligent and is smarter than the coach and can make good decisions on the field? You bet you would like that.”

(Carolina, Buffalo and a host of other teams have QB needs. Here’s the story.)

There are all sorts of combinations and opinions on what quarterbacks come next. It’s a group that includes Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas, Christian Ponder from Florida State, TCU’s Andy Dalton, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker of Washington and Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi.

They are among the top 20 prospects at football’s most important position that have been analyzed within an inch of their football lives.

Based on the last 10 NFL Drafts, there will likely be at least four quarterbacks taken in the first two rounds. Here’s the chart with the last decade’s quarterback draft choices.

Among the top 20 prospects among the quarterbacks, only six would match the Parcells’ criteria of 26 – 27 – 60: Gabbert, Dalton, Stanzi, Ponder, Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien and Alabama’s Greg McElroy.

Here’s a link to the complete set of numbers for the top 20 quarterbacks in this year’s draft pool. The passers statistics are for games played, starts, completion percentage, average yards per attempt, touchdown passes, interceptions, the record of their team in their starts and Wonderlic scores that we were able to find.

Here’s the best choices under each category:

Games played – 51 by Kaepernick and Dalton.

Starts – Dalton with 51 and 50 by Minnesota’s Adam Weber.

Completion percentage –  Tolzien topped the 20 passers at 68.1 completion percentage, followed by Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts at 66.4 percent, McElroy at 66.3 percent and Newton at 66.1 percent.

Average yards per attempt – Newton’s average was 10.2 yards per attempt, with Mallett and Tolzien behind him at 8.8 yards.

Touchdown passes – Kaepernick threw 82 touchdown passes, ahead of Idaho’s Nathan Enderle with 74.

Interceptions – Newton had just seven INTs at Auburn in 14 games. Overall impressive numbers for McElroy (10 INTs in 35 games) and Delaware’s Pat Devlin (12 INTs in 39 games.)

Most victories as a starter – Dalton led the Horned Frogs to a 42-7 record over his four seasons.

Wonderlic – Best scores were McElroy with 43 and Gabbert with 42.

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