A Visual Representation of NFL Quarterbacks

I’m a visual person. I like pictures, charts, and graphs. I have to see something to memorize and internalize it. It’s even better when something is tangible. I’m a visual and tactile learner. This is one of the reasons why I still write my scouting notes by hand (in pencil) and then type them up later. Doing both helps me to ingrain the information I’m getting from watching film on a team or a prospect.

What I don’t like is reams of data. Numbers all mashed together can be confusing and it’s difficult to extrapolate useful trends if I’m not sure what to look for. Give me a spreadsheet of data and I’ll give you a blank stare. Give me a chart or a visual representation of that data and I can understand it and pick out the trends much easier.

This is the reason why I have grown to love the site Mock Draftable. At first glance, it may just seem like a good database for finding an NFL prospect’s combine numbers all lumped into one big chart. This is great if you’re just looking for a certain player’s 40-time or vertical.

Where it really gets good is when you go to an individual player’s profile, you get a spiderweb-like visual of those measurements. However, instead of using the units of the measurements themselves, the site uses the percentiles of those measurements based on position. For example: Tom Brady scored a 33 on the Wonderlic test which is better than 88% of the other quarterbacks in the database – which appears to be all of the players who participated in the combine since 1999.

So what does this spiderweb of information show? It gives us a solid visual reference of the data it contains. Basing the visual model on the percentile means a player is judged based on his comparison versus other players at his position, and therefore a decent basis for us to judge future success. As evaluators we’re looking for bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter players. Using this tool we can compare Patrick Willis’ measurables to Aaron Curry’s and get a good visual representation of the difference in them.

I have a theory that these models could more accurately predict the future success of prospects at certain positions than at others, but I wanted to compare some guys from the hardest position of all to evaluate: Quarterback.

I want to get a baseline for what a good NFL QB looks like in this model so first I’ll look at the QBs that are, in my opinion, the best in the league. Then I’ll take a look at the QBs who are in years where we’re not really sure what to make of them yet and their futures rely heavily on their performance this year. I’ll call them, “The Questionables.” Then, just to try to do a little predicting, we’ll look at the rookie quarterbacks from this April’s draft and reflect on the young phenoms who impressed in their first year at the helm in 2012 – “The Sophomores.”

The Best

Aaron Rodgers

Tom Brady

Drew Brees

What does it mean? – It means that at the combine Brady was particularly sloth-like in his athletic ability. The only real nugget to pick out here is that all three quarterbacks did well on the Wonderlic, with Brees the lowest, in the 58th percentile. It’s a small sample size but the top-echelon of QBs doesn’t have a lot of names on its roster. No real trend can be pulled from this data other than these guys are all smarter than the average QB.

The Questionables

Sam Bradford

Cam Newton

Josh Freeman

Matthew Stafford

Mark Sanchez

What does it mean? – The comparison of Stafford’s graph and Newton’s graph are pretty much mirror opposites. Stafford shows little in the athleticism category but scored highly on the Wonderlic. Newton did poorly on the Wonderlic while scoring highly in all the other categories.

Bradford didn’t participate much in the combine but scored extremely highly on the Wonderlic. His hand size is a little small and he posted an average 40-time. Nothing really sticks out about Freeman’s measurements except for an average Wonderlic score. Freeman is a big guy at 6’6″ and 248 pounds, and his 20-yard shuttle and 40-time shows that he has trouble moving that size around efficiently. By looking at Sanchez’s graph, he should have turned out to be a decent quarterback. He’s fairly athletic and scored as high on the Wonderlic as Brees did. What went wrong? Is he worth taking a shot on as a free agent to come in as a backup? This makes it seem so.

The 2013 Sophomores

Colin Kaepernick

(Technically not a sophomore, I know, but I’m lumping him in with these guys anyways.)

Robert Griffin III

Russell Wilson

Ryan Tannehill

Brandon Weeden

Andrew Luck

What did we learn? – That Andrew Luck is a freak. He’s Cam Newton with a Wonderlic score better than 91% of other quarterbacks. These raw numbers are a good example of why Luck was considered one of the best QB prospects in the past 20 years (and maybe ever). He has size, athleticism, and is incredibly intelligent.

The only negative grade Kaepernick gets is for tiny hands. As expected, he tore up the combine with his athleticism, but that 37 Wonderlic score really stands out to me. Griffin has some serious leg explosion but lacks in size and put up a poor score on the Wonderlic. Comparing his graph to Russell Wilson’s, it’s interesting to see that Wilson appears to be on par (or only very slightly below) RG3 athletically, yet scored higher on the Wonderlic. Based on these graphs, we could say that Wilson and Kaepernick should have projected to be better than the QB that was taken 2nd overall.

I included Tannehill and Weeden just to see how they compared to the others. Neither participated much at the combine, but we do see tiny hands and a good Wonderlic score for Tannehill. Weeden just looks average in this graph…which is pretty accurate, I think.

The 2013 Rookies

EJ Manuel

Geno Smith

Tyler Wilson

Ryan Nassib

Mike Glennon

What did we learn? – According to this, I’m completely wrong about EJ Manuel. He has a solid Wonderlic and great scores in every area. I had him graded as a late round pick but this graph says he’s worthy of the first round pick the Bills used to take him.

Geno lacks some size but is athletic and his graph can loosely be compared to Robert Griffin III’s. By looking at his graph, Tyler Wilson looks like a late-round quarterback, or even an undrafted free agent. Nassib is stocky with big hands and a huge brain. He scored better than 98% of all quarterbacks who have taken the Wonderlic at the combine. That’s impressive. Glennon is a big guy, but by this graph, that’s about it. He didn’t grade out higher than Freeman in any category, except height where he’s an inch taller than Freeman.

You can visit www.mockdraftable.com and check out other positions and players’ graphs as well.

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