[OC] Why Did the Jaguars Draft QB Tanner Lee? A 4500-Word Statistical Analysis on Why the Pick Makes No Sense

Posted on: May 3, 2018   |   Posted by: Refs4Pats NFL Blog2

I’ve been a fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars since 2005, and since becoming a diehard fan of the Jags, I’ve caught at least a portion of the draft every year since 2006, whether it be on the radio or on television. I watched/listened to all seven rounds back in 2009 as just a sixth grader, went to the NFL Draft in 2012 (and then again in 2014 and 2015), have done extensive scouting reports that take up lots of time since 2016, and have gotten so invested in the draft that when watching the first round, I have managed to get multiple noise complaints. So let’s just say that having watched the Jaguars draft for more than half of the team’s existence, I’ve seen some stupid picks. I saw them take a punter in the third round. I was in Radio City when they took a 26-year old defensive tackle from a Division III school that wasn’t even an all-conference selection. I saw Tyson Alualu, a projected third round pick, go in the top 10. I saw Gene Smith practically ignore the Power 5 in favor of the FCS. Let’s just say that I’ve seen a lot over the years. But last Saturday, when the Jaguars chose Nebraska QB Tanner Lee with pick #203 in the draft, that might have been one of the biggest wastes of a pick that I have ever seen. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong. I’m not going to be rooting for a player on my favorite team to fail just because I don’t like the pick; that would be absolutely absurd. I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t like the Yannick Ngakoue pick back in 2016; I thought he was a one-trick pony who couldn’t defend the run to save his life, and that we shouldn’t have spent a day two pick on a one-trick pony when there are so many holes on the team. Turned out, I whiffed on that prediction in the best possible way. With Tanner Lee, though, I’m fairly confident in saying that this will not work out. None of the numbers back up this pick whatsoever. If Lee even makes the roster, I’ll be impressed. If he goes as far as throwing a touchdown pass in the preseason, I’ll be baffled in pleasant shock. This pick almost has no chance at working out. Historically, guys like Lee flame out in a blaze of glory, and I don’t see him changing history anytime soon. But why was this a bad pick? Well, let’s take a look at the numbers. Part IA: QBs Who Throw 16+ Interceptions Are Good in the First Round… I decided to go back to the 1977 NFL Draft. That’s more than 40 years of drafting at my disposal for this analysis. This is not a cherry-picked year; I get my statistics off of Sports Reference, and when going through college stats, anything past the 1975 college football season (1976 NFL Draft) got a bit iffy. Still, a sample size of more than 40 years is sufficient enough. Last season for Nebraska, Tanner Lee threw 16 interceptions. That’s more than one per game at the college level, and that was without even playing in a bowl game. To see how quarterbacks perform in the NFL that threw at least 16 interceptions in their final season of college, I went through every single quarterback since 1977 (excluding 2018) that got drafted. I excluded FCS and lower from this list, simply because past a certain year, there were no accurate stats for these quarterbacks. The supplemental draft has also been excluded. I’m dividing this up into two parts, because the results are somewhat surprising in one regard, and not at all surprising in another. In the first round, if you take a quarterback that threw 16+ interceptions the year before, you’re golden. I’m being completely serious. I can’t explain it, and there’s no rhyme or reason to it, but QBs taken in the first round that threw 16+ interceptions the year before are batting nearly 1.000. It’s kind of remarkable. Year QB College Interceptions Thrown in Final College Season Notes 2017 Deshaun Watson Clemson 17 Looked unbelievable for Houston before tearing his ACL. Obviously, the jury is still out on him, but it’s looking promising if he can get back to full strength 2015 Jameis Winston Florida State 18 Might already be the best quarterback in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seriously. 2008 Matt Ryan Boston College 19 Over 40,000 yards thrown in his career, with 7 consecutive seasons over the 4K-yard mark. Quietly putting together a Hall of Fame resume at this pace 2003 Rex Grossman Florida 17 This one didn’t work out, but he did “lead” the Bears to an appearance at Super Bowl XLI. Up for you to decide if that counts for something 1992 David Klinger Houston 17 One of the only first rounders on this list who very clearly did not work out. Went 4-20 with the Bengals, and only threw 16 touchdowns in his career 1992 Tommy Maddox UCLA 16 Initially, this did not work out, as Maddox only threw 6 touchdowns with Denver (though he was backing up John Elway the whole time). Had a nice career resurgence at the turn of the century, though, after a great one-year stint in the XFL and two solid years as Pittsburgh’s starting QB after that 1983 Dan Marino Pittsburgh 23 Hall of Fame quarterback. Maybe the best QB to never win the Super Bowl. Enough said. 1979 Jack Thompson Washington State 20 This one didn’t work out for the Bengals, as he won just one game for Cincinnati while throwing just 13 touchdown passes. Won just 4 out of 21 career games, with 33 touchdown passes 1978 Doug Williams Grambling State 18 Threw 73 touchdown passes for Tampa Bay (was probably the best QB in team history before Jameis came along), and then won the MVP of Super Bowl XXII with Washington. He turned out to be pretty good 1977 Tommy Kramer Rice 19 Played 13 seasons for Minnesota, and started 110 games in that stretch, throwing for 159 touchdown passes. Pretty successful pick That’s 10 quarterbacks who were taken in the first round since 1977 who threw 16+ interceptions in their final season of college ball. Watson looks good. Winston might not live up to the #1 overall pick, but he’s a good QB. Klinger, Grossman, and Thompson did not work out. Everyone else did in terms of how good they were as an NFL player. That’s a really good hit rate. I guess 16 is a magic number, so for everyone not named New Orleans, listen up: if you like a QB that threw 16+ interceptions last season, take him in the first round. He’ll likely be good. Because on the flip side… Part IB: … And Bad Everywhere Else This is where Tanner Lee comes into play. He was a sixth round pick. Statistically speaking, you could make the argument that each of the quarterbacks to throw 16+ interceptions since 1977 that were taken outside of the first round have failed. The list since 1977 of these quarterbacks is over 30 names long, and I’m not sure a single one of these quarterbacks can be classified as “good,” or even “average.” Year QB College Interceptions Thrown in Final College Season Draft Round Notes 2013 Mike Glennon NC State 17 3rd He was so good that when the Buccaneers had the opportunity to get a QB in the 2015 NFL Draft, they did just that, and Glennon never started another game for the Bucs. Decent backup at best, as his stint in Chicago proved 2011 Nathan Enderle Idaho 16 5th Never threw a pass in the NFL 2008 Colt Brennan Hawaii 17 6th Never threw a pass in the NFL 2004 BJ Symons Texas Tech 22 7th Never threw a pass in the NFL 2003 Seneca Wallace Iowa State 18 4th Decent backup option, finishing his career with 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. However, he won just 6 out of 22 starts, and finished his career with a completion percentage below 60% 2003 Brian St. Pierre Boston College 17 5th Finished career completing 45.5% of his passes, with 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, no wins, and a 45.6 passer rating 2001 Mike McMahon Rutgers 17 5th In 14 starts, McMahon went 3-11, and completed 44.5% of his passes, throwing more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (15) 1993 Alex Van Pelt Pittsburgh 17 8th Didn’t do anything with Pittsburgh, but was with the Bills from 1995-2003 somehow. Threw more interceptions (24) than touchdowns (16), and won just 3 out of 11 starts in his career 1992 Will Furrer Virginia Tech 16 4th Threw 2 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his career, completing 46% of his passes and going 0-2 in 2 starts 1991 Scott Zolak Maryland 19 4th Only completed 50% of his passes over his career. Threw 8 touchdowns in 8 seasons 1991 Donald Hollas Rice 18 4th Finished career with more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (13), and got sacked 36 times in his final season in just 12 games (6 starts) with the Oakland Raiders in 1998 1990 Cary Conklin Washington 17 4th Threw 5 touchdowns in his career, completing just 51.5% of his passes and going 0-2 in 2 starts 1990 Scott Mitchell Utah 19 4th Probably the best QB on this list, finishing his career with 95 touchdown passes and 32 wins, with over 15,000 passing yards. Threw 32 touchdowns for the Lions in 1995. Still, if Scott Mitchell is your cream of the crop for this list, that’s saying something 1989 Anthony Dilweg Duke 18 3rd Threw 8 touchdowns in his career, completing just 52.8% of his passes and going 2-5 1989 Brent Snyder Utah State 21 7th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1989 Terrence Jones Tulsa 18 7th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1988 Steve Slayden Duke 16 12th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1987 Sammy Garza UTEP 19 8th Played just 2 games in his career, throwing 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown for the St. Louis Cardinals 1986 Robbie Bosco BYU 24 3rd Never threw a pass in the NFL 1986 Doug Gaynor Long Beach State 18 4th Threw 3 passes in the NFL. Completed all 3 of those passes, but ended his career with 30 passing yards and no starts 1986 Brian McClure Bowling Green 16 12th Threw 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in the 1 game he played, finishing his career with a 32.9 passer rating 1985 Paul Berner Pacific 19 9th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1984 Randy Wright Wisconsin 18 6th Threw roughly double the number of interceptions (57) as he did touchdowns (31). In 32 starts, he went 7-25 1984 Terry Nugent Colorado State 20 6th Played one game in his NFL career during the 1987 strike season, throwing for 47 yards (3-for-5) 1984 Scott Campbell Purdue 16 7th Threw more interceptions (25) than touchdowns (19), went just 2-11 in 13 starts, and completed 49.3% of his passes 1981 Mark Herrmann Purdue 17 4th Threw more than double the number of interceptions (36) than he did touchdowns (16), and won just 3 out of 12 starts. Somehow lasted in the league until 1992 1981 Nickie Hall Tulane 17 10th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1980 Gene Bradley Arkansas State 17 2nd Never threw a pass in the NFL 1979 Dan Manucci Kansas State 18 5th Threw for 132 yards in his career (0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions), going 12-for-27. Didn’t start a game until the 1987 strike season; was out of the league after the 1980 season prior to that 1979 Dave Marler Mississippi State 17 10th Never threw a pass in the NFL 1978 Rob Hertel USC 18 5th Went 1-for-4 in his career with 9 yards 1977 Mark Vitali Purdue 16 10th Never threw a pass in the NFL* *- the Chiefs were on drugs when they made this pick. In Vitali’s final season of college, he threw 0 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. I’ll repeat. ZERO TOUCHDOWNS AND SIXTEEN INTERCEPTIONS. He finished that season with Purdue with an NFL passer rating of 27.37 and a 42.4% completion percentage. Somehow, that meant he was draftable. I don’t get it. Anyways, you look at this list of over 30+ quarterbacks, and your top options are Scott Mitchell, Seneca Wallace, and Mike Glennon. That’s not promising. Tanner Lee is not exactly in good company here. But amazingly, the numbers find a way to get worse. Part II: QBs Who Throw Interceptions at Home Are Bad Most of the time, the quarterbacks who have interception troubles do it on the road, and are, at the very least, decent at home. Tanner Lee does not happen to be one of those quarterbacks, as he finished this past season at Nebraska with more interceptions at home (12) than touchdowns (11). How rare is that for a drafted QB to throw more interceptions at home than touchdowns, and what does that mean going forward? I looked at every QB since the 2001 NFL Draft to accomplish this feat. Why 2001? Because Sports Reference only went up until the 2000 season in terms of home and away splits, and I could not find anywhere to check the splits beyond that. This list is definitely a lot smaller than the previous one, but it still does not bode well for Tanner Lee. Year QB College TD:INT Ratio at Home in Final College Season Notes 2015 Trevor Siemian Northwestern 4 TD/6 INT It’s bad when Siemian is the best quarterback in this admittedly small sample size. He’s completed less than 60% of his passes, and after a decent 2016 campaign, seemingly fell off a cliff in 2017 before being shipped off to Minnesota 2013 BJ Daniels South Florida 4 TD/6 INT Has thrown 2 passes in his career. Converted to a WR, but has only made 2 catches in his career 2009 Tom Brandstater Fresno State 5 TD/6 INT Threw 2 passes in his NFL career, going 0-for-2 in one game with the Rams in 2011 2007 Trent Edwards Stanford 1 TD/2 INT Threw more interceptions (30) than touchdowns (26). In his best season (2008), he started 14 games, and only threw 11 touchdowns. Only broke 1,700 yards in a season once (2008) 2003 Gibran Hamdan Indiana 5 TD/7 INT Finished career playing in one game for Washington, going 1-for-2 for 7 yards 2001 Sage Rosenfels Iowa State 4 TD/7 INT Not a terrible backup QB, but didn’t do anything noteworthy outside of trying to impersonate John Elway and failing miserably Since the turn of the century, Lee is in the company of Siemian, Daniels, Brandstater, Edwards, Hamdan, and Rosenfels. That is also not good. Lee threw 12 interceptions at home this past season for Nebraska as well. Since the turn of the century, only one other drafted QB threw at least 12 interceptions at home, with that QB being BJ Symons of Texas Tech. Symons threw 14 interceptions at home in 2003 for the Red Raiders, and it amounted to no success in the NFL, as he did not throw a single pass. And yet, it gets worse. Part III: The Dreaded Magic Numbers I’ve gone over the magic numbers quite a few times this year, so I won’t repeat myself too much. However, Tanner Lee falls below both the 58.5% completion percentage magic number, and the 7.3 YPA magic number. Here’s the quick summation: Tanner Lee completed 57.5% of his passes last season at Nebraska. If you want to know how recent QBs to complete less than 58.5% of their passes in college in their final season have fared, here you go. It’s not good. Tanner Lee averaged 7.3 yards per attempt last season at Nebraska. If you want to know how recent QBs to average 7.3 yards per attempt or less in their final season of college have fared, here you go. Likewise, it’s not good. By falling on the wrong side of the 58.5% magic number and the 7.3 yards per attempt magic number, he’s in some pretty bad company as of late. The last successful QB below both of those numbers came before the Jaguars (the team that drafted him) were even a team Falling below one of the magic numbers is a recipe for disaster. Falling below both of the magic numbers is almost guaranteed failure. Combine that with the first two parts about Lee being an interception machine, and it’s not pretty. And amazingly, it somehow finds a way to get worse. Part IV: QBs Who Don’t Make Bowl Games Are Bad One of the posts I made last year leading up to the draft didn’t get a lot of traction, but it evaluated whether or not making a bowl game mattered. In 2006, the NCAA expanded the bowl game field from 28 games to 32, meaning that more than half the teams in FBS made it to a bowl game. Prior to 2006, you at least had to do something, especially in a non-Power 6 conference (remember that the Big East was a thing), to make a bowl game. Starting in 2006, though, bowl games became participation trophies. So I took a look at every QB to get drafted since the 2007 NFL Draft (when the bowl game participation floodgates opened up) and saw how they did. The post, for those wondering, looked like this. Since the 2006 college season, if you don’t make a bowl game, your odds of succeeding in the NFL as a quarterback are pretty slim. In that field of 20, Nick Foles is the only one that I can safely say has worked out. Josh Freeman was the second best option on the list, and he didn’t live up to his first round draft status in the slightest (maybe he did for one season, but that was it). Saying that Nick Foles was the best option on the list last year feels a lot different than saying it this year, because obviously, certain circumstances have elevated Foles’ legacy. Still, it’s pretty telling that after Foles and Freeman, the debate for #3 was led by Drew Stanton. Now, I want to add the QBs from 2015-17 to this list, just to see if anything’s changed. Obviously, only FBS quarterbacks count for this one, since FBS quarterbacks are the only ones who can make it to bowl games. If you want the list of QBs from 2007-14, click on that link from the last paragraph. Year QB School Draft Notes 2015 Sean Mannion Oregon State R3, P89- St. Louis Rams Has not thrown a TD pass in his career, starting just one game. Has 235 passing yards in 3 seasons 2015 Trevor Siemian Northwestern R7, P250- Denver He’s popping up on nearly every single one of these lists that I make. You know the drill by now with him 2017 Patrick Mahomes II Texas Tech R1, P10- Kansas City Obviously, the jury is still out on him. Even despite this stat, he was my favorite QB coming out in 2017. I think he’ll be good, but it’s way too early to tell 2017 DeShone Kizer Notre Dame R2, P52- Cleveland Already traded to Green Bay after one season because of how bad he was. Threw 22 interceptions last season compared to just 11 touchdowns, and is etched in history for a winless season 2017 Davis Webb California R3, P87- NY Giants Hasn’t thrown a pass yet. Still, the fact that Geno Smith beat him out for the starting job in that one game, and the fact that the Giants drafted a QB in the fourth round this year, should tell you a lot about his status with the team 2017 Chad Kelly Ole Miss R7, P253- Denver Mr. Irrelevant last year has not thrown a pass yet. It’ll be an obvious uphill climb for him to make the roster The list of quarterbacks went from 20 to 26 if we include the past three drafts from 2015-17. Obviously, it’s way too early to tell on Mahomes, but everyone else has either done nothing, or has already moved on/is likely moving on this upcoming season. Sure enough, Nebraska went 4-8 last season, so Tanner Lee did not make it to a bowl game. Add his name to that infamous list. But hang on, because it gets worse. You see, Tanner Lee spent the 2014 and 2015 season at Tulane. In 2014, the Green Wave went 3-9, and in 2015, the Green Wave also went 3-9. In his three seasons of playing quarterback in the NCAA, he never made a bowl game once. If we look at that list since 2007 and narrow it down a bit from QBs who didn’t make a bowl game in their final season to QBs who never played in a single bowl game over their entire career, it looks a bit like this: Year QB School Draft Notes 2013 Zac Dysert Miami (OH) R7, P234- Denver Never threw a pass in his NFL career 2010 Joe Webb UAB R6, P199- Minnesota Prior to Joe Webb’s arrival, UAB had only been to one bowl game (the 2004 Hawaii Bowl, losing to Hawaii 59-40). After Joe Webb got drafted by the Vikings, UAB had still only been to one bowl game. As for Webb’s career, he’s thrown 3 touchdown passes and 6 interceptions, and completed 28.6% of his passes for Buffalo last season 2008 Kevin O’Connell San Diego State R3, P94- New England Finished his NFL career with 6 passes thrown for 23 yards 2008 Alex Brink Washington State R7, P223- Houston Never threw a pass in the NFL. Washington State went 6-6 in 2006, but did not make a bowl game. A Power-5 team with..