Numbers won't tell the whole story when it comes to draft-prospect evaluations, but they can certainly play a part. Sometimes they will support what evaluators see in scouting, and sometimes they will force them to go back to the tape to look at it a different way. That's perhaps most relevant when we are talking about the quarterbacks.
So we took the top 10-ranked 2020 NFL draft QBs -- Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Jordan Love, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason, Jalen Hurts, Anthony Gordon, Nate Stanley and Cole McDonald -- and looked at five key statistical areas. ESPN Stats & Information pulled two telling stats from the 2019 college season for each of those categories.
Then NFL draft analyst Todd McShay evaluated the numbers against what he sees on tape. What rings true for both film and stat sheet, and where are the differences? And what is the context around those differences? Stats & Info's John Parolin also provided some context for the numbers against other draft classes and the rest of the FBS. Let's dig in.
Who can extend plays under duress?
Parolin: OK, "Joe Burrow is good" isn't breaking new ground, but how ridiculous is an 82.6 Total QBR under pressure? This data is available for Power 5 quarterbacks since the 2011 season, and in that time, there has been one drafted quarterback above 56 in a season: Sam Darnold (68.4 in 2016). And that's still way off Burrow's pace. Andrew Luck posted a 23.7 in 2011. Patrick Mahomes put up a 34.9 in 2016, two years after Deshaun Watson's best season, a 31.8 in 2014.
Burrow's line against pressure last season? Try on a 72% completion percentage, 11.4 yards per attempt, 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Outstanding.
McShay: You know, the pressure category always seems to be the most important for me in this exercise. And with Burrow, the numbers match with what I see on tape. He senses pressure, manipulates the pocket and gets the ball out accurately in time. Sure, he can tuck the ball and go when he has to, but his ability to move around in the pocket under pressure and deliver a well-placed ball even when it's all breaking down around him makes his game truly special. It's the kind of stuff you see from Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. Burrow owns the pocket and shows real magic when the defense breaks through the front door.
Parolin: He managed to wildly overshadow excellent performance under pressure by Tagovailoa. Tua's 44.1 pressured QBR is almost four times the FBS average and would have ranked sixth as a single-season measure among drafted Power 5 QBs since 2011.
McShay: Yeah, Tagovailoa is Drew Brees from the left side. He's sudden and twitchy in getting through his progressions and handling the pocket, and he gets the ball out so clean. No surprise for me seeing him rank highly here. In fact, Burrow and Tagovailoa seem to be at or near the top of every one of these lists. You can tell who the elites are. Having numerous weapons, good protection and terrific offensive systems will make stats sparkle, so you have to make sure they line up with the tape -- and for Burrow and Tagovailoa, they do.
Parolin: Stanley was the only quarterback below the FBS average when pressured (two passing TDs against four interceptions) and the only QB below 50 when blitzed. This doesn't necessarily disqualify him from prospect consideration -- names such as Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Lamar Jackson posted collegiate seasons worse than Stanley under pressure -- but it's certainly not ideal, right?
McShay: Yeah, I like Stanley's tape, but these numbers are a red flag. While he is accurate with the football, he takes too long to get to the top of his drop and just doesn't have the foot quickness to sidestep interior pressure. Eason's numbers are pretty rough here, too. But you have to consider protection and how well a QB's receivers can separate. It's hard to evaluate these guys in pressure against those top names because they just don't have the same assets.