At Football Outsiders, we've built our reputation around advanced statistical football analysis, but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the value of quality scouting. Football remains a team game, and there's not a metric around that can fully separate the performance of any one player from that of his teammates or coaching staff. Good scouting can predict which players have the potential to break out or improve from one season to the next. On the other hand, statistical analysis can point out the players whose production has surpassed (or fallen short) of their physical gifts.
With that in mind, here are a handful of players whose on-field performances don't match up with their ESPN Insider Big Book scouting rankings. We've tried to avoid one-year flukes and looked instead at those who have proven track records of success or failure.
To be honest, it was hard to find an underrated passer in the Big Book rankings. Most of the names at the bottom of the list deserve to be there. But Jackson's ranking (41) seems a little harsh.
He finished in the top 25 last season in both DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards Above Replacement, Football Outsiders' total value stat) and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average, which measures value on a per-play basis). He did that playing most of the season with a torn pec, with an undrafted rookie as his top receiver and behind an offensive line whose starters combined to miss 23 games. And it's not a one-year fluke, either -- on a per-attempt basis, Jackson's career numbers surpass those of players like Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez who enter 2012 as starting quarterbacks for teams with realistic playoff goals.