Projecting booms, busts among top QB prospects

Draft the wrong quarterback. Fire the general manager. Draft the wrong quarterback. Fire the general manager. The Cleveland Browns have been stuck in that cycle since returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999. During that time, the Browns have drafted eight quarterbacks, four in the first round. They have also changed general managers nine times over that stretch, more than any other team. Whether Cleveland's latest GM, Sashi Brown, avoids the early exits of his predecessors depends on him succeeding where the others failed. His other moves might not matter if the Browns yet again choose the wrong quarterback.

Fortunately, Football Outsiders' Quarterback-Adjusted-Stats-and-Experience (QBASE) projection system is here to help. If it had been around for all the previous drafts since 1999, it would have told the Browns to stay away from Tim Couch, Johnny Manziel and their other first-round flops. And it has a clear preference for the player the Browns should pick at No. 2 in this year's draft.

To come up with NFL projections for this year's top quarterback prospects, QBASE looks at college performance, experience and expected draft position. The last of these is included to account for the scouting information that college stats miss. To allow some time for development, QBASE projects a quarterback's passing efficiency in years 3-5 of his career, according to our measure Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR). Fifty-thousand simulations then produce a range of potential outcomes for each prospect.

QBASE favors quarterbacks expected to go high in the draft who also have a relatively long résumé of college success, according to the statistics. Those stats include completion percentage, yards per attempt and team passing efficiency. Most importantly, all those stats are adjusted both for the quality of the defenses that a prospect had to face, as well as the quality of his offensive teammates.

The projections may seem pretty pessimistic, but remember that the Browns' experience with drafting quarterbacks is just a particularly extreme case of a more general condition: most prospects fail. This year, QBASE only projects one quarterback with a good possibility of succeeding in the NFL, and it's not the signal-caller most mock drafts have going to Cleveland.