Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Jordan Lynch Looking at the Numbers

Jordan Lynch is one of those underdog kind of NFL draft prospects that people are very undecided about.  There are also a lot of sports people who view him as something other than a quarterback--the position that he played at Northern Illinois University.  In interviews, Lynch does not come across as a guy who won't play another position in the pros if asked, but given the fact that there is no consensus on what he should play, there is no clear answer. It can't be easy.  

NFL history is full of players who moved from college quarterback to something else and it is also full of players who were good college players who came into the pros as questionable QB prospects and surprised a lot of people.  Joe Montana was a guy who had a lot of heart in college, but he was thought to be too inconsistent and weak-armed to be an NFL quarterback.  He proved them wrong. But I suppose for every 100 players who anticipate being the next Joe Montana-like underdog, there are at least 99  who don't make it.

Lynch completed 509 passes on 824 attempts for 6,209 yards giving him a 61.8% completion rate with 52 touchdown and only 14 interceptions.  His quarterback rating was 142.1 and he passed for 7.5 yards per attempt. One thing most NFL talent evaluators agree on is the need for accuracy in the NFL.  The best quarterbacks have completion rates in the 60s. But it's trickly looking at a college completion rate and forecasting a completion rate in the pros.  Tim Tebow completed 661 passes on 995 attempts for 9,285 yards giving him a 66.4% completion rate with 88 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions. His quarterback rating was an awesome 170.8 and he passed for 9.3 yards per attempt.  It didn't work out that way in the pros--at least not yet! 

Jordan Lynch was an exceptional runner.  He rushed for 4,343 yards on 662 carries for an average of 6.6 yards per carry and 48 touchdowns.  Tim Tebow rushed for 2,947 yards on 692 carries for an average of 4.3 yards per carry and 57 touchdowns. 

Lynch runs with a confidence and control that few others display--he is not only in control when he is free, but he seemingly is working his tacklers as they grab onto him. Where Lynch is different from other running quarterbacks, he seems to be using his mind as much as his body.  When Tebow runs away from tacklers, you see athleticism, speed, and power--it's instinctive.  The much smaller Lynch runs powerfully, but his mind seems to be racing along with him, tossing an opposing tackler's arm or switching an angle.   

When Chuck Noll came into the Steelers organization, he drafted a remarkable quarterback who had physical skills that were head and shoulders above everyone else in the draft.  He was Terry Bradshaw.  But Noll's biggest criticism of the Steelers organization before he signed on was that it was not allowing new players to develop.  The Steelers were getting rid of players too fast.  Noll hung onto Bradshaw even when he was slow to develop.  It paid off.  

Tampa Bay thought Steve Young was dispensable.  The 49ers picked him up and a few years later as Montana's career in San Francisco was tailing off, Young became a consistent 60+% passer.  Brett Fahre was 36 years old in 2005 when Aaron Rogers came on board.  He threw 59 passes total in his first three years.   By the time he became the starter in 2008, he was ready to rock and roll. He's been lights out since.  Current wisdom suggests that there is a maturing process most quarterbacks need that can only take place on the playing field.  I think that's partially true, but I don't think Rogers or Young were hurting themselves on the bench watching the masters who were ahead of them. 

In 1971, Joe Theismann was drafted by the Miami Dolphins.  He was the 99th player selected and he decided to play in Canada.  It was 1974 before he came to play for the Washington Redskins in the US.  He wasn't the starting quarterback until 1978.  He finally hit his stride under Joe Gibbs in the strike shortened season of 1982.  He lead the Redskins to a Super Bowl win and his completion percentage was 63.9% --it would be his career best.  In 1983, he took the Redskins back to the Super Bowl, but they lost to the Raiders.  Theismann and the Skins were in the playoffs again, but lost to the Bears in 1984 and were edged out of the playoffs in Theismann's last season in 1985. How many teams today would have held onto Joe Theismann?  

Lynch's future will be directed by the team that drafts him or picks him up.  His position will likely depend upon the smartest coaches on that team.  Many factors will influence the outcome, but one factor on his side is his competitive spirit and guts. If you watched Lynch play, you know he will do whatever he can to win a game.
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