One of the internal discussions/debates we have been having about our statistical analysis of college QBs is -- "what is up with the Mountain West/WAC conference college QBs in the NFL"?
Why do Mountain West/WAC (BYU, TCU, Utah, UNLV, San Diego State, Nevada, Boise State, Hawaii, Louisiana Tech, Fresno State, etc put up such huge college numbers, and (typically) become such lousy NFL QBs (no offense to Steve Young). One of the centerpieces of our internal debate has surrounded Alex Smith -- Smith scored very well in every facet of our statistical analysis of college QBs. Smith was a projected future elite NFL QB in our system, and that doesn't look likely to happen in NFL reality. When researching a recent article concerning Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, I looked over their college stats again...and it really is amazing what Alex Smith did statistically as a Sophomore and Junior (left after JR year). However, Alex Smith does not appear to be an NFL elite QB; he certainly hasn't been yet. *More on our Statistical Analysis of college QBs -- NFL Draft Picks 2011 - Projecting a College QB - Fantasy Football 2011
The thought process that also jumped from wondering why Alex Smith rates so high in our computer analysis...was seeing John Beck rather highly rated as well. Beck did not make our cutoff score projecting as an NFL elite...but it was close. That got us wondering -- what is it about these Mountain West/WAC conference QBs?...especially when Andy Dalton just rated highly in our analysis as well. Colin Kaepernick didn't rate well in our overall analysis (performance flopped as competition got tougher), but for topside aggregate numbers Kaepernick looks awesome...and Dalton looks awesome, and Alex Smith looks awesome, and so does John Beck. However, Beck has been anything but awesome in the NFL (so far).
One of the questions I have been asked the most in the past few weeks -- "what do I think about John Beck for Fantasy Football 2011"? Honestly, I thought I was done thinking about John Beck for a few years now. However, I must admit that when I heard the rumors out of Washington that Beck was potentially the starter of choice for them...I got a twinge of excitement. Maybe our statistical analysis from 2007 was trying to tell us something? We've been pouring over why Alex Smith didn't make it, and at the same time John Beck has been a part of that same case study/quandary.
I took time this week to further hone in on studying John Beck, and I am going to layout the case of why I think we have to shrug Beck off as a future NFL elite QB...or even a good one. Some of this argument is statistical, some of it circumstantial. Let's take a look at a quick John Beck bio, and then we'll roll into the why I think there may be officially nothing here for the future (NFL or Fantasy Football-wise) with Beck...
John Beck Briefing:
Starting QB for BYU from 2003-2006, started 4 games as a Freshman...and started 35 games from his Sophomore to Senior seasons, compiling a (21-14) record -- including a (10-2) record his Senior season (2006).
Beck threw for 11,021 yards in his career with 79 TDs and 34 INTs, with a 62.4% Comp Pct. By all accounts, a great college career.
Beck was the 4th QB taken in the 2007 NFL Draft, #40 to the Miami Dolphins
Beck was pressed into action his rookie season for Miami (part of the 1-15 record squad of 2007), and he played in 5 games...4 of which, he had major time/started. In those 4 games, Beck threw for 56.1% Comp Pct, 138.3 yards per game and just 1 TD and 3 INTs (all 3 in one game).
Beck has not played a game in the NFL since
Beck was cut by Dolphins in 2009, picked up by the Ravens in 2010
The Ravens traded him to the Redskins for Doug Dutch (a college WR, converted to CB) in preseason 2010
The Shanahan's have professed positive things about Beck among their QB search for 2011
So here we are, oddly after years of dormancy -- can John Beck be a productive/good/elite NFL or Fantasy Football QB? I would like to hit the more circumstantial arguments against him first...and then go through the whole Mountain West/WAC QB-thing in detail.
Argument #1 = The Miami Dolphins 2007 talent evaluators
In 2007, the Miami Dolphins handed the reigns of player personnel decisions over to Randy Mueller. Mueller was a GM in 2005-06, but Nick Saban had the say over personnel at that point. Saban quit, Mueller took over all personnel decisions and hired Cam Cameron as head coach...on their way to a disastrous (1-15) season in 2007...before the 2007 nightmare started, Mueller oversaw one of the single worst NFL Draft's (from a GM's perspective) that has ever occurred. The Dolphins/Mueller took Ted Ginn Jr at #9 overall in that NFL Draft, to many people's shock/horror and ridicule. Of the 10 players drafted that 2007 season, only 1 is still with the Dolphins (Paul Soliai). One of those 10 players drafted by Mueller in that horrific draft and horrific actual season -- was John Beck.
I hate to do guilt by association, but the Dolphins had a dreadful run of personnel that year...maybe it was circumstantial, but I don't trust that the Dolphins/Mueller had a very good grip on player evaluations with history to now use as a guide.
Mueller (and his new head coach) were subsequently fired at season end by incoming savior Bill Parcells. Which leads to the next point...
Argument # 2 = It's not good if Bill Parcells and Ozzie Newsome are not "with you"
Parcells had a season to work with John Beck in 2008, and promptly released him in 2009. Parcells isn't perfect, but where I do trust him the most is -- if he gets a chance to work with a player day-in-and-out for awhile, and he doesn't like you (especially a QB), it's not usually good.
Once released, Beck was picked up by another smart personnel scouting team -- the Baltimore Ravens and Ozzie Newsome. Perhaps Newsome saw what our computer system saw, and approached it as a cheap look to "kick the tires" on Beck. Beck was there with his former Dolphins Head Coach, Cam Cameron (no doubt Cameron put in a good word). Baltimore folded their cards on Beck after one season, by trading him preseason 2010 to Washington for the aforementioned Doug Dutch. A footnote to this trade, Dutch was released 28 days later...and re-signed with Washington. Essentially John Beck was traded for nothing to the Redskins.
Argument # 3 = The Shanahan's
It's great that Dad and Son Shanahan speak highly of John Beck. You will recall that this is the same pair that traded quite a bit for Donovan McNabb, and then at a certain point last season...controversially pulled McNabb for Rex Grossman in key part of a game late. Following that move, was a convoluted post-game/post-week explanations on how Grossman understood the late game situation better, or something about conditioning, etc...the story changed a few times. A coach is certainly within his rights to play mind games with players, but a key takeaway for this discussions is -- they did go to Rex Grossman and not John Beck.
I'm not sure what is worse concerning John Beck within this argument -- the decision by Redskins coaches on going with Rex Grossman over Donovan McNabb, and thus are these the same people we are to trust on other QB evaluations (including praising Beck)?
Or, is it worse that they didn't look at Beck at all last year? The Redskins went with Grossman in Weeks 15-17, after the season was long. long gone. Why not get Beck a start or two -- if Beck is so "good" (according to the Shanahan's), why not get him a few starts to see what happens, don't we already know what Grossman is "capable" of?
Argument # 4 = The BYU effect and/or the Mountain West/WAC effect
Many would look at Beck's college career and would definitely call it highly "successful", a 62.4% career Completion Percentage, with 11,021 passing yards and 79 TDs and 34 INTs. 11,000+ passing yards is an excellent career. In his Senior season (2006), Beck threw for 3,885 yards at a 69.3% Completion Percentage clip with 32 TDs and just 8 INTs. In his Junior and Senior season's, Beck threw for over 3,700+ yards per season for a combined 59 TDs and 21 INTs. How could a QB that could do that in college, not translate well to the NFL?
Sit on this for a second, because it's seemingly obvious and simple at first...but really it is more complex, and sucks many fans and GMs down the tubes often (and over and over again) -- Why do QB's who compile huge yardage/TDs in college...become absolute flame outs in the NFL?
Is it because of the style of Offense? Obviously, if you throw for 13,000+ yards in college...you are throwing the ball a lot. Timmy Chang compiled 17,072 yards over a 4+ year career (played a few games as a Soph, and red-shirted) for Hawaii (WAC conference). Chang routinely threw the ball 600+ times per season, and compiled huge numbers. What happened when Chang played USC in 2003, he had 306 passing yards...but it took 54 passes, and he had 2 TDs with 2 INTS in a loss. What happened when Nick Saban came in to Hawaii in 2003 with Alabama, Chang went 7 of 23 (30.4% Comp Pct) for 38 yards and no TDs or INTs. These big yardage compilers usually fold in our statistical analysis when the stronger opponents matchup with them...only the rarely play tougher competition in college.
Where is all-time college passing yardage leader Timmy Chang now? Not in the NFL. What happened when he left Hawaii? Colt Brennan stepped in and threw for 4,301 yards his first year on his way to a 3-year career with 14,193 yards and 131 TDs and 42 INTs. Much better than Chang, and where is Brennan now...clinging to NFL 3rd-stringdom.
I could keep going -- Timmy Chang, Colt Brennan, Graham Harrell, etc. Not every college QB plays for 3-4 seasons nor throws 550+ times per season, but the list is growing and they compile a ton of stats...and most of the time that we see the names of these QBs on an all-time leader list, it is almost always a QB from a non-power conference school...and then mostly they hail from the WAC and/or Mountain West Conference.
The most notorious of all the Mountain West/WAC schools, the epidemy of a top program from these conferences is BYU. What comes to mind when you think of BYU football? The BYU football program is the forerunner of today's modern day rise of the high pass attempt offense, which confused/overpowered opponents (especially far less superior ones) and helped them win 80-90-100% of their games consistently. Eventually Utah and Boise State (among others) followed suit and rose to power. The profile of a typical BYU QB = 3,000+ yards a season, 2+ passing TDs per game, and a 70-90+% winning percentage...and one other thing about them -- you don't take them seriously for the NFL or Fantasy Football.
It's called "classical conditioning" in psychology...ring a bell, and drop a treat to a dog enough times -- and just ringing the bell makes the dog salivate. We see (11-1) BYU, and their 3,000+ yard passer...or Hawaii with a 5,000+ yard passer...and we yawn, why? Because they never amount to anything in the NFL, there is virtually no correlation to "gi-normous" college passing stats (in a pass happy system), and then big success as a QB in the NFL. It doesn't even move us anymore when the BYU or Hawaii or Texas Tech QBs do this, and rightfully so.
The problem with us becoming numb to the Colt Brennan's of the world is that -- we still like new, undiscovered things...and it's potentially still our Achilles heel. We have written off BYU, Hawaii and Texas Tech QBs, but we are totally open to the same type of system generated/high "stat compiler" college QBs...as long as it is from a different school than BYU, Hawaii, Texas Tech. We haven't been "classically conditioned" against a QB doing the same thing in the same conference...we're OK with a TCU or a Nevada QB still because there is no bad historical bias (yet). We love NFL incoming rookies over last year's prospect who played/sat in the NFL the year before...oh the endless possibilities of Andy Dalton stepping in right away for the Bengals or Colin Kaepernick is going to be a mega-star because he ran and threw for a lot yards in college. High expectations, with little skepticism. Had Andy Dalton had the same exact career (wins, yards, etc), but all his work was done with BYU...what would we think of him? Would there be more hesitation? There isn't much difference between Max Hall and Andy Dalton "on paper" (BYU QB Max Hall was arguably statistically better...same conference, same era).
The problem with falling in love with big stat accumulators/3 & 4-year starters is -- there are a growing number of QBs with same statistical pattern or bio. Many of these QBs are from the smaller schools in weak conferences -- and their high pass attempt Offense is similar to the way of survival as a small school basketball team using a heavy press and constant 3-point shooting to compete with/against more talented athletes/teams. These high output stats look great all accumulated, but is it the talent of the QB, or is it the system pushing it more? More to the John Beck point...more and more of these high output/weak conference type of QBs seem to come from Mountain West/WAC schools.
Think the system or strength of competition doesn't matter..."ball players are just ball players"? Let's boil this down beyond the WAC/Mountain West...let's just look at the storied BYU program. Let's skip past 20-30 year ago eras (that's a long time ago, and the game has change radically since)...let's just look at the last decade, and talk about 3 BYU QB situations. There are 3 segments of BYU QB situations in the past decade:
Year 2000 was the final season of LaVell Edwards as head coach of BYU, wrapping up a 29 year career with 27 straight winning/non-losing record seasons. Not to denigrate Edwards, he was ahead of his time...but the BYU program was like a "Billy Madison", a grown man attending grade school should dominate the other kids -- and BYU dominated the WAC with little competition/pushback for decades. Edwards was a pioneer in using a high pass attempt offense to compete with bigger programs...sadly or poetically, when BYU did get to play the "Big Boys" in Bowl games (as that's about the only time they could/would play the "big boys" was in Bowl games) -- Edwards/BYU compiled a 7-14-1 record (34.1%) winning percentage in Bowl Games, but in the regular season (filled with UNLV, UTEP, New Mexico, etc) BYU was a 72.0% winner under Edwards in 29 seasons. Not only was this BYU Offense good to beat up the WAC opponents and try to hang with superior power conference teams, it also was good for statistical accumulation for the QB.
Edwards final season at BYU (in 2000), he used 3 QBs -- Charlie Peterson, Bret Engermann, and Brandon Doman. The 3 QBs combined for the following stats (and all 3 played a decent amount of time) = 3,295 yards passing for the season. Keep 3,000+ yards in mind (a great season for a college QB).
Edwards handed the coaching reigns to Gary Crowton in 2001, and left him with QB Brandon Doman. Doman stats that season = 64.0% Comp Pct, 3,542 yards passing, 33 TDs and 8 INTs. Do these stats/yards seem familiar? You're going to see a lot of it coming up....
Crowton flopped with BYU, taking the "machine" Edwards had handed him, and after the initial season...Crowton had 3 straight losing seasons, and that doesn't happen at BYU. Bad QB play, bad everything. In 2005, BYU handed the coaching reigns to current Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, and Mendenhall righted the BYU ship. Mendenhall hasn't had a losing season in 6 seasons...including a 10+ win run from 2006-2009. I am going to list the seasons, stats and QBs for Mendenhall along with the last winning team QBs stats for BYU this decade...and see if you see pattern:
|2002-04||dark period for BYU||14-20||X||X||X||X|
In 2010, BYU used a Freshman QB for the season (Jake Heaps), he had (respectable for a Freshman) 2,316 passing yards and 15 TDs with 9 INTs. Would anybody like to guess what his Sophomore, Junior, and Senior season will be like? My guess...about 10+ wins, 65%+ Completion Percentage 3,500-4,000 yards passing and 25-35 passing TDs...assuming he is like all the other capable BYU QBs this past decade.
How good a QB is John Beck based on his college output? If he's so good, then take him in your 2011 Fantasy Football Draft...but also make room for Max Hall who (seemingly) is better, and also try to find room for Brandon Doman too.
Is it the BYU system, or is it the weak level of defense/athlete that the Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming, etc can muster to stop the BYU passing juggernaut? Or, is it a combination of both? Most of us have already "done the math" in our head -- we don't care what any BYU, Texas Tech or Hawaii QBs do, we discount it instantly. We've all done it, but some haven't applied the same "math"/trepidation to Andy Dalton or Colin Kaepernick. At minimum there should be a concern over any 3-4 year starter/big stat accumulator QB from a smaller conference....especially from Mountain West/WAC schools.
John Beck's NFL/Fantasy Football situation probably isn't more complicated than assessing all the "smart" NFL teams who've had a full year plus look at Beck and dropped him...we should just piggy-back those facts and assume the same as Bill Parcells and Ozzie Newsome did. Miami preferred Cleo Lemon, the Ravens Troy Smith, over keeping Beck. What draws people to Beck is a quick glimpse at those big college stats and a few kind works by Mike and/or Kyle Shanahan...and the "what ifs" start for Fantasy Football 2011, or just as a fan of the Washington Redskins for 2011.
For Fantasy Football 2011, we wouldn't get hopes up too high on Beck at all...he is likely just another "BYU QB story". I'm wondering if I can get the starting QB job with BYU at some point, if I would throw for 3,500+ yards too?, it sounds like fun!
*In our statistical analysis of college QBs, we try to cut through the stat accumulation and focus on games played against tougher competition. We also try to break things down to a per everything basis...200 passing yards on 20 attempts is just as a good an output as 40 pass attempts for 400 yards, the latter be more "sexy"...but not really (theoretically) any better performance per say. You may enjoy an article we did on statistically rating college QBs -- NFL Draft Picks 2011 - Projecting a College QB - Fantasy Football 2011. In that analysis, John Beck rated fairly high; but not high enough...his numbers broke down a bit when facing opponents, as well as some mild red-flags on some of his physical measurements.
We will analyze and project John Beck, and all the other former WAC/Mountain West NFL QBs (and Redskins QB) for Fantasy Football 2011 in our annual draft guide "the Big Board". We rate 450-500+ offensive players, kickers and team defense -- statistically based analysis on data trends, depth charts and strength of opponent/schedule. Our draft guide is ever changing with the major player news, injuries, trades, etc. Purchase the guide once, and it perpetually updates throughout the season...right up to kickoff. The guide goes on sale sometime in mid-June 2011.
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