Are Rookie QBs from Bad College Teams Better Suited for the NFL?

Andrew Hahn

         Coming off an impressive debut last week in Tampa Bay, all eyes were on Giants quarterback Daniel Jones when the Washington Redskins visited Metlife Stadium on Sunday.  The 22-year-old rookie from Duke University was controversially selected with the 6th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Many criticized the Giants’ selection because Jones did not put up big numbers in college, and his team was mediocre at best, finishing 3-5 in the ACC in 2018.  However, Jones’ supporters pointed to his size (6’5) and athleticism, which would help him avoid sacks and gain yards running. The detractors argued that there were better quarterbacks in the draft and that the Giants could have waited to get Jones with their 16th selection. Many thought that the Giants should have used their 6th pick to get a defensive stud, such as Josh Allen from Kentucky.  Others argued that Giants should have picked a statistically superior quarterback, like Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State. That being said, Jones began to silence his haters by recording 4 touchdowns (2 passing and 2 rushing) and a total of 364 yards in his first start. 

         Metlife stadium was buzzing on Sunday with anticipation as Jones was getting ready to start his first home game.  Fans wearing Eil Manning’s jerseys far outnumbered fans’ wearing Jones’ #8 jersey but it was clear by the fans’ attitudes that Eli’s jerseys were worn out of respect for his 16-year service as a Giant, not because they hoped he got his starting job back. The fans were not disappointed as the home team absolutely dominated, crushing the Redskins with a 24-3 win.  Although Jones did not play as well as his first start, he had respectable numbers, throwing for 225 yards with a completion rate of 74.2%. He also ran for 33 yards and threw one touchdown. The only blemish was that he threw 2 interceptions.  

         Case Keenum started as the Redskins QB, but was ineffective, and was replaced by the rookie Dwayne Haskins in the second quarter. Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 Draft, looked completely frazzled every time he was pressured, making many ill-advised throws including 3 interceptions.  Although Jones threw two interceptions, he looked much more composed in the pocket. Perhaps Haskins was not used to pressure because he played for the dominant Ohio State team, while Jones was used to having defensive players all over him while playing at Duke. This raised the question of whether rookie quarterbacks from bad college teams are better prepared for the NFL.  To answer this question, one can start by evaluating the two other rookie quarterbacks who are current starters for their teams, Kyler Murray and Gardner Minshew II. 

Murray was drafted first overall out of The University of Oklahoma by the Arizona Cardinals.  Murray won the Heisman Trophy and played for a team that was ranked fourth in the nation. Through the first 4 weeks, he has been mediocre, with 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 78.8. 

         Gardner Minshew II was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 6th round (178th overall pick) and was given the starting job after Super Bowl champion, Nick Foles, broke his collarbone in week one game against the Chiefs.  He has shocked the league by playing incredibly well. He has the highest quarterback rating through his first 4 games of anyone in the Super Bowl era. Although he had great numbers in college, he played for East Carolina for two years and Washington State for his final season.  Neither team is known as a football powerhouse, and it is safe to assume that he was pressured as a college QB.

         Jones and Minshew, who played for lesser teams, have been more successful than Murray and Haskins thus far.  Although it is early and it could be coincidental, one can argue that Murray and Haskins are used to having a dominant offensive line and being relaxed in the pocket, so when they reach the NFL and have much faster and bigger defensive players chasing after them, the transition may be more difficult. It should be interesting to see how these four players develop this year and into the futureImage result for daniel jones