Lost in the excitement over Drew Lock probably being a first-round draft pick and Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant becoming his heralded successor is one fairly plain fact.
It’s extremely difficult for college teams to replace a quarterback talented enough to go in the first round and have their offense not miss a beat the next season.
I looked at the 30 quarterbacks who have gone in the first round of the NFL Draft in the past decade — the 2009-18 drafts, the 2008-17 seasons — and saw how healthy their teams’ passing and total offenses were during the quarterbacks’ last years on campus, then in their first year in the league.
Overall, teams experienced a 13-percent drop in pass yards per game, an 8-percent drop in yards per pass and a 9-percent drop in QB rating from one year to the next. Their total offenses saw a 10-percent drop in points per game, 8-percent drop in yards per game and a 7-percent drop in yards per play.
There were 10 cases — out of 30 — in which at least one of the total offense metrics (PPG, YPG, YPP) went up the year after the drafted quarterback left. So, a third of the time.
Let’s check those out, from most to least drastic.
Jake Locker to Keith Price, Washington (2010-11)
The Huskies scored 53 percent more points per game and gained about 13 percent more yards per game and per play after Locker moved on to the Tennessee Titans.
EJ Manuel to Jameis Winston, Florida St. (2012-13)
The Seminoles went from mid-first round pick to Heisman winner and future No. 1 overall pick, increasing their scoring by 32 percent and yards per game and play by about 10 percent along the way.
Ryan Tannehill to Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (2011-12)
Noticing a bit of a trend here? The Aggies went from the NFL’s version of quarterbacking PECOTA to a Heisman winner who helped them improve scoring, yards and yards per play by about 15 percent each.
Blaine Gabbert to James Franklin, Missouri (2010-11)
Helloooooooooooooo precedent. Franklin helped the Tigers kick scoring up 10 percent, yards per game up 16 percent and yards per play up 11 percent in his first year starting. Taking notes, Kelly Bryant?
Sam Bradford to Landry Jones, Oklahoma (2009-10)
OK, this one doesn’t really count because it was really more like Landry Jones to Landry Jones after Bradford sat out all but three games of his final year with the Sooners after an injury.
Josh Allen to Tyler Vander Waal, Wyoming (2017-18)
With all the hype around Allen, you really kind of forget how terrible the Cowboys offense was in his final year. Wyoming was still bad, but a bit better, under Vander Waal last year, leveling up 16 percent in yards per game and 10 in yards per play but stepping down 12 in points per game.
Baker Mayfield to Kyler Murray, Oklahoma (2017-18)
Heisman to Heisman, and the offensive numbers didn’t budge much: up 7 percent in points per game, down 1.6 in yards per game and up 4 in yards per play. Passing yards per game, though, went down 11 percent, and yards per pass and rating were both down 4.
Paxton Lynch to Riley Ferguson, Memphis (2015-16)
The last three are net moves down, just with an uptick in one category. Memphis, for instance, saw a 3-percent drop in points per game and 5 in yards per game but a modest 1.65-percent uptick in yards per play.
Jameis Winston to Everett Golson, Florida St. (2014-15)
There’s that man again. The Seminoles’ yards per play went up 2 percent after Winston left, but scoring and yards were down 6 and 4, respectively.
Carson Wentz to Easton Stick, North Dakota St. (2015-16)
First off, Easton Stick cannot be the name of a real person. Secondly, this is another one that doesn’t really count because Stick actually started the second half of 2015 with Wentz shelved.
If we applied the average steps back to Missouri’s numbers from 2018, we’d be looking at something like this:
243.6 pass yards a game
7.41 yards a pass
133.94 QB rating
33.0 points per game
442.9 yards per game
5.80 yards per play
Not bad by any stretch, but not 2018 either. Those 10 (well, eight really) examples above should give you some hope for the inverse effect, though.
Here’s my work if you wanted to look. Even if you found this exercise useless and tedious, at least leaf through the spreadsheet to remind yourself people like Grant Gregory, John Brantley and Barrett Trotter existed.