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Calculating Perception

QBs, Big Plays & Market Shares

by Josh Norris
Updated On: December 3, 2018, 6:02 pm ET

Each week I will post a piece focusing on advanced statistics and figures that stood out from the previous weekend’s college football games. The goal is to see if the numbers and eyes (my attempts at evaluating) line up. I won’t know what the findings mean every single time, which is okay. Talking through possible conclusions can be a worthwhile exercise, and hopefully you draw your own.

Scoring the Quarterbacks

Just three games into the NFL season and Chicago and Houston-based fans are already looking at draft-eligible quarterbacks. It is an endless cycle. A market that will never be saturated.

There will be months and months of opinions and evaluations covering the draft-eligible passers, for the remainder of the season and after. I’ve already read that Jared Goff is the best quarterback since Andrew Luck. Personally, I don’t see that caliber of prospect. And I think we have a tendency to present prospects in that fashion too often. This year’s is not always better than last year’s, and next year’s is not always better than this year’s.

I don’t have the same level of comfort in declaring future success with Goff, or any of these quarterbacks, as I did with Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston. Can I clearly state why just yet? No, but that is why the rest of the season is important.

Let’s look at the easy numbers that are available to us. I’m not ranking these players by what is listed below, but look at that and see if any conclusions can be made.

  3rd Down Conv. Percent of completions, 15+ Percent of completions, 25+ Yards per attempt
Jared Goff 44% 33% 14% 9.3
Christian Hackenberg 31% 20% 13% 6.3
Connor Cook 47% 38% 15% 8
Jacoby Brissett 58% 27% 9% 8.5
Cardale Jones 50% 38% 13% 7.9
Trevone Boykin 47% 34% 18% 9.6
Paxton Lynch 42% 39% 16% 10.9
Cody Kessler 40% 33% 11% 10.6

The main conclusion is how far back Christian Hackenberg is from the group in three of the four categories. Second, Jacoby Brissett’s third down conversion (passing) is very good. Not exactly related, but NC State has scored a touchdown on 20 of 23 red zone trips this season. Expect Paxton Lynch to receive more attention as the season goes on. He plays in a passing based, high scoring offense and the interception total (zero) seems to indicate he has eliminated some mistakes from his game.

Big Play Threats

After listening to Jimbo Fisher’s coaching clinic this offseason, I’ve prioritized the importance of big plays and their impact on an offense. I know college offenses can be very scheme oriented, but a big play threat (20-plus yards in this case) can really shift the success of an offense.

  No. of 20+ yd plays Percentage of catches
Corey Coleman 10 59%
Josh Doctson 9 26%
Christian Kirk 9 38%
Dezmon Epps 8 24%
Will Fuller 8 36%

I am going out on a limb here: it is possible that Corey Coleman is the best draft-eligible receiver in the country. I know people like Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Mike Williams and others, but take a moment and consider Coleman. He has shown freakish athletic traits in a package that can win in both the big and small games. Plus, Baylor has only faced three opponents thus far.

It is impressive that Epps has eight 20-plus yard catches, since he has only played in three games this year.

Now to running backs.

  No. of 20+ yd plays Percentage of carries
Leonard Fournette 9 12.30%
Nick Chubb 7 9.90%
Dalvin Cook 7 10.90%
Matt Breida 7 13.00%
Kenneth Dixon 6 8.20%
CJ Prosise 6 8.10%
Saquon Barkley 6 14.30%

We all expected Fournette to lead the list in total number of 20-plus yard carries. He is having an unbelievable season. The two surprising names are Matt Breida and Saquon Barkley. Breida is an explosive runner with outstanding straight-line speed to run away from defenses. Barkley’s last three games have been outstanding (he barely played in the opener).

Saturday’s Bears vs Raiders

One of the more intriguing matchups of the weekend: Baylor vs Texas Tech. The two prioritize pace. Texas Tech is “last” in time of possession against FBS opponents (22:41 avg) and Baylor is 5th to “last” (23:55).

Looking back at last year’s game (a 48-46 Baylor victory), Bryce Petty left with an injury and now starter Seth Russell stepped in. No Baylor WR recorded over 75 receiving yards. Texas Tech produced three WRs with over 100 receiving yards.

Baylor landed three punts inside the opponent's’ 20 yard line. Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington caught six passes. Baylor recorded just one sack (Shawn Oakman), which is noteworthy since Texas tech QB Patrick Mahomes has only been sacked once this season.

Market Sharing Is Caring

Jon Moore turned me on to the idea of market share a few years ago. With the variance of collegiate offenses, it makes much more sense than citing simple box score figures for skill position players, namely running backs and receivers.

A few percentages stood out through four weeks:

Leonard Fournette owns 51.9% of LSU’s total yards on offense. As Jon points out, “the last two running backs to win the Heisman accounted for the following: Reggie Bush ’05 (32.7%) and Mark Ingram ’09 (35.3%).”

Tyler Boyd owns 55.5% of Pitt’s receiving yards for the season. Why is this significant? Boyd was suspended for the season opener. Boyd has been fed for Pittsburgh’s other two contests.

Josh Norris

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for NBC Sports Edge and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .