The table below compares two quarterbacks from the 2014 NFL draft class. Statistics were sourced from their 2013-2014 college seasons.
|Player||QB A||QB B|
|Adjusted Yards/Attempt||10.1 (3rd highest)||10.0 (4th)|
Quarterback A is a more explosive player, producing higher broad and vertical jump marks while benefiting from better straight line speed. Quarterback B is more elusive, posting 3-Cone and Short Shuttle marks that rival some of the more highly touted running backs in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Quarterback A has a slightly higher AY/A, which measures adjusted yards gained per pass attempt while Quarterback B posted a better completion percentage. Quarterback A was much better at limiting turnovers than Quarterback B was. Quarterback A threw just one interception in 284 pass attempts while Quarterback B threw 13 interceptions in 429 pass attempts.
Other factors, such as breakout age, college regression, hand size, and Wonderlic scores were considered. There has been a ton of analysis completed on QB-hand size relative to NFL success, so Quarterback B has a natural advantage. Quarterback B also scored higher on the Wonderlic test.
Quarterback A’s last college season was his best season, by measure of his passer rating, while Quarterback B slightly regressed during his final college season. This may be one of the most telling signs yet as the nearly all current NFL starting quarterbacks had their best collegiate season during their final college season.
So Who is Quarterback A and Quarterback B?
Both quarterbacks are members of the Cleveland Browns.
- Quarterback A is undrafted rookie QB Connor Shaw (South Carolina);
- Quarterback B 1st-Round rookie QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M).
During 2014, quarterback Brian Hoyer started 13 games for Cleveland as Manziel and Shaw worked as his understudies. Both rookie quarterbacks had opportunities to start, but the results were less than inspiring.
Manziel started in Weeks 15 and 16, but failed to produce. During Week 15, Manziel was completely shut down as the Cincinnati Bengals embarassed Cleveland, 30-0. Manziel completed 10-of-18 passes for 80 yards and two interceptions. He averaged 4.4 yards per pass attempt and posted a dismal a QBR of 1.0. Both of Manziel’s interceptions were thrown into double coverage. Manziel faced Carolina in Week 16 and left with an injury. He was placed onto season-ending Injured Reserve. He completed just 3-of-8 passes for 28 yards against Carolina, averaging 4.0 yards per pass attempt.
In fairness, Manziel’s first two starts were late in the season against two teams that eventually secured playoff berths.
After spending 16 weeks as a member of the practice squad, Shaw was called up to the 53-man active roster after Manziel was placed on Injured Reserve. Shaw’s Week 17 opponent? A meeting in Baltimore against a Ravens team vying for a playoff spot. Shaw turned in a respectable performance, completing 14-0f-28 passes for 177 yards and one interception. Baltimore scored 17 unanswered fourth quarter points to rally and beat Cleveland, 20-10. Shaw kept his team in the game, something that Manziel was unable to do.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s game plan was pretty conservative for both quarterbacks. The game plan called for a lot of short throws in an effort to develop rhythm. Simply put, Manziel looked really, really bad and some of his mistakes from his last year at Texas A&M resurfaced in Cleveland. Manziel had trouble looking off defenders and his tendencies to wildly throw jump balls into double coverage continued. Instead of having 6’5″ Mike Evans vs. undersized defenders at his disposal, NFL defenders made Manziel pay for his reckless play.
Shaw was put into a really tough spot in Baltimore, but played well for someone coming off the practice squad. He utilized his rushing attack to stymie Baltimore’s ferocious pass rush while working the middle of the field by hitting tight end Jordan Cameron on a seam routes. Some of his throws were a little short and he threw a costly interception during the fourth quarter, which led to seven points.
If given more time and reps during the course of the season, Shaw may have had a chance to develop, hang on and knock Baltimore out of the playoffs.
Verdict: Is Connor Shaw Better Than Johnny Manziel?
Simply put: The jury is still out. With Hoyer set to leave as a free agent, expect Cleveland to bring in a seasoned back-up quarterback. The battle for the starting role, however, will probably come down to Manziel and Shaw.
It may seem outlandish to suggest an undrafted rookie is better than the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, but Shaw has the raw skills and make-up to be an NFL quarterback. At the NFL Combine, Shaw demonstrated above average athleticism for a quarterback. At South Carolina, he posted a high AY/A (which suggests the ability to throw the ball down the field) coupled with a low interception rate, which highlights his skill and ability to throw down field with success. Given his ‘undrafted rookie’ label, Shaw did not receive a fair opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job.
It’s troubling that Manziel could not beat out Hoyer, a career back-up, for the starting quarterback role during training camp. Manziel has a lot of the raw skills needed to be a NFL quarterback, but he has to convince coaches, his team mates, and more importantly, Cleveland fans, that he can quickly go through his progressions, not bail out of the pocket when the first read isn’t open, and stop making stupid decisions when receivers aren’t open. That’s purely the football side of it.
The off-the-field side of Manziel is the troubling part. I’ve never met Manziel, so I don’t know what it’s like to be him. What I do know, however, is that he has a large cult following and isn’t shy about posting his off-the-field activity on social media. He also likes to host and attend parties, which always seem to find a way into the headlines. Is he committed to becoming a better NFL quarterback in the off-season? We’ll know if he did his homework next fall.
Let’s not forget that egos come into play when deciding which player starts. Let’s not forget that General Manager Ray Farmer gave into Manziel-Mania by trading up for him in the 2014 NFL Draft. If Manziel doesn’t succeed and Cleveland continues to sputter, Farmer will probably lose his job. Manziel getting beaten out by an undrafted rookie will not look good. Head coach Mike Pettine, however, will play the best quarterback. Will that be Manziel, Shaw, or someone else? It’s too early to tell, but don’t be surprised if Shaw out-right wins the job. He has the raw skills and make-up to challenge Johnny Football, if given the opportunity.