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OAYP: 2019 ACC Quarterback Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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The new OAYP advanced metric ranks the ACC's returning quarterbacks.

Earlier in the offseason I released the 2018 OAYP rankings as part of the debut of a new advanced metric to evaluate college football teams. Last season’s scores will obviously factor into the eventual 2019 preseason rankings, but those alone are only reflective, not predictive.

In order to make the aforementioned OAYP metric predictive, we’re factoring in individual player OAYP scores for projected starters and key contributors. Those numbers are a sort of spiritual descendant of adjusted yards per attempt, the quarterback metric first introduced in the book The Hidden Game of Football by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, and John Thorn, and Pro Football Reference founder Doug Drinen’s ‘approximate value’ measure.

The basic premise is to cross the efficiency measure of the former, but across all positions, with the value principles of the latter -- hopefully as a way of more accurately depicting a given team’s returning production. Returning good players is more valuable than returning only average or subpar players, and not all production is created equal, so this should ideally prove to be more predictive than simply looking at the raw number of returning starters or the percentages of returning production.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be diving into those individual OAYP scores for some of the top returning qualifying players in the ACC at each position, as well as some potential breakout stars that posted big OAYP numbers, but on too small a sample size to qualify.

Now, to separate the truly dominant players, rather than just using the OAYP scores, we’ll be looking at the scores relative to their positional averages. For the time being, we’ll only be looking at their scores relative to the ACC, but those marginal ratings will eventually reflect their value relative to the entire country -- at least among qualifying returnees. That way, because there is some mild inequity in scoring from one position to the next, those disparities are wholly mitigated. Sort of like WAR in baseball, marginal OAYP tells us how far above or below a player is their positional average.

Plus, in the meantime, there is still value in just looking at the athletes relative to their conference counterparts.

We’ll tier them out into ‘superstars’ (marginal OAYP >1), ‘second tier’ (marginal OAYP between 0.5-1.0), and potential breakout stars (players that didn’t get enough reps to qualify, but posted high OAYP scores on a smaller sample size). Granted, with only five qualified returnees, the tiers won’t be very large here, but this will set the table for the format we will continue to use throughout the release of the rankings.

*Marginal OAYP in parentheses

Superstar

-Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (1.82)

Surprise, surprise. There probably won’t be a more talked about college football player over the next two years until he gets drafted by, I don’t know, the Bills or something like that and then wins 15 Super Bowls in a row.

The only freshmen quarterbacks in recent memory to have been as accurate, productive, and efficient as he was last year are Sam Darnold and Jameis Winston, both of whom got to redshirt for a year first. So far, the only returning quarterbacks that posted higher OAYP scores last year are Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm, and that list won’t grow much more as we keep going, if at all.

The college football viewing community at large, and quarterback evaluators in particular, gets too caught up in tall kids that can throw the ball a million miles from a standstill. That’s fine, if you’re into that sort of thing, and Lawrence can do that, but what separates him from the Jacob Eason’s and Josh Allen’s of the world is his decision making. According to PFF, there wasn’t a quarterback in the nation that was better at avoiding mistakes than Lawrence. Through the regular season, his 20:3 big time throw to turnover worthy throw ratio was the best. No one else with as many “big time throws” had less than five turnover worthy throws. Heck, he had more actual interceptions than turnover worthy throws, as a matter of sheer bad luck.

Lawrence is the most impressive freshman quarterback since, like, forever, and with that dynamic receiving corps in tow, will lead what promises to be one of the game’s more prolific offenses in recent memory.

Second Tier

-Bryce Perkins, Virginia (0.63)
-Jamie Newman, Wake Forest (0.6)
-Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech (0.51)

From B.J. Bennett: The only QBs this millennium with at least 25 TD passes, fewer than ten INTs, a 64% completion percentage and 900 yards rushing in a single season are: Johnny Manziel, Kyler Murray, Cam Newton and Bryce Perkins. Last fall, he was one of just two players in college football with at least 2,600 yards passing and 900 yards rushing; the other qualifier won the Heisman Trophy.

There’s a case to be made for Virginia to open as the ACC Coastal favorite, and their signal caller is a big reason why.

Wake Forest has a legitimate quarterback controversy on its hands. As freshmen quarterbacks go, Sam Hartman did a nice job as the starter for almost three quarters of the season, before being sidelined by an injury. He’s about middle of the pack as far as returning ACC QB’s, according to OAYP, with plenty of upside. However, Newman was clearly the statistically better option in 2018. He completed a higher percentage of his passes for more yards per attempt with a better touchdown to interception ratio, and was a more effective rusher. With two talented quarterbacks, Dave Clawson has a good problem on his hands, but it’s clear where the numbers stand.

Meanwhile, in Blacksburg, Justin Fuente is enduring yet another brutal offseason, abound with personnel attrition. Yet, especially with Josh Jackson’s transfer, there is no question about who will be taking the snaps this fall. Sort of the modern prototype, Ryan Willis is big, strong, capable of making the tough throws downfield, and he can move. His accuracy can leave one wanting at times, but he could make a name for himself nationally with a full season as the starter.

Potential Breakout Stars

-Quentin Harris, Duke (0.87)
-Malik Cunningham, Louisville (0.8)

Obviously, both of these guys posted their scores on relatively small sample sizes, and I wouldn’t anticipate either one actually being better than Perkins or Willis this year, but each one’s potential is notable.

Quentin Harris had a higher passer rating and a markedly better touchdown to interception ratio than Daniel Jones, who went #6 overall in the NFL Draft, did last year.

As far as Cunningham, he still has a lot of work to do as a passer, but, with all due respect, he can’t be much worse than Jawon Pass was a season ago. Plus, though Pass is a capable runner, Cunningham is far more dynamic in that respect. Scott Satterfield’s offenses thrived at App State with Taylor Lamb and Zac Thomas behind center -- two guys that could make plays with their legs. In year one, which promises to be a rebuild regardless, that luxury could split the difference between the two, especially given how little Pass seemed to develop over the course of the season.

Miami’s Tate Martell also posted a high OAYP score, but on too small a sample size to even qualify among non-qualifying players. His spring performance didn’t do much to buoy confidence in Coral Gables, but he is still a name to keep an eye on.

Full Marginal OAYP Rankings for Qualifying ACC Quarterbacks

1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (1.82)
2. Bryce Perkins, Virginia (0.63)
3. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest (0.6)
4. Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech (0.51)
5. Anthony Brown, Boston College (0.36)
6. James Blackman (2017), Florida State (-0.23)
7. Sam Hartman, Wake Forest (-0.29)
8. Nathan Elliott, North Carolina (-0.39)
9. Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin), Florida State (-0.42)
10. Kenny Pickett, Pitt (-0.64)
11. N'Kosi Perry, Miami (-0.76)
12. Jawon Pass, Louisville (-1.12)

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP