Fantasy: The Rookie Blitz: Volume 4 – Sam Bradford and Preseason Rookie QB Performance

| September 4, 2010

St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford has been the talk of the preseason—he flashed all the skills he demonstrated in college that led him to becoming the top pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.  Bradford proved he can take snaps under center, can throw on the run with uncanny accuracy, can be calm in the pocket, and showed a good understanding of the West Coast offense.  Bradford arguably had the most successful preseason of any rookie quarterback since 2008, with the least amount of surrounding talent.

So what does Bradford’s preseason statistics mean?  Bradford will prove to be the new gold standard for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL when comparing his preseason statistics to those of Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford, and Josh Freeman in their rookie seasons.

Below are the preseason and regular season statistics for each first round quarterback since 2008:

2008 Preseason 2008 Season
Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int
Matt Ryan ATL 34 59 58 294 5.07 2 1 Matt Ryan ATL 265 434 61 3442 7.9 16 11
Joe Flacco BAL 36 68 53 298 4.38 1 0 Joe Flacco BAL 257 429 60 2970 6.9 15 12
2009 Preseason 2009 Season
Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int
Matthew Stafford DET 30 55 55 389 7.07 1 4 Matthew Stafford DET 201 377 53 2271 6.0 13 20
Mark Sanchez NYJ 24 37 65 347 9.38 3 1 Mark Sanchez NYJ 196 363 54 2444 6.7 12 20
Josh Freeman TB 22 49 45 238 4.86 1 3 Josh Freeman TB 159 291 55 1855 6.4 10 18
2010 Preseason 2010 Season
Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int Player Team Comp Att Pct Yds Y/Att TD Int
Sam Bradford STL 33 55 60 338 6.15 3 0 Sam Bradford STL

Sam Bradford’s preseason totals are eerily similar to Matt Ryan’s in 2008.  Matt Ryan (43.2, 23.2) joined a veteran team that struggled the year before under Bobby Petrino and a franchise that was stung by Michael Vick.  Like Bradford, Ryan signed well in advance of the start of training camp and avoided a holdout.  Ryan was given the reigns in the regular season as he increased his yards per attempt from 5.07 to 7.9 while maintaining a positive touchdown to interception ratio.

Joe Flacco joined a playoff-ready team in 2008 in need of a viable starting quarterback.  Flacco (21.0, 46.2) guided the Ravens to the AFC Championship game with a low interception rate (Int every 35.75 attempts) and a respectable 6.9 yards per attempt.  Despite completing only 53% of his throws in the preseason, Flacco reached the 60% mark as a rookie.

Mark Sanchez led the Jets to the AFC Championship despite struggling with poor decisions and a high interception rate (Int every 18.15 attempts).  Sanchez (-5.2) threw for the most touchdowns and had the highest yards per attempt of any of these quarterbacks in the preseason.

Matthew Stafford and Josh Freeman flashed some ability in the 2009 preseason, but ultimately their preseason struggles carried over into the regular season.  Stafford (-11.8) had little help as a rookie on a poor Detroit team and Freeman (-2.0) joined a rebuilding Tampa Bay squad.

Based on the above statistics, Bradford’s performance is more in line with that of eventual playoff quarterbacks Ryan, Flacco and Sanchez.  However, the talent level of the Rams is more on par with that of the Lions (Stafford) and the Buccaneers (Freeman).

Despite the talent level of the Rams, Bradford could elevate the play of his teammates like a true franchise quarterback in the mold of a Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.  For example, he was battered in his first two preseason games, but never looked unnerved or flustered and came back strong in impressive showings against the Patriots and Ravens.  The West Coast offense is also a perfect fit for Bradford with his quick decision making and ability to hit small targets downfield.

Based on the above analysis, Bradford’s preseason performance is a strong indication of his future success: He many not lead the Rams to the playoffs as a rookie, but he will prove to be the new benchmark for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL.



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