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Betting on the NFL Draft? Economists rank top quarterback picks

(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The NFL Draft begins next Thursday, April 25, and economists from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and the Auckland University of Technology are weighing in on their top picks for quarterback based on an algorithm the economists developed.

According to a UCCS press release, the algorithm picked Jayden Daniels as their top pick, which is at odds with rankings based on ESPN scout scores, which rank Caleb Williams as the number one pick.

“The algorithm determined that to succeed in the NFL, quarterbacks must be good passers, but rushing ability also matters,” according to the press release. “A possible reason for the importance of rushing ability is that effective rushing at opportune times enables quarterbacks to gain the additional yards required to be awarded a new set of downs.”

Using data from college games and other sources to predict the performance of rookie quarterbacks, the algorithm also incorporated ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating or QBR.

“The algorithm estimates each quarterback’s maximum season QBR in their first five years in the league, which is abbreviated to Max5-QBR,” according to the press release.

ALGORITHM DEVELOPED BY UCCS ECONOMIST PICKS DANIELS AS TOP QUARTERBACK NFL DRAFT PROSPECT
Courtesy: UCCS, the table shows Max5-QBR values for the top-ranked quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL draft based on an algorithm developed by economists from UCCS and the Auckland University of Technology.

Noted in the table above, Daniels’ expected Max5-QBR value is 65.9, followed by Drake Maye’s at 58.1 and Williams’ at 57.6.

“According to [ESPN scout grades], Caleb Williams is the top quarterback, followed by Daniels and then Drake Maye. Additionally, scouts rate Bo Nix the fifth-best quarterback, but the algorithm rates Nix fourth, just behind Williams.”

The press release goes on to detail why there’s such a difference in rankings, explaining that “scouts undervalue rushing ability when evaluating draftee quarterbacks,” and that “among the top quarterback draft prospects, Daniels has the best college rushing statistics by a large margin, and Nix the second best.”

The press release also touched on this year’s NFL Most Valuable Player, Lamar Jackson. “Jackson was considered the top quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft by the algorithm, but he was ranked the fifth best draftee quarterback by scouts. Like Daniels in the 2024 draft, Jackson’s college rushing statistics were considerably better than other quarterbacks in draft contention.”

The NFL draft will be held from Thursday to Saturday, April 27.

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