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A poor man's Matt Stafford?

Tyler Bray is this year's youngest quarterback prospect.

For the most part, age is rarely discussed when talking about college quarterbacks. Outside of the Brandon Weedens and Chris Weinkes of the world, you generally don’t hear much from the draft community about the age of a prospect. But we do know that age matters, and that all other things being equal, being younger is better (or a sign that the player has a higher ceiling).

In this year’s draft, Tyler Bray is the neophyte, as he’ll be 21 years and 8 months old at the start of the season. He’s just weeks older than Matt Stafford and Josh Freeman were this time four years ago. It also means he’s 10 months younger than Geno Smith, the second youngest of the top prospects. On the other hand, Tyler Wilson will be 24 when the season starters, Landry Jones just turned 24, and Jordan “did you know Aaron is my brother” Rodgers will be 25 on August 30th. Do NFL teams generally ignore age — i.e., fail to measure younger quarterbacks against a lower bar? Or perhaps do they overemphasize age, thinking a young player has such high upside and can be taught anything that they ignore red flags? That’s what this post seeks to answer.

From 1970 to 2008, 587 quarterbacks were selected in the annual NFL draft. Unfortunately, I don’t have data on the age of the 195 players who never made it on to an NFL field.1 However, I do have the dates of birth for the remaining 392 quarterbacks, which let’s us investigate how NFL teams value age.

First, we need to grade how well the quarterbacks performed. I decided to evaluate players through their first five seasons only, as I think that’s what teams consider when they select a player in the draft. I used a modified version of the formula from my Greatest Quarterback of All-Time Series: for each quarterback, I calculated his Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average and the league ANY/A for each of his first five seasons. I then gave each passer credit for his ANY/A over replacement level — defined as 75% of league average — and multiplied that differential by his number of pass attempts (including sacks) to create a “value over replacement” statistic.

That’s a fancy way of saying I figured out which quarterback provided the most passing value over replacement in his first five years. Note that I did not include rushing in an attempt to keep it relatively simple. The results aren’t very surprising: Dan Marino has a huge lead on everyone else, with Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan at #2 and #3. Next, I converted the draft values from my Draft Value Chart into expected “adjusted net yardage over replacement” figures for these quarterbacks. After doing that, we can compare how much value above or below expectation each quarterback provided. Here are the results: the final column shows the player’s age on September 1st of the year he was drafted.

Rk
Name
Tm
Year
Pk
Exp Val
Act Val
Diff
Age
1Dan MarinoMIA1983277999091829221.96
2Boomer EsiasonCIN1984386885605491823.38
3Peyton ManningIND1998118616628476622.44
4Matt RyanATL2008315076104459723.29
5Ken AndersonCIN1971675054530402422.54
6Joe MontanaSFO1979824404459401923.22
7Tom BradyNWE20001991564129397223.08
8Brett FavreATL1991337334286355321.89
9Jim EverettHOU1986315074980347323.66
10Joe FlaccoBAL2008189304372344123.62
11Aaron BrooksGNB19991312933433314023.44
12Daunte CulpepperMIN19991110874194310722.59
13Carson PalmerCIN2003118614771290923.68
14Ben RoethlisbergerPIT20041110873950286322.5
15Marc BulgerNOR20001682122844263223.41
16Jay CutlerDEN20061110873715262723.34
17Mark BrunellGNB19931183232891256822.96
18Neil LomaxSTL1981337333296256322.54
19Brian GrieseDEN1998914092963255423.46
20Ken O'BrienNYJ1983248393371253222.76
21Mark RypienWAS19861462572767250923.92
22Philip RiversNYG2004414163919250222.73
23Steve GroganNWE19751163282803247522.11
24Drew BreesSDG2001327433171242822.63
25Aaron RodgersGNB2005248393210237121.75
26Doug WilliamsTAM1978179513286233623.06
27Jeff BlakeNYJ19921662122523231121.74
28Gus FrerotteWAS19941971612278211723.09
29Bert JonesBAL1973216393559192021.98
30Drew BledsoeNWE1993118613781192021.55
31Jay SchroederWAS1984834402352191223.18
32Chad PenningtonNYJ2000189302836190624.18
33Pat HadenRAM19751761972097190122.6
34Neil O'DonnellPIT1990704902345185524.16
35Don MajkowskiGNB19872551131789167623.52
36John ElwayBAL1983118613461159923.18
37Joe FergusonBUF1973575612148158723.36
38Jason CampbellWAS2005258242202137823.67
39Matt SchaubATL2004904091772136323.19
40Troy AikmanDAL1989118613185132422.78
41Chris MillerATL19871310372347131122.06
42Tommy KramerMIN1977277992104130522.49
43Elvis GrbacSFO19932191261323119723.05
44Tony EasonNWE1983159912187119623.9
45Craig EricksonTAM1992864241612118723.29
46Steve McNairHOU1995315072570106322.54
47Charlie BatchDET1998605411602106123.74
48Kyle OrtonCHI20051063591412105322.8
49Craig EricksonPHI19911312931338104522.29
50Matt HasselbeckGNB19981871761203102722.93
51Byron LeftwichJAX2003712342236100223.63
52Dan FoutsSDG197364521151899722.23
53Matt CasselNWE2005230113101990523.29
54Rodney PeeteDET1989141268116489723.46
55Jim McMahonCHI198251340217883823.03
56Tony BanksSTL199642657149383623.41
57Steve PelluerDAL1984113338116983122.09
58Donovan McNabbPHI199921639241677822.77
59David WoodleyMIA198021413190377221.85
60Jim KellyBUF1983141011175274123.55
61Jake PlummerARI199742657137872022.7
62Ty DetmerGNB199223011380469124.84
63Vince FerragamoRAM197791409109968923.36
64Derek AndersonBAL200521313681167522.21
65Steve DeBergDAL197727511377766323.62
66Steve BeuerleinRAI1987110348101066222.49
67Brad JohnsonMIN199222711377466123.97
68Eli ManningSDG200411861250664523.66
69Randall CunninghamPHI198537698131661822.43
70Stan HumphriesWAS198815922779757023.38
71Bill KenneyMIA197833311363151823.61
72John FrieszSDG199013827374747423.29
73Tim RattaySFO200021213660246623.47
74Chad HenneMIA20085756194137923.17
75David GarrardJAX200210835473237824.54
76Bubby BristerPIT19866750587737224.05
77Brian SipeCLE197233011346935623.07
78Rich GannonNWE19879838471633221.7
79Mike PagelBAL19828443574230821.97
80Scott MitchellMIA19909339969829922.66
81Joe GilliamPIT197227311340128721.68
82Jim HarbaughCHI198726814109728323.69
83Turk SchonertCHI198024211337726423.63
84Troy SmithBAL200717419743623923.12
85T.J. RubleyRAM199222811331720423.76
86David WhitehurstGNB197720614633318722.35
87Quincy CarterDAL20015358176518423.89
88Matt FlynnGNB200820914130716623.2
89Tyler ThigpenMIN200721712627414823.38
90Eric HippleDET19808542957014022.96
91Jim SorgiIND200419316629813223.75
92Rob JohnsonJAX19959937949011222.46
93Doug FlutieRAM198528511322511222.86
94Steve DilsMIN1979973894859623.73
95Trent EdwardsBUF2007924044928823.84
96Paul McDonaldCLE19801093484227422.52
97Ed LutherSDG19801013744164223.66
98Craig NallGNB20021642172382123.36
99Kent GrahamNYG19922111361572123.83
100Bob AvelliniCHI1975135283283022.01
101Patrick RamseyWAS200232743740-323.55
102Tarvaris JacksonMIN200664521512-923.36
103Bucky RichardsonHOU1992220126110-1623.56
104Tom RamseyNWE198326711394-1922.15
105Jack TrudeauIND198647622603-1923.98
106Steve MatthewsKAN1994199156128-2823.89
107Eric ZeierCLE199584435406-2922.98
108Blair KielTAM198428111378-3522.76
109Brooks BollingerNYJ2003200156107-4923.79
110Gary HogeboomDAL1980133288234-5422.03
111Shaun KingTAM199950601539-6322.26
112Mike BuckNOR1990156232161-7123.36
113Mike MoroskiATL1979154237161-7621.99
114Tom OwenSFO197432211329-8422
115Michael BishopNWE199922711320-9323.3
116Glenn FoleyNYJ199420814145-9623.89
117Koy DetmerPHI199720714144-9724.16
118Dan OrlovskyDET2005145257158-9922.04
119Dave WalterNYG198730711311-10222.73
120Scott BrunnerNYG1980145257152-10623.44
121Neal JeffreySDG19754231135-10822.11
122Bob GaglianoKAN19813191133-11022.99
123Sammy GarzaSEA198721613121-11022.14
124Kent AustinSTL19863121130-11323.19
125Joe ShieldGNB19852941130-11323.18
126Jeff KellySEA20022321130-11322.98
127Rick TrocanoPIT19812921130-11322.41
128Bryan ClarkSFO19822511130-11322.1
129Matt CavanaughNWE197850601484-11721.85
130Joe HamiltonTAM2000234113-5-11823.47
131Dennis SproulGNB197820015638-11922.12
132Gibran HamdanWAS2003232113-7-12022.56
133Wally RichardsonBAL1997234113-7-12023.55
134Alex BrinkHOU20082231210-12123.25
135Gifford NielsenHOU197873480359-12123.85
136Cliff StoudtPIT1977121318196-12222.43
137Neil GraffMIN1972414113-9-12222.64
138Chris GreisenARI1999239113-9-12223.16
139Scott CampbellPIT198419117149-12222.38
140Billy Joe TolliverSDG198951596474-12323.56
141Rex GrossmanCHI200322865742-12323.02
142Trent GreenSDG1993222121-4-12523.15
143Kyle MackeySTL1984296113-12-12522.5
144Vince YoungTEN2006315071379-12823.29
145Gary KubiakDEN198319716129-13222.05
146Bob HollyWAS1982291113-19-13222.25
147Jay WalkerNWE199419815623-13322.6
148Scott HunterGNB1971140268131-13723.81
149Mike RaeOAK19732051469-13722.1
150Bradlee Van PeltDEN2004250113-25-13824.16
151Kliff KingsburyNWE20032011519-14224.06
152Matt MauckDEN2004225113-29-14225.55
153Pat RyanNYJ1978281113-31-14422.96
154Jim Bob TaylorBAL1983280113-32-14623.98
155Scott CovingtonCIN1999245113-34-14723.62
156Larry CipaNOR1974373113-35-14822.91
157Andre WoodsonNYG20081981560-15624.35
158Jeff RutledgeRAM1979246113-44-15722.61
159Todd HusakWAS2000202151-10-16122.16
160Reggie McNealCIN20061931660-16622.95
161Jarious JacksonDEN2000214131-36-16623.33
162Chris ChandlerIND198876465296-16822.89
163Chuck ClementsNYJ19971911710-17123.92
164Colt BrennanWAS20081861760-17625.05
165J.T. O'SullivanNOR20021861760-17623.02
166Andy HallPHI20041851820-18223.76
167Dean CarlsonKAN19721791928-18422.09
168Randy WrightGNB198415324256-18623.64
169Kerwin BellMIA19881801870-18723.21
170Craig BradshawHOU19801821870-18723.05
171Bruce MathisonSDG1983272113-76-18924.35
172Mark ReedNYG1981207141-48-19022.53
173Doug HudsonKAN1987186176-18-19422.97
174Joe BarnesCHI1974316113-81-19422.73
175Sage RosenfelsWAS2001109348153-19623.49
176Mike NorsethCLE19861741970-19722.03
177Seneca WallaceSEA2003110348148-20023.07
178David HummOAK197512829893-20523.41
179Jim MillerPIT1994178192-19-21123.56
180Babe LaufenbergWAS19831682120-21223.74
181Steve RamseyNOR197012630391-21222.36
182Shawn MooreDEN1991284113-99-21323.41
183Dennis DixonPIT200815623217-21523.64
184Moses MorenoCHI1998232113-103-21722.99
185Terry NugentCLE198415823215-21722.74
186Bobby ScottNOR1971340113-105-21922.41
187Tony AdamsSDG1973343113-107-22023.48
188Erik AingeNYJ20081622220-22222.22
189Mike CherryNYG1997171207-17-22423.71
190Drew HensonHOU2003192166-57-22423.55
191Brian St. PierrePIT2003163222-4-22623.76
192Steve JoachimBAL19751602270-22723.46
193Tom DunivenCIN19771602270-22723.29
194Reggie CollierDAL1983162222-7-22922.3
195Paul JustinCHI1991190171-58-23023.29
196Steve BradleyCIN1986316113-121-23523.13
197Brian McClureBUF1986313113-122-23522.68
198Gino TorrettaMIN1993192166-74-24123.06
199Steve BonoMIN198514226222-24123.31
200A.J. FeeleyPHI2001155237-4-24124.3
201Dennis MorrisonSFO1973357113-128-24122.29
202Frank ReichBUF198557561316-24523.74
203Erik WilhelmCIN198983440193-24623.78
204Joe ReedSFO1971283113-134-24723.65
205Stan GelbaughDAL19861502470-24723.74
206Jeff RoweCIN20071512470-24723.45
207Mike KelleyATL19821492470-24722.67
208Don StrockMIA197311134395-24922.76
209Jeff FrancisRAI198914026818-24923.15
210Kevin SweeneyDAL1987180187-65-25123.79
211Ingle MartinGNB20061482520-25224.05
212Kordell StewartPIT199560541288-25222.87
213Josh McCownARI200281445192-25323.16
214Frank PatrickGNB1970251113-142-25523.48
215Brent PeaseMIN1987295113-143-25722.9
216Kerry CollinsCAR1995513401080-26022.67
217Jeff GeorgeIND1990118611601-26022.73
218Carlos BrownGNB1975296113-148-26123.09
219John WitkowskiDET1984160227-37-26422.21
220Vince EvansCHI19771402681-26722.22
221Ken DorseySFO2003241113-154-26822.36
222Sam AdkinsSEA1977254113-156-26922.28
223Tee MartinPIT2000163222-47-26922.11
224John David BootyMIN20081372780-27823.66
225Norris WeeseRAM19749937999-28023.06
226Bill MusgraveDAL199110635978-28123.81
227David NorrieSEA1986291113-170-28322.75
228Bruce GradkowskiTAM2006194166-117-28323.59
229Jordan PalmerWAS2007205146-143-28923.26
230Ben BennettATL1984148252-43-29522.33
231Rob HertelCIN1978131293-3-29623.53
232Chris SimmsTAM20039738985-30423.01
233Cody CarlsonHOU198764521216-30423.82
234Tony GrazianiATL1997204146-158-30423.69
235John NavarreARI2004202151-163-31523.98
236Chuck FusinaTAM1979133288-27-31522.25
237Craig KuppNYG1990135283-35-31823.38
238Rohan DaveyNWE200211732810-31824.38
239Dean MayMIA1984138273-45-31822.27
240Kevin KolbPHI200736708386-32123.02
241Alex Van PeltPIT1993216131-192-32323.34
242Dave BarrPHI1995119323-3-32623.31
243Brad SmithNYJ200610336941-32822.72
244Brock HuardSEA199977460123-33723.38
245Scott SeculesDAL1988151247-90-33723.81
246Matt RobinsonNYJ1977227113-224-33822.18
247Luke McCownCLE200410635915-34423.14
248Cody PickettSFO2004217126-218-34424.17
249Pat BarnesKAN19971103480-34822.52
250Dan ManucciBUF1979116328-24-35221.99
251Anthony DilwegGNB198974475116-35924.43
252Mark MangesRAM19781053640-36422.64
253Cary ConklinWAS19908642460-36422.51
254Perry KleinATL1994111343-21-36523.44
255Doug GaynorCIN19869937910-36923.16
256Isaiah StanbackDAL20071033690-36923.04
257Jeff ChristensenCIN1983137278-93-37123.65
258Joe TheismannMIA1971993796-37321.98
259Billy Joe HobertRAI199358551178-37322.65
260Mark HerrmannDEN19819838411-37322.65
261Hugh MillenRAM198671490116-37422.78
262Danny KanellNYG1996130293-104-39722.78
263Troy TaylorNYJ19908443531-40422.41
264Joe GermaineSTL1999101374-31-40524.06
265Cliff OlanderSDG1977128298-107-40522.3
266Kevin O'ConnellNWE200894399-9-40823.27
267Chris RedmanBAL20007547053-41723.15
268Michael VickATL2001118611444-41821.18
269Casey WeldonPHI1992102369-54-42223.58
270Jesse FreitasSDG1974133288-141-42922.98
271Doug NussmeierNOR1994116328-105-43423.72
272Mark VlasicSDG198788419-15-43423.85
273Steve StenstromKAN1995134283-157-43923.69
274Jonathan QuinnJAX199886424-16-44023.51
275Trent DilferTAM199461285840-44522.47
276Mike WellsMIN1973804500-45022.21
277John HufnagelDEN1973348113-345-45821.97
278Parnell DickinsonTAM1976183182-281-46223.47
279Josh JohnsonTAM2008160227-238-46522.3
280Rick McIvorSTL198480450-15-46523.93
281Craig PenroseDEN1976107354-134-48723.1
282Glenn CaranoDAL19775457688-48821.79
283Mike MachurekDET1982154237-254-49122.11
284Jesse PalmerNYG2001125308-184-49222.91
285Charlie WhitehurstSDG200681445-48-49324.07
286Danny WhiteDAL19745358181-50022.56
287Marc WilsonOAK198015991484-50723.54
288Mark MalonePIT198028789275-51321.78
289Donald HollasCIN199199379-137-51623.78
290Randy DeanNYG1977117328-189-51722.23
291Tom FlickWAS198190409-114-52323.01
292J.P. LosmanBUF200422865336-52923.47
293Jeff HostetlerNYG19845954615-53123.36
294Scott ZolakNWE199184435-97-53223.72
295Wayne ClarkSDG1970198156-379-53523.26
296Craig KrenzelCHI2004148252-284-53623.17
297Randy FasaniCAR2002137278-274-55123.95
298Ryan FitzpatrickSTL2005250113-442-55522.77
299Dave RagoneHOU200388419-136-55623.91
300Tom TupaPHO198868500-57-55722.57
301Todd CollinsBUF19954563778-55923.82
302David JaynesKAN197466510-51-56121.72
303Kurt KittnerATL2002158232-333-56522.61
304Jeff LewisDEN1996100379-200-57923.38
305Chris WeinkeCAR2001106359-220-57929.09
306Mike KruczekPIT19764762235-58623.47
307Kyle BollerBAL200319910320-59022.21
308Steve MyerSEA197693399-203-60222.13
309Mike BorylaCIN197487424-183-60723.49
310Matt LeinartARI2006101118508-60923.31
311Brodie CroyleKAN200685429-183-61223.57
312Bill CapplemanMIN197051596-17-61323.47
313Wade WilsonMIN1981210141-476-61722.58
314Guy BenjaminMIA197851596-23-61923.18
315Rusty HilgerRAI1985143262-362-62423.32
316Jerry GolsteynNYG1976333113-512-62622.07
317Mike KirklandBAL1976143262-364-62722.18
318Mike McMahonDET2001149247-386-63322.56
319Craig WhelihanSDG1995197161-477-63824.38
320Carl SummerellNYG197480450-194-64322.74
321Marques TuiasosopoOAK200159546-104-65022.45
322Jeff KomloDET1979231113-547-66023.09
323Peter Tom WillisCHI199063526-144-67023.66
324Mark MillerCLE197868500-170-67022.05
325Jeff CarlsonRAM1989102369-309-67823.28
326Ron JaworskiRAM19733769814-68422.44
327Oliver LuckHOU198244642-61-70322.41
328Richard ToddNYJ197661285568-71622.78
329Leo HartATL197159546-178-72422.5
330Todd MarinovichRAI199124839113-72622.16
331Spergon WynnCLE2000183182-546-72822.06
332Tony SaccaPHO199246627-101-72822.38
333Matt BlundinKAN199240672-62-73423.49
334Steve FullerKAN197923849115-73522.65
335Gary KeithleySTL197345637-104-74122.64
336Stoney CaseARI199580450-303-75323.15
337Bobby HoyingPHI199685429-331-76023.95
338Tom HodsonNWE199059546-221-76723.59
339Drew StantonDET200743647-124-77123.32
340Randy HedbergTAM1977196161-616-77822.68
341Mike ElkinsKAN198932743-48-79123.12
342Will FurrerCHI1992107354-440-79424.57
343Brian BrohmGNB200856566-229-79522.94
344John BeckMIA200740672-130-80226.03
345Kellen ClemensNYJ200649607-218-82523.24
346Scott BullSFO1976177192-637-82923.23
347Jeb BlountOAK197650601-242-84322.14
348Joey HarringtonDET200231507662-84523.86
349Brady QuinnCLE2007228651-86422.84
350Charlie FryeCLE200567505-365-87124.01
351Jim PlunkettNWE197111861987-87523.74
352Browning NagleNYJ199134723-176-89923.34
353Lynn DickeyHOU197156566-345-91221.87
354Cade McNownCHI1999121062131-93122.63
355Gary MarangiBUF197470490-450-94022.09
356Matt KoflerBUF198248612-329-94023.01
357Tim CouchCLE199911861899-96222.09
358Chuck LongDET198612106284-97823.53
359Jim DruckenmillerSFO199726814-170-98424.95
360Danny WuerffelNOR199799379-608-98723.27
361Rusty LischSTL198089414-583-99723.7
362Steve PisarkiewiczSTL197719910-104-101423.81
363Dennis ShawBUF197030763-286-105023.5
364Pat SullivanATL197240672-379-105122.62
365David CarrHOU200211861792-106923.12
366Phil SimmsNYG197971234146-108824.83
367Andrew WalterOAK200569495-599-109423.31
368Tommy MaddoxDEN199225824-291-111521
369Todd BlackledgeKAN19837123456-117822.51
370Jerry TaggeGNB1972111087-119-120622.39
371Andre WareDET199071234-2-123622.09
372John ReavesPHI1972141011-251-126222.5
373Dan McGwireSEA199116966-312-127823.7
374Kelly StoufferSTL198761285-180-146423.15
375Dan PastoriniHOU197131507-17-152422.27
376Jack ThompsonCIN197931507-42-154923.29
377Gary HuffCHI197333733-821-155422.35
378Vinny TestaverdeTAM198711861306-155523.8
379David KlinglerCIN199261285-292-157723.54
380Rich CampbellGNB198161285-297-158222.69
381Kim McQuilkenATL197469495-1276-177223.51
382Steve BartkowskiATL19751186145-181622.8
383Heath ShulerWAS199431507-330-183722.67
384Alex SmithSFO200511861-48-190921.32
385Art SchlichterBAL198241416-493-190922.35
386Rick MirerSEA199321639-278-191723.46
387Mike PhippsCLE197031507-484-199122.78
388Archie ManningNOR197121639-379-201722.29
389JaMarcus RussellOAK200711861-236-209722.06
390Akili SmithCIN199931507-631-213824.03
391Terry BradshawPIT197011861-311-217222
392Ryan LeafSDG199821639-882-252122.3

Next, I plotted each quarterback on a graph, with age on the X-axis and the Differential column (value over replacement over expectation) on the Y-axis. Note that Dan Marino’s data point is off the chart, but he was included in the underlying file.

age qb draft

It’s pretty easy to see that there’s no relationship between age and draft selection. If teams undervalued age, then more of the dots would be up and to the left; if teams overvalued age, then there would be a disproportionate number of dots down and to the right. I’ve included a best-fit trendline in a thick black line, and as you can see, it essentially rides along the expectation line, confirming that NFL teams have not been under- or over-valuing age.

This doesn’t mean that age is irrelevant, but rather that NFL teams are properly balancing age with every other variable. If you believe the draft is an efficient market, this would reinforce that belief. Players like Michael Vick, Alex Smith, and Drew Bledsoe were first overall picks in part because of their age. So if Tyler Bray gets drafted earlier than you might expect, that’s a sign that an NFL team considers his track record in connection with his youth. On the other hand, if he falls in the draft, it’s unlikely that it’s because NFL teams ignore his age: it just means that his youth can’t compensate for his other issues. Mock drafters and draftniks may undervalue age (at least, in my opinion) but it doesn’t appear that NFL teams are guilty of the same mistake.

  1. The highest drafted quarterback never to appear in a game since 1970 was Arkansas State’s Gene Bradley, who was selected with the 37th pick by the Bills in 1980. []
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