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Three Years or You Are Out

A few stats can help a team determine if they have a franchise quarterback or not. How does Sam Bradford compare to other quarterbacks in the league?

Finding a quarterback is incredibly tough in a league that thrives on quarterback play. Three years of play have been a good measuring stick for a quarterback. The Minnesota Vikings have several quarterbacks on their roster but Sam Bradford will likely be under center for the start of 2017 season. Bradford has faced criticism in his career, but evaluating his first three years would be a good place to see if those criticisms are warranted.

For evaluation’s sake, the focus will be on two statistics: Yards per Attempt, and QBR as stated by, as they have shown to be strongly correlated with quarterback success. Touchdowns and interceptions are used impetuously to measure a quarterback, but Per Luke Braun of that evaluation is flawed. Braun’s article Finding the Best QB Stat states that touchdowns and interceptions correlate poorly at predicting how well a quarterback is doing. There are many confounding variables that intrude on correlating the stat with good quarterback play (i.e. play calling, scheme, player personnel).

Bradford spent his first four years in St. Louis but due to injury only had two sixteen game seasons in his first three years. Below is how Bradford produced after his first three years…

2010: 6.0 Y/A, QBR 49.6

*2011: 6.1 Y/A, QBR 33.6

2012: 6.7 Y/A, QBR 54.4

The list below shows how Bradford compare to other quarterbacks Yards per Attempt of their first three years of play. Numbers will be listed for their first three years of play with at least 10 games played.

ESPN & Pro Football Reference

There are a few trends to note for these quarterbacks, in their first year they averaged 7.05 yards per attempt. There were a few exceptions but most quarterbacks were playing at a high level at the start of their career.

Quarterback rating or QBR was an incomplete stat for the quarterbacks that have been in the league before 2006. Despite missing data, one thing was consistent, quarterbacks averaged 59.04 QBR in their first year. There was a small decline for some quarterbacks in year two, an average of (-.47). This could explain why year three is looked at as the “big leap year”, there was slight regress in year two rather than a steady increase.

Although Bradford’s numbers were dangerously low compared to the average, he did show marginal improvement. Less than half of the stated quarterbacks regressed in yards per attempt where Bradford increased his numbers. Bradford’s QBR regression was in part due to injury, but only Matthew Stafford had worse numbers in those three years.

The criticism for Bradford is warranted, but there is a silver lining in Bradford’s numbers, he has been the same for most of his career. Consistency is an important factor when choosing to continuing on with a player. Bradford has proven to be steady even if some of his statistics hover around league average. Teams will continue to employ Bradford because he brings stability to a position that is hard to hit on. By year ten most quarterbacks don’t improve much marginally, but Bradford is finally surrounded by a cast that can elevate his play. Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford are similar quarterbacks, both in terms of arm talent and stats. Bradford will need to improve, but he is more than capable of showing marginal improvement.