Sam Dorward, a junior at Yale studying economics and statistics, believes it's unwise to play a rookie quarterback. Just don't tell that to the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, who plan to do exactly that with the top two picks in the 2012 NFL Draft on Thursday night, taking Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, respectively.
Dorward's statistical analysis, which covers more than a decade, shows that "benching quarterbacks during their rookie year causes them to play much better throughout their entire career." He argues that they complete a higher percentage of passes (6.5 per 100 passes) and have a higher defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) rating than quarterbacks who did start during their rookie year (by 9.5 points).
"Look at (New Orleans Saints quarterback) Drew Brees and (the Dallas Cowboys') Kyle Orton," Dorward said. "They completed about the same percentage of passes, threw about the same percentage of interceptions, and played about the same number of games at the same college. They took the starting spot for teams that had the same record in the previous year.
"But Kyle Orton started during his first season, while Drew Brees started during his second season. Orton's first season was a disaster, while Brees' first season was respectable. And Orton has never fully recovered. In his career, Brees has had a DVOA that is 20 points higher and a completion percentage that is 7.5 points higher."
NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt, the former general manager of the Cowboys, understands the rationale behind Dorward's studies. He's not sure it applies any longer.
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"I think eight to 10 years ago, that was a valid thing," Brandt said. "I think that now, the quarterback that comes to college, then to the NFL, is so much more advanced than before. They have the 7-on-7 scrimmages or workouts they do in the summertime even before they get to college.
"The quarterbacks who go into the colleges are so much more ready to play, and then the same thing happens when they come into the pros, so much more than just a few years ago."
Brandt once believed a quarterback needed 30 or more games in college before he was ready to play in the NFL -- whether immediately or soon after. That thinking has changed, too.
"I think, with (Cincinnati Bengals quarterback) Andy Dalton and (the Carolina Panthers') Cam Newton, you saw it last year, how it is beneficial to play right away," Brandt said. "Dalton led his team to the playoffs and Newton destroyed just about every rookie record previously set for quarterbacks."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press