Which young QB is poised to become a superstar?
The next step
Which young QB is poised to become a superstar?
Posted: Thursday June 9, 2005 5:03PM; Updated: Thursday June 9, 2005 5:29PM
Carson Palmer had a 77.3 passer rating in his first season as a starter for the Bengals.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
In my never-ending effort to illuminate the NFL, get an early edge for my fantasy team and fill column space in June, I began an exhaustive statistical analysis to figure out who will be the next superstar quarterback in the NFL.
There had to be a sabermetric trend that forecasts when QBs make the leap from promising to Pro Bowler. I pulled out my Texas Instruments calculator with scientific notation, packed enough food and water to last three days, and headed off to the SI library.
After spending hours combing through every statistics book I could find, the numbers revealed an overwhelming truth: I couldn't find a trend. Quarterbacks take seemingly random paths to stardom. Some start off brilliant (Dan Marino, Daunte Culpepper), some take off in their second season (Peyton Manning, Joe Montana) and some need a few years to get going (see Brett Favre, Dan Fouts).
After the numbers failed to teach me anything, I decided I had only one option: Go straight to the source -- Dr. Z. If there's a trend, SI.com's Paul Zimmerman has already charted it extensively.
"You're wasting your time," he said. "There's no telling when the light bulb will come on for a quarterback. I've looked before. It just happens or it doesn't."
I told Z that theory wasn't going to impress anyone. I wanted cold, hard numbers ... stats with acronyms no one had ever heard of like DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).
What Dr. Z could offer was plenty of advice on where to find a good pinot noir in New Zealand and more realistic pointers on how to tell when a QB is on the verge of making it big. He said to forget about the numbers and see if the quarterback starts to develop poise. As QBs get good, they don't scramble as much, they understand their progressions and get rid of the ball quicker. If a quarterback knows how to stay with a play and when to bail, the numbers will soon follow.
Currently, there is a clear-cut class of elite young QBs -- Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper -- with Michael Vick falling into a category of his own somewhere right below them. Another group of younger veterans have had success, but not consistently (Drew Brees, Aaron Brooks, Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger), and Ben Roethlisberger had a surprising gem of a rookie year.
This year, another group of young quarterbacks have a chance to make a big leap. Statistically, however, it's not likely more than one or two of them will become stars. Here's my take, with a little help from the good doctor, on which QB has the best chance to break out.
1. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer had a 96.8 passer rating over his last six starts of 2004 -- a stretch that included games against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England. It's a mistake to dismiss Palmer just because he faces the brutal defenses of the AFC North. He lit up the Ravens in Week 13 (29-of-36, 382 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT), and had moderate success against against a Pittsburgh defense that might take a step back this year.
The offseason was positive for Palmer, who is reportedly totally recovered from a knee sprain that ended his season two weeks early. The Bengals re-signed WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh and RB Rudi Johnson, maintaining Palmer's potent stable of targets. The No. 1 overall pick in 2003, Palmer has the pedigree, the supporting cast and the right coaching staff. Even if the Bengals struggle to make the playoffs in this ultra-competitive division, Palmer will stand out and earn a trip to Honolulu.
2. David Carr, Houston Texans: Carr has steadily improved throughout his three seasons. The sacks still remain a problem (140 over the last three years), however, so the coaching staff has been focused on getting the ball out of Carr's hands faster. Expect receivers to run more timing routes and for coach Dom Capers to hound Carr to get rid of it.
Like Palmer, Carr has an impressive supporting cast, with RB Domanick Davis and WR Andre Johnson. The big question mark is the line, which has been a problem since the Texans' inception. Houston still needs help left tackle, its Achilles heel since picking an injured Tony Boselli in the 2002 expansion draft. Carr has had accuracy problems at times, but that might be because of the constant pressure.
3. J.P. Losman, Buffalo Bills: Losman is in the same situation Palmer faced in Cincinnati -- being promoted to starter despite not getting an opportunity to play his rookie season. You can't have a bigger question under center mark than the former Tulane star. Everyone knows about his athleticism but no one can guess how his decision-making skills will fare in a real-life situation. There are all sorts of glowing reports out of Buffalo training camp, but those amount to nothing for a quarterback with no NFL experience.
One reason to have high hopes for Losman is the offense around him. The Bills exploded for more than 30 points in six of their last seven games and RB Willis McGahee and WR Lee Evans were unstoppable down the stretch. Any kind of prediction is simply a guess for Losman, but his development will likely be one of the most interesting stories of the early season.
Manning vs. Manning
Comp. Att. Pct. Yards Y/A TD INT
Peyton 326 575 56.7 3,739 6.5 26 28
Eli 95 197 48.2 1043 5.3 6 9
4. Eli Manning, New York Giants: It's tempting to compare Eli to Peyton and predict the Giants QB will make the same kind of jump his brother did. Like Peyton, Eli ended his rookie year on a high note, with exceptional performances in two of his last three games. But some of Eli's earlier games -- when the Giants were theoretically still in the playoff hunt -- were as bad as a QB can have (he had a 0 rating against the Ravens and a 16.9 rating against Philly).
Manning is probably the biggest question mark on the list. With no veteran hanging over his shoulder, he'll have every opportunity to succeed, which is good because he has another year of mistakes in him. Look for Manning to have much more success with the deep ball this year, but his overall game will need more time.
5. Byron Leftwich, Jacksonville Jaguars: Unlike the other QBs on this list, Leftwich doesn't need a breakthrough season for his team go far. Defense will carry the Jags and Leftwich has to concentrate on avoiding turnovers. That being said, Leftwich seems to have a lot of problems getting Jacksonville down the field and his supporting cast has several issues this year. There are rumors star RB Fred Taylor is having difficulty recovering from offseason knee surgery, and at the time the time this was written a deal for Shaun Alexander was still a big maybe. Despite picking wideouts with their last two first-round picks, they don't have a receiver that scares defenses. Reggie Williams -- the No. 9 overall pick in the '04 draft -- struggled last season, while this year's first-rounder, Matt Jones, has been hampered by hamstring injuries and still has to learn the position.
Leftwich's numbers plummeted after he suffered a knee injury last season, and he ended up with less than 150 yards passing in each of his last three games. His numbers will go up, but never high enough to merit stardom. That doesn't mean the Jaguars won't win a lot of games with Leftwich at the helm. It's not like Jim McMahon ever had good stats with the Bears.
6. Joey Harrington, Detroit Lions: In theory, Harrington's in the kind of position Culpepper was in his first year as a starter in Minnesota: An offense with receivers so physically gifted, all a QB has to do is throw the ball downfield and high and he has a touchdown. With Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and rookie Mike Williams, the Lions have three of the most physically gifted young wideouts in the game. Then again, Rogers can't stay healthy and Mike Williams is a rookie who hasn't played in two years.
Like many Detroit fans and the many media members who ask Steve Mariucci if he is really dedicated to Harrington as his starter, I fall into the doubter camp for the former Oregon star. There are moments when Harrington looks good, but he has so far to go in such a short time. Because even if Mariucci won't admit it, the Lions are thinking playoffs this year and will have no patience to develop their fourth-year QB.
7. Kyle Boller, Baltimore Ravens: Boller has as little leeway as a third-year QB can have. All the pieces around him are close to Super Bowl-level -- at least on paper -- and Boller will get the blame if Baltimore doesn't win big. In Boller's favor, his numbers went up from his rookie year to his second season -- mainly because they had no other direction to go. And he was without RB Jamal Lewis, TE Todd Heap and offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden for big chunks last season.
The Ravens drafted Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton and signed Derrick Mason this offseason. Although new receivers could help Boller immensely, the additions also remove one of his biggest excuses. Boller has a huge target on the back of his jersey from both the fans and the media, and he just might not have decision-making skills and accuracy to succeed.
Other young QB to keep an eye on
Billy Volek, Tennessee Titans: A tough kid who is one of Dr. Z's favorites and put up monster numbers when Steve McNair was hurt last season. The only problem is he might not get another chance to show his stuff this season.
Drew Henson, Dallas Cowboys: The former Yankee and Michigan star is currently fighting with Tony Romo for the No. 2 job. You have to figure Jerry Jones will push Bill Parcells to give that spot to Henson and at some point starter Drew Bledsoe will get hurt. The Cowboys have a chance to be good this season, so maybe Henson could step in and be a big surprise.
Alex Smith, 49ers: Smith deserves mention since he went No. 1 overall. But this is a tough spot; he has no offensive weapons around him to distract defenses and will likely be introduced to plenty of pass-rushers early in his career.
RE: Which young QB is poised to become a superstar?
... well, their teams have to win first, but both Palmer and Carr... Carr more than Palmer, I would say...
..but again, depends on their teams winning...
Re: RE: Which young QB is poised to become a superstar?
Re: RE: Which young QB is poised to become a superstar?
With a little O-line help, Carr could shine. Davis at RB should continue to take a little pressure off the passing game....
Boller is a talent. Perhaps everything will mesh for him and the Raven offense.
I'll probably be bashed for saying this, but my pick is Harrington. If his WR's stay healthy, I'd have to say he will have one of the best WR corps to throw to this season. He's gonna be a fantasy football steal!
Where was Brooks on the breakout list? LOL
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