Jameis Winston is obviously a controversial NFL Draft prospect for reasons that have nothing to do with the football field. But there has been something noticeable about his performance on the field this year. He has thrown 17 interceptions on 392 passes. That is an interception rate of 4.3%. In the NFL that is an extremely high rate. For reference, Geno Smith is at 4.3% this season. That is a really high rate of interceptions. It has been a consistent issue too. Winston has thrown at least 1 pick in 9 of his 11 starts this season.
I wondered whether this set Winston apart among recent high NFL Draft quarterback prospects. It did indeed. I crunched the numbers of the final college season of every quarterback I could find drafted in the first three rounds over the past decade. The final college season is when in theory these players will be developmentally as close to finished as they will be before entering the NFL. Through a combination of working by hand and transcribing, I found that Winston has a higher interception rate this season than any quarterback drafted in the top three rounds since 2004 did in his final college year. It isn't even close. The quarterback nearest to him was Trent Edwards who was a half point lower at 3.8%, a fairly substantial difference. Only 11 of the 59 I found (18%) were even at 2.8%, a point and a half lower.
This does seem somewhat alarming since there is a certain point at which a quarterback turns the ball over too frequently to be effective.
That's not great company to be in. Stanton got some hype early in the year because he was playing on a Cardinals team that was winning, but he hasn't had a successful career. Mallett, Glennon, Tannehill, and Manziel are too early in their careers to judge. From the rest you have one success story (Ryan) and six unsuccessful stories (Edwards, Stanton, Losman, Henne, Young, and Whitehurst). It doesn't necessarily follow that a low inteception rate leads to NFL success. Players like Jimmy Clausen, Brady Quinn, Kellen Clemens (sign), Geno Smith (double sigh), and Tim Tebow (triple sigh) could tell you that. High interception rates might be an indicator a player will have a tough time finding success on the next level, though.
Can Jameis improve? Of the 51 quarterbacks who threw at least 200 passes, I found only 10 of them (19%) had their interception rate go down. That makes sense. The opponents on the next level are more skilled and the defenses more sophisticated. The supporting cast is also better, but in general quarterbacks have more to do with interceptions than the supporting cast.
|Player||Final College Yr.||NFL Career||Difference|
Only 6 of the original 51 managed to drop their interception rate by half a point. It is encouraging at least that three of our players above made that list, and a fourth dropped his albeit by less than half a point. Winston hitting this mark would still leave him at a too high 3.8%.
Now there are obviously some other things to consider. Winston's interception rate last season as a freshman was a much lower 2.6%. He also potentially could have up to three games left to lower this rate.
Maybe it speaks to Winston's on field talent that he's being considered for such a high pick. even with the interception issues considered. One reason his interception rate stands out is probably that most players who throw that many interceptions aren't considered skilled enough for a high pick.
This is but one measurement. This alone should be be considered the entire process. Still, this is rather glaring and something that probably should be part of the evaluation and a very real concern.
Below is the entire list for you.
|Player||Final College Season Interception %||NFL Interception %||NFL Passes|
|Robert Griffin III||1.4||2.1||968|
*Sam Bradford was injured for most of his third and final year at Oklahoma so his second year was used.
**Much work was done by hand. Apologies for any potential errors.