Commentary

The confusion around Cam Newton

Numbers regarding experience work against Newton; but could the trend change?

Updated: April 12, 2011, 6:09 PM ET
By Aaron Schatz | Football Outsiders
Cam NewtonBrian Spurlock/US PresswireCam Newton will be drafted with only one year of starting D-I experience.

How important is college experience when it comes to judging NFL quarterback prospects? A couple of years ago, the answer seemed to be "very important," but the last few drafts have brought that theory into question.

In the six years from 1992 to 1997, only one quarterback was chosen in the first two rounds of the draft after starting at least 36 games in college: Steve McNair, who was a four-year starter at Division I-AA Alcorn State.

In the next six years, 1998 to 2003, eight quarterbacks with at least 36 college starts were chosen in the first two rounds of the draft. After years of drips and drabs, somebody had opened the spigot for experienced college quarterbacks.

Into this new environment, where top prospects had three or four years of college starting experience, is where we first introduced our "Lewin Career Forecast" quarterback projection system in 2006. The LCF projected the NFL success of any quarterback taken in the top two rounds using two numbers: college games started and career completion rate. We couldn't figure out a way to identify sleepers, because quarterbacks chosen at the end of the draft didn't really show any predictable patterns that differentiated between Tom Brady and Tee Martin. However, the LCF did a good job of figuring out where scouts went wrong and where they went right when it came to identifying quarterbacks at the top of the draft.