Analyzing Kevin Hogan: How does the QB compare to other 1st-round NFL QBs as freshmen?

USA TODAY Sports

The redshirt freshman energized Stanford's offense last season, but can he compare to other first-round talents who played as freshmen?

Sometimes in football, you can only go as far as your quarterback takes you. For Stanford football in 2012, that was the case.

Odds are, it’ll be the same in 2013. The most important indicator for the Stanford team this fall is the offense -- and the most important indicator for the offense is the passing offense. It’s maybe only a bit overstated to say as goes the Stanford passing offense -- in terms of efficiency and threat, not in pure giddy yardage -- so goes the team.

So this missive from the Twitter machine of Bruce Feldman is fairly nice:

Spoke to NFL personnel guy. Sees #Stanford QB Kevin Hogan as a future 1st RDer: "Great pocket awareness, anticipation & size. Good feet."

The passing offense suffered from two problems last year: on average, QB play was mediocre; playmaker play was quite bad. If you see Hogan as a future first rounder, then problem one is solved. But is our anonymous NFL personnel guy thinking in the right direction? After all, there have been tons of QBs anointed and canonized before losing that halo -- Matt Barkley, for example, was allegedly a top-ten pick at this time last year. This sort of anonymous speculation now is only a bit more helpful than, well, a random dude’s off the street.

Let’s put it this way: how does Hogan compare to previous first-round QB picks who received significant playing time (arbitrary dividing line: over 100 passes attempted) as freshmen? I’ve done the work for first-round QBs dating back to the 2006 draft (asterisks denote players who started as true freshmen):

YPA Yards (rushing) YPC TD% INT%
Kevin Hogan 7.21 263 4.8 5.92 1.97
EJ Manuel* 7.6 195 4.45 1.88 5.66
Andrew Luck 8.9 354 5.71 4.51 1.39
Robert Griffin III* 7.8 843 4.87 5.62 1.12
Jake Locker* 6.3 986 5.73 4.27 4.57
Sam Bradford 9.2 7 .23 10.56 2.34
Matt Stafford* 6.8 191 4.1 2.73 5.08
Josh Freeman* 6.6 -21 -.4 2.22 5.56
Brady Quinn* 5.5 25 -.5 2.71 4.52
Vince Young* 8.1 998 7.4 4.2 4.9
Jay Cutler 6.8 393 3.2 4.72 4.46

So, what can we conclude? Remember Hogan’s statistics are distorted by his only playing the back half -- the more treacherous half -- of the season. Still, there’s a clear separation between Hogan and the really exceptional quarterbacks here -- Vince Young, Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck. And Hogan is second-lowest in terms of yards per attempt among redshirt freshmen in our sample.

On the other hand, Hogan was a respectable threat on the ground and had good touchdown and interception ratios. In terms of production as freshmen, I’d guess Hogan is slightly behind pace -- but then again, judging too early is pretty foolish. (Then again, there’s a clear survivorship bias here. Viewing the guys who started as freshmen and then ended up as first-round picks is pretty select company.)

So while I’m a bit skeptical of our anonymous personnel guy’s take, I do think it’s valuable -- the unusual situation that Hogan found himself in makes it hard to do one-to-one quantitative comparisons. A good scouting eye is especially valuable. Let’s hope Feldman’s source has a pair of those. And that Kevin Hogan proves him right.

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