The Rookie Class of 2013: A Comparison of Drafted vs. Undrafted Quarterbacks

Photo By: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

Photo By: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

Drafted QB Class of 2013

Overall Pick
EJ ManuelBills116
Geno SmithJets239
Mike GlennonBucs373
Matt BarkleyEagles498
Ryan NassibGiants4110
Tyler WilsonRaiders4112
Landry JonesSteelers4115
Brad SorensonChargers7221
Zac DysertBroncos7234
B.J. Daniels49ers7237
Sean RenfreeFalcons7249

Two men who didn’t hear their names called by the Commissioner during the 2013 NFL Draft started games this season for NFL teams: Matt McGloin for the Raiders and Jeff Tuel for the Bills. From a quarterback class considered weak by many pundits, 11 quarterbacks were selected during the 2013 draft. Of those quarterbacks, only EJ Manuel, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon have started games for their team this season. A comparison of those drafted rookie quarterbacks with the two undrafted free agent rookie quarterbacks who have started a game this season further proves the unpredictability of the NFL draft. Let’s take a look at where McGloin and Tuel stand in comparison to their drafted 2013 rookie classmates.

Drafted Rookie Quarterback Avg. Stats

EJ Manuel
Geno Smith
Mike Glennon
Games Played7107

Drafted Rookie QBs

In his seven starts with the Bucs, Mike Glennon has been the most successful of his quarterback draft class thus far. Glennon’s average completion rate is 62.1%, which puts him above the league average 61.4%. Glennon has a lot to work on in the red zone, as he has the fifth lowest completion percentage among all quarterbacks at 44.1%. He also has the second lowest yards per attempt on third down, behind only fellow rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. Although the Bucs are effectively eliminated from playoff contention, they would be wise to continue to develop Glennon throughout this season and the offseason to see if he is the franchise quarterback they are hoping for.

The Bills can rest easy for now knowing that their first round draft pick, EJ Manuel, has flashed potential of turning into the franchise QB they so desperately need. Manuel has had an efficient rookie season with the Bills so far, with an average completion percentage of 58.5%, just under the league average. Since coming back from his injury in week 10, Manuel has looked solid but still has a lot of work to do, especially in the area of third down completions, where he ranks fourth lowest overall, at only 50%.

Geno Smith has been the Jets starter since day one, taking over for Mark Sanchez who suffered a season ending injury in the preseason. Jets fans and analysts alike were unconvinced that Smith would be ready to be a productive player in his first year. Taking a look at his season so far, it seems like they were right. Smith has the worst average completion percentage of the rookie bunch with only 56.3% (tied with Matt McGloin), compared to a league average of 61.4%. With 16 interceptions this season, Smith is trailing only Eli Manning for the league high – must be something in the New York water. This week in Buffalo, Smith had the lowest completion percentage and quarterback rating in a game of any quarterback this season with at least 20 attempts.

Undrafted Rookie Quarterback Stats

Jeff Tuel
Matt McGloin

Undrafted Rookie QBs

While these numbers are potentially skewed due to the small sample size, the one full game played by each of these quarterbacks might give an early indication of their potential. It is worth taking into account that these numbers may be disfavorable to Tuel and McGloin as an indicator of their true success because of the fact that the entire sample came from their first NFL starts.  They had no opportunity to get comfortable on the NFL stage, whereas the drafted rookies they are being compared to have played between seven and ten games, thus evening out the first game jitters across the board.

Jeff Tuel started for the Bills in week 9 against Kansas City after EJ Manuel suffered a knee injury the previous week.  A look at Tuel’s stats below explains why he is a third stringer. With EJ Manuel healthy, the Bills would be best off with him as their starter as Tuel’s one-game passer rating and completion percentage place him at the bottom of the quarterback standings. Thad Lewis would be the better option for the Bills at this point if something were to happen to Manuel.

Matt McGloin is the more interesting of the two undrafted rookie free agent quarterbacks as he may actually give Coach Dennis Allen a quarterback controversy to deal with or atleast something for the Oakland beat writers to get excited about. In week 11 when Matt McGloin started for the Oakland Raiders, he became the second undrafted free agent rookie to start an NFL game this season. McGloin started ahead of drafted quarterback Tyler Wilson (4th round) for Oakland. In his first start, McGloin stepped in for an injured Terrelle Pryor and led the Raiders to a 28-23 victory over the Texans and their first road win of the season. McGloin went 18 of 32 for 197 yards while throwing three TDs and zero picks. His one-game rating is the highest of the rookie class, drafted or undrafted, and is nearly twice as high as Geno Smith’s season average.

A look at the numbers, albeit skewed due to the small sample size for McGloin, would point to keeping the undrafted rookie at quarterback. However, third year veteran Pryor started the season hot and just one game by McGloin is not enough evidence to strip Pryor of his starting spot or make any long-term decisions. That being said, it is hard to ignore the game that McGloin had last week and at the very least, he showed the coaches that he has the potential to make smart plays and lead his team. This should earn him a fair shot if Pryor comes back either next week or the week after and fails to perform. At this moment, Allen is yet to announce a starter for week 12 but has stated publicly that McGloin is being considered. With the Raiders chances of getting a playoff spot at a mere 1.7% , if Pryor is less than 100%, it might be worth it to test the rookie and see if he might be worth developing further for the future.


Overall, these comparisons tell us what we already know. The NFL draft can be a crapshoot and the undrafted free agent acquisitions by teams can be just as important as the seven rounds in April. Rookie quarterbacks who start in their first season, with the obvious exceptions of Luck and RGIII, are typically not NFL ready without having the opportunity to spend time and learn behind a veteran. With starts like these, these teams should be happy with their draft choices and optimistic about the future. Well, everyone but the Jets.


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