NFL Draft 2024: The Quarterbacks

By Will Morgan | March 22, 2024 | 3-minutes

NFL Draft 2024: The Quarterbacks

With the 2024 NFL draft a little over a month away, the football world is filled with speculation on the who, where and when of a much heralded quarterback class. Following the lead of our preview last year, we’re going to run the rule over these leading draft candidates, with as many as 6 QBs potentially going in the 1st round.

Below are the top-line numbers from the 2023 college season for each of the quarterbacks, sorted by their expected draft position from Grinding the Mocks. EPA is our old-friend Expected Points Added, while CPOE refers to Completion Percentage Over Expected.

Broadly speaking, we can separate them into two groups, with the more highly-rated prospects having displayed higher upside and utility with their legs than the likes of Bo Nix and Penix Jr. who are expected to go late in the first round / early second.

LSU’s Jayden Daniels was the efficiency king with a healthy CPOE to go with it, which saw his draft stock ascend over the 2023 season. The main knock against him has been his high career pressure-to-sack rate; while his sack rate is similar to his immediate peers in the expected top-10, his pressure rate was lower, which has led to concerns over how his game will translate to the NFL.

All of these prospects have displayed promising signs in terms of overall accuracy as measured by CPOE, with positive completion rates relative to expectation for all six QBs. Drake Maye’s relatively low +1.0% CPOE might represent a small concern, but his 2022 season mark was +6.5%, so there is a question of how much weight to put on his returns in 2023. Year-on-year, there was a greater emphasis on his passing game as he threw the ball further downfield with an increase from 9.3 to 10.5 air yards per attempt in 2023 compared to 2022. His trait radar illustrates that he scrambled and rushed less in 2023 - when he did tuck the ball, he was even more efficient in terms of EPA and yards gained.

Pass accuracy

While the top-line CPOE numbers above give us a broad indication of QB accuracy, we can go further and examine CPOE as a function of air yards to provide a fuller picture of how these prospects perform. The figure below shows their performance in the 2023 season. The relationship between CPOE and air yards is calculated by fitting a Generalized Additive Model between the two variables, with the central red line representing the mean and the shaded area the 90% confidence interval. Areas where the shaded regions overlap zero CPOE indicate less certainty in positive or negative performance in terms of CPOE vs air yards.

We can observe that some of the class have more consistent profiles across the air yard range, with Williams and Daniels putting up positive CPOE across this range while Maye is closer to average. McCarthy & Bo Nix peak in the mid-range between approximately 0-20 air yards, while Penix Jr. declines as he throws the ball down-field. Compared to last years’ top-prospects, this class is considerably stronger from a CPOE perspective, with C.J. Stroud being the only comparable prospect. Stroud had a similar profile to Caleb with positive CPOE across the board.

As noted earlier, Drake Maye’s CPOE dropped in the 2023 season compared to 2022, which does raise the question of stability. In the figure below, we compare college QB CPOE in the 2022 season with their CPOE in 2023, with the drafted QBs highlighted in blue. We can see that the relationship year-on-year is very noisy, with an R-squared value of 0.10 for those staying in college in 2023. For comparison, in the same dataset, the R-squared for EPA per play was 0.22.

Studies of CPOE stability in the NFL suggest R-squared values more than double that for a single season. We likely expect the relationship to be weaker in college, not least due to the lower sample size of throws over a season, but this is an important aspect to bear in mind when reading into college CPOE.

All of the QBs drafted into the NFL last season saw their CPOE drop as they rose into the professional ranks. Of this years’ class, Bo Nix was the most consistent year-on-year, while the rest of the class (excluding Maye) improved their accuracy in 2023.

Pass efficiency

Having examined the accuracy profile of this year's prospects, let’s turn our attention to how efficient they were when throwing the ball. The overall numbers were presented above, with Jayden Daniels and Bo Nix comfortably leading the way with 0.53 EPA per passing play.

To drill down further, the figure below compares their EPA against zone and man coverages using our automated coverage classification model. We include both the 2022 and 2023 seasons separately for both college and NFL, highlighting the top QBs in last years and this year's draft.

The stand-out data point here is Jayden Daniels' utterly absurd efficiency against zone coverages in the 2023 season. His efficiency against man coverages was close to identical in both seasons, while against zone, it sky-rocketed in 2023 from an average level in 2022. Daniels’ improvement against zone coverage was similar in magnitude against both cover 3 and cover 4 (the predominant zone coverages he faced). Obviously we would expect Daniels’ efficiency to drop in the NFL regardless of how he profiles here, but there isn’t really a comparable archetype in the professional game that is elite against zone while being average against man.

Broadly speaking, the rest of the draft class perform at similar levels against man and zone relative to Daniels’ extreme profile. Bo Nix separates from the pack here and most notably, he was particularly strong against cover 1 with an EPA per play of 0.81. This was more than double the 0.38 EPA per play put up by Michael Penix Jr in second place among this group.


From a statistical standpoint, the top-3 of Williams, Maye and Daniels all have strong facets to their passing game alongside their rushing and scrambling ability. Williams has been more consistent, Daniels took a huge leap in efficiency this past season while Maye’s performance levels in the passing game dropped somewhat. Weighing their differing trajectories is an important consideration for any draft analyst here, particularly when it comes to Daniels and Maye with the Bears strongly tipped to take Caleb at #1.

Outside the vaunted top-3 prospects, Bo Nix looks like the most intriguing option given his well rounded and elite pass efficiency numbers, plus a very promising and consistent accuracy profile. He hasn’t shown the same upside on the ground as his counterparts, but his low sack and sack-to-pressure rates points to an ability to avoid strongly negative plays. Based on his statistical profile, he could be an interesting pick for teams ready to take a swing on a quarterback.

By Will Morgan | March 22, 2024