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The Quarterback Prediction Problem: Forecasting the Performance of College Quarterbacks Selected in the NFL Draft


  • Wolfson Julian

    (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities)

  • Addona Vittorio

    (Macalester College)

  • Schmicker Robert H

    (University of Washington)


National Football League (NFL) teams spend substantial time and money trying to predict which college quarterbacks eligible to be drafted into the NFL will have successful professional careers. But despite this investment of resources, it is common for quarterbacks to perform much better or worse than anticipated. Prior work on this quarterback prediction problem has concluded that NFL teams are poor at determining which quarterbacks are likely to be successful based on information available prior to the draft. However, these analyses have generally focused only on quarterbacks who played in the NFL, ignoring those who were drafted but did not appear in a professional game. Using data on all quarterbacks drafted since 1997, we considered the problem of predicting NFL success as defined by two metrics (games played and Net Points), based on when a quarterback was drafted and his performances in college and at the NFL Combine. Our analyses suggest that college and combine statistics have little value for predicting whether a quarterback will be successful in the NFL. Contrary to previous work, we conclude that NFL teams aggregate pre-draft informationincluding qualitative observationsquite effectively, and their inability to consistently identify college quarterbacks who will excel in the professional ranks is a consequence of random variability in future performance due to factors which are unlikely to be observable.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfson Julian & Addona Vittorio & Schmicker Robert H, 2011. "The Quarterback Prediction Problem: Forecasting the Performance of College Quarterbacks Selected in the NFL Draft," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 7(3), pages 1-22, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:jqsprt:v:7:y:2011:i:3:n:12

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