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Rookie quarterbacks

Nix, Penix unusually good at avoiding sacks

If the mock drafts are to be believed, Bo Nix and Michael Penix won’t be among the first four quarterbacks drafted in April. But I notice that both of those Pac-12 quarterbacks in college were unusually good at getting rid of the ball.

Sack totals and sack rates are something I look at. They speak to decision making and playing style – I like guys who have shown they can quickly process and get the ball out of their hands. Justin Fields, as a recent example, was plagued by sacks at Ohio State, and that’s carried over to the pros (that’s been his No. 1 issue). Daniel Jones similarly had problems with sacks at Duke, and he’s been unable to shake those internal clock issues in the pros.

With Nix and Penix, they’ve been better at getting the ball out of their hands than any of the quarterbacks selected with top-15 picks in the last 10 years. Two years in a row, Nix has taken only 5 sacks all year. Penix took only 5 sacks in 2022, and just 11 in the just-completed season. They’ve both been sacked on fewer than 2 percent of their pass plays – most quarterbacks have been sacked over twice as often.

The three quarterbacks expected to be drafted right at the top of the draft, meanwhile, have all had issues with tending to take too many sacks. Caleb Williams last year wasn’t all that different than Fields in sack frequency, while Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels both also took plenty.

This is just one piece of the puzzle, of course. And college stats don’t always translate. Josh Allen took a ton of sacks at Wyoming but was the least-sacked quarterback in the league last year, while Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz didn’t take many in college and have had some problems with taking too many. But it looks to me like Nix and Penix grade out well in the pocket awareness category.

In the chart below, you’re seeing the final college seasons for quarterbacks selected with top-15 picks. For Nix, his 2022 numbers are similar. For Penix, he was sacked on less than 1 percent of his pass plays in 2022, which would be the best of anybody on the lis.

2023?Bo Nix54701.1%
2023?Michael Penix115551.9%
201612Deshaun Watson175792.9%
20222C.J. Stroud123893.0%
202015Mac Jones134023.1%
20141Jameis Winston174673.5%
201815Dwayne Haskins205333.6%
20152Carson Wentz82083.7%
20195Tua Tagovailoa102523.8%
20224Anthony Richardson143274.1%
20162Mitchell Trubisky204464.3%
20201Trevor Lawrence153344.3%
201610Patrick Mahomes275914.4%
20202Zach Wilson112364.5%
20221Bryce Young183804.5%
20181Kyler Murray183774.6%
20151Jared Goff265294.7%
20196Justin Herbert244285.3%
2023?• J.J. McCarthy193325.4%
201710Josh Rosen264515.5%
20173Sam Darnold294805.7%
20171Baker Mayfield264046.0%
20191Joe Burrow345276.1%
2023?• Jayden Daniels223276.3%
2023?• Drake Maye294256.4%
20142Marcus Mariota314456.5%
20186Daniel Jones283926.7%
20177Josh Allen222707.5%
2023?• Caleb Williams333887.8%
202011Justin Fields212258.5%
20202Trey Lance3309.1%

—Ian Allan

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