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Sep 29, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson (8) throws a pass against the Texas A

Tyler Wilson: Performance in Perspective

With the success that my Geno Smith article had (and here it is) with breaking down the numbers from his college career, and more specifically his senior season, I’ve decided to go ahead and do the same thing for the top quarterback prospects coming out in the draft. Today, I turn my attention to a player that a lot of Chiefs fans think should be the first pick in the draft, or at least think should be the first pick in the draft after seeing Geno Smith’s and Mike Glennon’s bowl game performances.

The story of Wilson is an interesting one, and can’t be properly summed up by just discussing his senior year. Wilson got his opportunity to start when Ryan Mallett declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year. Mallett, who I considered one of the best quarterbacks coming out in that 2011 draft, unfortunately was rumored to have some less than desirable habits, and fell all the way to the 3rd round where he is now backing up Tom Brady for the foreseeable future. While Mallett might look back and consider declaring in 2011 a mistake, it has worked to the benefit of his backup, Wilson.

By declaring, it allowed Wilson two full seasons to impress, which he has. His numbers, however, have failed to match many of Mallett’s. In two seasons at Arkansas, Mallett was 491/814 (60.3%) for 7,496 yards, a 9.2 yards per attempt (YPA), with 62 TDs and 19 INTs. In Wilson’s two years as starter, he is 526/839 (62.7%) for 7,025 yards, an 8.4 YPA, 45 TDs and 19 INTs. Now maybe you understand why I was so high on Mallett (and yes, I use ‘high’ ironically).

This is where I’m going to interject briefly about Mallett and his potential availability. Rumors were making their rounds about the possibility of Michael Lombardi getting the nod for the Cleveland Browns GM position and one of his first acts would be to bring over Mallett from New England. If the Chiefs wanted to do something like this, while still drafting a QB to have a competition for the starter’s position – assuming both Cassel and Quinn won’t be retained – I would not hate the idea. Alright, enough with my Mallett-bating.

It’s impossible to talk about Wilson’s stats, however, without mentioning how different his team was from his junior to senior seasons. Wilson had his better year in 2011, going 277/438 (63.2%) for 3,638 yards, an 8.3 YPA, with 24 TDs and 6 INTs. That season, Wilson had wide receivers Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright who combined for 2,009 yards. They were all seniors, and were all drafted in last April’s draft in the 4th round. Without those receivers, Wilson’s production slipped, and only produced one receiver with over 350 yards receiving – Cobi Hamilton with 1,335 yards. Not to mention how shaky his offensive line looked compared to 2011. But the graduation of players wasn’t the biggest thing that likely effected the dipping of Wilson’s performance.

In April of 2012, Arkansas Head Coach Bobby Petrino was reportedly in a motorcycle accident (I say reportedly because I’ve heard conflicting reports of what actually happened from people from that area). Usually that would be no big deal, but it ended up revealing that he was not only in an adulterous relationship with a female member of his football staff, but also giving her illegal benefits. On April 10th, Petrino was fired from Arkansas, and less than two weeks later, John L. Smith, who was the Razorbacks special teams coach from 2009-2011, was named the head coach.

Petrino was a scumbag of a human being, but he was a good offensive-minded coach with NFL head coaching experience that was good at developing QBs. With him gone and Smith in, Wilson was forced to learn a new offense. This is a tall order for any QB, so a regression should have been expected. But let’s begin by breaking down the season Wilson had, which I will split into three parts.

First Four Games

  • vs. Jacksonville State, W 49-24
  • vs. ULM, was winning 21-7 before being knocked out with head injury
  • vs. #1 Alabama, missed game with head injury
  • vs. Rutgers, L 35-26

Arkansas was ranked #8 in the country after their opening win against Jacksonville State, but then it all went downhill from there. The Razorbacks would go on to be upset by ULM after Wilson never came out of the locker room after halftime, and then missed the following week against Alabama when his team was dismantled 52-0. He then came back only to suffer a loss to Rutgers. In those two and a half games Wilson played in, he was 50/86 (58%) for 982 yards, an 11.4 YPA, 8 TDs and 3 INTs.

Next Four Games

  • @ Texas A&M, L 58-10
  • @ Auburn, W 24-7
  • vs. Kentucky, W 49-7, game called due to weather with 5:08 in 3rd Quarter
  • vs. Ole Miss, L 30-27

Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks followed up three straight loses with another, this time to eventual Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. With the Aggies able to have their way with the Arkansas defense, Wilson had to throw early and often in that game. Wilson and the Hogs were able to bounce back with two straight wins over Auburn and Kentucky in which Wilson threw for five touchdowns against Kentucky before the game was called for severe weather with 5:08 left in the third quarter; who knows what his final numbers would have been if they hadn’t mercifully ended it. It then ended with a last second loss to Ole Miss in a game that wasn’t Wilson’s best. Overall, his numbers were 96/160 (60%) for 1,258 yards, a 7.9 YPA, 8 TDs and 4 INTs.

Last Four Games:

  • vs. Tulsa, W 19-15
  • @ #8 South Carolina, L 38-20
  • @ Mississippi State, L 45-14
  • vs. #7 LSU, L 20-13

Wilson’s senior campaign ended much as it began: in disappointment. While a win over a conference USA school got them to 4 wins and sorta/kinda kept their bowl berth hopes alive, three straight losses to SEC foes crushed any dreams at making the season a respectable one. During this time, Wilson was 101/153 (66%) for 1,133 yards, a 7.4 YPA, with 5 TDs and 6 INTs. As you can see, Wilson’s accuracy improved a whole 6% from the middle four games, while his YPA went down about half a yard, and nearly 4 yards lower than from his first three games. Wilson also threw more interceptions than touchdowns in the last third of the season.

Averages and Outliers

This was a section I did not have for my post on Geno Smith, and I think that was a mistake. While I did many number breakdowns, I think this section will help even further expand on the type of season Wilson, and the accompanying quarterbacks I will break down in the coming weeks, had.

On the season, Wilson averaged 22.63 pass attempts, 307.91 yards, 1.9 touchdowns and 1.18 interceptions per game. Compare that to his 21.31 pass attempts, 279.84 yards, 1.85 touchdowns and .46 interceptions per game in 2011. As you can see, his senior season was with mixed reviews, especially looking at that increase in interceptions from one year to the next, and a case can be made that he was trying to carry the team on his back too much. On his career (his two years as starter), Wilson averaged 21.91 pass attempts, 292.71 yards, 1.875 touchdowns and .79 interceptions per game. If you throw out Wilson’s outliers this season – being his best game and his worst game (which I made the Kentucky and Ole Miss games) – his averages look like this: 302 pass yards, 1.56 touchdowns and 1.22 interceptions.

And if you like ratios, then here we go: in Wilson’s senior season, he averaged an interception every 30.85 pass attempts and a touchdown every 19.1 pass attempts. In his junior year, those numbers were an interception every 73 pass attempts and a touchdown every 18.25 pass attempts. On his career, he averaged an interception every 44.16 pass attempts and a touchdown every 18.64.

The Opponents

It would be too easy to say that Wilson was 0-2 against teams that were ranked at the time they faced each other (remember, he didn’t play against Alabama) this season. It would also be too easy to say Wilson was a career 4-4 against ranked opponents, including a bowl victory over Kansas State in the 2011 Cotton Bowl. But then I’d be doing both you and myself a disservice by not digging deeper.

In 2012, Wilson faced five teams ranked within the top 50 for total defense in the FBS: Rutgers (10th), Ole Miss (46th), Tulsa (25th), South Carolina (11th), and LSU (8th). Against those teams, Wilson was 122/206 (59.2%) for 1,624 yards, a 7.9 YPA, for 8 TDs and 8 INTs. That breaks down as 324.8 passing yards, 1.6 TDs and 1.6 INTs a game. Wilson was 1-4 in those games.

Wilson also faced five teams from 56th to 79th in total defense in the FBS (in comparison, Geno Smith was able to face four teams ranked from 98th to 113th in total defense. Wilson was not that lucky). Those teams were Texas A&M (56th), Mississippi State (58th), Kentucky (60th), LA-Monroe (76th) and Auburn (79th). In those games, Wilson was 106/166 (63.9%) for 1,382 yards, 8.3 YPA, 10 TDs and 5 INTs. That breaks down as 276.4 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT per game. Wilson was 2-2 in games that he was able to finish (as I mentioned earlier, he didn’t return after halftime in the ULM game).

In Perspective

As I mentioned in the Geno Smith article, 4 wins for a quarterback taken in the first round is rare. For the first quarterback off the board in the last 10 years, those QBs average 10.3 wins in their final season. For QBs taken with the #1 pick, they average 11.4 wins in the final college season (including Sam Bradford’s junior year since he missed majority of senior year). And for first round QBs in general, the average wins for final college season are 9.6.

Wilson isn’t the only QB with first round potential that had an awful season in their final year before entering the NFL. Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, and J.P. Losman each lost five games in their final college season. You’d have to go back to 2002 when the Redskins drafted Patrick Ramsey with the 32nd overall pick to get a 1st round QB with 4 wins or less – Ramsey had 3. But hey, is there really much difference between four and five wins?

Much like Geno in West Virginia, Wilson’s defense held him back. While the Razorbacks offense averaged 23.5 points per game, the Razorbacks 73rd ranked total defense gave up an average of 30.4 points per game. Can’t win a lot of games when your team gives up more points than it scores (you can call that wisdom by Nathan).

Also, if you want a little more scouting and a little less numbers, here is B.J. Kissel’s case for Tyler Wilson from Arrowhead Pride. As he told me on twitter, if you take away 15-20% of his throws, Wilson would be the unquestioned #1 overall pick. Unfortunately you can’t, and bad decisions are what make his case unsure. And even though Arkansas didn’t participate in a bowl game this season, we won’t have to miss the opportunity to overreact about a single game performance because Wilson is the top quarterback prospect partaking in this year’s Senior Bowl, on January 26th, so there’s that to look forward to.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it and I hope I have time to break down at least two more quarterbacks.

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