Comparing Donovan McNabb, Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 07: Patrick Mahomes II
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 07: Patrick Mahomes II /
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Patrick Mahomes

With the tenth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Patrick Mahomes from the Texas Tech Red Raiders. For the first time in over 30 years, the Chiefs spent a first-round pick on a highly touted quarterback. Much of the 2017 season and the early 2018 offseason has focused on what it will look like once Mahomes finally takes the reigns. Given Mahomes’ propensity for play-making, his ridiculous physical talent, and his chance to have great coaching, Chiefs’ fans are understandably excited for this season. But, how does Mahomes compare to the situations Reid had with McNabb and Smith? Let’s take a look.

While at Texas Tech, Mahomes was nothing short of prolific. In his 32-game career, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 93 touchdowns, 29 interceptions, and 11,252 yards. Specifically, his final year he completed 66 percent of his passes for 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 5052 yards. In probably his most incredible performance of that year, Mahomes had 819 yards in total offense, seven touchdowns, and only one interception against the Oklahoma Sooners.  These stats indicate that, arguably, he is the most prolific college quarterback Reid has coached to this point.

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However, most knowledgeable fans know that Red Raider quarterbacks don’t always translate to the NFL. They are well known for producing monster stat sheets, but less than stellar NFL careers. Some believe this stems from their heavy use of spread offense concepts. This typically takes the complexity of the offense out of the quarterback’s hands and gives control to the coach. This may cause the learning curve transitioning to the NFL to simply be too great for a quarterback to overcome. Fortunately for Chiefs’ fans and Mahomes, Reid has a great track record helping quarterbacks from unique offensive situations transition into his system.

Physically, Mahomes fits the mold of the stereotypical star quarterback. His pedigree is undeniable, with his father Pat Mahomes Sr. pitching 13 years in the MLB. It’s no surprise that Mahomes possesses his rocket arm. There’s even an incredible video of him throwing the ball 80+ yards. Adding to his super human arm strength is his ability to run. In college, he rushed for 845 yards and 22 touchdowns. While these numbers are not jaw-dropping, they show Mahomes has that added dimension of running that can drive defensive coordinators mad. These factors demonstrate that, arguably, he is the most physically gifted quarterback Reid has coached.

Again, most knowledgeable fans will point to countless rookie quarterbacks who had premier physical attributes and were ultimately unsuccessful. Physical gifts are only one piece of the puzzle, and this goes for all positions. Fortunately for Chiefs’ fans and Mahomes, Reid is known to get the most out of his players. The physical tools Mahomes possesses will not go to waste under Reid.

Given the preceding comparison between Mahomes, McNabb, and Smith, what can Chiefs’ fans realistically expect for this upcoming year. More specifically, what type of individual production can we expect for Mahomes in his first full year starting in Reid’s system. Let’s take a look.

Statistical Prediction

Typically, when making predictions, one standalone method is not suitable to determine a reasonable estimation. As such, this is only the first in a series of pieces that will analyze, based on various factors, what to expect from Mahomes’ first year under center. For the purposes of this piece, I will use the first full year of production for both McNabb and Smith in Reid’s system. I have listed the results in the following image.

Mahomes v. Smith v. McNabb
Mahomes v. Smith v. McNabb /

Here is a brief explanation of the table. McNabb’s first full season starting, 2000, is listed first. Smith’s first season in Reid’s system, 2013, is listed second. I have equalized the numbers for Smith’s 2013 campaign, since he only played in 15 games, by extrapolating the numbers for the 16th game. I then took an average of McNabb’s 2000 season and Smith’s 2013 season, as shown in the third line. Finally, I applied a multiplier of 1.2x to the average production numbers, holding attempts the same as McNabb’s 2000 season, to generate my initial prediction.

The multiplier is essentially my opinion that Patrick Mahomes has 10 percent more raw talent than either McNabb or Smith. Adding to this, the Chiefs’ receiving core is absolutely loaded. It’s logical  to assume he has better weapons to throw to than either McNabb or Smith had their first year. This adds another 10 percent to the multiplier. As such, 20 percent is reasonable, if not even slightly conservative. Given Mahomes talent and apparent work ethic he should thrive in Reid’s system, even as a rookie.

Obviously, no one can predict the future. But, based on these comparisons it’s reasonable that Mahomes will have a successful first season. He’s extremely talented physically, has a great professional pedigree, and is entering a great situation with the Kansas City Chiefs. Even better, Reid is no stranger to helping quarterbacks become extremely successful in the NFL. Each of his longest tenured quarterbacks were uncertain commodities when they began, but left Reid’s system with great respect from those around the league. This is exciting, in part, because Mahomes might be the most talented quarterback Reid has ever coached.

In a follow-up piece, I’ll take a different statistical approach. I’ll look at several recent rookie quarterbacks as another way to predict what Mahomes’ statistics will be in his first full year starting. Stay tuned!