Big Ben Tuesday: Advanced Analytics and the Airtight Case Against Alex Smith – and Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones

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STAMFORD, CT – I’ve received a load of grief for snark for simply stating that Alex Smith should retire. He returned from injury, valiantly led his team to the playoffs and I give him full marks for courage and determination. Well, in the words of the great Ben Richards from Running Man, (activate Arnold voice) “I’m going to give the people what I think they want.” So I’m here to break it to you once again, using an advanced stat, that Smith was not a good QB in 2020. WFT did the right thing by opting against paying him $24 million to gimp around. And while I’m at it, we’ll look at what that advanced stats says about NY QBs Darnold and Jones.

Alex Smith Sucks

There is an advanced QB stat (insert eye roll here) called  Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). I wouldn’t put all my eggs in this one stat, but the top five QBs in NEP last season were Rodgers, Mahomes, Allen, Watson, and Brady. With that top 5, I think we can agree it’s at least a decent metric.

Guess where your boy Alex Smith finished in 2020? At negative 19.75, the 7th worst of any QB that threw a pass last year. That’s 81 QBs. The only six to finish below him were Wentz, Darnold, Luton, Haskins, Finley, and Lock. That’s a legit murderer’s row of suck. Pickpockets’ Row? Jaywalkers’ Row? I’ll work on that one. A few stellar QBs that finished ahead of him were Ben DiNucci and Nate Sudfeld (I know they didn’t throw a lot of passes, but shut up, it’s still fun.) Another guy ahead of him on the list was teammate Taylor Heineke, who finished in positive NEP territory in his one regular season appearance and looked great in his playoff game against the eventual champs.

Smith’s salary of $24 million would have made him about the 16th highest paid QBs, ahead of proven veterans like Ben Roethlisberger. Considering his horrendous NEP, do you honestly think he deserves to get paid like an above average QB? They can draft a guy, bring in a much cheaper veteran, or even roll the dice on Heineke.

The prosecution rests.

Sam Darnold Does Too

The team that will have the biggest effect on the first round of the draft is the Jets. What they decide to do with the #2 pick will send dominoes tumbling. Indications seem to be that they’re looking hard at QB. That is the right move. I get it; his team sucked and he had nothing to work with. But he has not given any indication that he can be a useful NFL QB.

Look at the NEP list. Only Carson Wentz finished worse than Darnold. Even the Jets‘ colossally mediocre backup Joe Flacco finished higher and came close to landing in positive territory.

The Jets needs to follow the Cardinals lead and punt on a 2018 1st round QB bust, instead of compounding the damage by building around him.

Daniel Jones Might Suck Too

I know what you’re thinking. Where did Daniel Jones finish on the list? Well, it’s not much better at  negative 12.54, the 13th worst in the league. But I think Jones has shown just enough to get one more shot.

Jones looks capable at times, but his issues are obvious. He holds the ball too long, tries to make plays when they’re not there, and doesn’t have any feel for the pass rush. That’s a combo that results in too many turnovers.

The Giants seem likely to take a receiver. Early mocks had them taking Kyle Pitts, the All-World Florida TE. But Pitts’ stocks seems to be rising and lately they’ve been pegged to take an Alabama WR, possibly Jaylen Waddle. A few lately mock drafts have Devonta Smith sliding to them, re concerns of his 170-lb frame. I’m starting to hope for Waddle, who might be a steal flying a little under the radar after hardly playing last year.

If the Giants get it right with a big playmaker in the first round and Saquon comes back healthy, there are no more excuses for Jones.

That’s it for me. Come back tomorrow for a man of many excuses, Angry Ward. Follow us on Twitter at @BenWhit8, @MeetTheMatts, @Matt_McCarthy00, Instagram @MeetTheMatts and like our Facebook page, Meet The Matts.

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About Ben Whitney 251 Articles
Ben Whitney comes from journalistic stock. Aside from his brothers, rumor has that his great-great grandfather was the youngest brother of Eli Whitney and covered the earliest "rounders" games. Big Ben is also another New York Rugby Club player/pal of Different Matt, Short Matt and Junoir Blaber. He likes film noir discussions, has twin girls and took up ice hockey after retiring from rugby.