The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Don’t waste a top 10 draft pick on Eagles QB Nick Foles

(Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)
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Nick Foles had an amazing sophomore season with the Philadelphia Eagles. The 25-year-old quarterback threw for 2,891 yards and 27 touchdowns but just two interceptions in just ten games played. And the expectations are even higher this season.

“Nick, he wants to play, he wants to get better,” teammate LeSean McCoy said. “He’s playing lights-out even in camp, but he still wants to be at a higher level. He’s at that peak where people know him like, ‘Man, this Foles, is he that good?’ Because you see the stats, you see the numbers. I think this is the year he blows ‘em out like, ‘Yeah, I’m Nick Foles. I’m Philadelphia’s quarterback. I’m the guy.’ And this is the year he blows it away.”

Fantasy footballers also appear to be buying in. In the 880 mock drafts conducted at Fantasy Football Calculator between July 4, 2014 and July 7, 2014, Foles was the sixth quarterback taken, ahead of Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.

That would be a waste of a pick.

For starters, Jackson is now with Washington, pushing Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin and Brad Smith up Philadelphia’s depth chart. Over the past two seasons, Cooper has had comparable stats to D-Jax when Foles was throwing the ball, but their usage tells two very different stories.

Jackson was your typical No. 1 receiver: Wherever he lined up he made things happen. He didn’t drop a single target of 20 yards or more (33 attempts) and turned those deep balls into 553 yards and eight touchdowns. When D-Jax lined up in the slot he averaged 2.6 yards per route run and 2.5 yards per route run when he was called to run a pattern.

When Cooper was a deep target he performed on par with Jackson (seven catches, 280 yards and five touchdowns) but paled in comparison when lining up in the slot (1.8 yards per route run) and when running in a pattern (1.6 yards per route run).

Maclin is a decent second receiver (averaging over 58 yards per game in his four NFL seasons) and has a 10-touchdown campaign on his résumé from 2010. Smith, however, is a converted quarterback who had just two receptions in the eight games he lined up as a wide receiver for Philly.

In addition, Foles threw 31.6 percent of his passes outside the numbers to his right (third highest in the league) which is where Jackson lined up more than half the time (55.4 percent of his targets were on the right side of the field).

Plus, you can’t expect Foles to play a full 16-game season, throw close to 500 times and have just two interceptions. The league saw 2.6 percent of passing plays end in an interception last year and if we ran each of Foles’s 2013 passing attempts in a random simulation 1,000 times, we would expect him to have two interceptions or fewer just 0.6 percent of the time.

The more likely scenario is Foles throws 500 times for 3,100 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, which puts him more in line with the 15-18 best QBs rather than anywhere near the top 10.

Data from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference