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Football Outsiders Lewin Career Forecast says Robert Griffin III beats Andrew Luck…and every other college QB ever

Not content to settle on beating Andrew Luck for the Heisman and fastest 40 yard dash, Robert Griffin III is attacking it to Andrew Luck’s #1 Draft Pick status as Football Outsiders’ Lewin Career Forecast (LCF) came out Monday and gives Robert Griffin III the highest score in this year’s draft class…or any draft class ever. I know that many are probably unfamiliar with the LCF, so I want to talk about what the LCF is, how it’s formulated and what it means for RG3.

The basis for the LCF is that it is a collection of factors for college quarterbacks that FO has found to correlate with success. It should be noted that these are correlations and, as anybody who has ever had a statistics class ever has undoubtedly heard, correlation is not causation. The LCF is not perfect, nor is it meant to predict with great accuracy where a quarterback will rank all time when his career is over. Instead, the LCF is better used as a tool to separate elite prospects from prospects whose hype outpaces their likely production.

While LCF is not perfect, remember that it is much better than relying on some amalgamation of statistics, conference strength adjustment, post-season awards, and combine measurements. So let’s take a look at how Robert did compared to Luck and previous quarterbacks:

Player Year LCF
Robert Griffin III 2012 2530
Philip Rivers 2004 2476
Drew Brees 2001 2190
Colt McCoy 2010 2092
Carson Palmer 2003 1973
Peyton Manning 1998 1784
Andrew Luck 2012 1749
Chad Pennington 2000 1679
Brady Quinn 2007 1518
Jason Campbell 2005 1506

Your eyes do not deceive you. Robert Griffin III beat out the long-time record holder and elite tier NFL QB Philip Rivers to be the best QB ever measured by this system. Andrew Luck also graded out very well, in a virtual tie with the legend who he will likely replace, Peyton Manning. After the jump, I’ll take a look at why it is Robert grades out so well.

From 1990 to 2005, [number of games started] was far and away the most important variable in determining the success of highly-drafted quarterbacks. However, there are questions about whether the rise of the spread offense is leading to number of quarterbacks who come into the NFL with a lot of collegiate experience yet still unprepared for the NFL-style game.

There are many reasons why number of games started is important. First of all, this prediction system relies on scouts to be able to identify players who could not perform in an NFL offense at all for reasons obvious to the eye but not to metrics – for example, things like height, arm strength, or off-field incidents. Indeed, they limit the pool of players for which they run the LCF to quarterbacks projected to go in the first three rounds. However, there are more reasons than just relying on scouts to throw out outliers. Quarterbacks who play more are likely to have a greater amount of talent because they were not beat out for a starting job [hello Garret Gilbert/Case McCoy/David Ash] and because they get a greater amount of development time. Both Griffin and Luck grade out well here.

Additionally, completion percentage is very important. While players get dinged more for having poor percentages than they get helped for having good percentages, I’d like to point out that RG3 was more accurate than Luck last year.

Moreover, LCF looks at how the NCAA rating improves from year to year. This is really where RG3 puts distance between himself and Luck as Luck didn’t show much improvement from his very good junior year while RG3 turned from a very good quarterback into a Heisman winner. However, it should be noted that it’s not just the improvement from last year to this year that sets RG3 apart –

Of course, it also could indicate that Griffin's 2011 season was a little fluky, and one of the arguments I've read against Griffin as a can't-miss prospect is that most scouts didn't have him as a first-round pick before his senior season. With all due respect to those scouts, it was pretty obvious within the first two or three games of the year that they were wrong. And even if Griffin's passer rating as a senior had stayed the same as his passer rating as a junior, Griffin would still have this year's highest LCF projection at 1,994.

There are a few other metrics that are added in that you can see if you click through to the FO article, but the main point is this: By the most accurate system that we have, Robert Griffin III is predicted to be an elite professional quarterback. Sic’em Robert!