Like many media outlets this time of year, analytics-based website Pro Football Focus has a list of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks heading into 2016. It’s just not the one you might expect.
PFF writer Josh Liskiewitz has Iowa signal-caller C.J. Beathard as the cream of the crop in the conference, a selection that is sure to turn heads in Columbus. Just how is the incumbent from a run-happy Hawkeyes team better than Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett?
Pro Football Focus makes the argument, and the numbers might surprise you. For instance, this stat line belongs to the QB in Iowa City:
His adjusted accuracy percentage (our advanced completion percentage stat that accounts for drops, throwaways and spikes) of 71.9 not only leads all returning Big Ten QBs, but also ranks him 11th among Power-5 conference returnees.
Meanwhile, PFF reminds Buckeyes fans of Barrett’s struggles in 2015, starting with failing to beat out Cardale Jones in fall camp and then never really returning to the form that had him in the Heisman conversation in 2014.
His first official start of the 2015 season against Rutgers was virtually flawless, as he was 14-of-18 passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns, earning him a near-perfect NFL QB rating of 157.9. However, he could not come close to matching his passing production against the Scarlet Knights for the remainder of the season, posting a passing grade of just -0.5 over the final four games (0.0 for the season, which is our definition of average), instead relying on his legs and those of 2016 fourth-overall draft pick RB Ezekiel Elliott to move the ball consistently.
Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong, Illinois’ Wes Lunt and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner also made PFF’s top five. Of course, the numbers only mean so much come September.