The depth of this quarterback class continues to amaze me. Here we have our third candidate to go in the first round this spring. Let’s talk about Miami’s Brad Kaaya.
What His Numbers Say
Here are Kaaya’s career numbers, courtesy of Sports Reference:
Kaaya isn’t much of a runner, with -386 rush yards for his career. Here is his final season game log broken down to include the rank of the opposing pass defenses in terms of Football Outsiders S&P+.
|North Carolina State||15||22||38||57.9||286||0||0||121.1|
Kaaya has the highest adjusted yards per attempt of all the quarterbacks we have studied so far, at 8.9 in his final year. Unlike Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer, he is a pure pocket passer, so being more prolific there will be critical to both his draft position and success.
Three of this year’s highest rated prospects all played in the ACC: Kaaya, Watson, and Mitch Trubisky, who will be covered later in this series. The trio shared five common opponents this season: N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Here is how they performed in those matchups.
Kaaya matches up favorably in this comparison, ranking first in quarterback rating and second in AYA. His 8.7 AYA in these matchups far exceeds the 7.3 mark put up by Watson. With Trubisky being in consideration for the top pick in the draft, grading out so closely can only be a good sign for Kaaya.
The other thing going for Kaaya is his long tenure as a starter for the Hurricanes. He has been the starter all three seasons at Miami, which puts him in an interesting group of quarterback prospects. Since 2000, there have been 11 quarterbacks to attempt at least 1,000 passes in college and then be drafted in the first round. 55 percent of them have had at least one QB1 season in their careers. Players in this cohort had a QB1 season 30 percent of the time, and those who had at least one QB1 season did so in 45 percent of their total seasons in the NFL. Clearly, if Kaaya goes in the first round come April, he will be on a terrific career trajectory.
Even if Kaaya does not go in the first round, his career hopes are not dead. Players to go in rounds two through four to fall into this category include Andy Dalton, Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and Kirk Cousins. 40 percent of the players drafted in rounds two through four produced at least one QB1 season.
Player Comparison: Cody Kessler
It just so happens that one of the players in our three-year starter cohort compares favorably to Kaaya.
Cody Kessler has very similar final year per-game statistics to Kaaya, and also has similar career numbers. This seems like a slight until we realize that Kessler himself may actually be #good at football, despite many sites projecting Cleveland to take a quarterback this year. Here is the complete list of rookie quarterbacks since 2000 to start at least six games and post an AYA of at least 6.5.
This is a fairly impressive list, with the only real bust being Zach Mettenberger (I refuse to count Teddy Bridgewater as a bust). It would seem that there is a decent chance Kessler has real staying power in the league, and likewise, so should Kaaya.
Ideal Landing Spot: Texans
Kaaya seems to be a prospect that goes closer to the back-end of the first round, if not later in the draft entirely. Houston will almost certainly be looking to draft a signal caller after the Brock Osweiler experiment blew up in their faces last season, and a cheap option being their most likely source for competition. The Texans provide a chance for Kaaya to start right away, and to be surrounded by some impressive weapons in DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, and Lamar Miller. It would not surprise me at all to see Kaaya produce right away in that kind of environment, especially with the elite defense they have on the other side of the football.
Current 2QB Fantasy Rookie Draft Projection: High-Second Round (Undrafted in 1QB Leagues)
Kaaya’s outlook is probably more landing-spot dependent than the first two quarterbacks studied so far, and does not pose a rushing threat. The hype around him is also not significant. That tells me he probably lands in the top portion of the second round of 2QB drafts. in 1QB leagues, I doubt that he is drafted at all. If someone is going to take a shot on a signal caller in a 1QB league, he probably is either one of the top rated prospects, or a runner. Kaaya is neither at this juncture.
Kaaya is largely going overlooked out of the top-five quarterbacks in this class. While he is not mobile like Watson or Kizer, his passing ability is clearly superior. Kaaya looks like a lot of quarterbacks who have managed to have QB1 seasons and/or long careers. I certainly hope to see him go in the first round, but I’ll probably be buying Kaaya no matter where he lands.