Chiefs QB Ricky Stanzi: What To Expect

Ricky Stanzi might be the Chiefs most talked about backup. Whether the topic is the draft or how the Chiefs will perform next season, Stanzi's name seems to creep into the discussion, often with the phrase "start him" attached.

In this article, we'll take a closer look at Ricky Stanzi, focusing on what analysts believe he can do and a historical comparison of players drafted in the fifth round. I decided against including his on-field performance because it consists of three 2011 preseason games with too many caveats: Stanzi was playing backups against backups, Todd Haley's off-season program was a disaster and the lockout limited rookie development.

While this analysis is not intended to definitively forecast what we can expect from Stanzi, it will hopefully help rationalize expectations.

Pre-Draft Analysis

Let's look at what NFL Network's Mike Mayock and ESPN's Mel Kiper had to say about Stanzi in the runup to the 2011 draft.

First a couple snippets from Kiper:

"I like this kid. I'm not going to say Tom Brady... [V]ery accurate in the pocket. He takes snaps from under center. He's pro-style all the way... I like the way he improved. I didn't like the fourth quarter meltdowns. The fourth quarter as a junior was outstanding. Made some big throws. This year he completed only 56.3 percent in the fourth quarter. When you talk about a kid on third down completing 69.2 percent of his passes, seven touchdowns, zero interceptions... Good football player."

"Matt Cassel, look out, in a couple of years, this guy's going to challenge for your job."

Strong positive comments from Kiper. He believes Stanzi has the right background, shows improvement and has a genuine chance to start. Kiper does have mixed feelings on Stanzi's clutch performance abilities.

Next up is Mayock:

"You watch him and you see his ability to improve. That's huge for a quarterback. Stanzi had a great senior year."

"He has excellent intangibles. I like him a lot. He loves the game of football, he gobbles tape. I think it's an excellent pick."

Mayock's comments reflect Kiper's, emphasizing Stanzi's desire, love of the game and self-improvement, while noting that he has further room to grow, definitely a key trait for any rookie QB.

The next quote, drawn from Michael Holley's book War Room, is easily the most insightful because the speaker is Jim Nagy, a regional scout for the Chiefs, and it came prior to the 2011 draft:

"If I could pick a quarterback who we'll all look back in five years and say, ‘Can you believe he lasted that long?' it would be Ricky Stanzi of Iowa," he says. "No one is talking about him as a high draft pick. He was the most improved player I saw all year. There's something about the guy. And I'll tell you something else: When I was watching tape here of practice, he was there, too. Watching Senior Bowl practice tape on his own."

Nagy worked for the Patriots for seven years before being hired away by Pioli in KC, so he's definitely a guy whose word Pioli respects. Nagy shares Mayock's view that Stanzi has intangibles, agrees with both analysts that Stanzi improved significantly and provides evidence to support everyone's view that Stanzi works at improving. Perhaps most importantly, Nagy believes Stanzi will outperform his draft slot.

A Historical View

As a fifth round pick, what illustrious company does Stanzi find himself in? The table below lists all QBs taken in the fifth round since 2000:

Year Pick # NFL team Player Role Seasons
2000 163 Pittsburgh Steelers Tee Martin Backup 3
2001 149 Detroit Lions Mike McMahon Backup 5
2001 155 Philadelphia Eagles A. J. Feeley Backup 11
2002 137 Carolina Panthers Randy Fasani Backup 1
2002 158 Atlanta Falcons Kurt Kittner Backup 3
2002 163 San Francisco 49ers Brandon Doman Backup 2
2002 164 Green Bay Packers Craig Nall Backup 7
2003 163 Pittsburgh Steelers Brian St. Pierre Backup 8
2004 148 Chicago Bears Craig Krenzel Backup 2
2005 145 Detroit Lions Dan Orlovsky Backup 7
2005 152 New Orleans Saints Adrian McPherson Backup 2
2006 148 Green Bay Packers Ingle Martin Backup 4
2006 164 Pittsburgh Steelers Omar Jacobs Backup 1
2007 151 Cincinnati Bengals Jeff Rowe Backup 3
2007 174 Baltimore Ravens Troy Smith Backup 4
2008 137 Minnesota Vikings John David Booty Backup 3
2008 156 Pittsburgh Steelers Dennis Dixon Backup 4
2008 160 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Josh Johnson Backup 4
2008 162 New York Jets Erik Ainge Backup 3
2009 151 New York Giants Rhett Bomar Backup 2
2009 171 San Francisco 49ers Nate Davis Backup 1
2010 155 Arizona Cardinals John Skelton Competing to be a starter 2
2010 168 San Diego Chargers Jonathan Crompton Backup 1
2011 135 Kansas City Chiefs Ricky Stanzi Backup 1
2011 152 Houston Texans T. J. Yates Backup 1
2011 160 Chicago Bears Nathan Enderle Backup 1

Only four of these QBs are even worth mentioning. Dan Orlovsky and AJ Feeley started the most games on this list for various teams but never caught on. John Skelton has been unspectacular for Arizona but they seem to genuinely want him to compete for the starting position.

Yates is the most intriguing case because he's new to the league and I've heard him directly compared to Ricky Stanzi. Last season he had an 80.7 rating during the regular season and a 53.8 rating in the playoffs, with a combined record of 4-4. He might have a chance to start down the line, but Houston is currently holding onto him as Schaub's backup.

Overall, the data is clear. There have been no successful starting QBs taken in the fifth round of the NFL draft since 2000. Even if we assume Yates and Skelton break this pattern, it only increases the odds for Stanzi to 7.7%. Excluding players still in the league, the average fifth round QB on our list had a career that lasted just over three seasons.

Establishing Reasonable Expectations

So what can we reasonably expect from Ricky Stanzi? On one hand, there's a lot to like about the guy. He stayed in college through his senior year in a pro-style system with a good coach. He improved his completion percentage and TD to interception ratio significantly by his senior year. He's self-critical and constantly works to improve. These are all promising characteristics.

On the other hand, if history is any indicator, Stanzi will likely spend his time holding a clipboard until the Chiefs decide to pick up another late-round project QB. The odds are simply not in his favor.

My approach with Stanzi will be the same as any of our late round picks: expect him to see occasional playing time as a quality backup. That way, if they succeed, like Brandon Carr or Kendrick Lewis (fellow fifth-rounders), I'm pleasantly surprised, and if they don't, I'm not disappointed.

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