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The Rule of 26-27-60, and trying to apply it to this year’s quarterback class

04.21.11 at 10:32 pm ET
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Using the Rule of 26-27-60, Christian Ponder will succeed as an NFL quarterback. (AP)

In the wake of this story we did earlier this week about the Patriots kicking the tires on some collegiate quarterbacks, we were reminded about the Rule of 26-27-60, which remains one of the most dependable formulas for judging how successful a college quarterback will do in the NFL.

As far as we know, it was first presented by Football Outsiders in the Pro Football Prospectus 2006, and John Lopez of SI.com expanded upon the idea in a 2010 story, explaining that, “If an NFL prospect scores at least a 26 on the Wonderlic test, starts at least 27 games in his college career and completes at least 60 percent of his passes, there’s a good chance he will succeed at the NFL level.”

To bolster his point, Lopez has the following quarterbacks since 1998 passing the 26-27-60 test: Drew Brees, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kolb, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Kyle Orton, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub and Matthew Stafford. In the same span, here’s his list of those who have fallen short in at least one of the three categories: David Carr, Tim Couch, Daunte Culpepper, Joey Harrington, Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell, Akili Smith and Vince Young.

Over the last 15 or so years, there are five notable exceptions to the rule, including Tom Brady, who passed the Wonderlic and completion percentage, but his 25 college starts leave him just shy of a passing grade. Then, there’s two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who had two of the three, falling short when he posted a 25 on the Wonderlic. In addition, both Donovan McNabb and Brett Favre fell short in the Wonderlic, but have gone on to successful careers in the NFL. And Matt Leinart played over 30 games, scored a 35 on his Wonderlic, completed over 63 percent of his passes … and has been nothing short of a miserable failure in the NFL.

When it comes to this year’s group, while much of it depends on where a quarterback will be drafted, the Rule of 26-27-60 tells us that this could be a very good draft class for signal callers, with five of the top nine quarterback prospects making the grade: Alabama’s Greg McElroy (43-27-66 percent), Florida State’s Christian Ponder (35-35-62 percent), Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert (42-29-61 percent), Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi (30-32-60 percent, although we’re rounding up from 59.8 on his completion percentage) and TCU’s Andy Dalton (29-50-61 percent) all pass the test.

There are several candidates who just miss the cut in one of the categories: Ryan Mallett (26-29-58 percent) has the requisite Wonderlic score and college starts, but falls short when it comes to completion percentage. Nevada’s Colin Kapernick (40-51-58 percent) just misses when it comes to accuracy as well. Meanwhile, both Cam Newton (21-14-66 percent) and Jake Locker (20-39-54) only reach one of the three areas.

In the end, there are several other aspects of a quarterback’s game that must be evaluated before the draft, and the Rule of 26-27-60 isn’t the ultimate statistic in determining his success or failure in the NFL. But in a world where the success rate of picking quarterbacks is surprisingly slim, it’s a stat worth keeping in mind when signal callers start coming off the board next week.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft,
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