Who is Tommy DeVito? A look at the New York Giants’ rookie quarterback
In terms familiar to Packer fans.
By Paul Noonan@BadgerNoonan Dec 8, 2023,
Tommy DeVito is likely to start for the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football despite the presence of the recently activated Tyrod Taylor, who is still likely getting up to speed after recovering from an injury. I watched a lot of Tommy DeVito this past week, as I have a passion for unheralded college quarterbacks getting a chance in the NFL. Not every random third stringer is Tim Boyle, who was one of the worst college quarterbacks of his era. Sometimes, very rarely, you get yourself a Brock Purdy, and I like to try to spot those guys.
I also remember DeVito for his 2022 game against Wisconsin, where he was pretty good. While he didn’t have any passing touchdowns, he did manage to convert three rushing scores. Whenever someone like DeVito or Cincinnati’s Jacob Browning pops up I go right to my QBOPS spreadsheets just to see if there might be anything there. (For an explanation of QBOPS and QBOPS-related stats including “Strength of Defense Faced” and Wide Receiver Grade per Target, click here.) DeVito started his college career at Syracuse and became the starter as a sophomore, and he was pretty good in posting a roughly league average performance per QWOBA while throwing 19 TDs against just 4 picks. He was also a dynamic rushing threat who carried the ball 112 times and scored two additional touchdowns. We’ll never know how many true rushing yards he had (because college stats include sacks in rushing numbers), but he’s quite fast and if you give him space, he’ll take the yards.
DeVito suffered an injury the following season and was never able to reclaim his starting job from replacement Garrett Schrader; so he transferred to Illinois, where he was again, quite good. In his final season in 2022 he completed a robust 69.6% of his passes for 2650 yards, 15 TDs and 4 picks. He added another 73 carries and 6 rushing scores. DeVito was actually tied for the 5th best completion percentage in college football that season behind only Bo Nix, Jake Haener, Clay Millen, and Trenton Bourguet. That said, he sacrificed a lot of explosiveness for that lofty completion percentage and could fairly be categorized as a check-down artist, ranking 102nd (of 114 quarterbacks) in yards per completion. However, the short throws are not entirely indicative of the kind of player that DeVito is. Back at Syracuse, he was much more willing to take chances downfield, and his conservative play was partially driven by an absurdly good defensive year in the Big Ten in 2022 that stifled offense across the conference.
Last season I started adjusting my QWOBA stat (more here), which rates every quarterback against the league average, for the quality of defenses faced based on SP+ rankings, and for the quality of a quarterbacks’ receiving crew using PFF receiver grades. (It’s not perfect, but it gives you at least some idea of which quarterbacks need to be looked at with more skepticism). When DeVito was a starter in college, he routinely faced a murderer’s row of defenses at both Syracuse and Illinois, having faced the 15th most difficult schedule of any team in 2019 at Syracuse (Joe Burrow faced the 14th hardest schedule that season), and again, the 15th most difficult schedule at Illinois in 2022, sandwiched between Michigan’s JJ McCarthy and Penn State’s Sean Clifford. However, while CJ Stroud had the best receiving corps in college football that season, and JJ McCarthy had the 31st rated receiving corps, Tommy’s troops ranked a mere 53rd. When you put it all together, DeVito was about 9% better than average in his final season, and ranked 25th out of 114 quarterbacks. Not too shabby!
DeVito also has a pretty live arm. He’s not Josh Allen or even Jordan Love out there, but he’s a solid 40-50 on the 20-80 scale, and while many third stringers fit the mold of “smart guy who doesn’t quite have an NFL arm,” that is decidedly not DeVito's issue. In his short time with the Giants, he has not been afraid to attack down the field, averaging 8.5 air yards per throw over his past two games. So, what exactly IS DeVito's issue?
Here’s the thing. One of the most important stats for projecting a quarterback in the NFL is Pressure to Sack ratio, for three reasons. The first is that it’s a good measure for how a quarterback operated under pressure generally. The second is that it serves as a good proxy for a quarterback’s processing speed, as making correct decisions extremely quickly, and not panicking under pressure, is among the most valuable skills a quarterback can have. If you don’t get through your progressions quickly, you’re more likely to take that hit/sack. And finally, Pressure to Sack rate tends to remain consistent when moving from college to the NFL. Most good prospects have a Pressure to Sack rate around 10-15%, while those that have alarmingly high rates come in around 25%. In 2022, DeVito had the 4th worst PTS% at 28.6%, and let me tell you, that horrific number has absolutely followed him to the next level. So far, in games started by DeVito, he has been sacked a minimum of 5 times. Washington sacked DeVito 9 times a few weeks ago. Jordan Love has only been sacked 5 times in a game once this season.
A tendency to take sacks isn’t always a death sentence if you call plays to utilize a quarterback’s mobility, and have a line that can protect him, but the Giants have one of the worst offensive lines in football, and the fact that they routinely get completely blown up actually makes it difficult to get DeVito outside the pocket or to protect him via the run game. The secret to stopping the Giants with DeVito is quite simple. Get in the man’s face, and he absolutely goes to pieces.
This leads me to the best comp I could come up with for DeVito, because I got déjà vu watching him play against Washington and New England. A fast quarterback from the Big Ten, who routinely runs himself into sacks. He’s playing for a team that is maybe the worst fit possible due to their poor offensive line, and he has maybe one competent target to throw to.
Sure, DeVito wasn’t as good as Justin Fields in college, but he faced the same level of elite defenses, without the benefit of NFL-level receivers to throw to. And of course, Justin Fields had that extremely ugly 25% Pressure to Sack ratio, 10th worst in college football in 2020.
That’s right Packers, you’re playing the East Coast Bears this week. Don’t mess it up.