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Comparing Matt Ryan to Jameis Winston after seven NFL games

Everyone was only too happy to compare Winston to Ryan when he was drafted, but how has the comparison held up?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Both before and immediately after the 2015 NFL Draft, one of the most popular NFL comparisons for #1 overall pick Jameis Winston was none other than our own Matt Ryan. These kinds of comparisons are often used and discarded, but with the two quarterbacks facing one another for the first time, I thought it might be interesting to compare their performances through the first seven games of their NFL careers.

The reasons for the comparison were many. WInston has the stronger arm, but both quarterbacks drew praise for their pocket presence, pro-style skillsets, and ability to read coverages, and were dinged primarily for their decision-making, with both throwing a ton of picks during their last college seasons.

I recognize this is an inherently tricky thing to do, because the teams the two quarterbacks play (and played) on are wildly different, and passers have generally gotten more prolific in the eight seasons since Ryan kicked off his career.

Note: We are not using quarterback wins, because those are a garbage way to evaluate quarterbacks. Ryan very obviously won more games, though.

Matt Ryan

116 completions on 205 attempts, 56.5% completion percentage, 1,441 yards, 7 TDs/5 INTs, 9 sacks

Jameis Winston

107 completions on 181 attempts, 59.1% completion percentage, 1,471 yards, 9 TDs/7 INTs, 12 sacks

On first glance, the comparison holds water. Ryan was less accurate and threw fewer touchdowns, but also absorbed fewer sacks and threw fewer picks. Otherwise, they're in the same general neighborhood in yardage, attempts, and even touchdown and interception numbers. Winston's taken more strikes downfield in this offense, of course, given that he has two legitimate deep threats and a cannon arm.

We do have to compare the two teams, as well. The Buccaneers have been using Doug Martin a lot to try to take pressure off of Winston, in much the same way the Falcons elected to take pressure off Ryan by banging Michael Turner into opposing defensive lines. Turner was more effective than Martin, but the same principle is at play.

The biggest differences, as I see it, is that Winston has (when healthy) better receiving options, while Ryan comfortably had a better defense.

We'll see if Winston has the same kind of career arc as Ryan, but if you're looking for him to follow in #2's footsteps, he's off to a similar enough start that you probably won't back off from the comparison. Do you think it holds water?