2013 aDOT-Adjusted Completion Percentage

Mike Clay adjusts each 2013 quarterback's completion percentage based on the depth of their throws.

| 3 years ago
Alex Smith Chiefs

2013 aDOT-Adjusted Completion Percentage


Alex Smith ChiefsAlex Smith was a hot topic for debate this past offseason.

Was his passing efficiency in San Francisco a product of so many high-percentage passes, or was he a legitimately good passer who would solve Kansas City’s offensive woes?

Our offseason study of average depth of target-adjusted completion percentage showed that Smith was, in fact, playing conservative ball, but also that he was exceeding expectations by a large margin.

So, how’d he fare in his first year with the Chiefs?

Today, we’ll take a look at that, as well as, each quarterback who attempted at least 50 passes during the 2013 season.

The Concept

If you’re new to the topic, the concept here is fairly simple. We want to adjust each quarterback’s completion percentage based on the distance of his throws. Quarterbacks who usually throw a lot of screens and short passes will be punished. Those who aren’t afraid to chuck it deep will be rewarded.

To accomplish this, we’re using a pair of statistics. Once is average depth of target (aDOT) and the other is an adjusted version of completion percentage (aC%)*.

*aC% = (Completions + Drops) / (Pass Attempts – Spikes – Throwaways – Batted Balls – Balls disrupted by a QB hit)

I did make one upgrade to the formula this year. It involves the removal of passes with depths shorter than negative-7 yards and ones longer than 50 yards. Why? Although I’m using a massive play-by-play sample that covers six years of NFL action, there remain distances without an ideal sample size. For what it’s worth, only 0.37 percent of all aimed throws have been eliminated as a result of this tweak. That leaves us with 101,168 throws to work with. I think we’ll be okay.

I’ll be referring to “aC%” throughout this piece. Don’t be confused by it. Remember, it’s just an adjusted version of completion percentage that removes wasted plays and counts drops as completions.

To-date playoff data is included.

The Good

Our first chart shows the top-10 quarterbacks in terms of their actual aC% exceeding their expected.

Rk Quarterback Aimed aDOT Exp C% Actual C% +/-
1 Aaron Rodgers 283 8.5 73.1% 79.9% 6.8%
2 Philip Rivers 552 8.1 72.9% 78.8% 5.9%
3 Josh McCown 207 8.6 72.2% 77.8% 5.6%
4 Peyton Manning 719 8.2 72.7% 77.6% 4.9%
5 Nick Foles 322 9.7 70.9% 74.8% 4.0%
6 Drew Brees 680 8.4 72.2% 76.2% 3.9%
7 Matt Ryan 611 7.0 74.7% 78.6% 3.9%
8 Jay Cutler 330 10.0 70.4% 73.9% 3.5%
9 Ben Roethlisberger 548 8.6 72.4% 75.0% 2.6%
10 Cam Newton 456 9.5 70.5% 72.6% 2.1%

No quarterback exceeded his expected aC% by a larger margin than Aaron Rodgers (+6.8%). This should come as no shock considering that Rodgers finished No. 2 in the category in 2012. His 8.5 aDOT was actually well below league average, but he exceeded his expected mark by nearing a full percentage point more than No. 2 Philip Rivers. Although we know Rodgers is a quality quarterback, it’s worth noting that he only racked up 283 qualified aimed throws due to injury.

Only Alex Smith put up a lower aDOT than Matt Ryan (7.0) this past season. Ryan was below average in the category last season, as well, but at a much larger 8.4. The good news for Ryan owners is that he exceeded what was the league’s third-highest expected aC% by nearly 4 percent. His 78.6 percent aC% was third-best in the NFL.

Jay Cutler’s aDOT was sixth-highest among our 48 qualified quarterbacks and largest among our top-10 quarterbacks. Cutler’s expected aC% was ninth-lowest among the passers in our sample, but he managed to finish No. 12 in the category.

The Bad

Our next chart shows the bottom-10 quarterbacks in terms of their actual aC% exceeding their expected.

Rk Quarterback Aimed aDOT Exp C% Actual C% +/-
48 Josh Freeman 139 11.0 68.3% 54.7% -13.6%
47 Jeff Tuel 56 10.4 69.1% 58.9% -10.2%
46 Blaine Gabbert 77 7.3 73.7% 63.6% -10.1%
45 Kirk Cousins 144 8.4 72.4% 63.2% -9.2%
44 Thaddeus Lewis 151 8.8 71.7% 67.5% -4.2%
43 Jason Campbell 288 7.8 73.6% 69.4% -4.2%
42 E.J. Manuel 290 8.6 72.7% 68.6% -4.1%
41 Matthew McGloin 197 9.5 70.3% 66.5% -3.8%
40 Terrelle Pryor 246 8.1 73.2% 69.5% -3.7%
39 Geno Smith 404 9.2 71.0% 67.6% -3.5%

Last season, Cardinals’ Ryan Lindley (-8.5 percent) and John Skelton (-8.1 percent) were the worst in this category. And, if you remember how bad the Cardinals’ passing game was, you know exactly how bad that was. I mention this so as to express how poor Josh Freeman’s -13.6 percent mark was this past season. Digging deeper, it’s the worst mark we’ve seen since PFF began charting “depth” back in 2008. In fairness to Freeman, his sample size is very low at 139 throws. Still, there’s a reason Tampa Bay let him go and he lasted just one game in Minnesota. Only Michael Vick had a higher aDOT than Freeman (11.0), but that doesn’t excuse his sub-55 percent aC%. Freeman is now -2.2 percent in the category in his career.

There’s not a ton to say about Blaine Gabbert other than he’s not very good. He put up a 63.6 percent aC% despite the fifth-lowest aDOT at the position. His career aC% is 7.6 percent below expected.

Most names in our bottom 10 won’t surprise you, but Kirk Cousins apologists take note. Washington’s No. 2 quarterback put up the third-worst aC% at the position despite a below-average aDOT. This study is further proof (as if we needed it) that Cousins is far inferior to Robert Griffin III.

The Others

After leading the position in aC% “plus/minus” one year ago, Alex Smith failed to crack the top 25 in 2013. Not only that, he actually put up an aC% below his expected. Smith’s 7.0 aDOT was lowest at the position, which makes sense when you consider all those throws to Jamaal Charles. Interestingly, Smith’s aDOT was actually lower than his 7.7 mark from 2012, which was second-lowest in the category behind only Christian Ponder. Despite all the high-percentage throws, Smith only completed 73.7 percent. Compare that to his 81.3 percent mark in 2012. For what it’s worth, Smith sits at 1.1 percent above his expected over the last six seasons. At +0.8 percent in 2009, +1.2 percent in 2010, +0.9 percent in 2011, and now -1.2 percent in 2013, it’s fair to consider his +7.3 percent in 2012 a fluke.

Similar to Rodgers, Sam Bradford managed only 240 throws prior to a season-ending injury. His 75.0 percent aC% was seventh-best among our 48 qualified quarterbacks. Good, right? Not exactly. Bradford’s 7.1 aDOT was third-lowest in the league. This helped him to a league-high expected aC% of 75.3 percent, which means he actually came up short of where he should’ve been. Many will point to the 21 balls dropped by Bradford’s receivers as an excuse for his poor aC%. This study shows us that he underwhelmed regardless of those drops.

As mentioned earlier, no quarterback had a higher aDOT than Michael Vick’s 11.3. His expected aC% was, in turn, lowest in the league at 68.1 percent. The injury that inevitably cost Vick (-1.7 percent) the starting job in Philadelphia turned out to be a blessing, as Nick Foles (+4.0 percent) proved to be a clear upgrade.

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

For Reference – The Complete Rundown

Rk Quarterback Aimed aDOT Exp C% Actual C% +/-
1 Aaron Rodgers 283 8.5 73.1% 79.9% 6.8%
2 Philip Rivers 552 8.1 72.9% 78.8% 5.9%
3 Josh McCown 207 8.6 72.2% 77.8% 5.6%
4 Peyton Manning 719 8.2 72.7% 77.6% 4.9%
5 Nick Foles 322 9.7 70.9% 74.8% 4.0%
6 Drew Brees 680 8.4 72.2% 76.2% 3.9%
7 Matt Ryan 611 7.0 74.7% 78.6% 3.9%
8 Jay Cutler 330 10.0 70.4% 73.9% 3.5%
9 Ben Roethlisberger 548 8.6 72.4% 75.0% 2.6%
10 Cam Newton 456 9.5 70.5% 72.6% 2.1%
11 Ryan Fitzpatrick 328 8.6 72.2% 74.1% 1.8%
12 Russell Wilson 412 9.8 70.9% 72.3% 1.4%
13 Jake Locker 174 9.9 70.3% 71.3% 1.0%
14 Andy Dalton 589 9.2 71.7% 72.7% 1.0%
15 Carson Palmer 539 9.8 70.0% 70.9% 0.9%
16 Matthew Stafford 591 8.9 71.9% 72.6% 0.7%
17 Robert Griffin III 422 8.9 72.8% 73.5% 0.7%
18 Tony Romo 511 8.3 72.7% 73.2% 0.5%
19 Ryan Tannehill 542 9.6 71.4% 71.6% 0.2%
20 Brian Hoyer 87 8.3 72.2% 72.4% 0.2%
21 Matt Cassel 232 8.9 71.4% 71.6% 0.1%
22 Christian Ponder 222 8.8 72.8% 73.0% 0.1%
23 Matt Flynn 182 7.3 74.1% 74.2% 0.1%
24 Tom Brady 658 8.9 71.8% 71.7% -0.1%
25 Sam Bradford 240 7.1 75.3% 75.0% -0.3%
26 Scott Tolzien 82 7.7 73.5% 73.2% -0.4%
27 Mike Glennon 380 9.7 71.0% 70.5% -0.4%
28 Alex D. Smith 510 7.0 74.9% 73.7% -1.2%
29 Andrew Luck 608 8.9 72.5% 71.2% -1.3%
30 Colin Kaepernick 466 10.3 69.6% 68.2% -1.3%
31 Michael Vick 128 11.3 68.1% 66.4% -1.7%
32 Chad Henne 460 7.2 74.5% 72.6% -1.9%
33 Matt Schaub 329 8.4 72.3% 70.2% -2.1%
34 Eli Manning 513 10.1 70.1% 67.6% -2.5%
35 Brandon Weeden 241 9.6 71.1% 68.5% -2.6%
36 Kellen Clemens 226 9.1 71.9% 69.0% -2.9%
37 Case Keenum 228 9.7 70.7% 67.5% -3.2%
38 Joe Flacco 578 9.5 71.6% 68.3% -3.3%
39 Geno Smith 404 9.2 71.0% 67.6% -3.5%
40 Terrelle Pryor 246 8.1 73.2% 69.5% -3.7%
41 Matthew McGloin 197 9.5 70.3% 66.5% -3.8%
42 E.J. Manuel 290 8.6 72.7% 68.6% -4.1%
43 Jason Campbell 288 7.8 73.6% 69.4% -4.2%
44 Thaddeus Lewis 151 8.8 71.7% 67.5% -4.2%
45 Kirk Cousins 144 8.4 72.4% 63.2% -9.2%
46 Blaine Gabbert 77 7.3 73.7% 63.6% -10.1%
47 Jeff Tuel 56 10.4 69.1% 58.9% -10.2%
48 Josh Freeman 139 11.0 68.3% 54.7% -13.6%

 

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