Quarterback Pressure Points

Scott Spratt examines the effect of pressure on quarterback fantasy production, with an eye on key players for whom circumstances may change in 2013.

| 2 years ago

Scott Spratt examines the effect of pressure on quarterback fantasy production, with an eye on key players for whom circumstances may change in 2013.

Quarterback Pressure Points


For a football stats nerd, there is nothing more enjoyable than scrolling through the PFF Signature Stats pages. My favorites include pass block efficiency, yards after contact per attempt, yards per route run, quarterback time to throw, and yards in the air on dropped passes. OK, so I have a lot of favorites.

One set of advanced statistics I have not spent enough time on is passing under pressure. Offensive line play is critical to actual success in the sport, but while I could tell you which units were solid and which were substandard, I apply that understanding haphazardly to my projections.

For example, I know that the Bears’ perennially porous line has been a factor in Jay Cutler’s 63 interceptions thrown since 2009, and I know I can expect that to continue until they make a real effort to address its weaknesses, but what of his other numbers? I know that Kevin Kolb had terrible protection on the Cardinals and figures to have excellent protection on the Bills, but aside from an increased likelihood for good health, what does that mean for his production? Fortunately, the Signature Stats provide the means for some actual research.

I decided to estimate how productive passers were when under pressure and when well-protected. The Signature Stats provide completions, touchdowns, and interceptions while under pressure, and so it is easy to subtract them out of a player’s overall line to get the same numbers without pressure. I do not have yards thrown under pressure, so I will just estimate them based on the number of completions and overall yards per completion. I am ignoring scrambles in this exercise, but I think it is fair to assume the mobile quarterbacks are significantly more productive when pressured than I’m showing because of their legs.

First, here are the most productive passers when pressured, based on estimated points per dropback:

  Under Pressure
Name Dropbacks Comp. Est. Yards TD INT Est. PPDB
Ben Roethlisberger 168 74 851 11 3 0.43
Blaine Gabbert 101 41 421 4 1 0.31
Aaron Rodgers 191 60 695 8 1 0.30
Carson Palmer 189 84 978 7 5 0.30
Joe Flacco 185 68 819 7 3 0.30
Robert Griffin III 162 59 733 5 2 0.28
Matt Ryan 194 80 895 7 6 0.27
Drew Brees 200 80 981 7 7 0.27
Matt Schaub 169 72 825 4 2 0.27
Tony Romo 217 86 992 8 9 0.25
Jay Cutler 187 75 892 6 7 0.24
Tom Brady 167 55 662 4 2 0.23
Josh Freeman 205 70 930 7 9 0.23
Matthew Stafford 210 79 902 5 4 0.23
Sam Bradford 198 64 722 5 2 0.23
Russell Wilson 187 54 668 5 3 0.22
Cam Newton 203 61 843 4 4 0.21
Ryan Tannehill 163 62 724 3 4 0.20
Andrew Luck 268 81 1045 7 8 0.20
Alex D. Smith 72 21 238 2 2 0.19
Nick Foles 108 43 454 1 1 0.19
Eli Manning 168 69 849 3 8 0.18
Kevin Kolb 92 32 343 1 1 0.17
Colin Kaepernick 91 32 427 0 1 0.17
Peyton Manning 121 50 582 1 4 0.16
Ryan Fitzpatrick 151 49 544 4 7 0.16
Philip Rivers 224 73 779 4 8 0.14
Andy Dalton 153 37 413 3 5 0.12
Michael Vick 173 53 614 2 6 0.12
Christian Ponder 176 52 509 3 6 0.12
Brandon Weeden 155 51 581 2 7 0.11
Matt Cassel 92 26 290 2 5 0.10
Jake Locker 107 25 308 2 5 0.10
Mark Sanchez 145 44 516 0 4 0.09
John Skelton 76 25 260 0 3 0.06
Matt Hasselbeck 59 22 218 0 3 0.05
Chad Henne 131 34 427 0 6 0.04
Brady Quinn 86 21 214 0 6 -0.04
5944 2064 24143 144 170 0.20

 

Ben Roethlisberger outpaces the rest of the position by a fair margin. Surprisingly, Blaine Gabbert is second, and the disparity between he and Chad Henne could influence their chances of starting. Most elite quarterbacks are nearer the top of the list, but they don’t really stand out. Nearer the bottom of the list, we find Kevin Kolb, as expected. In addition, this explains Philip Rivers’ fantasy downfall. Only Andrew Luck saw more pressured dropbacks than Rivers, and he did not handle them well.

Here are the most productive passers without pressure:

  No Pressure
Name Dropbacks Comp. Est. Yards TD INT Est. PPDB
Peyton Manning 488 350 4077 36 7 0.60
Russell Wilson 290 198 2450 21 7 0.58
Drew Brees 499 342 4196 36 12 0.58
Aaron Rodgers 448 311 3600 31 7 0.57
Tom Brady 502 346 4165 30 6 0.55
Colin Kaepernick 168 104 1387 10 2 0.54
Alex D. Smith 184 132 1499 11 3 0.53
Philip Rivers 363 265 2827 22 7 0.52
Eli Manning 396 252 3099 23 7 0.51
Matt Ryan 469 342 3824 25 8 0.51
Robert Griffin III 304 198 2462 15 3 0.50
Josh Freeman 398 236 3135 20 8 0.48
Cam Newton 352 219 3026 15 8 0.47
Andy Dalton 440 292 3256 24 11 0.46
Chad Henne 217 132 1657 11 5 0.46
Kevin Kolb 125 77 826 7 2 0.46
Tony Romo 476 339 3911 20 10 0.45
Ben Roethlisberger 324 210 2414 15 5 0.45
Matt Schaub 404 278 3183 18 10 0.44
Joe Flacco 386 249 2998 15 7 0.43
Ryan Fitzpatrick 415 257 2856 20 9 0.42
Michael Vick 245 151 1748 10 4 0.42
Andrew Luck 435 258 3329 16 10 0.41
Carson Palmer 406 261 3040 15 9 0.40
Jay Cutler 309 180 2141 13 7 0.40
Sam Bradford 407 264 2980 16 11 0.40
Matt Hasselbeck 182 116 1149 7 2 0.38
Christian Ponder 379 248 2426 15 6 0.38
Jake Locker 263 152 1874 8 6 0.36
Matthew Stafford 566 356 4065 15 13 0.35
Brandon Weeden 404 246 2804 12 10 0.35
Mark Sanchez 351 202 2367 13 14 0.34
Nick Foles 184 118 1245 5 4 0.34
Ryan Tannehill 369 220 2570 9 9 0.33
Blaine Gabbert 208 121 1241 5 5 0.29
Brady Quinn 145 91 927 2 2 0.28
Matt Cassel 221 135 1506 4 7 0.28
John Skelton 142 84 872 2 6 0.22
12864 8332 97133 592 269 0.44

 

The top of this list is more similar to the perceived elite quarterbacks. Of course, Brady, Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning are at the top. New stars Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III are there as well. John Skelton and Brady Quinn are at the bottom of both lists.

For Philip Rivers, the key to a fantasy comeback seems clear. He was more productive than Matt Ryan without pressure last season. However, the Chargers were rated as the fourth-worst pass-blocking line at -27.2 overall. With the additions of Max Starks and first-round tackle D.J. Fluker, I believe Rivers is again worth a flier as a QB2.

For point of reference, Alex Smith goes from the 49ers’ line rated +32.9 in pass blocking to the Chiefs’ line rated +8.3. Kevin Kolb goes from the Cardinals’ line rated -56.3 to the Bills rated +45.2. That could be a huge difference in fantasy. Kolb was held to six games last season with injuries, but he was 20th in overall points per dropback. If he can make it through a full season — a big if, if for no other reason than the presence of E.J. Manuel — and improve on his 2012 rate of 42 percent pressured dropbacks, then he could easily become a solid QB2.

Finally, Andy Dalton was solid with 0.46 points per dropback without pressure but a poor 0.12 points per dropback while pressured. The Bengals were second behind the Broncos with a +53.5 pass blocking line. Dalton’s fantasy success is more the product of his situation than his actual abilities. In a redraft league, that can work, but a decline in his offensive line could expose him. I would look to trade him in dynasty.

Scott Spratt was named Newcomer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He also writes for The Hardball Times and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research associate for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

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