Carson Palmer is PFF's No. 1-graded QB through Week 5
PFF’s top-graded quarterback after five games is … Carson Palmer.
Raise your hand if you predicted that before the season started. Palmer now leads the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and the surprising Andy Dalton in the grades thanks to some inspired play that sees the Arizona Cardinals 4-1 and atop the NFC West.
Palmer’s raw statistics look nice enough. He has completed 64.9 percent of his passes for 1,316 yards and 13 touchdowns. The latter figure is the joint best mark in the NFL and puts him on pace for more than 40 touchdowns by the end of the year.
What makes all of this pretty special, however, is because Palmer plays in an offense that does things a little differently than most of the NFL. The Cardinals still attack deep down the field like few others. I don’t mean just the occasional deep shot, but rather regular deeper attempts than most of the league.
Among full-time starters, Palmer has the highest average depth of target in the NFL at 11.1. Only Houston’s Brian Hoyer, in and out of the lineup, has a higher figure. To put that figure into context, it’s almost double Tony Romo’s average depth of target of 6.0. Aaron Rodgers is at 7.0, Tom Brady is at 7.3, and even Teddy Bridgewater, within a Norv Turner offense, is at 8.2.
Palmer is attempting deeper passes more often than almost all of the NFL, and that’s why his completion percentage isn’t ever likely to be pushing 70 percent or higher, but why 64.9 percent within that offense is exceptional.
Palmer has yet to grade negatively over a game this season and has been virtually unstoppable when kept clean in the pocket. His passer rating on the 102 dropbacks that he has not been pressured this season is 127.6, and he has a 10-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio on those plays. He has completed 70.3 percent of those passes and gained 923 yards on 71 completions.
The Cardinals offense is almost like a throwback in a league that is heading ever more spread-based in its passing attack. The Cardinals like to run the ball, use play-action and strike deep down the field, and Palmer is the perfect quarterback to make that happen. When the Cardinals use play-action this season, Palmer’s completion percentage jumps up 11.8 percent and his yards per attempt increases by 4.4 yards.
The Cardinals have faced a slate of questionable competition so far this season, so it remains to be seen if Palmer can play this well against some of the best teams, but right now he is the best-graded quarterback in the league, and soaring high in his performances.