QBs in Focus: Alex Smith

Kicking off the group of AFC West passers, Alex Smith gets the first in-depth look from Steve Palazzolo.

| 3 years ago

QBs in Focus: Alex Smith

qb-month-alexsmithThough we certainly miss football during the offseason, it’s always a good time to take a step back and analyze our plethora of data.

We’re often so busy grading and collecting data during the season that we’re unable to put a lot of the information to good use. With that said, we’ve decided to declare June as “QB Month” as we break down NFL quarterbacks every which way.

We’re going to examine quarterbacks from a number of situations before looking at each of them individually. The grades and numbers should reveal each quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses from the 2013 season.

As we go through this series, it’s important to understand the relationship between QB Rating (NFL’s version) and PFF Grade.

While QB Rating is obviously supposed to be a QB statistic, it’s actually a better gauge of what the entire offense did in a given situation. This is the type of information that is actually extremely valuable to our NFL team customers as their game planning efforts must go towards stopping an entire passing offense, not just the quarterback.

If the quarterback throws an easy dump off pass to the RB who then weaves through the defense for the touchdown, it’s certainly not a great indicator of quarterbacking skill as it is the running back and defense accounting for the majority of the work on the play. Of course the QB Rating will look quite shiny in that situation.

On the other hand, PFF Grade is a good indicator of how well the quarterback actually performed in a given situation. Whether they throw an accurate pass that was dropped, or perhaps an inaccurate one that should have been intercepted and the defense dropped, the PFF grade will account for those situations with a positive and a negative grade respectively while QB Rating will simply reflect the 0-for-1 passing.

It’s important to distinguish between QB Rating and PFF grade, though there’s a good chance they’ll match up in most situations.

After taking a look at the entire league in various situations, it’s time to break down each quarterback individually.

Alex Smith

Alex Smith

Alex Smith (2)

Alex Smith (3)

All categories with a * are normalized so that the league average is 0.0.


•  Graded at +3.9 on third down.
•  Above average on passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air (+3.9).
•  Graded at +3.6 on passes thrown in between the numbers.
•  Graded at +5.4 on drop-backs of 7 to 8 yards.
•  Fifth-highest grade on drop-backs lasting at least 3.6 seconds (+7.6).
•  Showed well when throwing to the slot (by alignment) (+6.1).
•  Graded at +6.2 on post routes and +3.6 on in routes.


•  Graded at -5.1 on passes thrown in the 5-to-10-yard range and -3.0 on passes thrown in the 11-to-20-yard range.
•  Graded at -1.6 on passes thrown outside the numbers to the right.
•  Posted a -3.0 grade on drop-backs of 4 to 6 yards.
•  Graded at -1.1 when throwing to inline tight ends and -1.6 when throwing to running backs split out wide.
•  Graded at -2.2 on crossing routes and -1.2 on corner routes


•  Average depth of target (aDOT) was 7.6 yards on 3rd-and-10+.
•  Threw 53.0% of passes in the 1-to-10-yard range; eighth-highest in the league.
•  Only 17.4% of passes thrown in the 11-to-20-yard range; third-lowest in the league, and only 8.7% of passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air, also third-lowest in the league.
•  Faced the blitz on 35.6% of drop-backs; sixth-highest in the league.
•  31.4% of drop-backs in the 4-6-yard range; third-highest in the league.
•  Threw only 63.6% of passes to wide receivers (by alignment); below the league average of 72.4%.
•  Threw 27.3% of passes to running backs; third-highest in the league.
•  Threw screens on 12.7% of attempts; fifth-highest in the league and ranked third with 7.2% of attempts going to running backs on screens.
•  Only 7.0% of attempts were go routes; fourth-lowest in the league.


For the entire set of “Quarterbacks in Focus” posts, click here.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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