QBs in Focus: Pass Depth
Steve Palazzolo shows the league's best and worst when QB performance is sorted out by target depth.
QBs in Focus: Pass Depth
Though 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.
Depth of Pass
The only important note when charting depth of pass is that it is taken from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball is caught. This may seem obvious, but it’s not the actual yards the ball traveled in the air.
Another unique point in PFF’s data, we count the yards that a ball travels into the end zone as “air yards.” So if a team lines up at the 1-yard line and the QB hits a WR for a TD eight yards into the end zone,that counts as eight “air yards,” not just one. We feel this is a much better measure when tracking the average depth of target for a quarterback or a receiver.
Important Note: Grades for this section have been re-normalized for each individual category. This process essentially makes the league average a 0, and ensures that all quarterbacks are graded equally along this scale. For this reason, posted grades may not match up with those shown in the premium stat section.
• Not only did Peyton Manning lead the way with 353 passes between 1-10 yards, but he also set the pace with a +16.4 grade and a 113.5 rating.
• Tom Brady ranked second in both number of passes between 1-10 yards (324) and grade at +12.3. His 4.0 YAC per completion was below the league average, however, going against the perception that his receivers are often the best after the catch.
• Two Texans find themselves at the bottom of this list in Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. It goes against conventional wisdom to see Keenum struggle with the short stuff and excel throwing down the field, but that’s just what he did in 2013.
• Andy Dalton is also known as a quarterback that works better throwing the ball underneath but his -5.6 grade was sixth-worst in the league while throwing a league-high 11 interceptions.
• The Packers emphasized the quick passing game last season and Aaron Rodgers led the league in success percentage (57.0%), Accuracy Percentage (86.8%), completion percentage (80.7%) and yards per attempt (8.1). He also had the lowest average time to throw at 1.98 seconds.
• There’s some obvious overlap with the 1-10 yard chart as Manning still sits atop the list and Dalton, Smith, and Schaub pulling up the rear.
• Eli Manning makes the jump, from +1.5 in 1-10 yard range to +6.5 in 5-10 yard range.
• The surprises on the list are Locker leading in accuracy percentage (82.1 percent) and Cassel leading in completion percentage (77.1%) and success percentage (64.6%). However, his -2.8 grade still doesn’t match up.
• Nick Foles dominates the range statistically as he leads in QB rating (141.6), success percentage (70.5%), Accuracy Percentage (78.7%), completion percentage (72.1%), and yards per attempt (12.7) while ranking second at +11.2.
• Mike Glennon had a rough rookie season in the 11-20 yard range finishing second to last at -9.2.
• Carson Palmer led the league with 27.8% of his passes going to the 11-20 yard range while Sam Bradford ranked last at only 16.6%.
• Josh McCown’s strong receiving corps certainly helped him lead the league in QB Rating (138.6) and yards per attempt (19.1).
• This was Glennon’s sweet spot as led the league in Accuracy Percentage at 60%. He completed 50% of his passes to go with two drops.
• The bottom half of the list has some big names that struggled in this range, including Brady, Tannehill, Foles, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco, and Cam Newton.
• Joe Flacco attempted the most 20+ yard throws with 88, but his 27.6 QB Rating came in dead last
• Manning paced the way at this range, even with his declining arm strength. His decision making, accuracy, and anticipation were top-notch, as usual.
• Keenum showed well beyond 20 yards as he finished at +6.4 to go with 16.2 yards/attempt and a league-leading accuracy percentage of 53.1%.
• Sample sizes get smaller, but the 30+ is more of a true deep ball from the 20+ and 21-30 yard range we’ve looked at previously.
• Strong arms are always lauded when discussing the deep ball, but of the top-graded quarterbacks, only Cutler has the “requisite” cannon for an arm.
• Dolphins fans will be surprised to see Ryan Tannehill graded highly on this list, and he was certainly inconsistent, but there were a lot of good throws mixed in there throughout the season. His late-game throw against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5 was one of the season’s best.
• Surprising to see Philip Rivers attempt a league-low 2% of his passes beyond 30 yards (10 total attempts).
• Ben Roethlisberger struggled with the deep ball as he ranked second to last at -4.6.
• Brees led the league with 22 attempts in this range.
• Matt Ryan was around average in the 31- to 40-yard range, but he tops the 40+ list at +3.2.
• Foles once again paced the league in the major statistical categories on his way to a +3.0 grade.
For the entire set of “QBs in Focus” posts, click here.
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