Greg Peshek

Out Of The Box

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2014's Quarterback Conundrum

Thursday, January 09, 2014

With respect to quarterbacks in the draft, you’ll always hear pundits make observations such as, “this QB has a great deep ball” or “he always folds when he’s under pressure in the pocket.” But how do you know those are true and not bias from a small sample of observed snaps? The simple answer is that you don’t. What I’ve aimed to do this year (and in years past) is to quantify those observations in an effort complement film study and analysis of draft prospects. Instead of guessing about the potency of Manziel’s deep ball, you can pull up the legitimate statistic.


To do that, I’ve hand charted every one of Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Johnny Manziel, and Blake Bortles’ attempts this year on everything from pass distance to throws against the blitz. The data here can’t render an opinion for you, but it can provide an effective complement to your knowledge on a prospect.


Where Did They Throw the Ball?

The ‘zones’ in the chart represent where the QB threw the ball on the field, that is exactly the spot the receiver caught the ball. This is to make sure yards after the catch don’t influence our opinion on the QBs.



- Most notable for Bridgewater is the lack of screens incorporated in the offense. Some have said that Bridgewater throws a high quantity of short passes, however the screens a QB normally utilizes have become short throws so that Bridgewater throws 53% of his passes in the 1-10 yard zones.


- Derek Carr is the complete opposite, throwing 33% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage, but few in the 1-10 yard range. The high number of short attempts means that he throws the deep ball less than average 11.35% of the time. In addition he throws to the important intermediate zone (11-20 yards) 18.3% of the time which means overall he pushes the ball down the field less than normal.


- Similar to Carr, Bortles doesn’t throw the deep ball as much as average, but makes up for it by hitting intermediate routes more often - throwing from 6-20 yards 40% of the time.


- In an era of screen passes, Manziel threw the deep ball far more than the other QBs he’s compared to here. Manziel targeted his WRs nearly 19% of the time on passes deeper than 20 yards and still went to his intermediate targets 19% of the time.

How Accurate Were They?

This requires a bit of explaining. The chart below represents each QBs accuracy in the individual target zones when adjusting for drops by their receivers. The colors represent how that accuracy compares to the ‘Average QB’, green is better than average, yellow average, red is below-average. Let’s get to it.



- It’s pretty clear that Bridgewater cleans up in every zone except the deep ball. He’s excellent throwing the short ball where he’s about 6-7% above average for the two zones. Some have criticized Bridgewater’s deep ball, and while not bad - his completion percentage of about 51% is about average.

- Having a big arm is a trait that every scout desires, but that doesn’t matter if it’s not particularly effective. Derek Carr’s accuracy on 20+ yard throws is poor, coming in nearly 7% below-average. In addition, his accuracy on NFL type throws (11-20 yards) is just about as expected at 64%. His only redeeming category is in the 6-10 yard range where he is slightly above average.


- There's an interesting dichotomy in Bortles’ throw ability. His 55% completion percentage on deep throws is extremely positive, but he’s only average on the intermediate throws hitting 64% of his total targets. However, he’s above average in the 6-10 range as well, so it’s likely that hitting that intermediate zone is just a matter of getting the touch down.


- For all the criticism Manziel gets, he’s extremely good at hitting his targets downfield. His ‘NFL type’ throws in the 11-20 yard range is the highest in the top 8 QBs in this class at 70.5% and he’s slightly better than Bortles at hitting the 20+ yard throws.


- Before we start getting into the debates about Manziel scrambling around the heaving it up for Mike Evans…his accuracy was similar when throwing solely from the pocket, hitting 67% of his 11-20 yard passes and 59% of his 20+ yard passes

How Do They Do Under Pressure?

I’ve got quite a few stats for these QBs, but for the sake of brevity I’ve picked their completion percentage while being blitzed and under pressure to highlight. For reference, a blitz counts regardless of whether the O-line picks it up, but under pressure is when the QB is moved off his spot or has to get rid of the ball quicker than anticipated.



- Upon first glance it’s pretty clear that Carr is lacking in both categories. His 50% completion percentage when under pressure is the worst among the top 8 QBs in this class and he’s not setting the world ablaze against the blitz either.


- When looking at both categories, Bridgewater is the clear winner. He and Bortles both complete about 63% of their passes when under pressure, but Bridgewater is heads above the other QBs against the blitz – nearly matching his ability when there are no extra rushers.


- Bortles has been noted for his success when under pressure and it shows here, hitting 63% of his passes when the defense is bearing down. He has the second highest completion percentage against the blitz at 71.05%.


- Manziel’s just about average in both categories where he’s just about where you’d expect a top notch college QB to be.

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