How Good Can Matt Ryan Be In Life Without Kyle Shanahan?

For the longest time, Matt Ryan was one of the most if not the most, underrated quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfairly picked on for a small playoff resume that only included one win, he was a top 10 quarterback that was passed over because of what he “didn’t do” in January.

That all changed in 2016 when Ryan ascended as the Most Valuable Player of the year and helped take the Atlanta Falcons to their 2nd Super Bowl in franchise history.

It was a season to remember. Setting franchise records for passing yards (4,944), yards per game (309.0), touchdowns (38), passer rating (117.1), and completion percentage (69.9%), Ryan’s season was a tremendous accomplish both personally and for the city of Atlanta.

It was also a season where he finally silenced critics of his postseason accomplishments. Putting up 1,014 yards for 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, as well as a 144.0 passer rating in a losing effort in the Super Bowl, Ryan managed to take off some of the weight he had for most of his career.

In fact, Ryan’s last 5 postseason starts look great.

These statistical accomplishments are something Matt Ryan should be proud of achieving. Being an NFL quarterback is already difficult enough to get to. Staying in the league and being a good quarterback for a long time is near impossible. Ryan has been able to accomplish this tenfold. So there’s been plenty of reasons for Falcons fans to keep their heads high despite a heartbreaking meltdown in the Super Bowl.

But should there also be concerns for the franchise quarterback now that former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is now in San Francisco as the head coach?

When ranking him in my annual Starting Quarterback Power Rankings list, people were surprised to see Ryan at 15 out of 32 starting quarterbacks heading into 2017 (recently updated to 12th). The league MVP outside the top 5 and top 10, just barely in the top 15? And with the aforementioned list of accomplishments, isn’t putting him that low far-fetched?

Perhaps it is, but I want to address a couple of things I could not with Twitter’s character limits.

First, Ryan’s position on the list was not from a personal bias or a random conclusion. My reasoning was done by watching all 32 projected starting quarterbacks (It has yet to be determined if DeShaun Watson will overtake Tom Savage for the Texans’ starting role, but I had him on the list anyway), comparing their strengths and if they had any weaknesses, and then evaluating them based on what I saw and the rankings I was most comfortable with.

Second, the list and Ryan’s ranking was not done for the purpose of click baiting people. This was done to give people an alternative opinion on the quarterbacking, something they could use as a reference point for their own research instead of using someone’s work as the gospel.

Third, and most importantly, to me, there are issues Ryan has had that I feel need to be addressed heading into the 2017 season. That’s where this article comes in.

In 2016, Matt Ryan was given the best supporting cast of his career. With the addition of center Alex Mack from the Browns, wideouts such as Taylor Gabriel and Mohamad Sanu in addition to the presence of Julio Jones, and the dynamic run duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, Ryan was given a cast that didn’t suffocate him like in previous years.

But it went further than that. Ryan’s MVP winning season was aided with the help of former coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

The Kyle Shanahan Factor

Shanahan used the assets Ryan had to create one of the league’s most quarterback friendly environments, one where easy reads where available consistently and at the right time. While in previous years, #3 had better receivers around him, in 2016 that didn’t matter.

As well as helping sign Browns center Alex Mack, Shanahan helped recruit receivers Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson (the latter of which is in San Francisco with Shanahan), two players who played under the OC in previous seasons. No one would mistake these guys for world class athletes, at least by NFL standards, but under Shanahan’s scheme. Both receivers struggle to gain separation downfield, but their speed and YAC ability can help them to be schemed open easily to fit their skill sets.

Under the Shanahan offense, both players thrived, as well as players such as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. With all these tools, Ryan was given his most comfortable cast to work with ever, and at times it seemed like an absolute cakewalk.

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In his offense, Shanahan likes to spread out routes, using misdirection, RB routes, TE throwbacks, and a wide variety of play calls to scheme receivers open and make big plays easy to create. This means that the quarterback has plenty of options to throw to and plenty of time to get the ball out of his hands, even if the offensive line isn’t up to par.

While Atlanta’s offensive line wasn’t spectacular in 2016, it didn’t need to be due to the creativity Shanahan’s offense presented. This allowed Ryan to be protected consistently even if he wasn’t by technical terms.

In the GIF above, the 3 WR set on the right side of the field purposely does not separate, creating misdirection on the routes and a distraction that leaves the left side of the field completely uncovered. Ryan understands this and immediately dumps the pass off to Devonta Freeman, one of the best backs in the game. Due to the abundance of space, Freeman’s path to the end zone is an easy one.

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A theme you will notice with these GIFs is that uncovered receivers defined a chunk of Ryan’s 9.3 YPA. Of course, he still had to put the work in and the stat is still impressive even with context, but these types of plays where the receiver is schemed completely open doesn’t make it quite as impressive as it sounds.

The play above is a staple of the Shanahan offense; the tight end throwback. Involving play action, the throwback has the QB rolling right (or left) outside the pocket, throwing to the opposite side of the field to hit a (presumably) uncovered tight end.

The 2 WR set on the left side crosses outside, while the defense takes the fake handoff bait. Austin Hooper, who catches the pass, creates a diversion by pretending to block. With the chaotic routes, the closest defender to Hooper is tricked by Ryan rolling to the right. This allows Hooper to be completely uncovered, so much so that as long as the pass was in the general area he was, it was a touchdown. Taking candy from a baby isn’t this easy.

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Above is one of the best play calls I have ever witnessed. At first, it appears to be a five receiver set, but there’s more to it. 2 receivers run up the middle right of the field, or so it would seem. As it turns out, Coleman (lined up as a receiver on the play), cuts to the middle of the field, and with the other receiver cutting in front of Coleman to block, this creates confusion amongst the two defenders in front of them, allowing Coleman to be completely wide open. The resulting play leads to a 48-yard gain.

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Lastly, these two plays, from the same game, had the same result; a bubble screen to Gabriel for the touchdown. These resulted in touchdown passes of 35 and 25 yards, 60 of Ryan’s 269 yards on the day. When taking out those two plays and leaving in 32 attempts instead of 34, the 7.91 YPA goes down to 6.53 YPA.

Ryan still had to do his own work, and his improved play in 2016 over 2015 definitely helped. But Shanahan’s scheme helped create a large part of Ryan’s statistics. The 9.3 yards per attempt are impressive, but the Falcons offense in 2016 gave Ryan plenty of easy yards with targets being schemed open downfield. This, in addition with the YAC ability of Freeman and Coleman, helped make Ryan’s YPA look all the more impressive.

Next to the Patriots, the Falcons had arguably the most quarterback friendly environment in the NFL.

Now, if this was all that happened in 2016, I wouldn’t have any concerns to address post Shanahan. But despite the QB friendly environment, Ryan’s skill set was unhinged in comparison to previous years.

Before I get into that though, I want to dwell into what Ryan improved on in 2016 that made it all the more better than 2015, and ultimately, made him an MVP candidate.

Matt Ryan’s 2015 season was a mixed bag. While he was still making quality throws, he was also turning the ball over at the wrong time, often being careless with the ball and looking uncomfortable in the new Shanahan led offense. This proved costly as the Falcons slumped to 8-8 after a 5-0 start.

In 2016, Ryan stepped up and delivered the quality season you would expect from a QB of his caliber. As the season progressed, we started to see the Matt Ryan of old, not holding back the Falcons the same way as in 2015.

Matt Ryan’s Strengths

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Matt Ryan’s arm strength has never been great, and this is common knowledge. The Falcons knew this when they drafted him, instead going after him because of how well he could anticipate route openings and play under pressure.

In the GIF above, Ryan’s pass floats for what seems like an eternity, but he makes up for it by getting rid of the ball early as Julio Jones is at the top of his route with his back turned. Ryan places the ball in a spot where only Jones can catch it, resulting in a completed pass.

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Ryan is a smart quarterback that understands how to adjust his skill set when the play requires a long ball. In the play above, Ryan, off play action, anticipates a spot where Jones can catch the ball without interference. The placement on this pass is one of the best you’ll ever see. The ball could not be thrown any better, and it results in a massive gain.

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Ryan’s pocket movement also stands out. His mobility is above average, but has never been on the same level as Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. However, his pocket movement has been terrific. He is consistent in providing subtle movement and can easily sense pressure. This has helped make him the deciding factor to the success of the Falcons, even if the team wasn’t always winning.

Ryan shows great pocket movement in the sensational play above. He not only notices Julio crossing to the outside left, but also notices the edge rusher to his right closing in on him. Keeping his eyes downfield, Ryan steps up in the pocket and quickly gets rid of the ball with an incredible pass to Julio.

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Similarly, Ryan keeps his eyes downfield when he’s forced to climb out of the pocket on this play. His pass threads the needle here for the touchdown, helping secure a monster win against the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.

Ryan had the offensive scheme of his dreams in 2015. It’s just that he didn’t play up to standards and improved his decision making a good deal in 2016. By running Shanahan’s offense at a higher and more efficient level, the offense became the #1 unit in the league.

Concerns for the Future

Despite all the good Ryan did last year, there may be some concerns heading into the 2017 season. While Ryan’s mistakes weren’t as abundant as the previous season, he still made a shocking amount in a QB friendly environment. Even though he only threw 7 interceptions in the regular season, he very easily could’ve thrown a lot more.

Cian Fahey of Pre Snap Reads calculated that Ryan threw 23 passes that could have been intercepted, 17th most in his QB Catalogue book. The percentage of his passes that were interceptable was 3.64%, 11th most in the league. In the passage for Ryan, Fahey concluded that he felt Ryan played good, not great, in 2016, and that the INTable stats weren’t quite as impressive because of the execution of the offense around him.

After looking through it myself, I found similar results. Like I said, Ryan’s mistakes were fewer and farer in between, but there were still instances where a pass caught by the defense could’ve made the QB pay for his error.

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In this situation, during a 17-10 game on his own 15-yard line, Ryan experienced one of the luckier moments of his career. Assuming Julio was open and getting confused by the coverage, Ryan forced a bad decision and should have been picked off. Improbably, the pass was tipped and caught by Julio, and the momentum swing was thrown aside by the football gods.

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Ryan threw an impressive go ahead touchdown during the game winning drive against the Packers in the regular season matchup, but it came close to ending in disaster for Atlanta. In the play above, Ryan did not see LaDarius Gunter (#36) watching Mohamad Sanu, assuming he would help double team Julio instead. Gunter watches Ryan the entire way and makes a move. He disrupts the play but drops the potential game sealing interception, giving new life to Atlanta and making Green Bay pay for failing to capitalize.

Not only did this impact the game, but it even helped impact the NFC playoff seeding. With otherwise same results, the Falcons would’ve finished at 10-6, with the 2nd seed and a first round bye potentially going to the Seahawks, who finished 10-5-1 and beat Atlanta in the regular season. Perhaps I’m nit picking, but when a play like this does not get punished, it needs to be recognized if the QB is doing this more than a few times.

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In this situation, the Falcons scored on a TD drive with the help of a little luck. Arizona’s defense prevents Ryan from getting rid of the ball quickly, but he forces it anyway to what he thinks is an open Julio. But instead of being punished, the interception is dropped, and the Falcons move forward and score plays later.

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The Chiefs game ended in heartbreak, but it could’ve been a lot worse. After throwing a pick six, Ryan and the Falcons got the ball back attempting to put up empty yards before the half expired.

Here, Ryan almost threw another pick six. The throwing motion looks very odd on this particular play, as there’s a slight hitch that prevents the ball from arriving safe and on time. But even then, Daniel Sorensen (#49) was reading the route all the way. Fortunately for Ryan, the pick six is dropped.

The point is that if Ryan was still making these mistakes (albeit less than in 2015) under the 2nd most QB friendly environment, how much would this come up with new coordinator Steve Sarkisian? There comes the concern. Sarkisian can potentially be a good coordinator in the NFL coming from college, but I’m not sure he can be nearly as good as Shanahan. If he adapts the offense and doesn’t stay true to the system the team ran last year, we could see the mistakes pop up more and more.

I probably wouldn’t be so concerned if I was secure about Ryan’s arm strength. He’s been able to make up for a lack of a great arm with quick instincts and anticipation, but there were signs in 2016 that it was on the decline.

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Despite the win against the Raiders, there were several scenarios where Ryan’s arm had the power of a toy cannon. Arm strength isn’t a major deal breaker, but a declining arm can impact the velocity of a quarterback’s passes and how far it travels.

In the first play above, Ryan’s pass doesn’t even come close to hitting his target’s breadbasket. The pass just hits the turf (or baseball field, whatever works). In the 2nd play, the Falcons run another TE throwback similar to the one against the Panthers. But while the Panthers one resulted in a touchdown due to how open Hooper was, in this play, the defender is closer. Ryan’s lack of juice on the pass results in Hooper slowing down his stride in order to make the catch, preventing a touchdown.

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Ryan’s downfield accuracy was good in 2016, but not great, and plays like the one above were the reason for that. Here, #3 air mails it out to Jones. The receiver is so wide open that it should’ve a walk to the end zone after he caught it. Instead, Ryan’s pass sails wide, forcing Julio to adjust to even make the catch. The Falcons would later settle for a field goal on this drive.

This throw isn’t easy to make, but it isn’t impossible like Ryan makes it. A QB with the arm strength, control, and velocity of Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, or Russell Wilson would be able to make this throw in stride. Here, Ryan’s pass look like it just sailed.

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On Atlanta’s final possession against Seattle, defensive pass interference should have been but wasn’t called on the Seahawks when Julio Jones was held by Richard Sherman, but it wouldn’t have been a problem had Julio been provided a better pass. On the All-22 angle, it is clearly shown that Julio has beaten coverage and would be able to score the game winning touchdown with a precise pass.

Instead, Ryan’s arm prevents the pass from getting to where it should be. Ryan can mask the arm strength downfield by anticipating a route opening, but here, Julio was open as Ryan got rid of the ball. The pass sails a bit wide and is underthrown.

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Finally, on this play, Ryan’s pass is again nearly picked. The hitch in his motion helps, but the throw lacks the juice one would expect on a strike down the middle. The arm strength was an issue that happened on more than just the plays I showed, but I wanted to present a glimpse of what I was seeing.

 

Conclusion

Matt Ryan is a quality quarterback and always has been. After 2016, no one will really dispute that. He’s a quarterback that has long deserved the reputation he’s getting now, and his reaction to pressure, pocket movement, accuracy, and ability to read out defensive coverages has always stood out.

Kyle Shanahan leaving Atlanta for San Francisco wouldn’t be so big of a problem for me if Ryan didn’t commit as much turnover worthy throws in an extremely friendly quarterback environment.

Shanahan was the best thing to happen to Ryan. His style of offensive and scheming allowed for a massive variety of open receivers and opportunities for Ryan to stack up yards and touchdowns. Despite not having the best individual supporting cast in and of the players, the coaching and scheming of the players allowed for Ryan’s most comfortable offense. Even with this, the cases where Ryan’s arm strength and mistake worthy plays showed up were enough to concern me.

With Sarkisan coming in, who knows what will happen. I still think Ryan will be a good quarterback in 2017, but I don’t think he’ll be as good as people thought he was in 2016. If Sarkisan continues to run the offense the same way Shanahan did, Ryan will easily be a top 10/top 5 QB again. But if the arm continues to get worse, we could see #3 on the outside looking in again when it comes to QB debates.

All things considered, Matt Ryan is the best quarterback the Falcons have ever had by a longshot, and even if his arm continues to decline, his career up to this point has been really damn good. Even if I don’t think his 2016 season was as good as public perception, I’m happy to see him get the recognition he has long deserved.

And in 2017, time will tell if Ryan can continue to be the MVP he was in 2016 with the departure of Kyle Shanahan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 Starting Quarterback Power Rankings (10-1)

32-21  20-11  10-1

10. Ryan Tannehill: Miami Dolphins

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Like Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill’s reputation is unearned. Perceived as an average quarterback, his skill set is diverse and he played a big role in guiding the Dolphins to the playoffs.

Tannehill is best known for his rollout ability, but he also excels in moving around the pocket and has greatly improved his deep passing and overall accuracy. While he isn’t quite as good as Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson, his progression to this point has nevertheless been impressive, and his play under pressure is stellar.

The one concern going forward would be his health I guess, but there really isn’t any knock I can give against Tannehill. I think he’s a top 10 QB up to this point because of how efficient he is across all scales of the field. One of the more underrated and unrecognized passers in the league.

Pros

-Great rolling out

-Strong under pressure

-Composed pocket movement

-Improved accuracy downfield

-Very mobile

Cons

-Health?

9. Ben Roethlisberger: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Ranked as the 2nd best QB heading into 2016, Ben Roethlisberger’s play went out of control after suffering a knee injury against Miami in the regular season.

Steelers fans have been concerned about the future if Ben were to suffer another injury, but a healthy Big Ben should put those worries at ease. He is still capable of leading the best downfield passing offense in the league, and his mobility and movement are vintage Ben.

Pittsburgh’s aggressive approach has been refreshing in comparison to the rest of the league’s more cautious, conservative playcalling. A healthy Roethlisberger will continue that trend in 2017. Or so we hope. The future Hall of Famer has a few great years left in him, so here’s to the Steelers using it wisely.

Pros

-League standard pocket movement

-Pioneer of buying time in the pocket

-Strong arm

-Terrific deep accuracy

-Patient in the pocket

Cons

-Play and decision making become atrocious when injured

8. Marcus Mariota: Tennessee Titans

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Marcus Mariota has become a superstar after 2 seasons. He was already really good after his rookie season, but in his sophomore year he added the ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes and became a near unstoppable threat.

Mariota’s early struggles in 2016 were due to his skill set being misused. Mike Mularkey envisioned Mariota as more of a running QB in his “exotic smashmouth” offense. Over time, Mularkey eventually realized that more pocket plays needed to be called, allowing Mariota to be more comfortable and transcend his skill set.

The one flaw Mariota has is his downfield accuracy. His gaudy numbers in that area were due to volume instead of actual efficiency. Nevertheless, he excels intermediate, and his reads are among the quickest I’ve ever seen in my years of evaluating football.

Marcus Mariota is a special talent, one that has evolved into one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He may be stereotyped as a running QB, but he is practically immortal as a pocket passer.

Pros

-Amazing ability to thread the needle

-Excellent use of manipulating defenders with his eyes to create open lanes

-Quick throwing motion

-Fast reads

-Deadly accurate

Cons

-Deep accuracy

7. Philip Rivers: Los Angeles Chargers

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Philip Rivers is everything you want in a quarterback when it comes to fundamentals. His pre snap ability, read progressions, mechanics, accuracy, and pocket control are all first class and have shaped him as one of our generation’s best quarterbacks.

In 2016 his deep passing declined, but his awareness and intelligence did not. Surrounded by injured players and a poor offensive line, the Chargers have struggled to try and make the playoffs despite being filled with talent.

None of that should be applied to Rivers. At full health and with a strong receiving cast, he should continue to make the Chargers competitive in a new home. For my money, he’s a Hall of Fame QB.

Pros

-Outstanding pre snap work

-Quick mechanics

-Dead on accuracy

-Expert movement

Cons

-Declining arm

6. Russell Wilson: Seattle Seahawks

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Russell Wilson is one of the most gifted athletes in the NFL. Armed with the best mobility money can buy, incredible downfield accuracy, and a rocket quick release, Wilson’s progression has made Seattle one of the most dangerous offenses in the league.

In 2016, his health held the team back, similar to Andrew Luck in 2015. In these cases, his accuracy depleted and it was clear he didn’t look comfortable playing. Even still, there was still plenty of vintage Wilson moments spread throughout the season.

One flaw that keeps Wilson out of the top 5 is his consistency regarding pressure. Many times, he’ll deck out of a clean pocket anticipating pressure and miss open receivers. In this case, however, his mobility, overall movement, and accuracy easily make up for these flaws and make him one of the league’s premiere passers.

Pros

-The deadliest mobility in the league

-Very accurate, especially downfield

-Vital to the run game

-Extremely quick release

Cons

-Inconsistent regarding pressure

5. Drew Brees: New Orleans Saints

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Drew Brees ages like a fine wine, yet while we acknowledge him as one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, we never take time to analyze why he’s so special.

Perhaps it’s because he’s been overshadowed by Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers for so long, but Brees deserves more respect. In spite of his small size, he offers the smoothest mechanics I’ve ever seen, combing fast processing with getting the ball out quickly and deadly fast footwork. This all results in one accurate passer.

Like many QBs his age, his arm is declining, but not to the point where he can’t throw the ball anymore. He’s one of the most efficient passers in NFL history, making him a treat for both stat and film buffs alike.

Pros

-Extremely fast process

-Smooth mechanics

-Deadly footwork

-Accurate

Cons

-Arm strength declining due to old age

4. Tom Brady: New England Patriots

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Many people have argued whether Tom Brady makes the Patriots or the Patriots make Tom Brady. His status as a 6th round outlier turned into a 5x Super Bowl champion and 2x MVP have brought this up.

To be honest, it’s both. Bill Belichick provides the friendliest QB environment and Brady takes advantage of all his riches, providing very few mistakes while showing top notch pocket movement, accuracy, pre snap reads, and footwork. More of the same from the future Hall of Famer basically.

The only area Brady struggles in is downfield passing, but does it really matter? Both the Patriots offense and Brady are so good they can exploit their team’s weaknesses even with those flaws. All in all, Brady provides some of the best QB play you’l ever see, and is arguably the greatest QB of all time.

Pros

-Extremely quick decision making

-Smart pre snap ability

-Excels in the intermediate field

-Great movement and footwork

Cons

-Struggles downfield

3. Cam Newton: Carolina Panthers

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No, this is not a joke. Cam Newton’s position at #3 is completely justified. The MVP in 2015, Newton was perceived to have declined severely in 2016.

This isn’t true at all. The schedule got tougher and Cam’s receivers and offensive line both went back to suffocating him, making the Panthers offense full of blown pass blocking, receiver miscommunications, failed effort, and drops galore.

In spite of this, Newton had a great season in my opinion. His ability to handle condense pockets and his arm trajectory are league standards. It’s of a quality you see in few quarterbacks. Although his accuracy has been criticized, it really isn’t that bad when you factor in drops and miscommunications.

Cam Newton is a top 5 quarterback in my mind. His 2016 season is much better than anyone will ever give it credit for, but that’s why he’s this high. He’s an otherworldly talent that deserves more recognition for what he’s been able to do behind awful supporting casts.

Pros

-Otherworldly arm talent

-Amazing ability to handle condensed pockets

-Dynamic skill set

-Master of downfield passing

Cons

-Accuracy can be erratic

2. Andrew Luck: Indianapolis Colts

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In 2015, Andrew Luck played with a broken body. In 2016, he returned to form as arguably the 2nd best quarterback in the league.

If you’re a big Luck guy like I am, there’s not much to talk about that we haven’t before. Although, he managed to cut down on the dumb mistakes in 2016, improved his pocket patience, and continue to fire with pinpoint accuracy and make outrageous plays.

For such a special talent, you’d think the Colts would be able to take care of him more. The offensive line improved somewhat with the addition of Ryan Kelly, but the coaching has been atrocious and the receivers outside T.Y. Hilton have little experience.

Nevertheless, Luck is one of the best players of our generation, and deserves better from his franchise. And in 2016, he returned to top form, providing an unforgettable season.

Pros

-Outrageous playmaker

-Improved pocket patience

-Less turnovers

-Sharp accuracy all around

-Outstanding under pressure

-Big arm talent

1. Aaron Rodgers: Green Bay Packers

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And here it is. The only quarterback you will ever need to watch.

Aaron Rodgers was the true best quarterback of 2016 in my eyes. He’s the best one I’ve ever seen, and the most complete player I’ve ever witnessed play in the NFL. He was sensational in the first half of 2016, and went on an immortal run in the 2nd half, playing at a level unseen.

Rodgers offers it all. Near flawless pocket patience, accuracy, arm velocity, footwork, processing, play under pressure, composure, care of the football, mobility, and overall intelligence. There just isn’t a quarterback like him.

The more I watch Aaron Rodgers play, the more I’m convinced the rest of the NFL is quarterbacked by high schoolers. Players of his quality in ANY sport come once in a lifetime. The fact that we get to watch Rodgers at the top of his game is a gift to sports fans everywhere. Like LeBron James, his impact on the sport is how ahead of everyone else he is.

Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, hands down.

Pros

-Everything

 

Summary

Just to recap all of that.

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I know you’ll have complaints, but thanks for viewing this article, it is greatly appreciated!

2017 Starting Quarterback Power Rankings (20-11)

32-21  20-11  10-1

20. Mike Glennon: Chicago Bears

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Mike Glennon’s contract in Chicago has been persecuted by the NFL community, largely because he hasn’t started a game in 3 years. It’s made even more confusing with the Bears trading up to draft Mitch Trubisky from North Carolina.

While Glennon isn’t the most attractive name, his tape in Tampa Bay was actually pretty decent. It’s no masterpiece, but there are a few impressive plays here and there, and there really isn’t anything that signals a red flag. He has good footwork, solid accuracy, and has decent mobility. He’s just never been given a fair shot, being overlooked by Lovie Smith in 2014 and playing second fiddle to Jameis Winston in his last 2 years in Tampa Bay.

Outside of being gone too long, Glennon’s only real issue is that he doesn’t do anything spectacular. He basically does everything solid, which makes him greater than the sum of his parts. If he can pick up where he left off, you’ll see him a lot higher on the list. For what it’s worth, I think the Bears got a decent QB if he proves to shake off the rust.

Pros

-Solid at pretty much everything, including footwork, accuracy, arm strength, and buying time

Cons

-Out of the starting role for a while, which means it could take a while for him to shake off the rust.

19. Jameis Winston: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Jameis Winston’s ranking at #19 is interesting since he doesn’t have a laundry list of flaws. In fact, he does a lot of things right. His pocket movement is great, he’s patient when rolling out of the pocket, and his footwork is good.

The one issue holding him back from being a top 10 QB is a severe one; his accuracy. Despite playing with 6 ft 5 freak Mike Evans, Winston’s accuracy has been atrocious, often not being in the same area code as his receivers. Perhaps it’s the throwing motion being a bit too long, but this is a case where having one flaw makes or breaks a QB. He had the 3rd worst accuracy on throws of 20+ in 2016.

Winston’s strengths certainly don’t make him a terrible QB, but if he ever improved his accuracy, he’d be an elite starter.

Pros

-Great pocket movement

-Patient

-Good footwork

-Strong arm

Cons

-Horrible accuracy

18. Matthew Stafford: Detroit Lions

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Matthew Stafford presents both the best and worst you’ll see from a quarterback. He’ll make the most mindblowing throw you’ll ever see and follow it up with a mindblowingly stupid decision.

His ranking on this list is fitting as a result. In Jim Bob Cooter’s offense, Stafford has played more efficiently, but his accuracy issues, inconsistent decision making, and YOLO passing still shine through even in a stripped down offense.

However, Stafford is also worth keeping because of what he does right. His arm talent and mobility are otherworldly, and he offers brilliant pocket movement at times. Fascinating and frustrating, infuriating and awe inspiring, Stafford is fun to watch for both the right and wrong reasons.

Pros

-Amazing arm talent

-Terrific mobility

-Capable of excellent play

Cons

-Bad short accuracy

-Frustrating decision maker

-Sidearms it too much

17. Tyrod Taylor: Buffalo Bills

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It’s rare for a backup quarterback to become a decent starter in the NFL, let alone for another team, but such is the case for former Ravens QB Tyrod Taylor.

Tyrod’s success has not been based on making plays in the pocket, though he is adept to throwing dimes downfield. While not bad, his pocket play is lacking compared to some of his peers.

But what Tyrod lacks in decisiveness and subtlety in the pocket, he easily makes up for when on the run. Outside the pocket, Tyrod is a top 5 QB. He gets into a zen-like trance and picks apart the open receiver while dodging defenders like he was in The Matrix.

It’s here where Tyrod provides his greatest value. He deserves to be Buffalo’s franchise quarterback, despite what they may think.

Pros

-Outstanding mobility

-Amazing play when buying time

-Run threat

-Strong arm with a few dimes downfield

Cons

-Lacking pocket play

-Indecisive decision making inside the pocket

16. Derek Carr: Oakland Raiders

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The Raiders have finally found a franchise quarterback.

Derek Carr has been blessed to have the exact opposite supporting casts as his brother David. With a top 3 receiving group and OL, Carr has used these gifts to help develop his play, and he’s become an above average starter in the process.

While I think Carr is a good quarterback, I don’t think he’s great. His footwork collapses under pressure, and he forces the ball out of his hands a lot, even with clean protection. His downfield accuracy is terrific, but his short accuracy needs work.

All things considered, while Carr is flawed, he’s also a QB that Oakland can trust for the long haul. His reads have progressively gotten better over the course of his career, he’s a much improved playmaker, his patience has grown, his motion is extremely quick, and his arm velocity is stellar.

Pros

-Great arm velocity

-Smooth throwing motion

-Enhanced playmaking ability

-Improved read progressions

-Efficient downfield

Cons

-Sloppy footwork under pressure

-Short accuracy is poor

-Forces check downs even with clean protection

15. Matt Ryan: Atlanta Falcons

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The reigning MVP, Matt Ryan is coming off a career year statistically. I’ve always thought he was a really good QB, so why is he low on the list?

I have my concerns. Being without Kyle Shanahan is one of them. Shanahan helped Ryan out by scheming receivers open and pinpointing where to throw the ball is something Ryan may miss out on in 2017.

Normally this really wouldn’t be a problem, but Ryan’s arm strength is a major issue. Several of his passes floated in 2016, in some cases preventing touchdowns. In addition, he was very fortunate not to commit more turnovers than he did, as defenders dropped crucial interceptions.

In terms of general accuracy and mobility, though, Ryan does well in these areas. His pocket movement is also excellent, and he at the very least cut down on the bad decisions in 2016.

Ryan offers reasons to be excited and be concerned in 2016, so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for Atlanta’s QB.

Pros

-Outstanding pocket movement

-Good mobility

-Strong accuracy

Cons

-Arm strength looks like it’s weakening

-Decision making more random than earlier in his career

14. Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys

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Dak Prescott’s rookie season was a pleasant surprise. A fourth round pick expected to backup Tony Romo, Prescott’s career changed once Romo went down in a preseason matchup.

Even with expectations for the Cowboys changed, Prescott provided quality play and led Dallas to a 13-3 record. Much praise is given to his offensive line, but Dak was one of the best quarterbacks before the snap, and was pretty good after it.

For a QB of his status, Prescott’s accuracy, processing, and ability against pressure are all above average. If he has one flaw, it’s that his timing can be erratic, but that can be improved with more years.

I’m not one of those that thinks Prescott will regress in 2016. I think he’ll be about the same, and a quality quarterback for years to come.

Pros

-Excellent pre snap ability, changing matchups and watching out for the blitz

-Strong play against pressure

-Good arm talent

Cons

-Processing can be a bit late

13. Eli Manning: New York Giants

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Eli Manning has always had a reputation for being a mediocre quarterback, one that I argue against. In 2016, he was closer to that reality than ever before. Part of this has to do with an aging arm, which was especially apparent in week 16 against the Eagles, and erratic accuracy.

Still, I expect Eli to play with quality in 2017 thanks to an improved receiving group and Ben McAdoo’s offensive scheme. Even behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league, his pocket movement and ability to play under pressure were league standard, hence his ranking on the list.

Eli is a very good quarterback even at his old age, and should play strong in 2017 as the Giants hope to contend for another Super Bowl.

Pros

-Terrific pocket movement

-Expert against pressure

-Can thread the needle on passes

-Efficient in McAdoo’s scheme

Cons

-Declining arm strength

-Erratic accuracy

 

12. Carson Palmer: Arizona Cardinals

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Many pundits and fans blamed the Cardinals’ surprising regression in 2016 on Carson Palmer and called for the team to draft or sign a quarterback, a claim that couldn’t be any more backwards. The fact of the matter is Arizona’s offensive line and receivers both played poorly, suffocating Palmer to the point where games were out of reach.

No one will argue that Palmer was as good as he was in 2015. His arm strength showed its age early on in the season, but got better as the season went on. Regardless, he was really good last year, playing outstanding under pressure and showing the same accuracy in tight windows and aggressive play we’ve come to expect from #3.

Palmer’s mobility is above average, but he really stands out on subtle pocket movement, protecting the ball and stepping up quickly in the pocket to get rid of it. This will make him valuable for the Cardinals for at least one more year, depending on how strong his arm will be.

As it stands, Palmer is a smart QB and an expert under pressure, which makes him a big commodity for the Cardinals’ offense in 2017.

Pros

-One of the best QBs under pressure

-Subtle pocket movement

-Quick processing

-Accurate in tight windows

Cons

-Arm strength showing its age

 

11. Sam Bradford: Minnesota Vikings

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Sam Bradford’s reputation is not the one he deserves. Coming into his 2nd year in Minnesota, he’s been scrutinized for failing to make the playoffs and playing conservative football. Behind the worst offensive line in the league, it’s no surprise why he would play this way, as they give him very little time to throw receivers open or for routes to finish.

However, Bradford’s play is actually high in quality. Despite being a traditional pocket passer, Bradford’s play under pressure and general accuracy are both excellent. He excels downfield and throw in tight windows on a consistent basis. His lack of injuries in 2016 was a pleasant surprise, and he was a worthy replacement for Teddy Bridgewater.

Vikings fans will spend all offseason debating between Teddy and Bradford, but either way, they have a really good, underappreciated QB stepping onto the field.

Pros

-Excellent accuracy

-Great arm velocity

-Superb play under pressure

Cons

-Not very mobile

32-21  20-11  10-1

2017 Starting Quarterback Power Rankings (32-21)

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Quarterbacks.

Everyone fights over them, everyone ranks them, and with everyones’ lists being so different, is there a definitive ranking of each starting quarterback?

Well, maybe.

That’s why I’m here. I’ve watched all 32 of the projected starting quarterbacks heading into 2017 and ranked them in order from best to worst (or worst to best depending on your preference).

The 2017 edition of the Starting QB Power Rankings is NOT based on any raw statistics, QB wins, or clutch moments (SO DON’T ASK). That is not my style of analysis, so if you want that, you’re gonna have to look somewhere else.

Quarterbacks ARE ranked on this list by:

-How well they handle pressure

-How well they control the velocity of their passes

-How poised they are when moving around

-How accurate they are

-How consistent they are when making reads

-How consistent they are at some or all of the aforementioned traits

-Most importantly, how good their tape is.

So you’ve probably been looking forward to this for a while, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, good to have you here. Let’s get this started. This first page will look at quarterbacks ranked 32nd to 21st. Part 2 will look at QBs ranked from 20th to 11th. Finally, Part 3 will look at the top 10.

And of course, there will be plenty of GIFs of visual evidence.

32. DeShaun Watson: Houston Texans

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DeShaun Watson’s ranking at the bottom is not indicative of who I think he is, but rather it’s based on his status. I don’t really believe in ranking rookie QBs until after they’ve played enough games in the NFL.

I will offer what I think of the new Texans QB though.

Watson has some stretches of NFL worthy play and offers flashes of clean footwork, but his accuracy in college was erratic and he jumped out of clean pockets when anticipating pressure on numerous occasions.

Texans coach Bill O’Brien has stated numerous times that Tom Savage would remain the starting QB heading into the upcoming season. Savage is a less expensive Brock Osweiler, which would be a mistake for Houston to make. At the very least, Watson is more promising than Savage, and I’d start him for the season if I were Houston.

Pros

-Clean footwork

-Can make good stretches of play occur.

Cons

-Erratic accuracy

-Indecisive pocket movement

-Hesitation under pressure

31. Blake Bortles: Jacksonville Jaguars

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It’s 2017 and everyone thinks Blake Bortles sucks. Except the Jaguars.

Before the 2016 season, the Jaguars were predicted to make the leap as a playoff contender after going on a free agency frenzy. Much of this was due to Bortles’ perception: In 2015 he had over 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns, but a large chunk of this was due to garbage time statistics where the Jaguars were already unable to comeback and win the game.

Bortles was bad in 2015, but offered some stretches of decent play. In 2016, his mechanics and play managed to get even worse. This was looking less like a professional quarterback and more like a high school quarterback imitating a professional quarterback.

Bortles was already bad enough with sloppy footwork, bad accuracy, and slow reads, but his massive throwing motion has been the official nail in the coffin. The motion pretty much kills every play because of how long it takes to get rid of the ball, thus making it impossible for the Jaguars to run any play on the field without a defender getting in the way.

His 2016 season was a whole new level of atrocious, though even then a few are chalking it up to injuries. I do not put stock into that. Bortles couldn’t throw with precision or read a defense healthy to begin with, and this is pretty much who he is now.

Pros

-Makes any other starting QB look better by comparison

Cons

-Long, unpleasant throwing motion

-Can’t read defenses

-Accuracy is awful

-Pocket movement doesn’t exist

-Mechanics are sloppy

-Process doesn’t exist

-Is Blake Bortles

 

30. Jared Goff: Los Angeles Rams

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Jared Goff being selected with the #1 pick in the 2016 draft has been subjected to controversy. Mainly because he’s not good at all.

Frankly, from watching his tape, I’m not sure how Goff was anywhere close to resembling a first round pick. He plays with a complete lack of composure, never settling his feet while constantly making off balanced throws, and checks down to covered receivers even if they’re nowhere near the first down marker.

Looking back, this looks like the tape of an undrafted QB. If Goff has any hope, it’s that the coaching should improve and he has a couple of new pieces added. Otherwise, the Rams have a massive hole to fill at QB.

 

Pros

-Is young

Cons

-No accuracy

-Terrible footwork that never settles

-Limited field vision

-Extremely hesitant

-Zero composure

-Should not have been close to being a #1 overall pick.

 

29. Josh McCown: New York Jets

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Josh McCown keeps getting starting jobs despite being Josh McCown. He disguises himself as a great mentor because that’s basically all he is.

The truth is, any QB can be a mentor to a younger player. For some reason, people highlight this and ignore that McCown can’t throw or read coverages at all. For the last 2 years in Cleveland, Josh McCown was in QB friendly offenses that managed to give him easy reads and decisions with quality pass protection, and even then his play was abysmal.

I suppose McCown has some purpose for the Jets because he’s secured the #1 pick for the Buccaneers and Browns when he played with both of those teams. As a quarterback, though, he’s one of the last options you’d want.

Pros

-Great con artist

Cons

-Everything

 

28. Brian Hoyer: San Francisco 49ers

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It’s clear that the 49ers are in phase 1 of rebuilding, much like the Browns were a year ago. Also like the Browns, team has done well to prepare for the future even if the present looks bleak.

Brian Hoyer will be the starting quarterback for the 49ers in 2017. As a backup, he actually isn’t that bad. When given a strong system and easy situations, he can play efficiently, which is something Josh McCown can’t even do. In Chicago, his 6 TD and 0 INT were the result of playing well in a scheme that asked very little of him.

As a starter, Hoyer is atrocious. His accuracy is extremely lacking and he makes decisions without any clear thought. This was clear when he played in Cleveland and Houston, but in Chicago the offense was extremely watered down in the absence of Jay Cutler, allowing him to put up respectable numbers.

Hoyer is familiar with Kyle Shanahan’s offense from the time spent with the Browns. Shanahan will provide Hoyer a QB friendly environment even with very little offensive talent around him. The question is will Hoyer be able to use that to his advantage? When it comes to winning games, I doubt it, but he might be able to rack up a high draft for San Francisco.

 

 

Pros

-He has pros?

Cons

-Brian Hoyer

 

27. Joe Flacco: Baltimore Ravens

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I would say that Joe Flacco devolved from a Super Bowl MVP to someone resembling a rookie drafted in the 4th round, but Dak Prescott actually had a quality debut. What’s Flacco’s excuse?

Flacco’s traits have all regressed since he got paid. His footwork has zero discipline, his play under pressure is reliant on his receivers to make plays due his accuracy being straight 50/50 (even without defenders in the way). He is incapable of reading defenses, but how about that arm?

This is a QB that is sometimes called average when he isn’t deserving of that label. He’s one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league, and his lack of care for his mechanics or accuracy have plagued the Ravens offense.

Pros

-Arm strength

Cons

-Mechanics are gone

-Precision is gone

-Footwork is cardboard cutout

-Highly depends on lucky outcomes due to floaty passes and 50/50 shots

-Not elite

 

26. Carson Wentz: Philadelphia Eagles

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Eagles fans generally believe Carson Wentz is a franchise quarterback and were impressed by his rookie season. I wasn’t.

I’m not one to deny that Wentz can become a good quarterback, but in his rookie season he was just bad. In his first 3 games he played very well, but benefitted from playing against poor defenses. Since then, his play dropped severely, showcasing a giant amount of flaws.

Alarming traits include poor short accuracy, being too high on his throws, a hitch in his throwing motion, staring down receivers and not anticipating route openings, and playing scared under pressure.

People who are pro Wentz will bring up the play of his receivers, but just as big if not bigger was that he forced his receivers into bringing in bad passes throughout 2016. He also plays in a QB friendly offense provided by head coach Doug Pederson, who emphasizes short passes and receivers schemed open.

Bottomline, Wentz has a lot to work on if he wants to have a long career in Philly.

Pros

-Mobile

-Pocket movement got slightly better as rookie season progressed

Cons

-Extremely hesitant under the slightest bit of pressure

-Hitch in throwing motion

-Deadly inaccurate on short and long throws

-Sloppy footwork

-Stares down receivers way too much

 

25. Kirk Cousins: Washington Redskins

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Kirk Cousins’ massive numbers mask a bunch of flaws that have hindered the Redskins’ offense.

First and foremost, his accuracy is terrible. It constantly needs to get fixed by receivers making adjustments on the ball. Second, his vision and processing are both limited and late, so he doesn’t see a route opening until it actually happens, making it easy for defenses to make a play on the ball. Third, his arm talent is minimal, so his passes consistently float downfield.

At the very least, Cousins became semi competent in 2016, but he’s still holding back the Redskins offense.

Pros

-Decent downfield passing

-Provides some competence on occasion

Cons

-Limited vision

-Poor play under pressure

-Late process

-Accuracy needs to be bailed out by receivers

-Needs reads to be easy and instant

 

24. Trevor Siemian: Denver Broncos

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Trevor Siemian is an enigma. He’s not a good quarterback by any means but is fascinating nonetheless. As a 7th round pick, it’s cool to see him get the most out of a limited skill set by trying to maximize every play.

Siemian does a lot of things poorly, but his work buying time sort of makes up for it. He’s basically a backup QB playing a starting quarterback. He’s a bit of a guilty pleasure at times, and isn’t the worst QB on this list.

Pros

-Does damage on broken plays

-Maximizes every play to the best of his ability

Cons

-Very limited skill set that depends on good surrounding cast to mask it.

-Small arm

-Late passing

 

23. Cody Kessler: Cleveland Browns

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The Cleveland Browns were the worst team by record in the NFL last year, and a large part of that had to do with the QB position (as usual).

With that said, Cody Kessler has been somewhat of a step up from what the Browns have had at the position. He’s capable of good stretches of pocket movement and like Trevor Siemian, can maximize the most out a limited skill set.

The problem lies in Kessler’s inconsistent processing and lack of arm strength. The former was responsible for half his sacks despite what many Browns fans will tell you, and the latter helped disrupt many passing plays.

As far as backups go, Kessler is a good one. As a starter, he’s below average, with plenty of room to improve.

Pros

-Fits Hue Jackson’s scheme

-Flashes great pocket movement

-Maximizes skill set

Cons

-Weak arm

-Limited vision prevents him from offering subtle movement to escape defenders

-Takes too many bad sacks

 

22. Alex Smith: Kansas City Chiefs

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With the decision to trade up and draft Patrick Mahomes out of Texas Tech, the Chiefs have told Alex Smith that 2017 will be his last year.

Alex Smith may not be the worst quarterback in the league, but he’s the most frustrating to watch. His achilles heal is his hesitation. This results in him constantly ignoring open receivers, checking the ball down to covered receivers short of the first down marker, and throwing without any precision.

When he isn’t hesitant, Smith provides flashes of good play. He is a decent downfield passer, and his mobility also makes him a running threat.

Still, Smith’s flaws have made him a bad QB, one whose hesitation masks what would be good QB play.

Pros

-When aggressive, flashes good play

-Running threat

Cons

-Extreme hesitance prevents him from seeing open receivers

-Checks down entirely too much

 

21. Andy Dalton: Cincinnati Bengals

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Andy Dalton is incredible. He’s had plenty of weapons and strong supporting casts in his first 6 seasons, yet his flaws still manage to hold the offense back.

Dalton’s greatest sin is his accuracy, which like Cousins has to get bailed out by great receiving play. With Mohamad Sanu and Marvin Jones gone in 2016, Dalton exposed his true colors, instead offering up and down roller coaster play combined with bad play under pressure, late reads, less poise, and overall bad play in general.

Dalton is certainly capable of great throws, but those seem few and far in between when looking at how inaccurate he is. He may have a better cast in 2017, but by now most of us know who he is and what he needs to look good.

Pros

-Good arm strength

-Offers surprisingly good play on occasion

Cons

-Horrible accuracy

-Poor play under pressure

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The 2016-17 Deep Ball Project (Part 3/3)

Section A-L                                       Section M-R                                    Section S-Z

Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 53.1% (12th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 38.2% (25th)

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Trevor Siemian is interesting. He is by no means good, but he’s not as terrible as people make him out to be.

Ok, his accuracy downfield (well, 20+ passes) is bad, with misses abound, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Actually, there are some fantastic throws and throws that his receivers screwed him over on.

This is really a limited quarterback trying to get the most out of his skill set, and I can admire that. If it came down to Paxton Lynch and Siemian, I’d roll with Siemian, because he’s been more consistent and even more promising than Lynch.

It kind of sucks, but Siemian’s season is also a guilty pleasure.

FINAL GRADE: D+

Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 48.2% (20th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 47.6% (12th)

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“Alex Smith” is also a synonym for “enigma.” Infamous for being “Captain Checkdown” and for playing a short, hesitant playing style that tries to reduce turnovers, Smith is the perfect “Win and Lose With Him” quarterback.

His downfield passing is a reflection of what happens when he actually plays with aggression, and truth be told, I enjoyed what I was seeing. Smith has never really been half bad as a deep passer, and like previous seasons, here there are some legitimately impressive dimes and stretches of continuous accuracy.

The problem is the Deep Ball Project does not chart plays that could be downfield throws, and maybe for future editions I’ll change that. But Smith’s hesitance kills a lot of plays and makes games closer than they should be.

The accuracy isn’t top tier (the miss to Spencer Ware against the Falcons as shown above was brutal), but Smith is a decent downfield passer. I just wish he’d be more consistently aggressive, because he’d be much more fun to watch.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 41.2% (28th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 46.4% (14th)

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I don’t consider Matthew Stafford a good downfield passer, but is there more to him than meets the eye?

Stafford’s never been an accurate downfield passer, but in a season considered MVP caliber…..yeah that still didn’t change. The same erratic accuracy from years prior was shown, with a primary difference being there were more inaccurate completions (3rd GIF above) and dropped picks (2nd GIF above)

Fortunately for Stafford, a couple of things save his grade from dropping to the bottom. First, in a rare instance, his accuracy on 20+ throws actually fared better than 16+ throws (14th in accuracy percentage on 20+ compared to 28th on 16+). Second, he had several otherworldly plays (see the 4th GIF above) that few quarterbacks can dream of making.

Stafford’s overall deep ball was rough, sloppy, inconsistent, erratic, and at times irrational. But, strangely enough, at the same time, it also makes him fun to watch in a weird sort of way. It doesn’t make him or his deep ball good, but it makes him entertaining enough to keep us intrigued on every play.

FINAL GRADE: D+

Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 64.1% (4th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 61.0% (2nd)

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The progression of Ryan Tannehill has been wonderful to watch for those who look deeper. In the last two seasons, his deep ball has become one of the league’s best, so it should be no surprise he’s become a downfield master under Adam Gase.

With better defined routes, Tannehill’s accuracy soared. His overall accuracy of 64.1% was 4th in 2016, and his accuracy on throws of 20+ was 61.0%, The 2nd highest (only behind Derek Carr). 

Despite suffering from some receiver drops, Tannehill’s accuracy and placement were astonishingly good. We’re talking throws that rival the ones Aaron Rodgers makes on a daily basis!

Ryan Tannehill is a really good quarterback, and though his deep passing lacks quantity, it easily makes up for it in quality. Dolphins fans should be highly pleased with the results their quarterback is producing, and in 2016 his downfield passing was one of the year’s absolute best.

FINAL GRADE: A

Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 52.0% (14th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 43.6% (19th)

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The Buffalo Bills-Tyrod Taylor saga in the offseason dragged on farther than it needed to. While not a great quarterback, Taylor is average/above average, with a big arm and the mobility of a god helping maximize plays.

Taylor’s accuracy definitely isn’t consistent, but the sheer quality of his best throws makes up for the ones he misses. For example, the 4th quarter throw at Seattle (above) is one of the best plays you’ll ever see a quarterback make.

Taylor ended up being graded with the same results as his 2015-16 deep ball season. Not great, but definitely worth watching. I think that describes the QB in a nutshell.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 41.5% (27th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 37.7% (26th)

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Carson Wentz’s rookie season would be an A+ if the NFL only had 3 games. But after a great start in his first 3 games, Wentz’s play, mechanics, and accuracy all took a deep downward spiral to the point where the potential is there (First GIF), but it’s hidden under severely flawed play.

In the last 13 games, Wentz’s downfield accuracy was terribleeven with drops factored in. His passes float way too high and the lack of hands on defense shows that Eagles’ wide receivers aren’t the only ones dropping #11’s passes.

There are some good plays in there, but they’re suffocated by too many awful ones. Carson Wentz has to go back to the drawing board if he wants to get graded higher or develop in his 2nd season. This isn’t Jared Goff bad, but I’d prefer my QBs not be near that level anyway.

FINAL GRADE: D

Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 58.7% (9th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 57.8% (4th)

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Russell Wilson is a joy to watch, and this was true in 2016.

One of the league’s top deep ball throwers, Wilson’s touch and mobility make him an exciting dynamic player. The accuracy actually fared better than his 2015 season. His accuracy on 16+ throws was 9th in the league, while his 20+ accuracy was 4th. 

So what gives with the B+ grade? Well, the 2nd half of 2016 saw his accuracy drop a bit in terms of consistency, with several awful throws put in the mix. If the consistency was more like the first half, Wilson would have an A+. This can be blamed on his health throughout the season, and he never looked consistently comfortable in the pocket.

Still, all things considered, Wilson still had a hell of a deep ball season. The quality throws are a treat to watch, and the precision and mobility are icing on the cake.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 46.6% (22nd)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 32.8% (28th)

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I’m confused.

In 2015, Jameis Winston’s deep ball was a pleasant surprise. In 2016 his deep ball was unpleasant torture. To say his placement was on a different planet from the one his receivers were living on is a vast understatement. How can you overthrow Mike Evans, a 6 ft 5 ball magnet? Apparently Winston figured it out.

The inaccuracy is inexcusable, and only a few throws of excellence save Winston from an F-. I’m still having a hard time believing he threw 28 touchdowns in 2016, because without looking at stats alone I could never tell. I’d go on about dropped picks, catches that bailed out ball placement, and missed opportunities, but the Deep Ball Project is generally three pages long.

Frankly, I don’t know what happened. Sure, Winston’s rookie season displayed erratic downfield accuracy, but there was no preparation for this. Winston had the fourth worst accuracy on throws of 20+ last year, and considering how badly he missed on these throws, I’m amazed it wasn’t the worst.

And consider that Winston threw the most downfield attempts of any QB in 2016 with 116 deep throws. When you throw that much yet can’t even be accurate on 33% of your throws, your deep ball is not strong then. Make no mistake, Jameis Winston’s downfield accuracy was atrocious last year.

FINAL GRADE: F

FINAL RANKINGS

Now we come to the fun part of the Deep Ball Project; for this year’s edition, I made two charts instead of just one.

The first chart shows the results of all throws of 16 air yards or more, while the 2nd chart shows the results of all throws of 20 air yards or more. Both charts rank each QB on their overall grade.

With that said, here are the results. Here’s all throws of 16+ air yards.

16+

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And here’s the chart for all throws of 20+ air yards.

20+

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Next, here is the total Accuracy Percentage on all throws of 16+ air yards.

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And here’s the accuracy percentage for all throws of 20+.

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Now let’s reveal which QBs led the league in statistics.

League Leading Stats

Completions

16+:-Matt Ryan led the league in overall deep ball completions with 56.

20+:-Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins tied for the most completions on 20+ passes with 35.

Attempts

16+:-Jameis Winston threw the most downfield attempts with 116.

20+:-Ben Roethlisberger led in attempts with 82.

Completion Percentage

16+:-Matt Ryan led 2016 in overall completion percentage (61.5%)

20+:-Matt Ryan also led on throws of 20+ (53.8%).

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT the same as accuracy percentage.

Accurate Passes

16+:-Aaron Rodgers led the league in overall accurate passes with 68.

20+:-Aaron Rodgers also threw the most accurate passes with 41 accurate passes on 20+ throws.

Accuracy Percentage:-The most important statistic on the Deep Ball Project.

16+:-On all throws, Sam Bradford led the way in accuracy percentage (66.7%).

20+:-Derek Carr led the way in accuracy percentage (62.9%).

Passing Yards and Yards Per Game

16+:-Matt Ryan led the NFL in overall deep passing yards (1,647) and yards per game (102.9).

20+:-Kirk Cousins led everyone in downfield yards on 20+ throws (1,268) and yards per game (79.3).

Touchdowns

16+:-Ben Roethlisberger led the league in overall deep touchdowns (14).

20+:-Ben Roethlisberger also led on deep touchdowns of 20+ air yards (13).

Interceptions

16+:-Philip Rivers led the league in interceptions with 11 picks.

20+:-On throws of 20+, it was a tie between Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz (6).

Touchdown Percentage

16+:-Ryan Tannehill had the highest touchdown percentage on overall deep passing (17.0%).

20+:-Ryan Tannehill also led in TD% on throws of 20+ (17.1%).

Interception Percentage

16+:-Matt Ryan had the lowest interception percentage on all downfield throws (1.1%).

20+:-Matt Ryan was the only QB to avoid throwing a single interception on throws of 20+ air yards, so by default, his 0.0 interception percentage is the lowest on 20+ throws.

Best Deep Ball Quarterback of 2016

Sam Bradford was the highest rated downfield passer, so he gets the vote. His precision was more consistent and sharp than the other 30 passers on this year’s project.

Thanks to you all for reading this article, and I’ll see you next year for the 2017-18 Deep Ball Project. If you have any questions, submit them to me @Brickwallblitz on Twitter.

Section A-L                                       Section M-R                                    Section S-Z

2014-15 Deep Ball Project              2015-16 Deep Ball Project          2016-17 Deep Ball Project

The 2016-17 Deep Ball Project (Part 2/3)

Section A-L                                       Section M-R                                    Section S-Z

Eli Manning (New York Giants)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 44.6% (24th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 45.3% (17th)

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What happened here? Eli Manning’s 2015-16 downfield season was full of quality throws, yet here it’s a huge downgrade.

While not terrible, the accuracy is inconsistent to a fault. There are brilliant throws and some really dumb ones. The arm strength looks to be faltering, and after a brilliant 2-game start the overall quality just diminished.

I’ve always thought Manning has been a good quarterback unfairly saddled with the “mediocre” label. In 2016, however, he was mediocre, and at times downright bad. More or less, his downfield passing validated this, as I never knew what to expect next.

There are enough moments of what I consider “vintage Eli Manning”, with dimes that need to be seen to be believed, so it stays afloat, but really offers the best and worst from the Giants veteran.

FINAL GRADE: C

Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 43.6% (26th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 42.9% (21st)

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Marcus Mariota is already a great quarterback. His pocket movement, snappy fast throwing motion, ability to create throwing lanes and uncanny ability to use his eyes to manipulate the secondary have ascended him into a borderline top 10 quarterback.

However, one area where he shows weaknesses in is the deep ball. So why do the Titans pass downfield so much? That is an area where head coach Mike Mularkey is too overtly ambitious in. The route combinations and lack of separation do in a chunk of the incompletions, and there’s not as much intermediate routes as I would like to have.

That said, there’s some stuff to like from Mariota’s deep passing. While it’s around the same quality as his rookie downfield passing, there’s more touchdowns and some real pristine throws in the mix. The receiving group experienced less miscommunication this time around, helping ease Mariota a bit.

Still, several inaccurate completions reached the surface, hurting Mariota’s accuracy percentage. The arm strength is best suited for shorter throws, and these factor into why I believe there’s too much downfield passing in Tennessee’s offense. Not bad, but Mariota is definitely at his best in the intermediate range of passing.

FINAL GRADE: C

Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 60.5% (8th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 53.3% (8th)

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With the lowest completion percentage in the league, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, Cam Newton experienced a large statistical regression from his MVP season a year prior. But was his 2016 really that bad, or was it a victim of box score scouting?

Well, let me put it this way; Not only was Newton great on downfield passing, I thought it was better than his 2015 season in that area. The Panthers offensive line allows heinous amounts of pressure like it’s a job, and combined with the large amount of drops, miscues and lack of separation and it’s a miracle Cam posted a 60.5 accuracy percentage.

There was definitely a dropoff in the last couple of games, but Newton was constantly making outstanding throws under pressure. Many of these completions I question if another QB could do them in the same style, and I’m not sure that’ll ever happen. With otherworldly arm strength and ball control, Newton was able to fit tight passes to receivers that should not have been open.

All in all, I found Cam’s deep ball to be high quality in 2016, far better than public perception gives him credit for and far more frequent in accuracy.

FINAL GRADE: A-

Brock Osweiler (Houston Texans, now Cleveland Browns???)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 27.6% (31st)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 25.8% (31st)

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If you thought Blake Bortles was awful in 2016, Brock Osweiler won’t change your mind, but he’ll be just as miserable to sit through.

It’s hard to imagine in retrospect any team spending $72M on a quarterback that played 8 games in four seasons prior, but then again, this was baffling back when it happened a year ago. 

Osweiler posted the worst accuracy percentage for passes of both 16+ air yards and 20+ air yards. When you’re less accurate than a quarterback that can’t throw the football with an actual motion, that’s saying a lot. While he didn’t miss his receivers as hilariously bad as Bortles, there were more inaccurate throws from Osweiler, which is freaking awesome.

This is a quarterback so bad he managed to make Deandre Hopkins irrelevant. This is a quarterback so bad the Cleveland Browns traded for him just so they could get the 2nd round pick that came with him. You have to wonder what the Texans were thinking when they signed Osweiler.

The best part about going through his deep ball is being able to experience the same amount of pain Texans fans had just watching Osweiler play. Osweiler did not qualify for the 2015-16 Deep Ball Project because he did not start a minimum of 8 games the DBP requires. After sitting through whatever the hell he was doing last year, I am eternally grateful I didn’t chart him for 2015-16.

FINAL GRADE: F-

Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 61.4% (6th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 52.5% (9th)

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You might be thinking Carson Palmer is washed, but there’s more to his 2016 than you’d expect. In 2015, Palmer was a certified MVP candidate, having a career year highlighted by unreal downfield accuracy and a Cardinals’ franchise record 35 touchdown passes.

Palmer’s first half of 2016 was full of misses that prevent it from competing with 2015, but the 2nd half offered the high quality he did the previous season. We’re talking tight passes over defender’s heads, spectacular placement and dimes you’d rarely expect most passers to make.

The offensive line and receivers, however, took a drastic step down in quality, often putting their quarterback in uncomfortable situations where he was asked to do more than the previous year. With constant pressure and drops, this is why the difference between Palmer’s completion percentage and accuracy percentage is staggering.

It’s not as good as 2015, but Palmer’s 2016 deep ball was still great. The accuracy was in the ballpark, and outside of a slow start and some bad misses, this is exactly the kind of quality you’d expect from a QB like Palmer.

FINAL GRADE: B+

Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 54.3% (11th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 47.6% (11th)

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By now, everyone knows the Dak Prescott story. Drafted in the fourth round, he came in for an injured Tony Romo and never let go of the starting role, surprising everyone and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in the process.

All things considered, Prescott was not bad at all. The downfield passing can’t compare to Romo in his prime, but for a rookie it’s a good start! There really isn’t anything amazing or abysmal, but there’s more good than bad in this situation.

The Week 16 matchup against Detroit showcased superb downfield accuracy, but otherwise this was pretty standard stuff. Nevertheless, Prescott showcased quality in his first season, and a fine stepping stone for the potential in years to come.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Philip Rivers (San Diego Chargers, now Los Angeles Chargers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 50.6% (17th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 46.3% (15th)

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With the most downfield interceptions of any quarterback on the Deep Ball Project, Rivers had a season below lofty expectations, but one that when added up really isn’t all that bad.

Like Eli Manning, Rivers’ arm strength deteriorated at the end of the season, though to his credit he was more consistent this season than his peer. You can expect the usual needle threading pleasure Rivers has had us come to expect, while also featuring passes that died or didn’t reach the intended target.

A probable Hall of Famer, Philip Rivers’ last season in San Diego (the team is now in Los Angeles) was a bit of a mixed bag, but not terrible. Combining the interceptions and bad misses, Rivers can do much better, but there’s enough quality that it doesn’t sink below some of the competitors.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 61.3% (7th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 55.4% (7th)

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Nothing is more fun than watching Aaron Rodgers play football, and it’s even more fun watching him sling the ball downfield. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that his downfield passing in 2016 was of the same awesome quality he’s been able to provide.

In spite of a limited receiving group and lack of creativity in play calling, Rodgers’ pocket patience and transcendental accuracy were able to carry the Packers into another NFC North title as they rode to the NFC Championship game after a 4-6 start.

In many respects, you can argue 2016 was Rodgers’ most valuable season, and it’s a season where I’d argue he should’ve won MVP. I was never sold on Matt Ryan as MVP because I felt he got lucky with turnovers in a few games, and I thought Rodgers’ played consistently better than any other QB in the MVP race.

Both halves of 2016 were saddled with receivers failing to get open, but Rodgers was playing at his usual quality in the first half. It was the 2nd half of the season where he was really playing at a level unequalled by anyone. As such, the accuracy percentage skyrocketed despite the scheme and receiver quality barely changing.

Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the league, offering an unheard of display of aggressive, accurate passing while being able to minimize the amount of mistakes being made. Nothing he does in his prime gets old, and you can guarantee the same for his deep ball.

FINAL GRADE: A

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh Steelers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 51.8% (15th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 46.3% (16th)

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Generally, Roethlisberger is one of the best downfield passers in the game, but injuries halted an outstanding first half and made him pedestrian in comparison to previous years.

For one thing, the accuracy is much more erratic than previous years, and the difference between before and after the Miami regular season game where he got injured is big. The first five games were vintage Big Ben, offering the same exciting downfield display. After the Miami game, however, you saw the quality go down. He was also fortunate to get away with plenty of dropped picks as well.

Still, with 14 touchdowns, Ben offered plenty of scoring opportunities. Injuries hamper a disappointing year in comparison to 2014 and 2015, but deep down the quality was still there.

FINAL GRADE: B-

Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 56.0% (10th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 52.3% (10th)

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Matt Ryan won MVP in 2016 and led the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance, but was the perception of his season taken a bit too far?

Ryan has always been a very good quarterback. Previous seasons’ failures were unfairly squared at him despite performing with flawed supporting casts. In 2016, he got a really good supporting cast (coaching maximized it) and the result was what is considered one of the best passing seasons ever.

I wouldn’t really go that far. While good, Ryan’s production was maximized by Kyle Shanahan’s system, where receivers were constantly open and bailing out inaccurate throws. Ryan was fortunate to escape from some terrible passes, and his record setting YPA owes Shanahan to an extent.

That said, Ryan’s deep passing was still damn good in 2016. The TD-INT ratio was a step up from previous years, and while Shanahan’s scheme aided his production, Ryan put up his fair share of rainbows. He was also the only quarterback to post at least 100 downfield yards per game (102.9) in 2016.

I don’t necessarily think it was the best display of 2016, but all things considered Matt Ryan still had a quality year.

FINAL GRADE: B

Section A-L                                       Section M-R                                    Section S-Z

The 2016-17 Deep Ball Project (Part 1/3)

Section A-L                              Section M-R                                 Section S-Z

Welcome to the 2016-17 edition of the Deep Ball Project. For three years and counting, I’ve researched quarterbacks throwing the long ball, watching thousands of passes to determine which QBs could throw and which could not.

The result is the 2014-15 Deep Ball Project, the 2015-16 Deep Ball Project, and this, the 2016-17 Deep Ball Project.

With each new edition, I like to add new features that spice up the articles. For this year’s project, I included throws of both 16+ air yards (anything 16 yards or more) and 20+ air yards due to demand. Also, each quarterback now has 3-4 GIFs in each entry illustrating several of their deep throws from 2016.

With that in mind, here are some notes you’ll want to keep track of when reading this article.

Notes

-The minimum requirement for a quarterback to be on the Deep Ball Project is to have started at least 8 games. Quarterbacks that played in 8 games but started in less than 8 do not count.

-The following passes were excluded from the Deep Ball Project: 1) passes on plays that resulted in pass interference (except for ones that were declined WITHOUT another penalty existing), 2) passes that were tipped before they reach 16 air yards, 3) passes intentionally thrown away, and 4) passes where there was a miscommunication between the quarterback and the receiver.

-The Chicago Bears are the only team to not have a QB on the list, as it requires a minimum of 8 games started. This is for the best though, as I did not have to deal with the All-22 camera angle Soldier Field provides. Otherwise, every other team qualified.

-The key stat to note is NOT yards or touchdowns, but rather accuracy percentage. Where as completion percentage recognized the percentage of passes completed, accuracy percentage recognizes the amount of passes that were accurate regardless if they were complete or incomplete.

-Ultimately, while accuracy percentage is THE most crucial stat on the Deep Ball Project, the eye test is what matters most. The quality of the misses and makes count when charting.

-The highest graded QBs are generally the ones with the highest accuracy percentage. Vice versa for the lowest graded.

-QBs will be presented by their teams (or the teams they were on in 2016), the charts signifying their stats and grade, where their accuracy ranked, and a brief summary of their season. At the end of Part 3 (section S-Z), I will reveal the overall charts and the best deep passer of 2016.

With that said, after months of research, charts, and grading, I am ready to present a combination of 2,494 downfield passes, 114 GIFs, and nearly 6,000 words of writing into one 3-part article. Or, in other words, The 2016-17 Deep Ball Project.

So let’s get this started. This is section A through L (going by last name) of the 2016-17 Deep Ball Project. To get to parts 2 and 3, click on Section M-R (part 2) and Section S-Z (part 3).

Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 33.0% (30th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 27.7% (29th)

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We start off the 2016-17 Deep Ball Project at the absolute lowest.

There’s bad, there’s really bad, and then there’s Blake Bortles. Usually the lowest grade I give is an F, and that’s because the worst QBs at least have some good throws. Bortles found a way to bypass that and is the first quarterback to receive an F- in the history of the Deep Ball Project.

You have to try to be as bad as Bortles was. The throwing motion was completely broken and passes arrived late in the process. The passes themselves were often nowhere near the same area code as the intended receiver. The pocket movement and process went straight down the toilet.

So was there anything to like about Bortles’ 2016 season? Who cares? It was astounding seeing how badly Bortles could miss his targets. It’s like a Playstation controller with a broken analog stick. The difference is it costs a lot less to fix the Playstation controller and it can actually be done. 

In conclusion, Blake Bortles managed to find a way to lower expectations for how badly a downfield passer can **** **** up. The result was a season that was less bad and more hysterical.

FINAL GRADE: F-

Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 66.7% (1st)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 59.1% (3rd)

When the Vikings traded for Sam Bradford to backup the injured Teddy Bridgewater before the 2016 season began, it was met with a polarized reception. The tide of that changed when the Vikings started 5-0, but came back when they finished the season 8-8, with much of the criticism coming at the front office for trading for Bradford.

All things considered, however, you just may be surprised by Bradford’s downfield passing. His reputation is that of a short passer, but that’s unearned. Playing behind the worst offensive line in the league, little time is given for Bradford to develop his reads or the receivers to progress on their routes, leading to missed opportunities and sacks.

But when Bradford was able to release the ball, he did it with extreme efficiency. If you’re aware of my past work, you’ll know Bradford was graded highly in the 2015-16 DBP. Usually, there’s nowhere to go but down, but Bradford found a way to go up, further increasing his accuracy with tight, precise downfield bombs hitting receivers in stride and away from defenders. He finished with the highest overall downfield accuracy in 2016, with 66.7% of his passes being accurate.

Bradford’s downfield passing isn’t just underrated, good, very good, really good, or great. It’s sensational. Look for yourself and see a quarterback with tremendous deep passing ability.

FINAL GRADE: A+

Tom Brady (New England Patriots)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 51.5% (16th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 44.7% (18th)

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Tom Brady has never been a great downfield passer, but in 2016 he showed a bit of improvement.

There were more passes made in stride than what was shown in previous years. This consistency allowed Brady to throw for 9 touchdowns as opposed to one interception. However, compared to his peers, Brady just isn’t as good. The accuracy just isn’t consistently there in comparison, so he pales on that front.

Brady didn’t do enough to establish himself as a downfield passer, but as a future HOF QB, and perhaps the most accomplished passer ever, it doesn’t really matter.

FINAL GRADE: C

Drew Brees (New Orleans Saints)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 61.9% (5th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 56.3% (6th)

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After taking a slight detour in 2015, Drew Brees rebounded his game with another excellent deep passing season in 2016.

Playing with the fastest and smoothest mechanics is a luxury for a top quarterback, and it helps make Brees’ accuracy that much easier. 5th in overall downfield accuracy, he consistently put excellent placement on the ball regardless if his receivers caught it or dropped it.

The future Hall of Famer is still a top 5 quarterback in my eyes. Where as 2015 was a quality year, it still felt like a step down. Brees made amends in 2016 and delivered the goods on the deep ball.

He may be a small quarterback, but in 2016 Drew Brees was constantly making big plays.

FINAL GRADE: A

Derek Carr (Oakland Raiders)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 64.3% (3rd)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 62.9% (1st)

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Derek Carr has come a long way.

2015 was an improvement over 2014, but a 2nd half decline kept Carr from competing with the grades of the elite QBs. In 2016, he stepped up his consistency and gave one of the best deep ball performances of the year.

We’re talking consistent placement and terrific arm talent. Carr finished 3rd in overall accuracy (64.3%) and finished first in accuracy on throws of 20+ air yards (62.9%). His success on the deep ball was a primary reason why he’s been able to cement his status as the Raiders’ franchise QB.

Only a few poor throws kept Derek Carr from reaching an A+. If his downfield passing is an indication, this is the beginning of great things to come. The Fresno State alumni has become a good QB in the NFL with a master touch on the downfield bomb.

FINAL GRADE: A

Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 48.4% (19th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 43.2% (20th)

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Kirk Cousins had great downfield stats in 2016, but the overall eye test was a different story.

The quality was certainly a step up from 2015, with several nice throws that led to touchdowns. Cousins was able to lead 2016 in 20+ yards as well.

But even then, there’s just too many bad throws and misses for the deep ball season not to reek of mediocrity. Despite playing with DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garçon and Jordan Reed, Cousins still managed to overthrow his set of toys without providing routine accuracy.

So really, if you like stats, you’ll like Kirk Cousins’ 2016 season. If you like the eye test, you’ll probably be underwhelmed like I was. Take what you will from his season.

FINAL GRADE: C

Andy Dalton (Cincinnati Bengals)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 44.7% (23rd)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 39.7% (24th)

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Remember when Andy Dalton broke out in 2015? Good times.

Actually, I never thought Dalton broke out so much as benefit from an amazing receiving group. With AJ Green and Tyler Eifert hurt, Hue Jackson, Marvin Jones, and Mohamad Sanu gone, Dalton was who we thought he was in 2016; a step below mediocre.

There are some good stretches of deep passes, but the overall quality is vintage Dalton; missing open receivers and forcing the passes that are caught to be hard to catch.

I don’t have anything else to say. Dalton’s 2016 season was just there.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Ryan Fitzpatrick (New York Jets, now a free agent)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 47.5% (21st)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 40.8% (22nd)

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By throwing for more than 30 touchdowns in 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick created the greatest scam in the NFL since, well, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Despite that fact, he sucked in 2015, and he sucked in 2016.

The accuracy percentage is a bit misleading, since a majority of Fitzpatrick’s completions were on easy throws. The misses, on the other hand, were a special kind of bad, and every bit as deliciously bad as you’d imagine.

I don’t even care that he managed to grade a bit better than his 2015 season, it’s still Ryan Fitzpatrick, and I feel like moving on. Next.

FINAL GRADE: D-

Joe Flacco (Baltimore Ravens)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 36.0% (29th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 26.3% (30th)

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How can you say Joe Flacco is elite if he wasn’t close to being average for the last 2 years?

Let’s talk about 2016. Flacco was easily one of the worst quarterbacks in the league last year. Come to think of it, he’s been one of the worst quarterbacks since after he won Super Bowl MVP. He’s just given up on his mechanics, accuracy, and train of thought in the pocket. The result is a careless mess.

Ranking in the bottom 3 in accuracy on both 16+ and 20+ throws while serving up plenty of turnovers and dropped picks, it’s a shame Joe Flacco’s level of badness never gets talked about, because it makes for great conversation. This is a guy that has gotten passes with being bad for a while, and it’s about time we started talking about it.

Only the presence of Blake Bortles and some good throws managed to save Flacco from grading out with an F-. If you had never watched him play before 2013, you’d probably wonder how he has a Super Bowl ring too.

FINAL GRADE: F

Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco 49ers)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 43.8% (25th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 35.5% (27th)

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While no masterpiece, Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 season had some good stuff. I thought his overall season was good, though his deep ball season was a bit sub-par.

This is the kind of season where I don’t have much to say, but while the accuracy sucked, the completions were really damn good. That’s why despite the low accuracy rankings, Kaepernick is at a D+ grade. There are some really good stretches of pocket movement and mobility that remind me of 2012 Kaepernick, but also moments where his receivers, bad as they are, bailed him out on accuracy.

Like I said, it’s not great, but there are some throws that are worth looking at, and by God, Colin Kaepernick needs a job.

FINAL GRADE: D+

Case Keenum (Los Angeles Rams)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 52.4% (13th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 46.7% (13th)

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After experiencing Case Keenum’s deep throws in 2016, I entered a state of shock, like in the movie Amadeus.

This was a bad quarterback making good throws. This was a bad quarterback with the 13th most accurate overall deep ball and the 13th highest accuracy percentage on 20+ throws. Why him, though? Why not better passers like Tom Brady or Marcus Mariota? Why was Case Keenum so blessed?

Sure, there’s some trash, but I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Nothing was painful, and I actually enjoyed what I was seeing. Not great, but not bad either. And now that you’ve looked at this entry, you’ll be just as confused as I am.

FINAL GRADE: C+

Cody Kessler (Cleveland Browns)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 50.0% (18th)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 40.0% (23rd)

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Cody Kessler is interesting. He’s not a good quarterback, but he might be a good backup.

In his first season, the Cleveland Browns QB actually faired well in deep passing compared to previous QBs, though when those QBs were Brian Hoyer (2014) and Josh McCown (2015) toddlers could look pretty favorable too. There’s a couple of great play extensions, but the overall tape is limited and meh in general.

There’s not much else for me to talk about, so this is a season that  just serves its purpose and not much else.

FINAL GRADE: C-

Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts)

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Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 66.3% (2nd)

Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 57.4% (5th)

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After missing the 2015-16 Deep Ball Project due to injuries, Andrew Luck rebounded in a big way, bigger than I had given him credit for.

Andrew Luck has always been a great quarterback, but in 2016 he took his game to a new level, minimizing mistakes while making more jaw dropping plays than ever before. His overall accuracy of 66.3% was only ranked 2nd to Sam Bradford, and this came despite playing with poor coaching and a weak (though slightly improved) offensive line.

What Luck’s been able to do in 2016 was astounding. He was legitimately bad in 2015, but made sure that season was an outlier for good, delivering top notch passes upon top notch passes, often making his next throw his best one.

With yards and touchdowns galore, and supreme accuracy, Andrew Luck’s 2016 season was an otherworldly one.

FINAL GRADE: A+

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