The New York Giants Have The Best Receiving Corps In The NFL

The New York Giants have been on the rise. In 2016 they got into the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with an 11-5 record and a Wild Card spot.

The defense clearly deserves a lot of credit for New York’s success, but the offense allowed for the rise of rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. While the offense ranked 26th in points scored and 25th in total yards, this was hampered by a bad offensive line, predictable play calls on 3rd and 4th down from Ben McAdoo, the limited skill sets of Rashad Jennings and Will Tye, as well as the declining Victor Cruz. Eli Manning’s arm strength also showed signs of a decline. (Week 16 at Philadelphia was a premiere example)

Though it ended with a loss against the Packers in the Wild Card round, the team still went out of their way to add to an already dangerous team, adding two explosive receivers. The big prize of the offseason was receiver Brandon Marshall from the Jets. While 33, his skill set is still quite strong for someone of his age, and with Odell Beckham and Shepard, he’ll be able to help Manning distribute targets.

In the draft, the Giants selected Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram in the first round. While he’s been called more of a wide receiver than a tight end due to his weight, Engram is extremely talented and should be able to solve a tight end problem that has plagued the team for years.

These two offseason additions, as well as the upgraded roles of Shepard and Perkins, have made the Giants’ receiving corps the best in the league. So below, I’ll preview the 5 key receivers for the team: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins (in a receiving back role).

 

Odell Beckham

Odell Beckham needs no introduction. He is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, and in my opinion, he is. In each of his first 3 seasons, he has put up at least 90 receptions, 1,300 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, and 13.5 yards per reception.

Beckham is one of six receivers in NFL history to put up 1,300+ receiving yards and 10+ TD in at least three consecutive seasons. He’s the first to do this in each of his 3 seasons since Randy Moss from 1998-2000.

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Beckham is in elite company, and has the chance to match Marvin Harrison’s record of 4 consecutive seasons with 1,300 yards and 10+ touchdowns in 2017, though with the loading receiving cast, it could be a challenge.

Nevertheless, Beckham is perhaps the most complete receiver in the league. His ball skills, route running, speed, and elusiveness are all first class, making the “distraction” narrative that’s been going around meaningless.

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Beckham is an insane YAC receiver that can turn impossible situations into big plays (GIF 1). Because of his field awareness, he’s able to understand how to break free and uses quick athleticism to sprint away from defenders.

While he dropped more passes than he should have in 2016, Beckham’s catch radius is still the best in the league (GIF 2). He’s capable of pulling in passes that wouldn’t be in the same area code for 90% of today’s receivers while securing the ball and completing the process of catching, making it look extremely easy.

Finally, Beckham’s ability on routes is nothing but special. He creates separation in all sorts of ways (GIF 3), which adds to the already difficult task of guarding him in the first place. All in all, Beckham provides everything you could want in a #1 receiver and then some.

 

Sterling Shepard

When Sterling Shepard stepped up in his rookie season, it finally afforded Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense a second great wide receiver behind Beckham. This in of itself allowed for more breathing room for the passing game.

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Already after one season, Shepard is a terrific slot receiver. In the slot, it’s key to use your spatial awareness and fight your way through traffic, which Shepard has shown he can do (GIF 1). He’s basically a 2nd rate Beckham, offering the same nimble route running (GIF 2) that allows him to be swift and open easily. As a slippery target, he’s shown consistent ability to fight through defenders at the line of scrimmage (GIF 3) and break tackles for YAC.

Shepard could definitely show improvement in year 2 against contact, but in general he’s been a fantastic addition to the Giants’ offense.

Brandon Marshall

Pairing up Brandon Marshall with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard was a scary thought after Marshall hit the free agent market, and that’s exactly what the Giants did this year. While the 33-year-old receiver saw a drop in quality from 2015 to 2016, he still packed a punch and made plenty of crazy plays that bailed out whatever quarterback he played with.

Staying in New York (or New Jersey, whatever you prefer) gets his best shot at making the postseason for the first time in his career. The Giants have two receivers that had at least 13.0 yards per reception in 2016 (Beckham with 13.5 and Marshall with 13.4), and since Marshall’s skill set has not reached the downhill spiral Victor Cruz’s did last year, he’s another weapon the offense can stretch downfield.

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Similar to Beckham, Marshall offers a gigantic catch radius that can bail out the quarterback’s accuracy (GIF 1). He’s old, but has remained healthy, so his athleticism on route running (GIF 2) is still high quality, and his speed after the catch is also very good (GIF 3).

Granted, Marshall has a small window left before he eventually retires, so it’s wise that he’s on a team that is capable of making the Super Bowl. He gives the Giants a really good WR2 while Beckham works the WR1 and Shepard carries the load in the slot.

Evan Engram

Out of all the tight ends drafted in the loaded 2017 class, Evan Engram just might be the most talented. Because of his size (6 ft 3, 234 lb.), he’s considered by many to be “a wide receiver disguised as a tight end.” Indeed, he was treated as such at Ole Miss, putting up 926 yards to the tune of 8 touchdowns in his final season in college.

That’s not a problem at all for the Giants, since it gives them a FOURTH receiver that can dominate anywhere on the field and provide yards after the catch.

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Engram’s physical talent is awe-inspiring. He’s perfect for McAdoo’s offense as a short game receiver due to his elusiveness, which can be jaw dropping at times (GIF 1). He can also stretch the field and offers excellent concentration at the catch point (GIF 2) (GIF 3), which will be a huge asset for Manning, who hasn’t had that kind of skill from a tight end in a long time.

Engram is one of the more exciting rookies for these reasons, offering the perfect target for an offense that desperately needed a tight end.

 

Paul Perkins

Finally, though more of a running back, Paul Perkins has shown hints of explosiveness as a receiving back. Perkins is a very talented back that ultimately took over the starting job at RB at the end of the season. And with the release of Rashad Jennings, the Giants are committed to him as the starter.

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Perkins has had few attempts as a receiving back, but has done well in his limited role. In the GIF above, he shows off his ability to elude defenders, stepping back and getting a few extra yards on the catch and run. As a back, his cut ability is terrific and his vision behind a poor offensive line is stellar. With more (probable) targets as a receiving back, Perkins will add to the Giants’ Big 4 a 5th dangerous receiver.

 

Conclusion

You might be wondering why I don’t consider the Buccaneers to have the best receiving corps in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s is also terrific, but it’s very close. Odell Beckham has the edge over Mike Evans for WR1, DeSean Jackson gets it over Brandon Marshall at WR3, Sterling Shepard has the edge over Adam Humphries or Chris Godwin in the slot, and while Cameron Brate is a really good tight end, I think Engram has just as good ball skills as him, and I like him better than O.J. Howard (who to his credit is the best blocking tight end of his class).

Charles Sims has more experience as a receiving back, but Paul Perkins has age and health on his side. I like Shane Vereen, but he’s a question mark at this point, and must prove he can be a force on the Giants’ offense. Jeremy McNichols is a guy I’m high on, though he’s not a guarantee to make the Bucs’ roster according to Dirk Koetter. Wayne Gallman has a shot to compliment Perkins in the run game, while Doug Martin has to prove he can be the RB1 in Tampa after he returns from suspension.

Really, this could go either way and I’d be perfectly acceptable with it. But to me, the Giants receivers’ at their peak look just slightly better than the Buccaneers’ at their peak. All of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins have the skill sets to be dangerous at pass catching, giving the G-Men one of the NFL’s most dynamic and dangerous offenses heading into 2017.

There could be a few setbacks. Eli Manning needs to show better arm strength, but with this supporting cast he should have an easier time completing passes. The offensive line is a train wreck, and left tackle Ereck Flowers, a first round pick in the 2015 draft, is rapidly drifting into bust territory. Ben McAdoo must show more aggression and trust in his offense on 4th down play calls, and his 3rd down calls need to be less predictable.

Still, the Giants are covered in the pass game, and with a top defense on the other side, they could easily start the season 5-0. They’ve managed to stress Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in their two matchups against him, can beat the Detroit Lions in week 2, can beat the Eagles in week 3, could get the edge in a showdown against (who else) the Bucs, and can beat the Chargers at home in week 5.

If all goes right, the Giants are a team the rest of the NFC needs to look out for, and they have the best receiving corps in the league.

 

Featured image via sny.tv

Improved Accuracy From Jameis Winston Will Skyrocket A Loaded Buccaneers Offense

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are one of the more interesting teams of the offseason.

After finishing with a 9-7 record in 2016 under new head coach Dirk Koetter, greater expectations have been placed on the team, who has been busy this offseason. The signing of DeSean Jackson for three years, and the selection of Alabama tight end O.J. Howard in the draft highlighted this stretch.

Adding these two players to a team that already has Mike Evans and Cameron Brate has made Tampa Bay’s receiving corps one of the league’s deadliest, if not the deadliest. 3rd round receiver Chris Godwin also has the potential to step up at the WR3 position, which would even boost a loaded unit even further.

It’s safe to say that Jameis Winston, entering his third season, has plenty of toys to throw to. Known as one of the league’s most aggressive passers, Winston’s downfield accuracy was surprisingly low in 2016, ranking near the bottom in the 2016-17 Deep Ball Project. Even in an offense with a loaded cast of receivers, his accuracy likely won’t be masked due to the aggressive, vertical passing attack Koetter employs. And behind a sub-par offensive line, Winston will need to take big steps in his accuracy by himself to take Tampa Bay to the next level.

If he does, the Buccaneers are easy playoff contenders and will employ a top 5 passing offense at the very least.

This article will take a look at the Buccaneers’ passing offense as a whole, not just Winston. Key players that will be discussed will include Winston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin.

So let’s get things started.

Jameis Winston

Winston is a very talented quarterback that when at his peak can do things very few quarterbacks are able to accomplish in the NFL. He generally reacts to pressure very well, and is a consistent anticipation passer. Winston is also the first quarterback to pass for 4,000+ yards in his first 2 seasons, mainly due to his aggressive style of QB play.

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Winston’s movement in the pocket is magnificent. He reacts well to pressure and will keep his eyes up to find any open receivers. On this play, Winston makes subtle movement in the pocket, then shifts his body right, where he fires a beautifully placed pass over a defender and into the hands of Mike Evans. His vision and arm strength allow him to deliver a smooth throw with smooth processing.

Where Winston really thrives however is outside the pocket. Through 2 seasons, he has proven he is extremely comfortable with making movement and escaping defenders on unstructured plays. Few quarterbacks in the league do it as well.

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Since Winston is a quarterback that keeps his eyes downfield, he has been a red zone threat outside the pocket. The two plays above are excellent examples of how Winston combines aggressiveness with patience and anticipation, never giving up on the play and firing at the last minute to the open receiver.

The 2nd play might be the most impressive I’ve seen from the third year starter. He rolls out of the pocket and hops backward, and launches it to Evans after noticing him turn away from a defender. It’s perfect awareness and it’s a play very few quarterbacks would attempt. Most would give up on the play and throw the ball out of bounds.

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Winston’s body also makes him tough to take down on the run. This play provides the best instance, where the quarterback breaks a tackle, buying him even more time. He uses it to his advantage, jump cutting at the right time and throwing to an open receiver. Like the rest, it’s a fantastic play from the quarterback.

When Winston is on, he’s on fire. We’ll get to his accuracy later in the article, but let’s move on to the other role players in the Bucs offense.

 

Mike Evans

Mike Evans is a borderline top 5 wide receiver. At 6 ft. 5, he not only provides height, but a wide frame, making him a favorable target for Winston. His ball skills are transcendental, capable of making adjustments on the dot and making his quarterback’s accuracy look better. His 12 touchdowns in 2014 and 2016 are both franchise records, and his 96 catches from 2016 are the most from any Bucs receiver since Keyshawn Johnson back in 2001. (Fun fact: Johnson only caught one touchdown from that season.)

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Evans provides value everywhere on the field, and is deadly on vertical routes and on inaccurate passes. These two plays are difficult for the receiver to make. Evans’ box out ability allows him to make an fantastic touchdown catch in the first GIF, and in the 2nd he bails out Winston’s accuracy, something he’s been doing the last 2 years.

Evans’ size, speed and hands make for one of the league’s most exciting receivers, and then the Buccaneers went out and paired him with another one of the league’s top downfield monsters.

DeSean Jackson

Former legendary WR Reggie Wayne recently provided a great insight on DeSean Jackson’s value, calling him “a fast deep threat with rare home-run ability.”

Jackson is a sensational vertical receiver, capable of getting downfield quickly and creating massive separation. This has rarely been realized because of the quality of quarterbacks he’s played with, but he gets his best quarterback since Michael Vick in 2010, as well as standing alongside Mike Evans.

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With the Redskins, Jackson provided a massive security blanket for Kirk Cousins in an offense that was already loaded with security blankets. His value to the team is huge and will be in future years for both Washington and Tampa Bay.

On this play, Cousins’ accuracy is terrible. The pass is position behind and wide of Jackson. It would be impressive enough to dive and make the catch. Not many receivers are able to make a play on it and keep going.

Jackson makes an outstanding adjustment on the pass like it was nothing and makes it look easy. He breaks a tackle and jogs to the end zone for a miraculous touchdown.

Jackson’s ability isn’t just limited to being a downfield threat though. He is as much of a threat on short/intermediate routes, and provides yards after the catch, impressive routes, and refined footwork.

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This play is another instance of Jackson bailing out his quarterback’s accuracy. The decision by Cousins is good, but the accuracy is way too low. Jackson’s approach to the ball, concentration, and footwork are all impossible. To get a handle on this pass without letting hit the ground while keeping his feet in makes this one of the best catches I’ve seen from 2016.

Alone, the Evans and Jackson duo is perhaps the most terrifying in the league, but the Buccaneers added a few tricks with a few more receivers of note.

 

Cameron Brate

Cameron Brate proved to be one of the best tight ends when he broke out in 2016. Undrafted out of Harvard, Brate took the starting job from Austin Sefarian-Jenkins for good, and became one of Winston’s most valuable targets in the process.

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Like Evans and Jackson, Brate is an excellent route runner with a strong catch radius and frame. The technique he displays in his ball skills, routes, and adjustments on inaccurate passes make it hard for me to believe this guy was undrafted. This is the work of a guy that looks like a 5-year veteran.

The first GIF provides an impressive route and adjustment from Brate. He is very explosive in Koetter’s vertical offense, and as shown in the 2nd GIF, provides a big cushion to be thrown to. Brate’s advanced techniques allowed him to catch 8 touchdown passes in his first season as the starting tight end.

 

O.J. Howard

Another explosive tight end in the Bucs offense, Howard was drafted out of Alabama in the first round. He is a very talented receiving tight end and an excellent blocker, which will expand his reliability in Tampa Bay.

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Howard didn’t make as many outstanding adjustments on throws in college like fellow rookies Evan Engram and David Njoku, but he is still a dangerous YAC option. The play above displays his shiftiness, as he is able to make a move and cut to the outside corner, where he is easily able to get the first down.

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Another factor Howard will bring to the Bucs offense is power. Or more power. Either way, his toughness plays a role in his ability to get yards after the catch, as shown in the play above. Pairing him up with Brate will give the Bucs two really talented tight ends to throw the ball to in 2017.

 

Chris Godwin

A third round pick out of Penn State, Chris Godwin provides the Buccaneers with another talented young receiver. As well as having an amazing last name, Godwin has the potential to be a dangerous WR3 for the team.

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Godwin provided good routes in college, but it’s his ball skills that are the most impressive. He makes an outrageous one handed catch on a pass behind him. It’s one thing to catch the ball with one hand, and it’s another to do it while adjusting your body when the throw is behind.

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The big thing I need to see more of from Godwin is better consistency on contested catches. He had a few plays last year where he failed to win on tough plays at the catch point. The above play is an example of when he won. Granted, the pass was tipped, but his concentration allows him to catch the ball and sprint for the end zone without breaking a sweat. As a whole, Godwin’s explosiveness downfield makes perfect sense in Koetter’s offense,

 

Other Players

The offense is already stacked at this point, and the Bucs have a few more skill players worth mentioning.

Doug Martin is obviously the big one, but he’s suspended for the first three games of the season, so we could see rookie Jeremy McNichols get some valuable playing time.

McNichols is a very talented back who combines powerful bursts with explosive running ability in space. If he makes the team, he could provide these assets.

Charles Sims missed a lot of time last season, but is a speedy receiving back, and one that could help what was an injured run game from 2016.

Adam Humphries is a decent slot receiver with good speed, but he’ll likely compete for the WR3 spot along with Godwin at the most.

 

Concerns With Winston

We come back to Winston, this time discussing a major flaw of his, which is his accuracy. For as many things as he does right, Winston’s accuracy is downright horrible at times, often not being in the same area as the intended receiver. This is what stalled the Bucs offense at times in 2016, and if it’s not improved, it could continue to stall them this year.

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There’s plenty of examples of Winston completely missing receivers, but for this article we’ll focus on two great examples. The first throw, above, is an atrocious miss. To overthrow a 6 ft 5 freak in Mike Evans is an achievement in of itself, and it’s something Winston has done way too much in his career. As productive as Evans has been, he would benefit much more from far more precise accuracy on downfield throws.

Anyway, you’ll notice that Winston’s release is a bit high on this throw. The mechanics on the release look unnatural, the footwork is sloppy, and it’s no surprise that the pass itself is wobbly. The entire process is uncomfortable to look at.

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The 2nd throw, above, is as much of a disaster for different reasons. Winston’s inaccuracy left too many downfield plays on the field, and several touchdowns as well. He performed much better later on in the game, but this was a sign of how awful his accuracy can be. Outside the pocket, his mechanics look much more comfortable. Outside, while he’s able to step up in the pocket, his accuracy isn’t clear-cut.

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While Winston’s aggressive style of play is a blessing, it can also be a curse. His ability to process reads as a result is madly inconsistent. The play above is more of a terrible decision than anything else. Winston misreads the coverage completely, firing an interception straight to the safety.

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As good as Winston is outside of the pocket, he can also be too aggressive for his own good. I’m all for quarterbacks being aggressive, but there also has to be a perfect balance of aggression and awareness. This play illustrates the wrong way to do it. Winston does a great job of buying time, but the play is pretty much dead. He should’ve thrown the ball away to set up a field goal.

Instead, the pass is nearly picked (the defender didn’t have possession in bounds), almost costing the Buccaneers valuable points. Winston was very fortunate to escape with just an incomplete pass.

 

Conclusion

While Jameis Winston has accuracy and decision making issues, he does do a lot of things right. His pocket movement, play outside the pocket, and patience are all terrific. Winston gives the offense many chances for success, but as previously stated, it’s his job to improve his accuracy in an offense that stresses vertical routes behind an offensive line that creates stress.

At this point I’m repeating myself. The Buccaneers’ opportunity for success is tremendous, ask anyone. The passing game is unbelievably loaded, with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, and Chris Godwin offering tons of potential on paper, and the offense as a whole is one of the most exciting units in football.

We should anticipate great things from the Buccaneers offense in 2017. If Winston takes the next step, we should anticipate even greater.

 

Featured image via defpen.com

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)

32-21  20-11  10-1

 

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

32-21  20-11  10-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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