Ryan Tannehill Is the NFL’s Most Underrated Quarterback

Introduction

The quarterback draft class of 2012 was one of the best in NFL history. In the same breath as 1983 and 2004, the names include Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles, and Robert Griffin III.

Luck and Wilson are universally accepted as the two best quarterbacks from that class. With monster years and a heavy amount of Pro Bowl trips, these two quarterbacks have dazzled us with their playmaking abilities, which have a certain style that we rarely see in the league. Cousins is a limited QB, but has been able to get the most out of his skill set and has put up huge numbers behind a monster supporting cast. Foles and Griffin have long been forgotten after once being young stars for about a year each.

Which brings us to Tannehill. Since 2012, he’s been in the shadow of Luck and Wilson, QBs who have had historic seasons when they started out. Many fans and media have now placed Cousins over Tannehill as well, the latter of which has been blamed for the Dolphins’ turmoil from 2012-2015, and was perceived as being the product of head coach Adam Gase, known as a QB whisperer for his work with Jay Cutler in 2015.

The truth is that Tannehill is the 3rd best QB from his draft class. Being 3rd behind 2 generational greats in Luck and Wilson is not something to turn away from, especially since Tannehill himself is a really good quarterback.

When Gase took over, there was a perception that he was going to fix Tannehill. In reality, Gase fixed the situation around Tannehill to prevent him from falling into the traps Joe Philbin set him in. Gase created an environment where Tannehill was actually doing things that fit his skill set, being encouraged to push the ball further downfield and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, something he had never done under Philbin.

When Tannehill went down, Miami’s season basically ended. They won a few more games to secure their ticket to the playoffs, but without their starting QB, they faltered in the wild card matchup at Pittsburgh.

Or, at least that’s what should be reported. Tannehill’s reputation is that of an average quarterback, when he’s much more than that. Tannehill is a really good, sometimes great, quarterback who has progressed steadily since 2012, and looking closer, his 2016 season was a great one.

This article will look at why I believe Ryan Tannehill is the NFL’s most underrated quarterback, using the usual brand of GIFs and analysis of each GIF.

Supporting Cast

Miami’s offensive line is bad, but most people know that by now. The wide receivers are usually talked up as a strong group, yet have been partly responsible for Tannehill having pedestrian stats.

Jarvis Landry is a fine slot receiver, but struggles to get separation downfield and needs to be schemed open to create said separation. Kenny Stills is the best receiver on the team, even though his touchdown drop against the Seahawks was a huge momentum shift.

The real concern is Devante Parker.

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Entering his third season, Parker has an impressive catch radius, but terrible ball skills and security. He’s left too many plays on the field, many of which have been perfect throws by Tannehill. On this play, the QB delivers a perfect strike (and what should be a touchdown) to Parker, who has the ball ripped out of his hands for an incompletion. Parker’s presence at the catch point is nonexistent at his current stage. He isn’t aggressive and doesn’t create a big margin for error or a frame to throw to. On a team with one true outside receiver and a guy thats presence is really limited to a slot receiver, that’s not a good sign.

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On this play, Tannehill does a terrific job of escaping the pocket, rolls out, and flings a pass over to Parker. While not perfect, the pass is catchable. The way Parker plays the ball is awkward and he never puts himself in a good position to bring it in, making it a lost cause.

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This is perhaps the worst offender. Here, Tannehill fires a beautiful pass. Parker can make it a touchdown by boxing out the incoming safety, giving plenty of room to haul it in. Instead, he plays it the exact opposite, showing zero aggression and letting the safety pick it off cleanly. While an impressive play by the safety, it’s more glaring that Parker let him have the opportunity to pick it off.

These are a few examples of the plays Parker left on the field. He needs to start showing more aggression at the catch point if the WR group in Miami wants any chance to improve. Jay Ajayi in the backfield is a clear strong point, but behind a bad offensive line and inconsistent receivers, it may be tough for Tannehill to stay healthy on the field.

With that said, let’s get to why #17 is a really good QB by taking a look at what he does well.

Tannehill’s Traits

The most common criticism of Ryan Tannehill is that his pocket presence is lacking. This has come mostly from him taking so many sacks. From 2013-2015, he took at least 45 sacks in each season. In reality, Tannehill’s sack takes are less on him and more on his offensive line, which has generally been one of the league’s worst units. Under Adam Gase, the unit gave their quarterback more room to breathe, allowing his pocket presence to thrive despite what you may be told.

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The idea that Tannehill has no pocket presence is a myth. As he’s progressed, his movement has gotten significantly better to the point where he hardly flinches in the pocket under pressure. On the play above, Tannehill’s pass protection acts more like turnstiles and allows pressure instantly. The quarterback sees this but keeps his eyes up and downfield and shifts slightly to the left to throw. He’s able to detect an open receiver and is able to throw a perfect pass to him in stride despite the intense pressure.

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Pocket presence is more than just deciding when to stay or leave in the pocket. In most cases, it requires staying in the pocket and being willing to take hits. Leaving the pocket can work, but it depends on the context of the pressure and if the receivers are open.

RT17 knows this and stands tall in the pocket regardless if he gets drilled or not.

Even just before getting drilled on this play, Tannehill’s mechanics stay smooth. If you look closely, you can see that at the last second he plants his feet and gets off a precise pass in time.

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Tannehill is one of the more patient passers in the league. He’s a QB that doesn’t get rid of the ball quickly, rather allowing the WR routes to develop so that he can get the most out of the play. The problem is that with a bad offensive line, Tannehill’s been hit before he can get the ball off to an open receiver. With a better offensive line, his patience would pay off far more than it already has.

Nevertheless, his patience does pay off on this play. He does a great job of reading the coverage and searches downfield before finding a receiver. Tannehill subtly moves to the left before finding the exact right time to fire the ball. As he’s hit, the ball sails to where only his receiver can get it, making another perfect pass under pressure thanks to his awareness and movement.

Under Gase, Tannehill’s arm strength has become fully realized. This isn’t because it’s developed, it’s because he’s playing under a coach that gives him plenty of freedom to take advantage of his wide skill set.

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Tannehill has one of the best arms in the NFL, and it was seen in 2016 at its best. With a better scheme, Tannehill’s downfield accuracy skyrocketed. On throws of 20+, he was 2nd in accuracy and first in TD%. 

The play above is tougher than it looks. Not only does it require a precise throw, but it also needs the right amount of velocity for it to work. Anything slower would easily be picked off, and anything faster would be overthrown. Tannehill makes it work here. The velocity of the pass is crazy good, but also precise enough where it isn’t missing his guy completely.

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The combined threat of pressure when passing on a play that requires plenty of arm strength gets satisfying when it succeeds. Such is the case on this throw, one of the best ones you’ll ever see. Tannehill rolls out of the pocket and gets ready to release the ball. While a defender is just about to pounce on him, he focuses his attention on the open receiver downfield while ignoring the rush. He throws it just before getting hit, and the result is a sensational touchdown pass that should get much more credit than it deserves, especially since it’s launched 55+ yards in the air under pressure.

Yet as good as Tannehill is inside the pocket, he is at his best outside of it.

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Tannehill is one of the best quarterbacks, if not the best, at rollout passes. His accuracy and confidence all seem to skyrocket when he’s on the run, whether designed or undesigned. It’s a skill that truly sets him apart from the garden variety quarterbacks.

On each of these plays, Tannehill’s awareness and ability to pick out the open man are noticed, but the first play is easily the most impressive. How he’s even able to launch that pass in the area from the angle he’s at is insane. Like all of his traits, it’s something that no one talks about but really needs to.

 

Conclusion

Ryan Tannehill is the most underrated quarterback in the league. When it comes to finding flaws, there’s really nothing I can find. Tannehill is an extremely well rounded, talented, and consistent passer who has finally got the coaching he deserves.

At the same time, however, he is not the product of Adam Gase. Gase has just given him a scheme that allows him to breathe (even if the receivers won’t let him), and the result is a far more comfortable quarterback.

Tannehill has always been this good even if people don’t give him the respect he deserves. He is the most valuable player on the Dolphins’ roster, and a huge reason for their success in 2016. He’s able to carry the team under intense pressure, throw his receivers open in tight windows, and has a wide skillset which allows him to play supreme at all fields of the level. He can make any throw you ask of him at any angle because of his arm talent, and he is a master of the rollout.

To my thinking, Ryan Tannehill is a damn good quarterback. A borderline top 10 quarterback.

(Featured image via topbet.eu)

 

 

 

 

Derek Carr and Dak Prescott: Similarities, Differences, and Quality

Two of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL are Derek Carr and Dak Prescott. Both were quality quarterbacks in 2016, being praised for having what many considered MVP caliber seasons. Both Carr and Prescott led their respective teams to double digit wins and the postseason.

When it comes to awarding credit, Prescott hasn’t received as much as Carr. From a veteran standpoint, this is acceptable, as Carr is entering his 4th season in the NFL while Prescott is only in his 2nd. QBs who have had good rookie seasons have received skepticism in the past and will continue to receive skepticism in the future. The way they can change that is by preventing the sophomore slump.

What is particularly interesting is both quarterbacks have the best offensive lines in the league. I’ve observed that talk of Prescott’s offensive line serves to discredit his play more than it does Carr. If it were down to just being based off of a rookie season, then that would be fine.

But it goes further than that. I started to hear more about how Carr was more valuable to the Raiders than Prescott was to the Cowboys. There is no disputing that the Raiders need Carr. When he went down, the offensive took a major hit going into the postseason without a quality passer steering the ship. But the same can be said of Prescott. When Tony Romo sat out due to injuries in 2015, the Cowboys suffered. Without a great quarterback, the team couldn’t operate the passing game, making the offensive line’s impact irrelevant. Prescott’s presence allowed the Cowboys to rarely miss a beat even without Romo, and he was the main reason the team elevated to 13-3.

Yet even with similar quality in pass protection and supporting casts, why is it that Prescott has people going “It’s his offensive line and weapons” but not Carr?

The best way to answer this question is to do a side by side comparison of both quarterbacks, highlighting their skill sets in a way that goes beyond statistical analysis. In this piece, I’ll highlight both quarterbacks, then go through who’s better and why.

 

Derek Carr

When the Raiders lost their franchise QB in week 15 against the Colts, it was clear that the season was over at this point. A postseason appearance for the first time since 2002 almost meant nothing without the most valuable player on the field, and it was obvious when Matt McGloin and Connor Cook played.

However, how valuable Carr had been in 2016 was generally overstated. He is a good quarterback capable of elevating his teammates and provides great stretches of play, but he is surrounded by arguably the best supporting cast in the league. McGloin was bad enough, but even worse was Cook. Cook’s performance in the playoff game at Houston was atrocious. He was consistently off target in every aspect on the field, and his pocket play was borderline bottom of the barrel.

While Oakland’s offensive line isn’t quite as good as Dallas’, it’s right there with them. The pass protection rarely exemplified pressure onto their QB, allowing him to comfortably run the offense and allowing for the system to thrive.

The receiving corps is also a plus. If the duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree isn’t the best in the league, it’s at least in the top 3. Both receivers have tremendous skill sets that allow them to adjust smoothly to passes while offering great relief on third down passes, making them great downfield and YAC threats. Seth Roberts is inconsistent with his hands but is a fine route runner and also has a wide catch radius. Clive Walford has seen limited play but is a talented tight end. Cordarelle Patterson isn’t a great weapon, but under a good scheme can be quite explosive. The same can be said for Jared Cook. Finally, the receiving back Jalen Richard offers consistent explosiveness as a Darren Sproles-esque back, and his best days are yet to come.

With that said, Carr has come a long way. His rookie season in 2014 was a bad one. His footwork was generally sloppy and his accuracy rarely ever hit the mark with his receivers. That changed in 2015 and 2016 when he improved his accuracy and mechanics, making him operate the offense at a higher level. With cleaner footwork and more decisive playmaking, he helped turn around Oakland’s fortune, successfully completing the rebuild and making the team a contender.

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Carr’s best trait is in his arm talent, which is one of the league’s best. The strength at which Carr throws is impressive enough, but he goes further and combines that with an extremely quick throwing motion. This is shown above. He rarely needs to wind up the ball to make it travel far, which is sensational to watch in practice and on this strike against the Dolphins.

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On the play above, Carr flicks this pass outside the numbers to Cooper. The velocity of the pass is insanely quick despite the distance and the placement is perfect, allowing Cooper to haul in the throw.

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Carr’s arm strength works especially well on unstructured plays. Above, Carr does a great job of escaping pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. As he climbs the pocket he notices Crabtree open on the other side of the field and flicks a bomb to him for the completion and the result of a terrific play.

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But it’s perhaps this play that shows Carr at his best. Here, Carr rolls out of the pocket and flickers a rocket to Crabtree for a massive gain. While he checks out of a clean pocket, Carr makes up for it by keeping his eyes locked downfield. The fact that he just flickers this pass with a quick motion on the run while dropping it right in the bread basket is incredible. His arm is a gift not many passers can say they have.

Carr’s arm talent has been a part of him since college, but what hasn’t always been there was an ability to operate comfortable in the pocket. In his last 2 seasons, Carr has become a more poised pocket passer.

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On this play above, Carr holds on to the ball after his initial read isn’t open. He sees Latavius Murray open heading to the sideline and wisely steps up in the pocket, allowing for Murray to have more space to grab an easy first down.

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Carr is a patient passer outside the pocket. He can survey the field and pick apart the open receiver without being pressured to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. This is done in the play above, where Carr is forced outside the pocket. He keeps his eyes downfield and maximizes the play to its best ability. This ultimately pays off as just before he goes out of bounds he is able to find an open target and the last second for a touchdown.

Carr is not a flawless quarterback though. In general, no one really is, but Carr has a couple of flaws that prevent him from being a top 10 quarterback in my mind.

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Carr’s decision making takes a hit when he’s inside the pocket under pressure. He tries to get rid of the ball too quickly for his own good, resulting in decisions that are forced and often lead to turnovers or failed opportunities.

One example is in the play above, Carr hurries under pressure, forcing the ball to a receiver being double covered downfield. The pass is overthrown and picked off. It wouldn’t have done Carr any good to hold on to the ball any longer, but because he panicked, the pass was not accurate.

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Perhaps Carr’s biggest flaw is his reliance on checking down in clean pockets. While he hasn’t done it to the extent in which he did it in his rookie season, he’s done it enough where it’s still an issue.

No game highlighted this more than Week 14 at Kansas City. The Chiefs’ defensive line has proven to be an excellent match for the Raiders’ offensive line, with the coaching staff regularly showing blitzes to get to Carr.

On the play above, Carr has a clean pocket on 3rd and goal. He is not a QB that is willing to hold on to the ball while in the pocket. He has plenty of time to decide on a read, but forces this pass to Roberts, who is completely covered and nowhere near the end zone.

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The same thing happens on this play. The Chiefs send another blitz, tricking Carr into throwing to a covered receiver short of the first down marker. Once again, Carr has clean protection, yet forces the pass when he didn’t need to. It’s frustrating to see because it wastes great protection, and Carr doesn’t use the protection as wisely as Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, or even Prescott. These are all quality QBs with excellent offensive lines. These QBs understand how to take care of the football and maximize plays when it calls for holding onto the ball. Carr does not, at least not to the extent the other quarterbacks do.

With all this said, for the same reasons Carr’s flaws keep Oakland’s games close, his strengths also help keep them competitive. His development as a good quarterback has been exciting to watch, and his overall arm talent and greater consistency have allowed the Raiders to thrive as one of the league’s most dominant offenses.

 

Dak Prescott

By now, the story of Dak Prescott’s rise from a fourth round draft pick backing up Tony Romo to becoming a rookie sensation once the latter QB went down is common knowledge.

The offensive line is the best in the NFL, but it does not guarantee instant success for any QB. When Romo went down in 2015, the Cowboys finished 4-12 with their QB only playing in 4 games. 3 of those wins came in games Romo started. It was clear that Dallas needed a backup in case Romo went down again, and they got that in the 4th round.

But when Prescott became the starter, he was more than just a backup. His surprise success awarded him the Offensive Rookie of the Year and he led Dallas to the #1 seed in the NFC.

When it comes to receiving corps, Oakland’s stands tall above Dallas’. Dez Bryant is an obvious great, but outside that the group is lacking. Jason Witten is old and washed in comparison to who he once was, and Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are both frustrating at the catch point. Cole Beasley is a fine slot receiver, but when compared to Oakland’s group it can’t hold a candle. Dallas did draft Ryan Switzer, a speedy slot receiver who should be able to give the Cowboys offense another YAC threat as he works his way on the field.

Regardless of cast, while he’s been set up to succeed, Prescott hasn’t simply been the bus driver behind the offensive line. He’s elevated his teammates and made everyone around him better, and is already a top 15 QB already after one year.

Like Romo, Prescott excels at pre snap reads. He is capable of diagnosing defensive coverages before the snap and changing the play to where it can maximize the potential for success. Credit should be given to the Cowboys’ coaching staff for not preventing him from audibling, a mistake Joe Philbin made with Ryan Tannehill during his years in Miami.

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Post snap, what stands out most about Prescott is his patience. You don’t expect many QBs to have the patience Romo had, especially not a rookie QB, yet Prescott was able to be in the same ballpark in that area. He is willing to hold on to the ball if his first read isn’t open, and will make the most of the protection he’s given.

On the designed rollout above (he is also a running threat), Prescott surveys the field. His first read on the right side is open, but short of the first down. He spots Beasley crossing to the middle of the field, but also notices the underneath linebacker approaching. With most rookie QBs, especially one drafted at the spot Dak was, this would lead to a rushed throw that would end in a bad misfire or a pick. That’s not the case here. Prescott resets his feet and throws Beasley open. The result is a perfect strike for 14 yards.

This play is sensational not only because of the placement, but because Prescott knew he was going to get hit after he released the ball. He just didn’t care.

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Prescott’s patience again benefits him on this 3rd down play. He’s able to go through his reads and notices Beasley open near the first down marker. With a defensive back (#52) ready to pounce, Prescott uses his eyes and movement to shift the back away from Beasley. When this occurs, he immediately shifts focus to Beasley, firing the quick strike for a first down.

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On this play, Prescott steps up in the pocket, and he waits for the receiver to get as outside as possible before firing to him. If he had fired any earlier, the receiver would have been tackled short of the first down. Fortunately, Dak’s added patience allows for the play to expand the first down marker.

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The Cowboys offensive line rarely gives up pressure, but when it does, Prescott has still played well. His ability to subtly move up the pocket was advanced for rookie standards, as he was able to consistently deliver without flinching. On the play above, the protection collapses, yet Prescott is able to keep his eyes downfield, side stepping defenders while being able to deliver a strike to Terrance Williams. This is the most impressive play #4 has made so far; It’s a big boy play that great veteran QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady make on a daily basis.

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On this play, Prescott operates from a condensed pocket. He notices Dez working his way left, but sees the defensive back (#53) reading him all the way. With subtle movements, he’s able to draw #53 away from Dez and over to him, putting him under pressure but allowing Dez to get open, resulting in a completed pass and a successful pressure play.

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On the play above, Prescott shows great timing in releasing the ball. While he’s a QB that thrives on plays that require him to hold the ball, he’s also aware when to release the ball, whether it’s quick or late. As soon as Prescott sees the open receiver, he immediately plants his feet and drops a perfect pass into the breadbasket for a huge play. His smooth mechanics allow him to operate comfortably for the most part.

When it comes to flaws, there aren’t nearly as much as other rookies, but there are some things Prescott can polish up on.

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In general, while Prescott’s play under pressure is certainly good, it could be better. Sometimes his decision making is errant, and as the season progressed we saw a bit more of that appear. Against the Eagles defense was one of the better examples. On this play, Prescott is forced out of the pocket. On 3rd and goal with no one open, your best bet would be just to throw it away and take whatever points you can get, but Prescott got a little too trigger happy here. He was fortunate Terrance Williams committed blatant offensive pass interference, because this should’ve been picked.

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On this play, Prescott tries too hard to get rid of the ball in crunch time. With 23 seconds left, you need to be pushing the ball a bit more downfield at this point. He dumps a short pass to Witten instead. This would be problematic enough, but the coverage completely bails the QB’s decision. The Steelers’ defense is not well coached or disciplined, as the cornerback is supposed to be playing closer to Witten. With better coverage, this would be an easy pick six, and the game would be over.

Still, these are relatively minor complaints, and Prescott’s overall play was great as a rookie, and good for an overall QB. He does so much right that his flaws are easy to forgive.

 

Carr vs. Prescott

We’ve profiled both QBs, but now it’s time to do a comparison, highlighting which traits each QB is superior to the other on.

 

-Pre Snap Ability: There is no contest. Dak Prescott is head and shoulders above Carr in this area.

Winner: Dak Prescott

 

-Arm Strength: Prescott’s arm strength is good, but Derek Carr’s is sensational. The way he can just flick the ball 50+ yards downfield with just a quick release with great control is seen in very few quarterbacks.

Winner: Derek Carr

 

-Accuracy: This is an area where both QBs have had their struggles, but Prescott’s is clearly better. Carr has struggled with short accuracy throughout his career, while Prescott is much more decisive and consistent, especially under pressure.

Winner: Dak Prescott

 

-Decision Making: The bread and butter of a quarterback. Derek Carr’s decision making has greatly improved since he was a rookie, and he’s been able to avoid the same stretches of old. With that said, it can’t compare to Prescott’s. Dak’s patience and superior field vision put him well above Carr in this category, and his decision making is much more thought out under pressure.

Winner: Dak Prescott

 

-Downfield Passing: Prescott was generally good at throwing downfield, but Derek Carr was fantastic in 2016, with more precise placement.

Winner: Derek Carr

 

-Pocket Movement: Carr has come a long way with his movement in the pocket, but Prescott has a greater display of subtle movement in the pocket, and is more willing to hold onto the ball to allow a play to develop.

Winner: Dak Prescott

 

Outside the Pocket: This is pretty close, but this is an area where Derek Carr gets the slight edge in, since he’s been able to operate outside the pocket with very little trouble.

Winner: Derek Carr

 

-Mechanics: Even as a rookie, I found Prescott’s mechanics to be well above Carr’s, as his footwork doesn’t downgrade as much under pressure.

Winner: Dak Prescott

 

 

Conclusion

While both quarterbacks are good and two bright stars in today’s game, I would take Dak Prescott over Derek Carr. Prescott is simply the better quarterback in the pocket, with his decision making, accuracy, play under pressure, pre snap ability, and overall consistency. His play in general has been underselled because of the situation he’s in. He’s been responsible for much of his team’s success because of how he operates the offense.

While Derek Carr operates his offense well, I don’t think he’s quite as good as everyone seems to think. As much as he is a reason his team wins, he’s also a reason his team is in close games so much due to his eagerness to get rid of the ball in clean pockets to covered receivers when he should hold onto the ball, as well as his footwork under pressure.

So I think Prescott is the better quarterback, but both are good players that should continue to develop behind great offensive lines and overall quarterback friendly environments. For a young quarterback, that’s the best thing to have, and it’s pleasing to see that two active young quarterbacks are behind those situations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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