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Out Of The Box

2015's Quarterback Conundrum

by Greg Peshek
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Another year, another crop of Quarterbacks. Although this year there appears to be less controversy over who is the signal caller, the underlying statistics to their passes are still more than worth examining. Of course stats are not and should not be the final word for judging a QB, but we can analyze each QB and find out how those traits we see on film may translate to the NFL. We may even be surprised by the outcomes.


2014 QB Metrics

To get this data, I’ve charted every pass from every game by these quarterbacks. Looking at everything from down and distance to release location, we can break down the underlying stats to what we see when watching them play. You may note that not all stats will match with other stats services, since we’ve included drops as completions and taken out irrelevant throws like throw-aways and hail-marys.  


Where Did They Throw the Ball?


- Immediately, the number of screens each QB threw stands out as interesting. Much is made of system quarterbacks who throw an inordinate amount of screens and in this case, only Hundley fits that bill. Both Winston and Mariota come in under average in percentage of screens thrown.


- With that, Hundley threw downfield in the 10+ yard range significantly less than both of the other QBs. Just about 16% of his passes were in the critical 11-20 yard intermediate zone and only 10.6% of his passes made it past 20 yards.


- Jameis Winston had a fairly normal distribution of passes, only swapping slightly less screens for more short 1-5 yard passes. Although the comparison can’t be made based on this stat alone, the average distribution of throws is similar to Andrew Luck’s senior year.


- Standing out in Mariota’s charts is how often he threw to the pro-level 11-20 yard zone. 33.4% of his total passes were directed there, nearly 11% more than average. Although that did come as the expense of the long ball – where he only placed 9.7% of his passes.

How Accurately Did They Throw It?


- Through these three quarterbacks, Mariota was the only one that exceeded average on the intermediate and long throws. By our stats, Mariota’s 70.1% in the 11-20 yard zone would have been near tops in last year’s class. Even more encouraging is that these quality completion percentages were on a larger than average amount of his passes – meaning he didn’t just rack up stats on a small sample size


- Somewhat surprisingly, Winston’s accuracy in the 11-20 yard range was lacking in his last season. Although we can see him make quality, professional throws on tape in that intermediate zone, it didn’t translate on the whole to his completion percentage.


- Not a surprise is Hundley’s ability on short throws, but complete lack of accuracy on the intermediate and long balls. His 11-20 yard and 20+ yard completion percentages are among the worst we’ve seen in the past three to four classes.

How Did They Do Under Pressure?


- Hundley’s struggles against pressure and the blitz stick out like a sore thumb. While his completion percentage of 65.7% was only 6% below Winston, his accuracy facing pressure was drastically below both Winston and Mariota.


- Winston’s numbers in these two categories are a bit of a dichotomy as he performed admirably against the blitz, but did not do quite as well under pressure. His 57.7% completion rate against pressure would have been close to the top of last year’s class but still behind both Bridgewater and Bortles.


- Meanwhile, our numbers have Mariota competing 10% more of his passes when pressured than Winston at a completion rate of 67.7%. That would be nearly 5% above last year’s leader throwing against pressure – Teddy Bridgewater.

What Type of Throws Were They?

This year I tracked locations on the field to see what type of results would come out of it. I look specifically at initial snap location, release location and catch location which has given me the ability to break down pocket movement, actual throw length and success as throwing to different locations.

- Winston was most successful throwing outside the numbers with a completion rate of 67.7% which is impressive given that the scheme he played in asked him to do that more often than the others.


- Mariota on the other hand found his receivers accurately when throwing between the numbers and the hashes which lines up with Oregon’s propensity to throw down the seam. When we combine this knowledge with Mariota’s 11-20 yard accuracy from above, it paints a clear picture of where his strengths lie.   


This one requires a little bit of explaining. These are throws sorted by actual throw distance from one spot on the field to the catch point. To simplify, you could call any throw in the Far Left and Mid Left bucket as throwing across their body. While any throw in the Mid Right and Far Right groups would mean having to turn their body substantially the make the throw. Any throw in the Slight Left, Middle or Slight Right are throws right in front of the QB. This differs from actual target location because it takes into account the release point of the pass. These are a bit experimental, but still potentially interesting.

- Mariota was extremely successful at throwing to his right at all levels – hitting 74% of his Far Right passes and consistently connecting with his receivers in the Mid and Slight passes as well.


- Both Winston and Hundley had opposite experiences of Mariota, they were both more accurate overall throwing to their left than their right.


- Both Winston and Hundley struggled with sub 60% completion percentages on passes where they had to open up their body and throw far to the right.   


Passing Charts


Below we’ve included throw location charts for each quarterback. These map out where each targeted pass was thrown. These can give you a feel for where a quarterback targeted and how successful he was in those areas.