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Tua Tagovailoa
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QB KlassRoom

Quantifying Quarterbacks: Tua Tagovailoa

by Derrik Klassen
Updated On: January 29, 2020, 12:30 pm ET

Quantifying Quarterbacks is an NFL Draft focused quarterback charting project geared toward providing as much information about as much of a quarterback's recent career as possible. Over 20 data points are recorded for any given pass attempt, ranging from down-and-distance, personnel grouping, play-action, depth of target, accuracy, and much more. Quantifying Quarterbacks charts the entirety of a quarterback's final college season, as well as a smaller sample (four games) from their previous season. All of this charting is done manually by me during and after the college football season. For a more in-depth look at what exactly Quantifying Quarterbacks is, here is a link to last year's final product: 2019 Quantifying Quarterbacks


 

Tua Tagovailoa Charting Profile

Distance (Usage Rate) Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside Total
20+ (15.18%) 10/18 (5 TD) 4/7 (3 TD, 1 INT) 5/11 (2 TD, 1 INT) 5/10 (2 TD) 24/46 (12 TD, 2 INT)
16-20 (8.25%) 1/2 5/5 6/8 6/10 (2 TD) 18/25 (2 TD)
11-15 (15.18%) 3/8 (1 TD) 18/23 (5 TD, 1 INT) 4/10 2/5 27/46 (6 TD, 1 INT)
6-10 (19.80%) 13/18 (2 TD, 1 INT) 14/18 (3 TD) 10/17 (2 TD) 5/7 42/60 (7 TD, 1 INT)
1-5 (20.56%) 10/16 (1 INT) 13/14 (1 TD) 19/20 (1 TD) 9/12 (2 TD) 51/62 (4 TD, 1 INT)
0 (19.80%) 9/9 21/23 16/16 (1 TD) 10/12 (1 TD) 56/60 (2 TD)
303 Plays 46/71 (8 TD, 2 INT) 75/90 (12 TD, 2 INT) 60/82 (6 TD, 1 INT) 37/56 (7 TD) 218/299 (33 TD, 5 INT)

CHARTING EXTRAS

Blatant Drops: 8

Forced Adjustments: 9 (2.97%)

Contested Drops: 24

Passes Defended: 15

Explosive: 52 (17.16% of plays)

Throwaways: 4

The main takeaway from Tua Tagovailoa's overall chart is how often he threw behind the line of scrimmage. With 19.80% of his passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, Tagovailoa would have held the fourth-highest rate in last year's class behind Jarrett Stidham, Gardner Minshew, and Dwayne Haskins. Tagovailoa's mark is most similar to Haskins, who just barely edged out Tagovailoa at 19.82%. In and of itself, throwing behind the line of scrimmage a tad more than average isn't much of a blemish on Tagovailoa's profile, especially considering hie success elsewhere, but it's worth keeping in mind when considering his raw box score production. Additionally, the high volume of passes at or behind the line of scrimmage hurt Tagovailoa's adjusted accuracy score just a smidgen because those throws count for less (each completion there is worth 0.80 instead of 1). 

As far as the extra info goes, Tagovailoa is quite impressive. He hardly had passes directly defended and his low 2.97% Forced Adjustment rate would have been second only to Haskins last year. Furthermore, Tagovailoa's 17.16% explosive play rate is the second-highest I have ever recorded, trailing only Kyler Murray (18.73%). 

ACCURACY AND ENVIRONMENT

Adjusted Accuracy: 73.41%

Outside the Pocket Percentage: 11.55%

Adjusted Accuracy Outside the Pocket: 66.00%

Under Pressure Percentage: 17.16%

Adjusted Accuracy Under Pressure: 50.19%

Most Common Personnel Package: 11 personnel [1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR] (45.54%)

Shotgun Percentage: 96.37%

Empty Formations Frequency: 3.63% 

Play-Action Percentage: 46.20%

Play-Action Adjusted Accuracy: 71.50%

Designed Rollout Frequency: 6.93%

Though not quite as stellar as Joe Burrow's all-time best 78.43% adjusted accuracy score, Tagovailoa comes in at a stellar 73.41%. Tagovailoa's 73.41% adjusted accuracy score is tied for fifth all-time (with Western Kentucky's Mike White from 2018), beating out plenty of successful first-round picks such as Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Jared Goff. That's not to say Tagovailoa is a lock to be better than that trio, but it is impressive that Tagovailoa could play in the toughest conference in the country and come away with a better accuracy score than many of his peers. 


Tagovailoa's accuracy outside the pocket comes as no surprise. Not only is Tagovailoa plenty mobile enough to escape from the pocket and continue scooting away from pass-rushers, but he's got a compact, smooth throwing motion that makes it fairly easy for him to throw on the move. Coupled with Tagovailoa's natural accuracy, it's no mystery as to why he's good when forced out of the pocket ... assuming he's escaped entirely from pressure by the time he goes to throw.

Tagovailoa's accuracy while under pressure is grounds for light concern. While 50.19% is not awful, it is an average mark, at best, and checks out with the eye test on Tagovailoa being a bit skittish under pressure. For one, Tagovailoa's modest 6-foot to 6-foot-1 frame makes it a bit tougher for him to throw directly over the top of pass rushers in his face. Murray had a similar issue in college, though he was even more mobile and creative in working around that. Tagovailoa also tends to tense up under pressure, though, and will short-arm his throwing motion, often resulting in the ball not coming out from an ideal release point. Tagovailoa is going to need to prove himself a tad more willing to stare down the barrel of the gun and deliver tough throws with bodies around if he wants to elevate his play under pressure to anything more than competent. 


Another interest note with Tagovailoa is that Alabama hardly operated out of empty formations with him behind center. This isn't necessarily a detriment to his profile considering most college quarterbacks don't operate out of empty more than about 7% of the time, but play out of empty formations is something I personally like to use when gauging a quarterback's mental processing. To me, if an offense trusts their quarterback to operate out of empty on a regular basis, it signals that he is able to confidently read a defense pre-snap and quickly act on that read before the pass rush has a chance to get home. Burrow and Haskins, for example, both operated out of empty more than 15% of the time in their samples, and both players ended up as my QB1 (well, presumably, in Burrow's case). For more of an NFL reference, quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott are pure assassins operating out of empty because of how sharp they are pre-snap and how quickly they can get the ball out once the snap hits their hands. 

Lastly, Tagovailoa's heavy play-action percentage is a minor concern. Play-action, at least when used over 30% of the time as it is in his case, can be a bit of a crutch, especially given I chart RPO's (run-pass option) as play-action. Even the most play-action heavy NFL teams only use play-action about 30% of the time, so it is almost a guarantee that Tagovailoa won't get nearly as much play-action usage in the NFL as he did at Alabama. It's tough to say exactly how much of an adjustment that will be for him, but it's another thing to add to the list.


PASS RUSH

Avg. Number of Pass Rushers: 4.41

Three or Fewer Pass Rushers Frequency: 7.26%

Four Pass Rushers Frequency: 52.81%

Five Pass Rushers Frequency: 33.00%

Six or More Pass Rushers Frequency: 6.93%

Earlier this week, we observed Burrow's pass rush sample having a very low percentage of plays with five of more rushers, while instead having a ton of plays with three or fewer rushers. Tagovailoa's sample is flipped for a couple of reasons. First, defenses just did not seem quite as scared of Tagovailoa and the Alabama passing offense as they did LSU's juggernaut squad, so they were more willing to play with four standard pass rushers and get after it. The high percentage of five rushers, though, likely has to do with Alabama's high RPO usage and the fact that RPOs can muddy who is and is not actually a pass-rusher. It's more likely that plays a hand in Tagovailoa having a 10% higher five pass rusher frequency than Burrow rather than teams simply being more willing to throw pressure packages at him. 

 

SITUATIONAL

3rd/4th Down Adjusted Accuracy: 76.46%

3rd/4th Down Conversion Rate: 58.46%

4th Quarter/Overtime Adjusted Accuracy: 81.25%

Red Zone Adjusted Accuracy: 61.28%

If there is anything most everyone would say about Tagovailoa, it's that the shine of the spotlight isn't too bright for him. When it comes to crunch time or when the Tide absolutely needed one play to keep the sticks moving, Tagovailoa delivered. Though Tagovailoa does have a nearly 20% gap between his 3rd/4th down accuracy and conversion rate, which was a gripe I had with Burrow, the fact that both Tagovailoa's accuracy and conversion rate are so much higher kind of washes away the problem with their being a gap. Tagovailoa is hitting his guy so often on those downs that Alabama are bound to convert plenty of them, even if he is potentially throwing short of the sticks more than he should. 

The one caveat here is that for as impressive as Tagovailoa's 4th quarter and overtime numbers are, he only had 24 such attempts in that situation in my sample. There is no point trying to take away from the success Tagovailoa did show in those spots, but it does make me a bit curious as to whether his accuracy would remain that special through a larger, more standard sample size.