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Last week on the NFL preview show we spent a bit of time discussing the deep pass in the NFL and what success actually looks like on it. So I have decided to spend a bit of time breaking it down further here as we look into some of the numbers and compare with last year. Some notes on this though. Firstly this is looking at 20+ yard attempts by QB’s, for this year anyone who has played under four games is not considered as we don’t have enough data on them. For the previous year, anyone who played under eight games was not considered. Using all the players that fit into those parameters I have then broken it down into average attempts and average completions, this gave me the average completion percentage which I have used to base the gradings on for players from this year and last year.

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Now before we get to the boring number crunching please enjoy this video of Rex Grossman unleashing the dragon.

The league average completion percentage on deep balls in 2019 was 37.5% with the overall passing average for QB’s from last year being 64%. It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but it is worth repeating the deep ball is much harder for a variety of reasons, generally, you may be going into 2 on 1 coverage, you have to make sure on side-line throws you are keeping your target in bounds etc…

So with that who were our deep ball heros from last year?

Leading the way as our most accurate deep ball thrower with a 61.3% completion percentage is Jimmy G! 31 attempts for 19 completions, seven touchdowns, three interceptions and 651 yards. Not a bad year from the handsome one and probably not who we thought would be the deep ball king last year.

Second place was unsurprisingly Patrick Mahomes who completed 50% of his attempts for over 1000 yards and going for 13 touchdowns and two interceptions. This is not really all that surprising given how many deep shots we see the Chiefs take but it was interesting in my opinion that the two teams that made it to the Super Bowl also happened to have the two best deep throwers of the ball.

On the flip side, one of the worst-performing QB’s on the deep ball last year was actually Josh Allen, he was only able to connect with his wide receivers on 18 of his 68 deep ball attempts managing four touchdowns and three interceptions for the season.

Another person who struggled with deep accuracy in 2019 was Aaron Rodgers who completed only 31 of his 93 throws, however, he was still able to account for 11 touchdowns to one interception and over 1,000 yards.

So here is the top five for last year based on completion percentage for 2019

Rank

QB

Completion %

Yards

TD’s

Ints

1

Jimmy G

61.3

651

7

3

2

Patrick Mahomes

50.8

1,141

13

2

3

Gardner Minshew

49

818

5

0

4

Drew Brees

48.4

404

5

2

5

Dak Prescott

46.1

1,157

11

4

Drew Brees in the top-5 which may be a surprise to some but as I am basing this just off completion % you can infer from his numbers he doesn’t really attempt that many deep passes (31 for the year).

How about 2020? Who is leading so far? Well, this year the average deep ball completion % is 40.74 and the overall passing average is 66% while the numbers are up we are only part way through the season so I may revisit this at the end of the season and see how things have stacked up year over year.

Let’s start with who is lagging this year and surprisingly despite all the hype around him potentially winning rookie of the year it is Joe Burrow. We knew coming into the season that he was not known for having a strong arm and it was one of the big knocks on him. However, it really is showing at the NFL level, from his 37 deep pass attempts this year he has only completed seven for a woeful 18.9 completion %. Burrow cannot even blame this on his receivers dropping the ball, he has only had one drop so far this year. This is an area that he will need to improve on if he wants to have any type of success in the league.

Last years leader has also come down to earth hard, Jimmy G may still have his looks but it does not look like he has his arm anymore. He has only been asked to push the ball down the field 10 times this year and completed one of those for a 10% completion percentage and has managed to throw two interceptions. His backup Nick Mullens actually leads the NFL this year with a 75% completion percentage going six of eight on the deep ball. It could be that Shanahan has decided to move away from the deep pass this year with the 49ers injury woes but this is worth checking back in on at the end of the season.

For 2020, the top-5 I am going to add on another filter as we do not have a lot of data and clogging the top-5 with low volume but high percentage players would not tell us much. So the league average deep attempts over the first nine weeks is 27 so I have excluded anyone who has not attempted 24 or more deep passes.

So with these new parameters our 2020 deep passing leaders are:

Rank

QB

Completion %

Yards

TD’s

Ints

1

Dak Prescott

53.6

507

4

1

2

Kirk Cousins

50

602

5

4

3

Teddy Bridgewater

50

602

3

2

4

Deshaun Watson

50

506

5

3

5

Derek Carr

50

536

5

0

Poor Dak, he was having such a good season, come the end of the season he will drop off this list as he will not meet the minimum threshold for games however on this day, he is king. I am surprised that Carr, Cousins and Bridgewater are all up there as they are not really known for their arms, but this does go to show that there is a path to more success for Burrow once he starts to work on better ball placement.

And if you are wondering how the three MVP favourites are doing, here you go!

Rank

QB

Completion %

Yards

TD’s

Ints

1

Russell Wilson

47.4

700

10

2

2

Aaron Rodgers

42.0

797

6

0

3

Patrick Mahomes

41.5

557

8

1

Let me know what you think in the comments below and be sure to listen to the Armchair QB’s podcast available on Spotify, Apple and wherever else you get your podcasts.

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