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QB KlassRoom

Quantifying Quarterbacks: Best/Worst Data

by Derrik Klassen
Updated On: April 7, 2021, 1:46 am 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: 2020 Quantifying Quarterbacks. The full 2021 Quantifying Quarterbacks spreadsheet will be available soon.

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Best: Red zone accuracy (78.21%, 1st)

Worst: 11-15 yard accuracy (61.76%, 8th)

Red zone accuracy being Trevor Lawrence’s bright spot makes so much sense. In some ways, the red zone is where NFL-adjacent football is best simulated at the college level, just by nature of passing windows getting tighter. When it’s time to finish off drives, Lawrence shows unbelievable processing, an instant trigger, and a near indefensible blend of arm strength and ball placement. Coupled with his rushing ability, Lawrence is primed to be a red zone menace in the league just the same as he was in college. 

On the flip side, Lawrence’s issues in the 11-15 yard range are curious. That range is often where the most “NFL” throws happen and we know Lawrence is more than capable in that regard, yet he fared worse there than everyone but Jamie Newman. My anecdotal explanation for this is that Lawrence can tend to be hyper-aggressive, which is often going to rear its head on a lot of routes in this range like intermediate crossers, digs, and comeback routes. It is not so much that Lawrence cannot throw them, it is that he probably too often believes he can when he shouldn’t. 

Justin Fields, Ohio State

Best: Overall adjusted accuracy (83.18%, 1st)

Worst: 1-5 yard accuracy (82.35%, 6th)

Justin Fields is the most accurate QB I have ever charted. There have been some exceptionally accurate QBs since the Quantifying Quarterbacks project started in 2016, but none more than Fields. Though his 1-5 yard accuracy was middling (we’ll get there), Fields was top-three in this class to every other yard range, including first in the 11-15 yard range. Fields has a rare ability to add and take off velocity whenever he wants to, while knowing exactly how to throw around defenders to throw his wide receivers open. Wherever Fields wants the ball to go, it will get there. Plain and simple. 

The lone blemish is in the quick game. Now, to be clear, Fields’ accuracy numbers here are not bad or concerning, they just aren’t impressive. The issue with Fields’ short accuracy can be boiled down to two things. Fields does prefer to hold out for deeper routes, so there are plenty of times where he is working to shorter passes later than normal, therefore making those throws tougher on himself. Additionally, while Fields has good arm strength, he does have a slightly elongated release, which can disrupt timing in the quick game from time to time. 

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Best: Adjusted accuracy outside the pocket (68.72%, 2nd)

Worst: Adjusted accuracy under pressure (52.27%, 9th)

An athlete with Trey Lance’s arm talent should be good outside the pocket. And Lance certainly was. In fact, only Fields was more accurate outside the pocket than Lance. Part of that can be boiled down to Lance’s offense having many designed boot-action plays off their run game, but even when scrambling, Lance showed off a dangerous ability to fit windows on the move that will give defenses headaches. 

However, Lance was poor when pressured. Perhaps this is me just trying to explain away issues for a prospect I like, but there is legitimate reason to believe Lance might not be as bad as the numbers. Lance was a 19-year-old first year starter in a system that regularly gave him NFL-style dropback concepts and did not encourage a “read one and bail” kind of playstyle. Lance was regularly standing tall in the pocket and trying to play things out in a way he will regularly be asked to in the NFL, he just did not quite have the reps and experience to always connect. This figure is concerning, but I do believe Lance has better football ahead of him. 

Zach Wilson, BYU

Best: 20-plus yard accuracy (60.27%, 1st)

Worst: Adjusted accuracy outside the pocket (62.47%, 5th)

Not one QB in this class can spin it down the field better than Zach Wilson. The BYU gunslinger may not have the most absurd velocity, but he has the kind of arm strength that allows him to rip the ball 65 yards with relative ease. Go balls, posts, seams, wheels — anything that gets vertical, Wilson has shown an outstanding ability to marry arm strength with careful arc and ball placement over the top. When necessary, Wilson can also throw a decent back shoulder ball, which only further serves to open up his arsenal down the field. 

Wilson’s work outside the pocket is a tricky one to sort out. Purely based on the numbers, Wilson is pretty average, even though we know him to be a savant at making plays outside the pocket. The reason Wilson’s numbers are just okay, if I were to guess, is that Wilson is often forcing himself into too many tough plays outside the pocket by the nature of his play style. A guy like Fields, on the other hand, seldom does so. As such, you end up in a spot where Fields leads the class in accuracy outside the pocket because he picks his spots safely, whereas Wilson is constantly looking for the big play. Wilson is a bit more volatile, even if the highs are unmatched. 

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Mac Jones, Alabama

Best: Overall adjusted accuracy (81.15%, 2nd)

Worst: Adjusted accuracy outside the pocket (62.05%, 6th)

Mac Jones is not even the accuracy leader in this class, but his accuracy is still phenomenal. Though arm strength concerns are more than fair, especially when adjusting for NFL speed, it is clear that Jones can put the ball where he wants it to. Jones plays with excellent anticipation and timing, seldom throwing the ball into windows he knows are too dangerous. Couple that with a natural ability to place the ball well, and you get one of the most accurate QBs in my database. The ceiling on Jones’ game is not too appealing, but accuracy like this makes for a pretty high floor. 

All that being said about Jones’ accuracy, he is clearly more comfortable in the pocket than outside the pocket. Considering how consistently Alabama WRs were open and how good the OL was, Jones seldom had to leave his comfort zone, but the results were quite middling when he did. In fairness, 62.05% is not grounds for a red flag, but it does track with Jones’ film outside the pocket being that of someone who does not have the dynamic traits to be much of a playmaker. 

Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

Best: Adjusted catches required (4.84%, 1st)

Worst: 20-plus yard accuracy (29.55%, 9th)

Unfortunately, Kellen Mond’s “best” area comes with quite the caveat. From a hard data standpoint: yes, Mond did indeed have the fewest amount of his completed passes requiring an adjustment from his wide receivers. The problem, however, is that Mond instead outright missed a comfortable portion of his passes. Mond did not land in that middle ground between being accurate or not like, say, Kyle Trask. Mond either hit or he didn’t, no in-between. I do not know what to do with this information other than be amused by it. 

Mond was horrific down the field in college. Despite having more than enough arm strength and decent accuracy to other parts of the field, Mond just could not calibrate deep passes correctly to save his life. Anecdotally speaking, Mond threw a decent seam ball at Texas A&M, but he rarely threw the deep post and his work on vertical balls down the sideline was nothing to be proud of. The silver lining is that we have seen QBs such as Ryan Tannehill fix their deep ball after a few years in the league, but it is still a long short for Mond to do so. 

Jamie Newman, Wake Forest

Best: 3rd/4th down conversion rate (55.00%, 2nd)

Worst: Overall adjusted accuracy (68.75%, 9th)

Jamie Newman is nothing if not confident and brave. Those two traits show up best when the chips are down, such as on third and fourth downs. Though not the most accurate or dynamic quarterbacks, Newman is more than willing to play the sticks on third and fourth down. He does not want to leave meat on the bone by throwing short of the sticks and potentially failing to convert. If Newman is going to fail to convert, that man is going down swinging for a play past the first down marker. 

Unfortunately, no part of Newman’s game is all that consistent because he simply does not throw an accurate ball. Much of Newman’s accuracy issues can be boiled down to mechanics. Not only does Newman too regularly play with a skinny base, but he also short-arms many of his passes, resulting in some wonky release points. Both issues are troublesome by themselves, let alone when both happen on the same play. Perhaps if Newman can sort things out, he could grow into a capable QB, but completely overhauling one’s mechanics is a lot to ask. 

Kyle Trask, Florida

Best: Explosive pass rate (16.98%, 1st)

Worst: Adjusted catches required (9.52%, 9th)

To some degree, explosive play rate is a measure of offense, not necessarily of the quarterback. With how many absurd skill players Florida had with HC Dan Mullen guiding the offense, the floor for explosive plays in that offense was quite high. Still, it requires a fair amount of bravado and accuracy to make good on those opportunities, and Trask proved to check those boxes. Trask had solid 53.95% accuracy beyond 20 yards and regularly gave his star-studded cast of pass-catchers chances down the field. Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney also turned plenty of seemingly mundane plays into explosive, but again, credit to Trask for delivering accurate passes relatively often.

The issue with Trask’s accuracy, however, is he too often only got the ball to a wide receiver’s general vicinity rather than in a good, comfortable spot. Trask is not really the type to put a ball in the dirt, but he will put a throw at someone’s shins when it has no good reason to be there. So many of Trask’s completions required some awkward body contortion from his receivers, and seldom because Trask was making some miraculous adjustment to put the ball around defenders. He just does not have the velocity and arm talent to consistently deliver the ball where he thinks he is putting it. 

Davis Mills, Stanford

Best: Adjusted accuracy under pressure (67.38%, 2nd)

Worst: Explosive pass rate (7.79%, 9th)

To be honest, Mills’ accuracy numbers do not square with the tape. When Mills is pressured, he often resorts to shying away from contact in a way that disrupts his mechanics. I suspect it will become more of an issue for him in the league. Additionally, Mills’ full pressure sample is only 42 passes, in part because his overall sample size is relatively small and he saw a low pressure rate. It is entirely possible that such a low sample size compared to his peers could spit out production that is somewhat misleading. If anything, it is good news for Mills that this area is not a red flag for him. 

Because most other areas are. Mills’ “worst” area could have gone a number of ways, but his explosive play rate is putrid. When Mond posted an 8.96% explosive pass rate, I thought it would surely be the worst in the class, but Mills somehow underperformed that by a full percentage point and change. Mills, like Mond, was dismal down the field, posting just a 36.11% accuracy rate beyond 20 yards. Couple that with Stanford not having the most natural playmakers at wide receiver, and Mills ends up with precious few explosives to speak of. 

Derrik Klassen

Derrik Klassen is an NFL, NFL Draft and college football writer covering CFB and NFL Draft for NBC Sports EDGE. Derrik also covers the NFL for Football Outsiders. Find him on Twitter @QBKlass.