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Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and QBs that Got Close But Left Touchdowns on the Table


Image via Football Schedule.

If you’re trying to predict next year touchdowns, you could just use this year touchdowns as a variable and that will explain about 42% of the variance in next year touchdowns. But a variable that has equal predictive power is a variable that I’ll call “Not Quite Touchdowns + Touchdowns” or NQT+T for the purposes of this post.

I’ll define a Not Quite Touchdown for quarterbacks as a pass play that results in a completion, but ends up at the 1 or 2 yard line instead of in the endzone. I used 1 or 2 yard line because when I backtested, that was the limit that I could use before NQT+T dropped below the predictive power of just simple touchdowns. So if we look at those Not Quite Touchdowns and add them to actual touchdowns, we get the measure NQT+T. Rather than giving you the prediction that the regression would have for 2013, I thought a more intuitive way to look at things would be to simply order 2012’s QBs by NQT+T. I’ve done that in the table below.

Drew Brees 43 50
Aaron Rodgers 39 42
Matt Ryan 32 42
Peyton Manning 37 42
Tom Brady 35 41
Tony Romo 28 34
Andy Dalton 27 32
Josh Freeman 27 32
Matthew Stafford 20 32
Eli Manning 26 31
Philip Rivers 26 31
Ryan Fitzpatrick 24 31
Ben Roethlisberger 25 30
Andrew Luck 23 29
Matt Schaub 22 27
Russell Wilson 26 27
Sam Bradford 21 27
Robert Griffin 20 26
Joe Flacco 22 25
Carson Palmer 22 24
Christian Ponder 18 24
Cam Newton 19 22
Jay Cutler 19 21
Brandon Weeden 14 18
Ryan Tannehill 12 15
Alex Smith 13 14
Mark Sanchez 13 14
Michael Vick 12 14
Chad Henne 11 13
Colin Kaepernick 10 11

A few notes:

  • You can see that Matt Ryan had a number of completions on plays that ended at the 1 or 2 yard line.
  • All of Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman and Matthew Stafford are 26 years old (or younger in Staff and Freeman’s case) and also placed in the top 10 in the league on NQT+T.
  • Russell Wilson squeezed almost every last drop out of his pass attempts. He really didn’t leave anything on the table (or his receivers didn’t).
  • If you add Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick’s NQT+T together, you would get 25, which is Flacco range. That’s just the indicator for passing TDs and doesn’t take rushing yards into account. It would be better than Cam Newton on NQT+T.
  • For the counter-view that Aaron Rodgers is actually on his own tier above the others, check out Jonathan Bales’ article.

I knew going into this exercise that Stafford would look decent on this metric, but I didn’t realize that Matt Ryan would come out looking this good. His 42 NQT+T is solidly in that tier that people are leaving him out of right now. Also, Julio Jones is just entering his third season in the league and he came into the league fairly young to begin with. If you look at Fantasy Football Calculator ADP, Ryan is currently sandwiched between Ahmad Bradshaw and Rashard Mendenhall, which makes it easy to pull the trigger on a QB in that range even if you think that’s early. By that point in the draft, there’s still value sitting out there, but a lot of guys will largely be the same while Ryan might be a real step up over the next QB drafted. It’s something to think about.

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