Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
Alex Smith has taken a lot of heat over the years (especially from me) for a lake of aggressive football play, and early in the 2015 season, this was undeniable.
Somehow, however, the Chiefs rallied from a 1-5 start to 11-5 and a wild card spot, winning a playoff game in the process. Much of this credit has been given to Smith for playing more aggressive. While his numbers (58 attempts) suggest otherwise, he indeed shortened ignoring open receivers, helping Kansas City significantly.
Otherwise, Smith’s deep ball isn’t really bad or good. There’s nothing that will turn your heads, nor is there anything that really seems appalling. It’s just there, and that’s good enough for some and not so much for others.
FINAL GRADE: C
Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
Jay Cutler has long been compared to the infamous Jeff George for his arm strength but supposed lack of promise. Frankly, I think Matthew Stafford deserves this claim.
Stafford has fine mobility and great arm strength that the NFL cannot seem to shut up about, and that’s it. His decision making downfield is sub par, and even with the 2nd half he had statistically, failed to impress for the most part.
Word is Stafford will have a better season now that Calvin Johnson is retired because he’ll be able to rely on more than one receiver. With the accuracy and decision making he’s presented, I’ll believe it when I see it.
FINAL GRADE: D
Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
Spoiler: Ryan Tannehill is a really good deep passer. Or so was the case in 2015.
Tannehill’s accuracy has room for improvement, but his completions were really strong, surprisingly strong, and like Bradford, has taken heat for being in a bad situation with bad receivers and pass protection.
Nothing really stands out statistically for Tannehill, but in terms of deep film he delivered the goods in 2015.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)
Once the backup to Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor has found new life (somewhat) as the Bills starting quarterback.
Tyrod’s mobility as almost as good as Russell Wilson’s, and while his deep passing isn’t quite as fine tuned, there’s still a lot to like. Sure, there are misses left and right, but the bucket throws downfield are a treat to watch.
Can we say Tyrod will be the franchise QB Bills fans have been looking for? Not yet. But there’s enough quality in his tape (and deep ball) to move forward with him for the time being.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Russell Wilson led 2015 in deep touchdowns (17) and TD% (20.7%), so what could I do but give him an A+?
The accuracy isn’t spot on, the yards aren’t all the much, but the reason Wilson gets that grade is because his completions were consistently excellent, and he had zero glaring throws. This occurred more in the 2nd half, where he was a touchdown machine.
Wilson is perhaps the most impressive QB athletically to date, but during the 2nd half he stayed more comfortable in the pocket, relying less on scrambling and more on excellent pocket passing. This helped him and his deep passing over that course of time.
Along with Carson Palmer’s year, Wilson’s is at the top of the league in downfield display.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Out of any QB I watched from 2015 for the Deep Ball Project, Jameis Winston surprised me the most. Pleasantly.
First off, 111 deep passes for a rookie QB is unheard of, even in today’s pass drunk era. But Winston provided some excellent touch passes and long bombs, making his 2015 season actually pleasant to watch (take note, Fitzpatrick).
If there’s one complaint, it’s that the misses are a bit sloppy, and the decision making isn’t finely tuned. But that’s a small complaint for a QB entering his sophomore season, and Winston’s deep ball was fine in 2015. I expect better things from him in 2016.
FINAL GRADE: B
With that all out of the way, let’s present the Deep Ball Wall, with all of the aforementioned stats and grades packed into one gigantic chart.
A few facts before I conclude
-Russell Wilson threw for the most touchdowns (17)
-Blake Bortles had the most completions (62), attempts (140) and deep yards (1,827).
-Ben Roethlisberger threw the most picks (11) but also the most yards per game (134).
-Carson Palmer finished with the highest accuracy percentage (63.8%) as well as the most accurate passes (81)
-9 quarterbacks threw at least 100 deep passes in 2015. Only one did that in 2014 (Big Ben)
As mentioned previously in the article, Carson Palmer, in my mind, was the best deep passer of 2015. Russell Wilson came close, but Palmer’s best throws and consistency simply could not be matched.
Doing the Deep Ball Project and being able to complete it was a monumental task, but I was able to come out strong despite a tough schedule with school and work. It’s something I truly enjoyed doing from the very beginning, and getting the feedback and views I’ve gotten is something I’ve never dreamt possible. This was a hobby of mine, but I’m glad it’s beginning to develop into something good.
Again, I thank everyone for viewing, and I hope to continue doing the Deep Ball project once 2016-17 comes around.
-Jonathan Kinsley, Brick Wall Blitz