Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 53.1% (12th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 38.2% (25th)
Trevor Siemian is interesting. He is by no means good, but he’s not as terrible as people make him out to be.
Ok, his accuracy downfield (well, 20+ passes) is bad, with misses abound, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Actually, there are some fantastic throws and throws that his receivers screwed him over on.
This is really a limited quarterback trying to get the most out of his skill set, and I can admire that. If it came down to Paxton Lynch and Siemian, I’d roll with Siemian, because he’s been more consistent and even more promising than Lynch.
It kind of sucks, but Siemian’s season is also a guilty pleasure.
FINAL GRADE: D+
Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 48.2% (20th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 47.6% (12th)
“Alex Smith” is also a synonym for “enigma.” Infamous for being “Captain Checkdown” and for playing a short, hesitant playing style that tries to reduce turnovers, Smith is the perfect “Win and Lose With Him” quarterback.
His downfield passing is a reflection of what happens when he actually plays with aggression, and truth be told, I enjoyed what I was seeing. Smith has never really been half bad as a deep passer, and like previous seasons, here there are some legitimately impressive dimes and stretches of continuous accuracy.
The problem is the Deep Ball Project does not chart plays that could be downfield throws, and maybe for future editions I’ll change that. But Smith’s hesitance kills a lot of plays and makes games closer than they should be.
The accuracy isn’t top tier (the miss to Spencer Ware against the Falcons as shown above was brutal), but Smith is a decent downfield passer. I just wish he’d be more consistently aggressive, because he’d be much more fun to watch.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 41.2% (28th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 46.4% (14th)
I don’t consider Matthew Stafford a good downfield passer, but is there more to him than meets the eye?
Stafford’s never been an accurate downfield passer, but in a season considered MVP caliber…..yeah that still didn’t change. The same erratic accuracy from years prior was shown, with a primary difference being there were more inaccurate completions (3rd GIF above) and dropped picks (2nd GIF above)
Fortunately for Stafford, a couple of things save his grade from dropping to the bottom. First, in a rare instance, his accuracy on 20+ throws actually fared better than 16+ throws (14th in accuracy percentage on 20+ compared to 28th on 16+). Second, he had several otherworldly plays (see the 4th GIF above) that few quarterbacks can dream of making.
Stafford’s overall deep ball was rough, sloppy, inconsistent, erratic, and at times irrational. But, strangely enough, at the same time, it also makes him fun to watch in a weird sort of way. It doesn’t make him or his deep ball good, but it makes him entertaining enough to keep us intrigued on every play.
FINAL GRADE: D+
Ryan Tannehill (Miami Dolphins)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 64.1% (4th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 61.0% (2nd)
The progression of Ryan Tannehill has been wonderful to watch for those who look deeper. In the last two seasons, his deep ball has become one of the league’s best, so it should be no surprise he’s become a downfield master under Adam Gase.
With better defined routes, Tannehill’s accuracy soared. His overall accuracy of 64.1% was 4th in 2016, and his accuracy on throws of 20+ was 61.0%, The 2nd highest (only behind Derek Carr).
Despite suffering from some receiver drops, Tannehill’s accuracy and placement were astonishingly good. We’re talking throws that rival the ones Aaron Rodgers makes on a daily basis!
Ryan Tannehill is a really good quarterback, and though his deep passing lacks quantity, it easily makes up for it in quality. Dolphins fans should be highly pleased with the results their quarterback is producing, and in 2016 his downfield passing was one of the year’s absolute best.
FINAL GRADE: A
Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo Bills)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 52.0% (14th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 43.6% (19th)
The Buffalo Bills-Tyrod Taylor saga in the offseason dragged on farther than it needed to. While not a great quarterback, Taylor is average/above average, with a big arm and the mobility of a god helping maximize plays.
Taylor’s accuracy definitely isn’t consistent, but the sheer quality of his best throws makes up for the ones he misses. For example, the 4th quarter throw at Seattle (above) is one of the best plays you’ll ever see a quarterback make.
Taylor ended up being graded with the same results as his 2015-16 deep ball season. Not great, but definitely worth watching. I think that describes the QB in a nutshell.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 41.5% (27th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 37.7% (26th)
Carson Wentz’s rookie season would be an A+ if the NFL only had 3 games. But after a great start in his first 3 games, Wentz’s play, mechanics, and accuracy all took a deep downward spiral to the point where the potential is there (First GIF), but it’s hidden under severely flawed play.
In the last 13 games, Wentz’s downfield accuracy was terrible, even with drops factored in. His passes float way too high and the lack of hands on defense shows that Eagles’ wide receivers aren’t the only ones dropping #11’s passes.
There are some good plays in there, but they’re suffocated by too many awful ones. Carson Wentz has to go back to the drawing board if he wants to get graded higher or develop in his 2nd season. This isn’t Jared Goff bad, but I’d prefer my QBs not be near that level anyway.
FINAL GRADE: D
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 58.7% (9th)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 57.8% (4th)
Russell Wilson is a joy to watch, and this was true in 2016.
One of the league’s top deep ball throwers, Wilson’s touch and mobility make him an exciting dynamic player. The accuracy actually fared better than his 2015 season. His accuracy on 16+ throws was 9th in the league, while his 20+ accuracy was 4th.
So what gives with the B+ grade? Well, the 2nd half of 2016 saw his accuracy drop a bit in terms of consistency, with several awful throws put in the mix. If the consistency was more like the first half, Wilson would have an A+. This can be blamed on his health throughout the season, and he never looked consistently comfortable in the pocket.
Still, all things considered, Wilson still had a hell of a deep ball season. The quality throws are a treat to watch, and the precision and mobility are icing on the cake.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Jameis Winston (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Accuracy Percentage On 16+ Throws: 46.6% (22nd)
Accuracy Percentage on 20+ Throws: 32.8% (28th)
In 2015, Jameis Winston’s deep ball was a pleasant surprise. In 2016 his deep ball was unpleasant torture. To say his placement was on a different planet from the one his receivers were living on is a vast understatement. How can you overthrow Mike Evans, a 6 ft 5 ball magnet? Apparently Winston figured it out.
The inaccuracy is inexcusable, and only a few throws of excellence save Winston from an F-. I’m still having a hard time believing he threw 28 touchdowns in 2016, because without looking at stats alone I could never tell. I’d go on about dropped picks, catches that bailed out ball placement, and missed opportunities, but the Deep Ball Project is generally three pages long.
Frankly, I don’t know what happened. Sure, Winston’s rookie season displayed erratic downfield accuracy, but there was no preparation for this. Winston had the fourth worst accuracy on throws of 20+ last year, and considering how badly he missed on these throws, I’m amazed it wasn’t the worst.
And consider that Winston threw the most downfield attempts of any QB in 2016 with 116 deep throws. When you throw that much yet can’t even be accurate on 33% of your throws, your deep ball is not strong then. Make no mistake, Jameis Winston’s downfield accuracy was atrocious last year.
FINAL GRADE: F
Now we come to the fun part of the Deep Ball Project; for this year’s edition, I made two charts instead of just one.
The first chart shows the results of all throws of 16 air yards or more, while the 2nd chart shows the results of all throws of 20 air yards or more. Both charts rank each QB on their overall grade.
With that said, here are the results. Here’s all throws of 16+ air yards.
And here’s the chart for all throws of 20+ air yards.
Next, here is the total Accuracy Percentage on all throws of 16+ air yards.
And here’s the accuracy percentage for all throws of 20+.
Now let’s reveal which QBs led the league in statistics.
League Leading Stats
16+:-Matt Ryan led the league in overall deep ball completions with 56.
20+:-Matt Ryan and Kirk Cousins tied for the most completions on 20+ passes with 35.
16+:-Jameis Winston threw the most downfield attempts with 116.
20+:-Ben Roethlisberger led in attempts with 82.
16+:-Matt Ryan led 2016 in overall completion percentage (61.5%)
20+:-Matt Ryan also led on throws of 20+ (53.8%).
DISCLAIMER: This is NOT the same as accuracy percentage.
16+:-Aaron Rodgers led the league in overall accurate passes with 68.
20+:-Aaron Rodgers also threw the most accurate passes with 41 accurate passes on 20+ throws.
Accuracy Percentage:-The most important statistic on the Deep Ball Project.
16+:-On all throws, Sam Bradford led the way in accuracy percentage (66.7%).
20+:-Derek Carr led the way in accuracy percentage (62.9%).
Passing Yards and Yards Per Game
16+:-Matt Ryan led the NFL in overall deep passing yards (1,647) and yards per game (102.9).
20+:-Kirk Cousins led everyone in downfield yards on 20+ throws (1,268) and yards per game (79.3).
16+:-Ben Roethlisberger led the league in overall deep touchdowns (14).
20+:-Ben Roethlisberger also led on deep touchdowns of 20+ air yards (13).
16+:-Philip Rivers led the league in interceptions with 11 picks.
20+:-On throws of 20+, it was a tie between Philip Rivers and Carson Wentz (6).
16+:-Ryan Tannehill had the highest touchdown percentage on overall deep passing (17.0%).
20+:-Ryan Tannehill also led in TD% on throws of 20+ (17.1%).
16+:-Matt Ryan had the lowest interception percentage on all downfield throws (1.1%).
20+:-Matt Ryan was the only QB to avoid throwing a single interception on throws of 20+ air yards, so by default, his 0.0 interception percentage is the lowest on 20+ throws.
Best Deep Ball Quarterback of 2016
Sam Bradford was the highest rated downfield passer, so he gets the vote. His precision was more consistent and sharp than the other 30 passers on this year’s project.
Thanks to you all for reading this article, and I’ll see you next year for the 2017-18 Deep Ball Project. If you have any questions, submit them to me @Brickwallblitz on Twitter.