10. Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers)
The league’s handsomest quarterback just makes the cut in the top 10. You may have noticed that while Jimmy Garoppolo finished with the highest completion percentage among all quarterbacks, his deep accuracy was lower than that. This is because his receivers bailed him on a few throws and he threw zero Accurate Incompletions.
Still, the deduction was not enough to exclude Garoppolo from Part 3 of 3. Say what you will about the constant amount of open looks and favorable reads he gets in Kyle Shanahan’s system, but at least he was able to do it for 16 games without tearing his ACL again. His comeback is a nice story and he was able to prove he could start a full season.
Even with all the open looks, Garoppolo ranked higher as a tight window passer than he did throwing to open receivers. As far as precision goes, he was excellent throwing to the middle of the field (2nd), in the shotgun (6th), and in clean pockets (6th).
The one area Garoppolo struggled in was against pressure (pretty big area, actually) with an Accuracy Percentage of 28.57%, 26th for 2019. And of course, that miss to Emmanuel Sanders in the Super Bowl lingers large in peoples’ heads in regards to his deep passing abilities, and there’s no doubt the narrative on him would be way different with that one throw.
With so many open window throws it’s hard to find a lot of challenging deep passes from his 2019 season, but at least Garoppolo was able to take what he got and do well with it. And that was enough for a quality season of deep passing accuracy.
Best Throw (Week 16 vs. Los Angeles Rams, Emmanuel Sanders)
This time, I decided to go with one of Garoppolo’s more iconic throws. The Rams secondary was swiss cheese on this play, though Jimmy G credit for executing and standing tall on a 3rd and 16.
Feels great, baby.
9. Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
In spite of a receiving corps whose quality seemed to indicate it consisted of actors from the movie Invincible, Carson Wentz managed to place inside the top ten for deep accuracy in 2019, and at #9 for the second straight season.
It was an odd season for the Eagles where the team had very high expectations, failed to meet them, and yet still ended up winning the NFC East anyway. While Wentz had a rough stretch of games against teams like the Patriots and Cowboys earlier in the season, much of the disappointing season was not his fault. A turnstile secondary combined with a heavily injured receiving corps put Philadelphia in bad spots right away.
That didn’t stop Wentz from having a great finish to 2019, as his last four games were spent grinding out against the NFC East in hard fought wins for the much maligned NFC East division crown. Someone had to win that stupid division, and Eagles fans as well as Cowboys fans (Jason Garrett is no longer the head coach) were pretty pleased with that result.
There are a couple rough spots with Wentz’s deep accuracy. He was sensational throwing to his left (finishing 2nd), but was closer to the bottom throwing to the middle (29th) and to the right of the field (26th). As a tight window passer he again finished 26th.
However, Wentz’s deep accuracy remains high in spite of a 31.37 completion percentage thanks to 12 Accurate Incompletions that came through the hands of his Hallmark Channel receiving talent. He stood out throwing 26-30 yards (5th) as well as 41+ yards (7th), and was great against edge pressure and outside the pocket (ranking 6th in both categories).
For many people the postseason narrative defines him, but Eagles fans should be happy to have Wentz as the starter, and his 4-game stretch to finish the 2019 season with a decimated receiving corps essentially proved that. All in all, he was able to put together a great season of deep passing even with the setbacks at the skill position.
Best Throw (Week 17 at New York Giants, Deontay Burnett)
I never knew who Deontay Burnett was before the 2019 season, but there’s no doubt he’s going to cherish this play for the rest of his life. And as for Wentz this is one hell of a throw outside the pocket on the run.
8. Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks)
While not as high on this year’s list as I thought he would be, make no mistake; This is still Russell Wilson. He’s still one of the absolute best deep passers in football and a gift from God in terms of talent.
As well as being one of five quarterbacks with at least 1,000 deep passing yards, Wilson was also one of two quarterbacks to finish with at least 1,000 air yards. Really the only issue when pushing down the field was that he was 26th in accuracy on throws of 21-25 yards. Otherwise he once again delivered the goods, and led all quarterbacks in air yards (1,044).
Wilson ranked inside the top 10 in most of the deep statistics, and was tremendous under pressure (3rd against overall duress and 2nd against interior pressure). Outside of 21-25 yards his accuracy was outstanding on throws of 26+ yards, and he was the third most accurate tight window passer and second most accurate under center.
Wilson was arguably the only reason the Seahawks farted their way into an 11-5 season. Most of their wins were extremely close, and Recovery Water’s CEO had to drag that offensive line out of some bad spots as well. Before Lamar Jackson eventually took over for good, many saw Wilson as the MVP frontrunner in the first half of 2019, and this was a large reason for that.
Wilson’s deep accuracy was streakier in the second half of the season, but this was nowhere near enough to take him out of the top 10.
Best Throw (Wild Card Round at Philadelphia, Tyler Lockett)
It isn’t easy choosing Wilson’s best deep throw from 2019 because there’s so many of them, but this sideline throw on the run to Tyler Lockett really stands out. As impressive is the insanely quick throwing motion Wilson uses, as he’s able to build up a big amount of arm power that fast.
7. Gardner Minshew (Jacksonville Jaguars)
The cult hero from Jacksonville finds his way on the #7 spot, becoming one of two rookies to make the top ten of this year’s Deep Ball Project.
While Nick Foles was busy stealing money from the Jaguars front office, Gardner Minshew was busy stealing Jaguars fans’ hearts with better play at a lower price. The sixth-round rookie gave fans the kind of hope they very rarely saw as much from Blake Bortles, and was one of two rookies to finish inside the top ten in deep accuracy.
Minshew was only 27th in accuracy throwing 21-25 yards but excelled elsewhere, and was the most accurate passer on throws of 26-30 yards. He was also the most accurate passer throwing to his right, and was in the top five throwing into open windows, between 31-35 yards, from clean pockets, and under center.
The mustached man’s mobility makes him enticing as he journeys into his sophomore season, and like Derek Carr he avoided throwing a single interception or dropped interception. He’s been capable of making plays under pressure, and while raw the potential is there.
Minshew’s deep passing season was a very pleasant surprise, and it only cost the Jaguars $2.7 million.
Best Throw (Week 16 at Atlanta, Chris Conley)
Minshew excelled throwing into tight windows in 2019, and his best pass came late against the Falcons on this touchdown dime to Chris Conley.
6. Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)
The reigning mediocrity of Jason Garrett was not enough to prevent Dak Prescott from landing the #6 spot on the DBP. Best known for his hip warmups, Prescott has also been inconsistent as a deep passer, ranking outside the top 10 in even numbered seasons and inside the top 10 in odd numbered years. Guess what year it was for him…
Much of this has to do with the fact that Prescott was the most accurate passer on throws of 21-25 yards (88.24%), though he also finished 10th on throws of 26-30 yards. In addition, he finished inside the top 10 both from clean pockets and under pressure, and was tied for second in accuracy against edge pressure. His accuracy to open receivers improved from 29th in 2018 to 9th in 2019, while his tight window accuracy improved from 13th to 6th.
No matter how much talent the Cowboys gave Prescott, the employment of Garrett as the head coach completely held this team back and wasted a fourth-round rookie QB contract by failing to make it past the Divisional Round (sound familiar?). Sure, Prescott has had his lesser moments in the league, but he’s a very good quarterback and has consistently made Dallas competitive over the years.
Overall, Prescott had a terrific deep passing season despite these precautions. One just hopes Mike McCarthy has actually learned from his time off as a head coach and doesn’t devolve into the new Jason Garrett, because if Prescott returns to Dallas they can’t continue to waste a good quarterback’s career. He’s not worth $40 million a year, but he’s certainly worth keeping.
Best Throw (Week 7 vs. Philadelphia, Amari Cooper)
Out of the shotgun (where he ranked third in accuracy), Prescott delivers a sensational tight window shot to Amari Cooper down the sideline when he’s not even open. Can’t throw it any better.
5. Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns)
Yes, this is real.
When I started charting for this year’s edition of the Deep Ball Project, the last thing I expected to see was Baker Mayfield stay in the top five in deep accuracy after a significantly worse and brutally disappointing sophomore season. His pocket presence regressed and he looked nothing like the stellar rookie we saw in 2018.
And somehow he made it to #5 on the 2019-20 Deep Ball Project.
Of course, by the end of the season it was obvious that Freddie Kitchens was way more comfortable in the running back department and as an offensive coordinator than he was as a head coach, and he failed to properly utilize the star power the Browns had in 2019. But Mayfield’s increased turnovers and lack of comfort made it clear something was wrong.
To my surprise I didn’t see much of that discomfort as a deep passer.
Granted, he threw the second most interceptions behind Philip Rivers, but Mayfield finished really damn impressive in several deep passing statistics. He was the most accurate passer in clean pockets and the most accurate on throws of 31-35 yards. His tight window accuracy regressed from a ranking of 8th in 2018 to 12th in 2019, but his accuracy to open receivers improved from fifth to second (of course, it’s not the most impressive thing in the world, but at least he didn’t do worse).
Mayfield also finished inside the top ten throwing to the middle, right, and under center, but was less successful under pressure. One benefit for him is that he threw 10 Accurate Incompletions, helping greatly boost his Accuracy Percentage.
There are concerns with Mayfield’s progress as Cleveland’s franchise quarterback, but at least his deep passing accuracy looked great in 2019.
Best Throw (Week 14 vs. Cincinnati, Odell Beckham Jr.)
In typical Browns fashion we have an incomplete pass in this section. I love Odell Beckham more than anyone in the whole wide world, but this is a catch he has to make. Mayfield shows perfect touch on this pass but Beckham bobbles it slightly and can’t establish control in bounds.
4. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
Matt Ryan is the great quarterback that time forgot.
He had rougher stretches of play in 2019, but he’s also continued to be a sensational deep passer. Getting coached by the likes of Dan Quinn and Dirk Koetter does nothing to help other than destroy chances of a proper tank amidst a quest of mediocrity, which is a shame because a QB as good as Ryan should not be this hung out to dry.
A nice 69.23 Accuracy Percentage to the left kept Ryan fourth in accuracy in that area. He had issues on throws of 41+ yards and into open windows, but was also the most accurate passer into tight windows with an Accuracy Percentage of 52.38%.
Ryan was also phenomenal against pressure, excelling against both interior and edge pressure. While never the most mobile quarterback, Ryan has enough athleticism in his legs and incredible pocket play to offset danger for the most part. Don’t let the touchdown-interception ratio fool you; Ryan was yet again a fantastic deep passer in 2019.
Now if we could get him an actual coach while he’s still a quality quarterback the Falcons would be way more fun to watch…
Best Throw (Week 11 at Carolina, Julio Jones)
Ryan gets absolutely clobbered on this throw but not before unloading an unreal throw to Julio Jones over the middle. These kinds of plays are exactly why you don’t surround an elite quarterback with mediocrity.
3. Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)
At the end of Deshaun Watson’s section of the 2018-19 Deep Ball Project, I mentioned that he wasn’t a great deep passer yet, but took a big step in the right direction.
In 2019 he realized his potential and became one of the three most accurate deep passers in the league.
The man responsible for Bill O’Brien’s upgrade to head coach/general manager/destroyer of talent, Watson is one of the league’s premiere cheat codes thanks to his spectacular blend of scrambling and pocket excellence. He was only outside the top 10 in accuracy on 3 of the 18 deep statistics (an extremely impressive feat), and was one of five quarterbacks to hit the 1,000 yard mark this season.
So where does Watson stand out exactly when it seems like he stands out everywhere? Let’s start with under center, where he ranked as the league’s most accurate. In addition to ranking fourth under pressure, he was the most accurate quarterback against interior pressure, which is good because that Texans offensive line gave him a lot of practice.
There isn’t even a single stat where Houston’s pride and joy ranks below average in accuracy. Whether throwing into clean pockets or against duress, to open receivers or into tight windows, under center or in the shotgun, left or to the right, Watson thrived as a deep passer. I can’t say enough good things about what he was able to accomplish down the field, and I really wish I was able to go on about it.
Best Throw (Week 13 vs. New England, Kenny Stills)
There’s many, many great throws from Watson’s third season in the NFL, but my personal favorite is this touchdown seed to Kenny Stills against the Patriots. Even better is that he had a touchdown throw on the previous play that was eventually ruled incomplete.
2. Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs)
The best quarterback in the NFL gets a Super Bowl ring and the #2 spot on the 2019-20 Deep Ball Project. I think it’s obvious who was at #1 as a result, but for now let’s appreciate the new face of football.
Mahomes managed to overcome the Madden Curse and a 24-0 deficit on his way to winning Andy Reid’s first ring as a head coach and Super Bowl MVP. It’s hard to say if he would’ve won a second consecutive MVP award had he stayed healthy for all 16 games, but once the Chiefs got back to the playoffs he he exploded for 12 total touchdowns.
Mahomes ranked inside the top five in nine categories, and was the most accurate passer into open windows. A blemish against him is that he was less successful throwing into tight windows and also threw four dropped interceptions, but considering a good part of these misses came from when he was nursing a kneecap injury, I’ll excuse that.
As you may have guessed, Mahomes was the only quarterback to throw for at least 10 touchdowns (13 of them), including four in week 2 against the Raiders. He also led all quarterbacks in deep passing yards with 1,275 of them. I said it in last year’s edition, but Mahomes’ sensational style of play makes looking through his stats all the more fun.
Mahomes is a gift to the NFL. He’s a quarterback that (like the greats of the past) raises the bar for what it takes to be an elite quarterback. He has the intelligence in and outside of the pocket, as well as the transcendent athleticism to establish himself as the current game’s most complete quarterback.
As a quarterback I don’t think you can do any better than Mahomes, which makes it all the more incredible that one quarterback managed to do it just a little bit better as a deep passer in 2019.
Best Throw (Week 5 vs. Indianapolis, Byron Pringle)
It’s hard to choose the best deep pass from Mahomes’ 2019 season, but this astronomical play to Byron Pringle (I’m stretching it with the adjectives, I know) stands out as the best in my opinion. I just don’t see how he treats this like child’s play…
1. Kyler Murray (Arizona Cardinals)
A quarterback that wasn’t even in the NFL a year ago is the most accurate deep passer on the 2019-20 Deep Ball Project.
The NFL’s new short king, to say Kyler Murray was sensational as a deep passer in 2019 is a vast understatement. He was more accurate than the highest ranked deep passer in 2018 (Andrew Luck, 60.0%), which shouldn’t be accomplished in year #1 but somehow has.
Following in former Oklahoma teammate Baker Mayfield’s footsteps was not easy to do in college, but Murray not only thrived in his final season but showcased a high level of quality as a rookie in the pros as well. A large part of his appeal comes from (wouldn’t you know it) his deep passing ability.
Murray was the most accurate passer on throws of 36-40 yards, 41+ yards, in the shotgun, in the pocket, and was easily the most accurate quarterback under pressure. That he was even able to be accurate on 90 percent of his passes against edge pressure is wild.
The only area where Murray failed to reach an above average ranking was under center, but that doesn’t matter at all when he only threw three passes there. He threw well over 900 yards downfield, and ranked inside the top 10 on 15 of the 18 deep categories.
Keep in mind this was with a offensive line that while improved still has plenty of issues, as well as a receiving corps that needs help and a lot of help fast. A god awful defense made matters worse for the Cardinals, but Murray did his best to keep the team in games despite their 5-10-1 finish. Whether he threw to his left, the middle, or to his right, Murray was beyond phenomenal in touch.
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Murray. His talent levels are off the charts and he has the highest deep accuracy I’ve ever charted from a rookie quarterback. His ability to throw across the field and inhuman levels of athleticism on the run are just impossible to not love, let alone fully appreciate at the very least.
Regardless of the level of talent Murray has around him in 2020, I think he’s going to do special things in this league. He’s an extremely smart, poised, discipline pocket passer already, and of course his play outside the pocket needs no introduction. I really do think he has the talent to be a top 3 quarterback one day, and a big reason is his otherworldly deep accuracy.
It’s safe to say that there’s few things I’m looking forward to as much as Murray’s sophomore season in the NFL.
Best Throw (Week 1 vs. Detroit, Larry Fitzgerald)
Absolute filth on this throw to Larry Fitzgerald. Filth.
With all the quarterbacks rounded up, let’s take a look at how each quarterback did on the accuracy splits. First let’s start with all throws of 21+ yards and then go from there.
All Throws of 21+Yards
All Throws of 21-25 Yards
All Throws of 26-30 Yards
All Throws of 31-35 Yards
All Throws of 36-40 Yards
All Throws of 41+ Yards
All Throws To The Left
All Throws To The Middle
All Throws To The Right
All Throws Under Center
All Throws In The Shotgun
All Throws In A Clean Pocket
All Throws Against Pressure
All Throws Against Interior Pressure
All Throws Against Edge Pressure
All Throws Inside The Pocket
All Throws Outside The Pocket
All Throws Into Open Windows
All Throws Into Tight Windows
Finally, let’s split the raw statistics, including deep passing yards and touchdowns. Inaccurate Completions won’t be included since the highest mark was just three.
Yards After The Catch
Once again, I want to thank you guys for viewing the sixth annual Deep Ball Project, even if your quarterback didn’t rank as high as you wanted him to. I’ll see you again for the 2020-21 installment!