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Feb 06

Rookie QB Passing Locations

Robert Griffin III sets rookie QB rating record.

Russell Wilson tied the rookie QB passing TD record.

Andrew Luck sets the rookie QB yardage record.

All three QB’s lead their teams to the playoffs.

A remarkable and unprecedented season for the rookie crop of signal callers.  All of them had a case to be made for Offensive Rookie of the Year, an award that went to Robert Griffin III.  As an admittidly biased observer, I think the voters got it wrong and Russell Wilson should have won the award but RGIII is not underserving.  I am more perplexed by Luck finishing ahead of Wilson in the voting.

It is easy enough to compare the three with the readily available metrics of Wins, Yards, TD’,s, INT’s, etc but with this remarkable season from the three, I wanted to take a look a bit deeper into HOW their statistics were achieved.  More precisely…. WHERE …. as in where on the field did they do most of their damage and where did they struggle.

Thankfully the folks at ProFootball Focus track this data.  Here is how the “passing locations” look for the 3

* This data is based on the zone where the receiver was targeted, not where the play ends.

rookqb_rawdata

 

Some really interesting data here… but it can be a bit hard to digest.  After putting it together I found it a bit difficult to draw any conclusions easily … well at least without my eyes starting to bleed…. so I decided to convert this data into a series of “heat maps” that could be more easily digested at a glance.

I created these heat maps for Attempts, Completion % , and QB Rating.  Hope you find them interesting and informative.

The color coding of ranges are proportional to their own statistics and are not normalized across the three players.  I save that for the final QB Rating graphic where I use a standardized range to color code the charts for all three.

ATTEMPTS – Percentage of their attempts in each of the 12 passing zones

rookqb_attempts

 

Robert Griffin III – It is clear that RGIII really favored throwing to the middle of the field.  That is certainly not uncommon as throwing outside of the numbers is a much harder throw and brings greater risk. But with over 63% of his throws in the middle of the field,  attacking the middle was more prevalent than with Wilson or Luck.  Especially that short-middle zone.  Josh Morgan was the most targeted receiver in that zone with 27 targets.

Russel Wilson –  Russell Wilson on the other hand used the entire field to a much larger degree than RGIII and attempted a significantly greater amount of balls deep (20+ yards) than RGIII.  Many draft pundits felt due to Wilson’s height being under prototypical height of an NFL QB, that he would struggle in the short middle of the field.  At least in attempts, he certainly attempted his fair share of passes in that zone.  As this post moves on, we will see whether he was effective in that zone.  On outside the numbers passing, he favored throwing the ball to the right side of the field which considering the amount of times he rolled out or ended up scrambling to the right (in addition to being right handed), that makes sense.

Andrew Luck-  Luck really pushed the ball down the field.  Nearly 58% of his pass attempts were targeted 10 + yards down the field.  He also had a really nice spread between throwing outside the numbers both on the left and right sides of the field.  Clearly his favorite zone was that intermediate middle of the field.

So now that we see where they threw most often, lets look at how successful they were in each of these zone by looking at completion %, and QB rating.

Completion %

rookqb_completion

Robert Griffin III - RGIII finished 4th in the NFL in completion % and based on the attempts graphic he feasted in the zones where he threw the most balls.  He was extremely accurate in those middle zones and was spectacular  in that 10-19 yard middle zone.  His accuracy (or at least success rate) really trailed off when throwing the ball down the field outside of the numbers.

Russel Wilson -  Well I certainly see nothing here showing RW struggles completing passes in the short middle of the field.  Wilson completely scorched the under 9 yards zone all the way across the field.  But this is not a guy who inflated his completion rate by just being successful on short passes.  He was incredibly accurate with his deep passes with only the deep right zone being sub 50%.

Andrew Luck-  So while we saw that Luck threw the ball down the field more than the other two QB’s, he certainly did not have the same level of success completion % wise.  Some of that can be attributed to the Colts receiving core that dropped the 7th most amount of passes but clearly Luck lost accuracy throwing the ball deep as he only completed 33% of his passes 20+yards compared to 44% for Wilson.

QB Rating

For this graphic, I am using the same scale to color code the chart for all 3 QB’s.  The ranges I selected for QB Ratings are:

  • Under 80
  • 80 – 89.9
  • 90 – 99.9
  • 100 – 109.9
  • 110 – 119.9
  • 120+

rookqb_qbrating_comparative

 

From this set of charts, it is almost hard to believe that RGIII finished slightly ahead of Russell Wilson in QB Rating.   QB Rating is very affected by INT’s which accounts for RGIII’s rating as he was excellent in protecting the football.  On the flip side, Andrew luck threw the 3rd most INT’s in the league which is reflected in his 26th best QB Rating.

From this chart we can see that RGIII was very efficient in all zones with only 3 of the 12 zones registering a passer rating of below 90.  Interesting that his best zone in passer rating is the zone that Wilson and Luck struggled in the most, however that is in part due to not having many attempts (9) in that zone compared to 21 and 36 for Wilson and Luck respectively.  But the larger factor is that both Luck and Wilson had 3 INT’s to that zone to zero for RGIII.

The results for Wilson are truly impressive.  9 of the 12 passing zones he posted a 100+ QB rating.  He was dominant in the 0-9 range but maintained that great efficiency when throwing the ball into both the 10-19 and the 20+ yard range.

SUMMARY

While I give credit to Andrew Luck for having a fantastic rookie season for making the playoffs with the worst of the three surrounding casts, he just was not as good as the other two.  Too many errant throws and poor decisions… things that are to be expected from rookie QB’s… it just so happens that there were two other rookies that looked nothing like first time signal callers.  We also saw flashes of some good things from the like of Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Kirk Cousins, and Nick Foles.  A really special QB class.

While it appeared at times, especially early in the season, that Russell Wilson missed seeing an open receiver in the middle of the field, it is clear that there is no area of the field this guy can not throw to.  As he says, “Height does not define him” and the pundits predictions of having trouble throwing and seeing over NFL offensive lines has proven not to be an obstacle for Wilson… at least in season 1.  But anyone that knows what this man is about would never bet against him.

RGIII may have won the Rookie of the Year award but I would put money on Wilson becoming the first of the three to bring home the Lombardi.

 

 

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