Our friend Bill Connelly of SB Nation has put together some really awesome stats. In this, he charts how many passes of each distance were thrown by a group of 43 college quarterbacks in the 2012 season. He also has the data for the percentages of passes completed at each distance. And, he has a cool normalized stat that the NFL uses called adjusted completion percentage, which accounts for difficulty of distance.
Click to read the article. Do it.
Here are some observations.
- First, these do not necessarily say much about the offensive line or receivers, both of which matter a lot.
- EJ Manuel threw 20.9% of his passes behind the line of scrimmage. That might seem like a lot, but it's really not. Of the 43 quarterbacks, 10 threw more, and many had a very similar number.
- What did Manuel not throw that many of? Statistically, it's the ball over 20 yards. However, we also see that FSU also threw a ton of passes in the 15-19 yard area. Why the discrepancy? I believe it's due to Manuel's lack of instincts and feel for the game. The most common route of the 20+ distance is probably the post route -- something Manuel really struggled to throw because he couldn't sense guys coming open, but instead had to actually see them be open first, which in actuality is too late, unless the player is wide open. He was more comfortable with 15-19 yard area, which include some corner routes which FSU throws as a component of its smash play, and square-ins.
- But comfort doesn't necessarily mean success. Manuel only completed 33.3% of his passes in the 15-19 range (which he threw often), but he competed 50% of his passes of 20-24 yards, which is quite solid. I'm not sure exactly what that says.
- Manuel was excellent in the 10-14 yard range, completing 68.8% of his passes in the area.
- Manuel threw almost no passes beyond 35 yards.
- The advanced stat here has Manuel in a tie for 5th, out of 43 at 68.5%, which is very good all things considered. Florida's Jeff Driskel is at 14th (64.5%), while Miami's Stephen Morris is 42nd out of 43 with a horrendous 48.8% number. Woof. One interesting note on Driskel is that he almost never threw balls in the 15-19 yard range (only 1.7% of his passes were on those routes). Morris' interesting number is that he rarely threw anything in the 10-14 yard range (3.9%). Also, Morris completed only 53% of passes in the 4-9 yard range, while completing 70% in the 5-9 yard range. Strange.
- This data doesn't account for missed opportunities (not seeing a wide open receiver), turnovers, etc., and it is just one tool. But it's fair to say that while Manuel wasn't a great college QB, he was a good one. Perhaps very good. Driskel is probably underrated by most, and Morris, well, I didn't need advanced stats to tell me that he isn't very good (QB rating of less than 140 in conference). Tahj Boyd is pretty good, too, though he does have two awesome receivers.
- What do you think of all these numbers?