NFL fans have been pampered by the standard of the game for quarterbacks in the 21st century.
A golden era led by Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers is seemingly turning into another, albeit largely dominated by quarterbacks with vastly different skill sets.
Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have heralded the beginning of a fascinating new era. Mahomes, Allen and Co.’s success has been in part a product of his ability to hit with his legs as well as through the air.
Still, the ultimate test of a quarterback remains his ability to deliver in situations where the defense knows a pass is coming.
The confluence of the final years of the great pocket quarterbacks and the beginning of the potential Hall of Fame careers of several dual-threat superstars may make the discussion about which sign-callers of today perform better in These scenarios are difficult to resolve.
However, Stats Perform has developed a metric to rank the top quarterbacks since 2008 in expected passing situations called differential value.
The spread value is calculated using our efficiency versus expected (EVE) metric. For quarterbacks, EVE measures performance in terms of yardage added in expected passing situations.
The differential value is generated using the EVE baselines for each season since 2008. In essence, the differential value is how far a quarterback is above or below the cumulative baseline in that period, weighing significantly higher given the recent results.
That weighting has certainly influenced the quarterback at the top of the standings, though his consistently spectacular play has also played a part.
With the historic pace Mahomes has set since entering the NFL, it’s no surprise that the man leading the charge of ‘the next generation’ is at the top of the rankings.
Mahomes has racked up 18,707 passing yards in his first four seasons as a starter, handily outpacing the likes of Manning and Rodgers and putting him on the path to becoming one of the greatest of all time.
His differential value of 6,429 is a product of Mahomes leading the NFL in EVE in three of his four seasons as the starting quarterback, including a 2021 campaign in which his and the Kansas City Chiefs’ ability to excel against two was questioned. deep. defenses
Mahomes’ task going forward will be to maintain his superiority with an absent receiving corps Tyreek Hill following his trade to the Miami Dolphins.
He won’t be short of conference challengers, with six other active AFC quarterbacks inside the top 20 for differential value since 2008. Half of those quarterbacks reside within their own division, encapsulating the arms race that is the AFC. West.
Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert is 11th after finishing fourth in EVE last season, Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr is 17th and new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson is 18th.
The man considered to be Mahomes’ main rival, Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, ranks 12th behind Herbert. His ranking below Herbert can be attributed to his early struggles after entering the NFL and a 2020 season regarded to this point as his best year only good enough for 13th in EVE.
Allen has improved to eighth in 2021 and while some may wonder how much he can improve after his stupendous playoff matchup with Mahomes, he will be looking to take the next step and help the Bills finally get past the Chiefs.
Yet for all the talk of the AFC being the deepest conference, there are seven active NFC quarterbacks in the top 20, with Rodgers (third), Dak Prescott (fourth), Matthew Stafford ( seventh) and Kirk Cousins (eighth) all residing in the top 10
A 2021 season in which he was 10th in EVE clinched Kyler Murray at 16th in differential value and, despite the disappointing end to the campaign, underscored the Arizona Cardinals’ need to sign him to an extension. His NFC West rival Jimmy Garoppolo is three spots higher, even above his former New England Patriots mentor, in an indication of the level of efficiency that successor Trey Lance will need to at least match for the San Francisco 49ers succeed in 2022 and beyond.
Breesy does it
Despite a glorious career in which he compiled a plethora of records, some of which Brady has since broken, Drew Brees may not receive the same level of praise as his contemporaries in the “old guard” of quarterbacks. NFL.
But the New Orleans Saints legend ranks second to Mahomes in differential value. Immediately behind him among that group of veterans are Rodgers and Philip Rivers in fifth place.
Brees’ position stems from leading the NFL in EVE in expected passing situations for five straight seasons from 2008-2012. He regained that spot in 2017 and his career finale in 2020 was the only year he finished off. of the top five.
Those remarkable numbers are a tribute not only to Brees’ accuracy — he was first in shooting percentage (min. 100 attempts) in 2019 and fourth in 2020 — but also to the longevity of the connection between him and the former coach of the Saints, Sean Payton. .
But what about the man who ended Brees’ career and stunned the NFL world by reversing his decision to end his?
Isn’t Tom great?
Brady’s career ended for 40 days and will now continue as long as the greatest of all time sees fit, even if it seems like he has nothing left to prove.
While Brady’s legacy is secure, the additional season(s) could help him climb the ladder in difference value, where he is, by his standards, in the humble 19th.
His position is affected by a 2008 campaign in which he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 and his final year with the New England Patriots in 2019, which marked his worst EVE performance in expected passing situations. over the span of 14 seasons.
Brady’s pinnacle in that regard came in a spectacular 2016 season in which he led the league in EVE despite playing just 12 games. He subsequently guided the Patriots to Super Bowl glory with a historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
The latest act of his incredible two-plus decades in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hasn’t seen him return to such heights, even as he has led the Bucs to the league’s elite.
He ranked 12th in EVE in 2020 while guiding the Bucs to Super Bowl glory and 13th in 2021 in what seemed like his final season in the league.
Brady will want to go to the top of the mountain and the Bucs will hope he’s not about to fall off the cliff, as two of their biggest rivals have passed their peak.
Back off while you’re ahead
Given the four Super Bowls they share equally between them and the prominent role they’ve played in football this century, it’s quite remarkable to see Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning so low in the differential value rankings.
Roethlisberger is in 37th place, while Manning is in 67th place, places that belie their Hall of Fame resumes from the first ballot.
But it’s the weighting toward later seasons that works against Roethlisberger and Manning, both retiring from professional football after awful individual campaigns.
No quarterback with at least 300 expected passing attempts had a worse EVE than Manning in 2015, when he was briefly benched for Brock Osweiler. In his defense, the end came extremely quickly for Manning after an MVP season in 2013 and a Pro Bowl campaign in 2014 and he still managed to do enough to win a Lombardi Trophy with the Broncos.
Roethlisberger’s awful 2021 was easier to predict, his mobility and ability to push the ball already diminished before posting the worst EVE of his career in his final season.
By contrast, Tony Romo finished his career in 2017, but his last full season as a starter was in 2014 when he was seventh at EVE. As a result, the former Dallas Cowboy ranks sixth in differential value.
Brady’s play and his efficiency numbers from his two seasons with the Buccaneers suggest he’s more likely to reply to Romo, who could well be his inspiration as he heads into his postgame career.