Yesterday, Bill Barnwell of ESPN wrote an article asking whether the Detroit Lions should pay the going rate for franchise quarterbacks to retain Matthew Stafford when he hits free agency next year. It’s an interesting question.
In the article, one of the stats he used was Pro Football Reference’s indexing data, which compares quarterbacks to the league average in a number of stats:
- Completion percentage
- TD percentage (passing TD)/(passing attempts)
- Interception percentage (interceptions)/(passing attempts)
- Quarterback rating (the traditional one, not QBR)
- Sack percentage (times sacked)/(passing attempts + times sacked)
In addition to these five, they also track several yards per attempt numbers:
- Yards per attempt
- Adjusted yards per attempt (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing TD - 45 * Interceptions) / (Passes Attempted) — Note: counts TDs and interceptions, but not sacks
- Net yards per attempt (pass yards - sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks) — Note: doesn’t count TDs or interceptions, but does count sacks.
- Adjusted net yards per attempt (Passing Yards - Sack Yards + (20 * Passing TD) - (45 * Interceptions)) / (Passes Attempted + Times Sacked) — Note: counts everything.
Where did Matthew Stafford rank using these stats?
This got me thinking. Where did Dak Prescott rank in these stats last year? We haven’t used this data set before. What does it tell us?
If you cut it off at more than 10 games, there are 31 quarterbacks who qualify, only one less than teams in the NFL. That leaves out only the Rams, who used Case Keenum and Jared Goff last year.
With 100 being league average, how many quarterbacks ranked above that number in all nine categories? Only four guys - Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Dak Prescott. Matt Ryan, for all his brilliance last year, fell below average in sack percentage. And, of these, Dak came out with the second highest average across the board.
When you look at all the quarterbacks together, how do they compare? This chart includes the four above, and ranks them all by their average. On that score, Dak slips to third in the NFL, as Matt Ryan more than made up for his one below average ranking.
One thing you notice from these numbers is the ANY/A column is almost an exact mirror of the overall average ranking. There is some variation, but less than any other column, which suggests it’s a good proxy for evaluating a quarterback’s overall value.
Another thing to notice is that only Kirk Cousins, along with Dak, is an above average quarterback in the NFC East. Eli Manning comes in with an overall 98 score, and Carson Wentz brings up the rear with an 87.5.
Is Dak Prescott a top 5 NFL quarterback?
This question was debated extensively this offseason. Whenever it comes up and someone claims he isn’t, I always wonder - on what facts are you basing that conclusion?
The NFL 100 ranked Dak Prescott 14th overall, and 5th among quarterbacks, behind Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Derek Carr. This is a vote among players, who can use whatever method of evaluation they want. (A Field Gulls writer absolutely destroyed the idea that Derek Carr was better than Dak.)
Pro Football Focus ranked him eighth among quarterbacks, just ahead of Matthew Stafford. Not sure what numbers they were looking at to arrive at this, and makes you wonder about PFF’s evaluation skills.
Cris Carter tried to explain why Dak Prescott is not a top-five quarterback. Nick Wright, in the same article, destroys Carter’s reasoning.
If Dak were not a rookie, if he was a four-year vet who had made a couple Pro Bowls, he would have won the damn MVP. And because he’s a rookie and was judged, initially, on a curve that benefited him, and [later] on a curve that hurt him because we’re like ‘a rookie can’t be this good,’ we ignore the fact that he threw 6.5 touchdowns for every interception, and that he had a 105 quarterback rating. If Dak’s the 88th best player in the sport and there’s seven quarterbacks better than him, then I was watching a different league this year.”
Carter’s claim is that a lot of quarterbacks would have done what Prescott did with Dallas’s offense. But is that really true? How many quarterbacks have gone 13-2 (you can’t in the Philly loss on Dak)? How many have gone a season with only four interceptions? Troy Aikman had a great offensive line and a Hall of Fame running back and wide receiver, but he never put up the totals Dak Prescott did as a rookie.
In fact, the numbers undersell Dak’s value, because none of this includes his six touchdowns running the ball, which tied Tyrod Taylor for the lead among quarterbacks, or his 282 yards rushing, which ranked eighth.
The point of this article is not to rank Dak, who was among the most consistent performers last year, but just to look at new numbers that establish beyond question his excellence, and standing among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. It’s quite a story.