Rookie QB Comparison: Chicks Dig The Long Ball

Part I: Performance vs. Top 10 Defenses
Part II: Trended Performance Over First Three Months
Part III: Home vs. Road Performance
Part IV: Performance on Deep Throws
Part V: Calm in the Clutch

In the fourth installment of this comparison of the 2012 rookie quarterback class we will take a look at the difficulty of their throws. Some have been quick to point out that Russell Wilson, for example, is not being asked to throw the ball down-field all that often, as a way of questioning just how impressive his numbers really are. ESPN does a nice job of breaking out all the quarterbacks throws by distance. The table below shows the cumulative numbers for each rookie quarterback on throws traveling more than 20 yards in the air.

Wilson has attempted fewer throws, overall, than any of the rookies that have started since week one. Interestingly, he has attempted more deep throws than two of the others, and by a rather healthy margin. That is because the percentage of his throws that travel more than 20 yards is 2nd-highest in his class. This would seem to throw into question the caveat some have been using about the difficulty of his throws. He throws less often than other quarterbacks, but he is far from a dink-and-dunk passer.

Robert Griffin III has the fewest deep attempts, but has a sparkling 114.2 rating on those throws. Most of that comes from throws 21-30 yards, where he has a nearly perfect 156.0 rating. He is only 1-12 on throws longer than 30 yards, although that one completion resulted in a touchdown, and he has no interceptions. Ryan Tannehill, similarly, has a fantastic 94.0 rating on deep throws. Unlike RG3, he has excelled on the deepest of throws. He has a 141.0 rating on throws 31-40 yards down field, where he is 4-7 with one touchdown and no interceptions. Andrew Luck has thrown the most deep balls and the highest percentage of them, but his rating is 2nd-lowest on throws of this nature.

If any of these players should be questioned about the difficulty of their throws, it should be RG3 and Tannehill. They are throwing less of these throws, both in absolute numbers, and as percentage of their overall pass attempts than their counterparts. Wilson, Brandon Weeden, and Luck may not have the high passer rating on these throws, but nobody can deny they are being asked to make these challenging throws at high rates.