Which Quarterbacks Threw Deep Most Often in 2017?
There's a market inefficiency in the NFL nowadays. And it's not the "passing is more efficient than rushing" argument we've had so many times in the past.
Rather, there's a certain type of pass that can change fortunes in an instant. And teams that emphasize this type of play could be able to snag a leg up on their competition.
We're talking deep balls, baby. These things are almost like a cheat code.
On average, a pass traveling at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (what we'll define as being a "deep" pass) in 2017 added 0.42 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP is the metric we use to track the expected points added (or subtracted) on each play throughout the year. For a throw shorter than that, it was just 0.14 Passing NEP.
But what about interceptions? Clearly, this type of play is going to lead to more of those, right?
Absolutely! The interception rate on deep passes this year was 4.83% compared to 1.52% on short passes. But it doesn't even matter. NEP takes interceptions into account, deducting the expected points lost when the other team gets a pick. It also accounts for incompletions, meaning the lower completion percentage tied to deep passes is also baked into that number. But those passes still generated three times as many expected points on a per-attempt basis as short passes. These puppies be valuable.
Of course, there are other things to consider. If your offensive line can't keep the quarterback upright long enough to let him sling it long, then maybe deep passes have to take a backseat. And they may not be optimal if you're trying to hold down a lead late in the game where possession is more paramount. But overall, we should want teams to emphasize these types of passes if they're looking to generate points.
This clearly has an application beyond real-world football, too. If teams are able to move the ball more aggressively, they're going to score more points. That's exactly what we want for fantasy. And it doesn't hurt that those deep balls can turn into long touchdowns, which we'll happily accept.
With this in mind, let's take a look at which quarterbacks went deep most often in 2017. This list will look exclusively at quarterbacks who had at least 250 pass attempts during the regular season. That means we'll be chopping off Deshaun Watson, who had a whopping 27.45% deep rate in his 204 attempts. He would have led the league had he qualified. Keep that in the back of your mind when assessing both his value and that of his pass catchers heading into his sophomore campaign.
Once we do this, who went deep most often this year? Let's check it out.