Drew Brees Is Overlooked and Underappreciated
While the Atlanta Falcons traded with the San Diego Chargers to take Vick first overall in 2001, the Chargers took Brees as their second pick of the draft after taking Ladainian Tomlinson fifth overall.
Even after he won Comeback Player of the Year in 2004, the Chargers drafted his successor, Philip Rivers, in the first round of the 2004 draft before Brees' rookie contract expired. San Diego also placed the franchise tag him at that time.
With a shoulder injury shortening his 2005 season, the Chargers opted to not re-sign Brees, so he moved on to the New Orleans Saints. Needless to say, this has worked out well, as he just capped off his fifth 5,000-yard passing season with the Saints, a feat that has only been accomplished four times by all other NFL quarterbacks.
Let's take a look at Brees throughout his career to appreciate just how great of a quarterback he truly is.
This year marked the 11th straight season where Brees threw for over 4,000 passing yards, and ninth straight time he threw for at least 30 touchdowns. Due to this sustained high level of play, he sits third in both career passing yards (66,111) and passing touchdowns (465).
|Year||Team||Comp %||Attempts||Pass Yd||Yd/Att||TD||INT|
While Brees was good in San Diego, his play has elevated upon landing in New Orleans. Only twice has his completion percentage dipped below 65% while there, and he's thrown more than 20 interceptions in a season just once.
This year, he hit the 70% completion percentage mark for the third time in his career, which gave him the eighth-highest completion percentage for a single season in NFL history. Throwing for 5,208 yards -- the second-most for a season in his career -- was the cherry on top of another stellar performance.
We can further examine his level of play with Net Expected Points (NEP), to see just how great he's been.
|Year||Team||Drop Backs||Pass NEP||Pass NEP/play||Success Rate|
Similar to looking at his traditional statistics, there are only two seasons where our advanced analytics look better than this year for Brees.
He sets a high bar for himself every year and seemingly finds ways to raise the standard with his sustained level of play. While 2011 was his best year, especially based on Passing NEP per play -- it ranks 10th out of 610 quarterbacks in our database with at least 200 drop backs in a single season since 2000 -- this year still shines very bright.
Stepping Out of the Shadow
Since joining the Saints, Brees has been on plenty of pass-heavy teams -- his drop backs this year and his yearly average show that. With 700 drop backs in 2016, he took 130 more than his career average, which is also 120 more than the NFL average.
|QB||Drop Backs||Pass NEP||Pass NEP/play||Success Rate|
|Brees' Career Average||570||113.24||0.2||51.02%|
|NFL Average 2000-2016||450||27.63||0.04||45.76%|
|NFL Average 2016||517||69.24||0.12||47.28%|
This year, 34 quarterbacks took at least 200 drop backs, and Brees destroyed the average. His Passing NEP was second to only Matt Ryan, and his Passing NEP per play was fourth behind Ryan, Tom Brady, and Dak Prescott. His Passing Success Rate, showing how often his throws produced a positive impact, was second again only to Ryan.
Not only did Brees have a great year compared to NFL quarterbacks, but also compared to himself, where he ran over his own averages.
Brees boasts five of the 20 best Passing NEP seasons in the NFL since 2000; only Peyton Manning is tied with him while Brady has three such seasons. His Passing NEP per play this year ranks 36th, and even though this does not sound impressive, it is still in the 94th percentile. He has three seasons in the top 36, and -- like always -- only Manning and Brady have more such seasons, with Aaron Rodgers the only quarterback tied with Brees.
Finally, his Passing Success Rate for the year sits at 24th among the 610 quarterbacks, and he has two other seasons better than this; only Brady and Manning have more seasons in the top-24 for Passing Success Rate.
After finishing the season with the eighth-best single-season completion percentage and fourth-most single-season passing yards, it is time to give Brees the praise he deserves. He currently sits third in both career passing yards and passing touchdowns, has a strong chance to end up first in both categories before he hangs up his cleats and has done so rather efficiently.