Over this past off-season, I've conducted a bit of a study on who are presumably the top nine senior quarterbacks of the 2014 NFL Draft class. What I did was chart their passes (something as old as scouting itself), then I ran some efficiency metrics using those numbers. All in all, I charted 52 games in total, about six games per prospect.
Here's a sample of one of the passing charts (Zach Mettenberger vs Alabama):
The three major columns separate passes thrown left of the hashes (L), between the hashes (M), and to the right of the hashes (R), while the four rows separate the distance of the throws (behind the line of scrimmage, between 0 and 10 yards, between 11 and 19 yards, and 20 yards or deeper.) These four rows and three columns create the 12 major data boxes . Inside those 12 boxes is where the data is be stored. The top row contains attempts (left) and completions (right); the middle row contains yardage; and the bottom row contains touchdowns (left) and interceptions (right). Using basic functions in an Excel document I was able to pinpoint certain statistics, for example: Tajh Boyd's interception percentage of passes thrown over 20 air yards was 17.07%, the highest in the class.
Limiting my words, I have compiled a small list of the statistics I found notable on Jeff Mathews, Stephen Morris, David Fales, Tajh Boyd, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger, Derek Carr, Bryn Renner, and Aaron Murray.
Jeff Mathews (Cornell)
Unfortunately, Jeff Mathews isn't playing with athletes on par with his caliber at Cornell. This could be one of the reasons why his yards per completion (28.55) over 20 air yards is the lowest in the class. That doesn't mean that he has a bad deep ball, but more that his receivers aren't really that great at creating separation and breaking away like some of the other pass-catchers the other quarterbacks have.
Actually, Mathews finished first in completions percentage over 20 air yards with 73.33%. His yards per completion might look a little weak, but his efficiency deep puts him near the top in yards per attempt (20.93) over 20 air yards.
The biggest concern with Mathews is that he can't throw well on the run. This study reflects those thoughts, as Mathews was just 3-of-8 for 28 yards and an interception in intermediate (between 11 and 19 yards), right of the hash throws, which are the passes he throws most often while outside the pocket.
Stephen Morris (Miami)
Stephen Morris and Miami like to throw it deep, this is not shocking. His 18.83% of passes thrown for over 20 air yards is the highest of the class, and his 41.00 yards per completion in that zone also leads the quarterbacks. What is a bit shocking, is his low completion percentage over 20 air yards (33.33%).
As much as the Hurricane offense likes to go deep, they avoid throwing the intermediate throws (between 11 and 19 yards.) Morris only throws 12.97% of his passes in the intermediate area of the field and only 14.79% of his yards come from that area, both the lowest scores of the class. When he does throw those routes, though, he's impressive, averaging 19.50 yards per completion, good for second in the class.
Morris also has the lowest completion percentage between 0 and 10 yards.
David Fales (San Jose State)
The only flaws David Fales showed in this study were in his deep game. Passes thrown to the left of the hashes and at least 20 air yards deep (deep throws across his body, as a right-handed quarterback) were only completed two out of seven times. He also had the second highest interception percentage over 20 air yards with 8.70%.
Fales owned the intermediate game, though, leading the study in yards per attempt (15.03) and completion percentage (78.79%) between 11 and 19 air yards. His intermediate accuracy was on par with his study-leading short accuracy (71.21% between 0 and 10 air yards). He also didn't throw an interception under 20 yards downfield and had the lowest amount of his yards gained through passes behind the line of scrimmage (7.29%). Outside of deep throws, which rely on his sub-par arm, he's everything you want in a quarterback.
Tajh Boyd (Clemson)
Tajh Boyd, for whatever reason, had a lot of air under the balls he threw deep. In all of the games I watched, there were only three passes thrown “on a rope” over 20 air yards. Because of this, he had as many interceptions between the hashes and to the left of the hashes over 20 air yards as he did the rest of the field combined (6). Boyd lead the study in interception percentage deep (17.07%) and it wasn't even close. The next up in interception percentage is David Fales with 8.70%, a little more than half of Boyd's.
I don't blame him for throwing those deep passes, though, because he was second in touchdown percentage (24.39%) deep, too.
Boyd actually used the whole field really well, having a higher completion percentage to the left of the hashes than the middle and right side of the field between 0 and 19 yards.
A.J. McCarron (Alabama)
A.J. McCarron is an efficient passer, but he's very right throw heavy. He has a 10-17% increase in completion percentage when throwing to the right, depending on the depth of the throw.
McCarron is also very selective of which passes he's going to throw deep. He has the highest yards per attempt (27.17), the highest touchdown percentage (33.33%), the second highest yards per completion (40.75), the second highest completion percentage (66.67%), and the highest percentage of his yards (40.12%) coming from passes deeper than 20 air yards. McCarron might not be great at throwing the deep ball, but he's selective. He also didn't throw an interception over 10 yards, either.
Zach Mettenberger (LSU)
Zach Mettenberger is often credited as a downfield passer, but the numbers don't really support that. He had the lowest deep yards per completion in the study (29.11), and he had the second lowest percentage of yards coming from the 20+ range (21.04%). Over 10 yards, he was 2-of-21 to the left of the hashes, a number he obviously needs to improve on.
While his deep numbers aren't great, his intermediate game is ranked even worse, finishing last in yards per attempt (7.79), completion percentage (42.86), and touchdown percentage (4.76).
He also had the lowest touchdown percentage under 10 yards (1.33%), a by-product of his lack of reps in the red zone.
Derek Carr (Fresno State)
Derek Carr, a noted gunslinger, had the lowest target percentage over 20 yards in the class by far (10.14%). He also finished last in overall touchdown percentage (0% over 20+ yards, 5.26% between 11 and 19 yards, and 2.78% between 0 and 10 yards.) Carr also didn't have great all around efficiency numbers in the intermediate game, finishing with 8.00 yards per attempt, a 47.37% completion percentage, and a 5.26% interception percentage, the highest in that region in the class.
A majority of his passes came within ten yards of the line of scrimmage. Carr lead the study in target percentage between 0 and 10 yards (52.17%) and yards coming from passes in that region (46.10%), likely due to his system.
Bryn Renner (North Carolina)
Many think Bryn Renner's base effects his accuracy outside of the hashes. If his deep numbers are any indication, there might be something to that theory. Between 11 and 19 yards, Renner is 14-of-28 outside of the hashes, but 6-of-9 inside them. Over 20 yards, Renner is 1-of-13 outside the hashes, but 3-of-6 between them.
Due to his boundary passes, his deep game duffers. Renner finished last in yards per attempt (7.26) and completion percentage (21.05%) deep. He also didn't throw a touchdown in the deep region.
Because of his one-read no-huddle system, he threw a lot of check down passes to running backs, leading to the highest target percentage (28.89%) and yards from passes behind the line of scrimmage (21.20%) in the study.
Aaron Murray (Georgia)
Aaron Murray threw the ball deep ball often in the eight games I charted of him (18.59% of his passes were thrown over 20 air yards), but he wasn't particularly good at throwing the deep ball, averaging just 12.84 yards per attempt.
While the deep ball might not be Murray's forte, he performed very well in the intermediate game. Murray had the highest yard per completion (19.79) between 11 and 19 yards, and ranked second in yards per attempt (13.19), completion percentage (66.67%), and percentage of his yards coming from the area (32.19%). Part of his intermediate success can be attributed to Mark Richt's offensive scheme.
For the complete document of 52 passing charts and efficiency metrics, send Justis your email address. He can be found on Twitter: @JuMosq