Focus on Downfield Passing When Evaluating NFL Quarterbacks
It's funny to hear so many NFL game announcers talking about the importance of "mobility" or "escape-ability" when discussing NFL quarterbacks. While it's true that having good feet can get you out of trouble, or help you make plays in clutch situations, if footwork was THAT important, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning wouldn't have been the biggest stars of the modern era!
When you're trying to pick NFL winners, particularly UPSET CALLS that score those nice moneyline returns (and make handicapping headlines!), you need to focus on downfield passing. Successful quarterbacks can stretch the defense, or throw in the short or mid-range to receivers on the run who can pick up big yardage. There just aren't any recent success stories that have lasted more than a season or two based on a quarterback's legs.
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Here are the problems:
*A quarterback whose biggest skill set is running becomes useless after a knee or ankle injury. Even when he returns, he returns slower than he used to be...and that's not good enough against these great modern defenses.
*A quarterback who likes to run, often runs himself into big hits that cause concussions or shoulder injuries. One of the biggest strengths for the Brady/Manning type of quarterback is staying healthy through a season and over a period of years. Cam Newton's always banged up.
*A scrambling quarterback can move the chains in the middle of the field, but often has trouble getting the ball into the end zone when needed. You don't win in this league with field goals. Making all the announcers yell excitedly into their microphones doesn't mean much if the drive ends later with a field goal attempt or a punt.
*A scrambling quarterback tends to have tendencies that defenses adjust to (Colin Kaepernick's problem)...so that "shadow" defenders can cover the escape routes. When defenses stop blitzing the scramblers, the scramblers have trouble finding open receivers or breaking off long runs for first downs.
From time to time, a young, fast, healthy quarterback will get some things done in advance of his first injury, or in advance of defensive adjustments. It's okay to back him during that honeymoon period, particularly against mediocre defenses. (Maybe Deshaun Watson of Houston will be the newest example of this.) But, the BEST quarterbacks to invest in accumulate big passing yardage and score touchdowns. This is why the Rams took a shot on Jared Goff...and it's why they're so excited about what they're seeing this season under the new coaching staff.
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Here are the stats to look at if you want to find these quarterbacks.
*Passing yards per attempt. Scramblers tend to have low numbers here because they complete short bail out passes but miss when trying to go deep. The best passers don't miss as much when going deep! This may be the single most important stat in the league right now. Be sure you know which quarterbacks are shining in this stat.
*TD/Interception ratio. Some strong-armed quarterbacks aren't quite accurate enough to make deep passing work. They throw too many downfield interceptions. Or, their short passes come in so hard that the deflect off the receiver and bounce up into the air for an easy pick. A passer with a strong passing-yards-per-attempt number but too many interceptions will break your heart. One who can avoid interceptions will help you break the bank!
*Sack count. Smart quarterbacks know how to throw the ball away if nothing's there. Too many decide to stand strong in the pocket and take big hits. That's why Tony Romo was always on the Injured List, and why he's now in the broadcast booth. Don't bet on quarterbacks who get sacked often. Look for those who are willing to trade an incomplete pass for good health!
With 32 teams in the NFL, there just aren't enough good quarterbacks to go around. Different teams are experimenting with different approaches. Smart handicappers know how to exploit that for profitable positions in the marketplace. You may not win every week if you follow my advice on quarterback evaluation. But, you're extremely likely to show a profit over the long haul. It's VERY clear what kind of quarterback wins in the NFL, and what kind "runs" into trouble too often.
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