By MARK SIMON AND ALEX VIGDERMAN
Let’s take stock of where our World’s No. 1 Quarterback Rankings stand at the midpoint of the NFL season.
This is a good week to do so, as the rankings are basically a match for what they were entering the Week 8 games.
A reminder that The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking is based on a model devised by Bill James to evaluate The World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher. Bill’s model was based on cumulative evaluation of individual starts over an extended time period using the metric Game Score.
The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking uses our player value stat Total Points to make a cumulative evaluation of game performance over a three-year period. The key to our calculation is Points Above Average (PAA), which is the statistical underpinning of Total Points that is centered at zero so that positive numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average.
Success over time is key to maintaining a good ranking. Prolonged inactivity results in a ranking drop. The most recent performances carry the most weight.
The most interesting story is not so much the jockeying for position between the top three quarterbacks, who currently are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. We’ve already talked about Kirk Cousins in this space, but Matthew Stafford’s ascent to the No. 5 spot and Kyler Murray’s move into the Top 10 are worthy of discussion as well.
Here’s the current Top 10
- Tom Brady
- Aaron Rodgers
- Patrick Mahomes
- Kirk Cousins
- Matthew Stafford
- Lamar Jackson
- Derek Carr
- Justin Herbert
- Kyler Murray
- Josh Allen
When Stafford was traded from the Lions to the Rams, there was a buzz that the Rams made out very well and that we would finally get to see the best of what Stafford (and Sean McVay) had to offer.
He’s done that. He’s No. 1 in the NFL with 84 Points Earned and only Tyrod Taylor’s game-plus to start the year leads him in Points Above Average Per Snap this season.
In a Week 8 in which backup quarterbacks thrived and Brady, Mahomes, and Rodgers all had negative Points Above Average, Stafford thrived. He had the highest PAA of anyone last week, topping Geno Smith and Mike White (wow) by more than 50% of their totals. With Rodgers out this week, he’s a sitting target for Stafford to try to pass if he can have a good game against the Titans.
Among the 33 quarterbacks that have attempted at least 100 passes this season, Stafford ranks
2nd in touchdown percentage (8.1%)
1st in sack percentage (2.5%)
1st in adjusted net yards per attempt (9.6)
Of those, the sack percentage is most notable. Stafford was sacked 38 times last season. He’s averaged less than one sack per game in 2021.
Stafford has 11 touchdowns and one interception on passes traveling fewer than 10 yards downfield. His 12 Points Above Average Per 100 Plays on those passes is consistent with his 2019 season, but miles ahead of 2020, when he was essentially average. For comparison, Jared Goff posted 8.6 PAA/100 on those throws in 2020.
We should point out that Stafford is getting some help from his receivers. He’s 21st in catchable pass percentage (84.6%) and 26th in on-target percentage (73.7%), numbers that aren’t necessarily unexpected given his average throw depth of 8.8 yards, which is in the top ten. His receivers rank third in the NFL in Points Earned per Play in part because of what they’ve been able to do to bring in and make hay with those passes.
On deep balls, Kyler Murray takes the crown–he has the most Points Earned in total and per-play. He’s at No. 9 in our rankings and we’re guessing there’s a clamoring that he’d be higher. Murray’s downfield passing accuracy this season has been impressive. His catchable pass percentage on throws at least 15 yards downfield is 81%. Only two quarterbacks rate better–Russell Wilson and Joe Burrow—with both doing so on fewer attempts.
There’s no comparison between Murray’s current accuracy and his past accuracy on these passes, which makes Murray’s ascent pretty easily explainable.
Passes At Least 15 Yards Downfield
|Catchable Pass Pct||Completions|
* 8 games
Here are the full rankings.
|Rank||Rank||PAA per 60||Rk||LastRk||StartOfSeasonRk|
|63||Robert Griffin III||-0.0506||63||59||64|