As we wait for baseball news (we’re looking forward to the Hall of Fame announcements next week), we’ll stick with a football theme for this week.
There will be a lot of great players playing in this weekend’s Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs.
But the No. 1 ranked player in our value stat, Total Points, will not be among them.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert finished the season as the league’s leader in that stat. He also led all quarterbacks in Total Points on a per-play basis, so he was the best in both quantity and quality. Herbert made the jump to the top spot after ranking 7th in Total Points in 2020, his rookie season.
Total Points takes nearly everything that SIS measures about a play and uses it to evaluate each player on a scale that allows you to compare them more easily.
In traditional stats, Herbert ranked second in passing yardage, third in touchdown passes, and fourth in sack percentage. He had 77 more pass attempts in 2021 than he did in 2020 but had one fewer sack.
Herbert led in Total Points for a few reasons. For one, he had Aaron Rodgers beat by about 150 dropbacks. More dropbacks means more chances to do good things and Herbert was rewarded for that.
Herbert was also playing behind an offensive line that rated near league average, while Tom Brady was playing behind a line that ranked near the top of the league. Factor that into each quarterback’s performance and Herbert’s performance becomes more impressive.
Putting Herbert against Patrick Mahomes, Herbert has the edge in catchable pass percentage and touchdown percentage. And Mahomes had several more turnover-worthy plays than Herbert did (fumble, interception, dropped interception).
Herbert faced pressure at a rate higher than all three of these quarterbacks, and he performed better than them when facing that circumstance. He ranked 6th in Passing Points Earned per play under pressure. Mahomes ranked 10th. Brady ranked 12th. Rodgers ranked 24th. Herbert ranked a smidge below the one other quarterback in the Top 5 in Passing Points Earned under Pressure, Josh Allen, but had a considerable edge over Allen in passing on unpressured dropbacks.
It’s also worth noting another element to Herbert’s game. He ranked 5th among quarterbacks in Rushing Points Earned and 7th on a per-play basis and again that ranked better than the other top quarterbacks in the league.
Herbert may not get a lot of voter support in the MVP race as his team didn’t reach the postseason and he doesn’t have the reputation of some of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. But his numbers the last two seasons have shown he’s someone worthy of having his name known.
Most Total Points – 2021 NFL Season
|1. Justin Herbert
|2. Tom Brady
|3. Josh Allen
|4. Patrick Mahomes
|5. Aaron Rodgers
For more on Total Points, you can read this primer by Alex Vigderman