Flooring it

SEC StatCat looks at returning SEC quarterbacks’ performance “floor”:

Again, glancing at a passer’s overall production doesn’t necessarily reflect how they operated or what aspects helped see them elevate their outputs. Two passers could be asked to complete the same RPO read, but one could be gifted a potential first round pick while the other is dumping it off to a future salesperson. One passer could be more apt at playing backyard ball and extending plays outside of structure and make up for his lack of passing acumen. The point is, there are plenty of superfluous aspects to the game that can make evaluating a true passer’s ability more murky.

While play versus pressure might set a quarterback’s ceiling, play from pristine pockets often sets their floor. You want a high floor. Because after all, if you cannot produce when everything goes as designed consistently, when exactly can you? Being able to make a play when a design breaks down will always be a desirable trait for quarterbacks, but that ability rarely reflects one’s down-to-down trajectory. Since unpressured attempts present far less variables, and hence excuses, they are better reflections of one’s down-to-down floor. Plus, they are more common. The average SEC passer logged a 23% Pressure Rate this past season.

Like pressures, RPOs and screen snaps are omitted from this parameter. Since RPOs are modern day triple options, their usage are dependent on micro situations; and again, not every team fancies them the same. These throws hardly help project a passer’s ability to operate from the pocket. Screens as de facto extensions of the run game, make the passer’s decision for him. Either way, production on these snaps are mostly outside of the QB’s control. Meaning, any schmo could slide in and execute those concepts. In order for a passer to standout, he’s got to set a decent bar on dropback attempts with pristine pockets.

Here’s how he analyzes JT Daniels’ 2020 efforts:

Screenshot_2021-03-19 Who's Got the Highest Passing Floor for 2021

When I charted JT Daniels last spring, I chose to only watch him against his five hardest defensive opponents over his tenure at USC. Along with not bothering with games against cupcakes where he could pad his metrics, the collection in opponents translated to an average SEC slate that would better help forecast his play where “it just means more”. He projected to be a nickel and dimer more than someone who wanted to break the bank. Though Daniels wasn’t that shy of trying his luck deep as a Trojan, his production was overly beefed up by his underneath completions. Even before his injury, his shots arced high in the air and fell to the turf hard and fast like a dead duck. Though hunting season apparently continued in Athens, he at least gave his guys a stab at those passes unlike his predecessors. Stetson Bennet’s and D’Wan Mathis’ each had Uncatchable Pass Rates of 23.5% and 40.0%, respectively. JTD’s was only 16.7% by comparison. Over the last month or so of the season, Daniels’ homeruns positioned him as one of the most potent passers in college football. He leads the SEC returners in Predictive Points Added/play, Y/A, Explosive Pass Rate, and ADOT. But, the increased focus on the vertical passing game soured his accuracy figures, which allows questions to linger on whether the fireworks are sustainable.

Or, another way of putting it, whether he can clean up his mechanics such that the fireworks are sustainable.  On to his floor:

Screens and RPOs composed about a fifth of Daniels’ attempts. Even though these plays helped secure plenty of completions, their 29.2% combined Success Rate was truly awful. Without them pulling down his passing profile, Daniels already sterling result-based stats entered another stratosphere in our parameter. With only 15% of his attempts occurring under duress, the Bulldog was one of the SEC’s least-pressured passers. Keeping Daniels upright was vital to the downfield passing game. Frequently aided by a sound shield — JTD averaged the SEC’s 3rd-most blockers/clean dropback — the Californian was further goaded into executing Georgia’s deep aerial scheme. His 16.0 ADOT was almost two yards more than the next passer’s in line. Behind that gumption to go deep, Daniels leads the way in Y/A, Explosive Pass Rate, and First Down+TD Rate. The later increased by an insane ten percentage points compared to his overall figure.

Due to his muted play and USC’s way of doing things, Daniels didn’t project to be a potent passer. He overly stuck to modest completions, taking what the defense gave him, and padding his ball placement stats. Ironically based on his five game sample against his most-challenging opponents from his time as a Trojan, he projected the SEC’s top Accuracy% and one of the lowest Explosive Pass Rates. Funny what a change in environment and a chip on your shoulder (and very, very talented pass catchers) can do for a one’s modus operandi through the air. His bottom line was truly fantastic, but you’d have to be a fool to ignore Daniels’ rotten accuracy numbers. Both his raw Accuracy and Depth Adjusted Accuracy clips soured by over four points; Daniels was the only SECer to suffer from such a thing. His backers will surely point to his degree of difficulty as to why his precision faltered. And, they might have a case. Even for someone like me who doesn’t think much of his ability to drive the ball downfield, Daniels finished inside the SEC’s top5 in Depth Adjusted Accuracy (with a top7 raw clip) on clean+dropback attempts  with a depth of target under 15 yards last season. But, I don’t care what anyone tells me. Daniels’ accuracy stats and Interceptable Pass Rate, which fall inside the bottom3 amongst qualifiers, from our parameter all would have represented the conference’s floor in last year’s sample.

The big takeaway there?  “With only 15% of his attempts occurring under duress, the Bulldog was one of the SEC’s least-pressured passers. Keeping Daniels upright was vital to the downfield passing game.”  That tells me defensive coordinators are going to keep selling out to pressure Daniels until Monken proves he’s got the assets to make them pay for that.  (Let’s hear it for those “very, very talented pass catchers”!)  Also, did I mention that Monken’s got to work with his quarterback to clean up his mechanics?


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

13 responses to “Flooring it

  1. practicaldawg

    I’m tempering my enthusiasm for JT but remain optimistic his mechanics will improve. The more I rewatch last year’s passing highlights, the more I think a lot of those receptions had more to do with Monken getting our way-more-talented-than-the-other-guy receivers wide open like he had been all year. JT’s high arcing passes were able to fall in the same zip code as the receivers unlike Stetson and Mathis.

    But that’s a far cry from hitting receivers in stride and “throwing guys open.” In fact, I think it was the opposite: Monken was “scheming the QB accurate” with receivers who were getting 10 yards of separation downfield. JT was more like a WWII carpet bomber than a jet firing guided missiles.

    Liked by 5 people

    • This is where I am right now. I think JT Daniels is going to be a good QB, and probably the best QB Smart has had. However, I don’t expect anything like a Trask, Mac, Burrow-like leap. I think he will improve for sure, but I think it’s more likely that at the end of the year we look back and think he was the offense’s weakest link. The only question is how weak because if he’s a legit top-20 QB we could still win everything we want.

      Liked by 2 people

      • practicaldawg

        Agreed. We don’t need all the offense to come from long throws, but the deep ball threat is going to be there every play thanks to the talent at WR and JT’s ability to deliver the ball to them. That will naturally thin the defense in the box and probably also intermediate passing game. 2021 could be an insane year on the ground as well. Defenses will have to respect the passing game probably more than ever in the Kirby era, and the talent at RB is filthy. There will be opportunities for explosive plays on every down.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Down Island Way

        Let’s just say Mr. Ron Courson works with the UGA QB this spring/summer rehab sessions, it becomes clear (maybe) those mechanics in question become easier to deal/work with healthier lower body, possibly making the UGA’s OC work a little easier…or we take #18 as he is, hitch and all…


    • Works for me. Better passing trees and helping the QB and WRs open….

      Liked by 1 person

  2. SlobberKnocker

    “Due to his muted play and USC’s way of doing things, Daniels didn’t project to be a potent passer. He overly stuck to modest completions, taking what the defense gave him, and padding his ball placement stats.”

    He somewhat acknowledges it but, USC being more of an Air Raid attack certainly influenced what/how JT attacked a defense. Oh, and he was a true freshman who reclassified and should have been in high school. I think both of those are significant factors in his performance at USC.

    I certainly agree with you about his mechanics and that he needs better accuracy on the long balls. Based on what I saw last year, I’m anxious to see him this year after getting true practice in the system and reps with these WR’s.


  3. armydawg

    I think JT is going to light it up this year. Add in the Spring, chemistry with the receivers & TE’s, RB’s that will keep defenses honest, improvement on his mechanics, the fact that he fell in love with UGA and several trillion active brain cells. Lightning is about to strike the shithouse.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. TripleB

    That first game is huge for JT. If he plays well he will leave Clemson with a lot of confidence and the schedule stacks up for him to go on a roll. In which case, Mullen better watch out. If he gets crushed, you have to worry about whether he feels like he can play big against a good team and Jacksonville will be scary.


  5. The idea that downfield balls need to be bullets is wrong. Deep balls that come in steep are more catchable and avoid defenders better. The passes still have to be catchable and there are instances like the last throw Vs Cincy where he needs to juice it into a window. But on deep shots it’s not a bad thing if they come in steep as long as they get there

    Liked by 2 people

    • classiccitycanine

      It’s fine for them to come with a high arc, but they need to be long enough to hit the guy in stride for a TD instead of forcing the receiver to stop and make a great catch. He turned a lot of TDs into 30-40 yard completions last year. That could very well be the difference between winning it all and not.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. mg4life0331

    I just hope he can throw a decent screen. Seems that counter to blitzes has been lacking from our arsenal for a while.

    Liked by 1 person