The best Week 1 performance for QBs came from Lamar Jackson. Don’t agree? Argue with your cats.
Josh Rosen’s game intrigues me, and I love a good 34-point comeback as much as the next guy. But he didn’t play like a Top-10 QB for the first 2.5 quarters of that game. Give him brownie points for his moxie; give some to Darnold for his poise as well; throw some to Josh Allen for his…being big and strong and stuff; but the best quarterbacking we saw on opening weekend came from Louisville Junior Lamar Jackson.
Throughout the season, I’ll chart the performances of the consensus top-tier quarterbacks. Charting adds statistical depth to a subjective view of a prospect. Lamar Jackson has exceptional mobility: any eye test could tell you that. But what does that mean for his statistical performance, how does it stack up against the other QBs in his class, and how does it affect his game as a whole? Charting helps us answers these questions.
I watched and qualified every Lamar Jackson attempt from the weekend (excluding eventual scrambles and throwaways). Certainly, these numbers will be subject to my own discernment: I decided what was good placement and what was poor placement on a case-by-case basis, and surely other analysts might disagree with a rep or two. The hope is that, as numbers amass, those discrepancies come out in the wash.
For now, we have what we have. As we get deeper into the season, additional data will allow us to draw more significant and revelatory comparisons. That being said, let’s take a gander at Jackson’s chart:
A note on “Catchable” vs. “Placement,” before we proceed. I intentionally avoid the word ‘accurate,’ as it means different things to different readers. A catchable ball is exactly that which it sounds like: a ball that could have been caught, given where it arrived relative to the receiver. Some catchable balls would have necessitated an astounding adjustment; some, barely a tweak at all but all catchable nonetheless.
“Good” placement implies that the ball arrived where it should have, given the circumstances. Away from the zone defender’s leverage, to the back shoulder on a fade route, high on a crossing route in the end zone. “Decent” placement implies that where the ball arrived wasn’t particularly harmful or dangerous. It wasn’t where it should have been, but it didn’t pose a significant problem given where it was. “Poor” placement implies that the receiver was thrown into coverage, or that the ball gave the defender a leverage advantage or something of that sort.
A ball can be uncatchable, but have good placement–thrown to the outside shoulder on a go route, but just out of reach. A ball can be catchable, with poor placement–a quick slant that leads the receiver directly into a closing safety.
With this specificity tucked aptly under our belts, let us proceed.
Lamar Jackson has fallen victim to a few foolhardy narratives in the pre-Draft season. Anyone who thinks he can’t thrive as a pocket passer, you may now exit, stage right. His completion percentage (adjusted for drops) was 70%, he converted 11 of his 13 first downs from the pocket, and on a quarter of his pocket attempts (9/37), he progressed past his first read.
On tape, Jackson can get antsy in the pocket and look to escape despite having clean protection–these numbers illustrate his ability and willingness to deal from the pocket and read the entire field when able, however. Good stuff.
On that note, Jackson often locks on to his primary target, which helps defenses anticipate his target. However, he did progress through his first read on 31% of his attempts (a number that would likely increase if I included scrambles and throwaways), and found success when he did so: 86% adjusted completion percentage and 6 first downs. He flashes the ability to look off safeties and linebackers; he must do so more consistently moving forward. These numbers, however, show promise.
Particularly, Jackson did well moving outside of the pocket and creating with his wide receivers: 87.5% adjusted completion percentage, as well as a touchdown on a designed rollout. That brings to me to my favorite point: check out Jackson’s stats from the “Move” Platform.
On the “Adjusted” Platform, the QB can still set his feet toward his target, but must adjust his throwing motion, base, or angle in response to the bodies around him/circumstances of the throw.
On a “Move” Platform, the QB is throwing on the run, plain and simple. Jackson was 5/7 with a TD, 3 first downs, and a drop (86% adjusted completion percentage). He threw 6 balls with good placement and 1 with decent placement, despite encountering pressure on 4/7 attempts. That’s astounding accuracy on the run.
Speaking of pressure, Jackson has the most room for improvement in that area: his work when pressured. 4/9 is less than ideal (7/9 catchable, 5/8 good placement). He’s not one to take the checkdown, given that 7 of his 9 pressured attempts went further than 10 yards down the field. Encouraging him to get the ball to his hot read may be the answer to improving those numbers.
Overall, it goes for restatement: Lamar Jackson had the best QB performance of Week 1. He was overwhelmingly accurate, both in regard to catchable balls, and to well-placed balls as well. He demonstrated the ability to go through his reads and operate both inside and outside of the pocket. All questions of his NFL QB prospects and potential position switch should fizzle out permanently.
And if he keeps playing at this level? Well…
Having re-watched the game, if Lamar Jackson puts a full season of performances like Purdue, you'll have a hard time telling me he isn't QB1
— Kyle Crabbs (@NDTScouting) September 5, 2017