Last season Deshaun Watson continued to grow as a professional quarterback. He completed 67.3% of his passes, threw 26 touchdowns, averaged 7.8 yards an attempt, took 44 sacks, and had 12 interceptions.
Like all box score statistics, they only provide a murky picture of an individual’s season or game performance. Football is a complicated game. Weird things happen that can’t be conveyed with sacks, passing yards, or, in this case, interceptions.
Football Outsiders adds another layer of analysis to raw interception totals with their metric “adjusted interceptions.” It’s a simple statistic. They take a quarterback’s interception totals, add interceptions that were dropped by defenders, and then subtract interceptions that were the result of Hail Marys, dropped interceptions on Hail Marys, and interceptions where the ball hit a receiver’s hands but was then intercepted by a defender. By doing so, FO paints a more accurate picture of a quarterback’s interception total by removing fluke plays and adding back plays where the quarterback’s mistake wasn’t capitalized on.
For example, last season Jameis Winston led the NFL with 30 interceptions. He also threw 13 dropped interceptions. Two of his interceptions were tipped. One was tipped and then dropped. This brought Winston’s adjusted total to 40, 14 more than second place finisher Kyle Allen.
Last season. Watson threw 12 interceptions, which was tied for the 11th most in the NFL. He also threw six passes that were dropped by defenders and had one tipped interception. This brought his adjusted interception total to 17, which was tied for the ninth most in the league in 2019.
Watson also threw 1.1 less interceptions than expected. Typically, quarterbacks that throw less interceptions than expected will see an increase in picks thrown the following season. It’s another example of regression to the mean in a game dominated by small sample sizes.
Watson is still a young quarterback. It’s expected that his interception totals will drop as he continues to mature as a player. Next season will be his age 25 season. Further, 1.1 less interceptions than expected isn’t an enormous figure. Watson isn’t Carson Wentz, who finished with 5.3 less than expected.
That being said, Watson needs to learn how to drop the interception totals some. Most importantly, the sack numbers need to come down, which is a stat that’s the result of a combination of the Texans’ offense and Watson’s heroics that carried Houston to a variety of wins in 2019.
Adjusted interceptions is one of many interesting statistics Football Outsiders pioneered. In the case of Deshaun Watson, it doesn’t say much one way or the other. He was undoubtedly fortunate last season. Regardless, it’s reasonable to expect his interception numbers to drop in 2020 no matter what FO says.