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The Value of Things: Bang for Your Buck— QB Edition

Are the top ten paid quarterbacks really the ten best?

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

As we saw with the wide receivers, teams obviously pay a lot of money for certain players and they expect results for that money. There is no position that is higher paid or that comes with more expectations than the quarterback position. There is also no other position in sports with more emotion attached to it. People love their guys and they have their guys they hate. Quarterbacks will spark any long standing feud at the local sports bar.

Just like with wide receivers, football is a team game with lots of moving parts. The ten guys around the quarterback and the guy calling the plays will have a lot to say about whether a quarterback is successful or not. Obviously, we are not ranking these guys in order of talent. We are simply looking at their numbers and determining if there is a standard for a top ten quarterback. We will look at completion percentage, total yards (passing plus rushing), total touchdowns, interceptions, and yards per attempt. We will do that over the last three seasons with the current top ten paid quarterbacks according to Spoctrac.

The Top Ten

Aaron Rogers— 12,849 yards, 67.1%, 7.6 YPA, 118 TD, 13 INT, 9.08 TTD/INT

Deshaun Watson— 14,248 yards, 68.7%, 8.3 YPA, 100 TD, 28 INT, 3.57 TTD/INT

Pat Mahomes— 14,517 yards, 66.2%, 7.9 YPA, 107 TD, 24 INT, 4.46 TTD/INT

Josh Allen— 13,734 yards, 64.1%, 7.2 YPA, 116 TD, 34 INT, 3.41 TTD/INT

Derek Carr— 13,291 yards, 68.7%, 7.8 YPA, 76 TD, 31 INT, 2.45 TTD/INT

Matthew Stafford— 11,686 yards, 65.5%. 8.1 YPA, 86 TD, 32 INT, 2.69 TTD/INT

Dak Prescott— 11,721 yards, 67.1%, 7.9 YPA, 83 TD, 25 INT, 3.32 TTD/INT

Russell Wilson— 12,473 yards, 66.8%, 7.8 YPA, 103 TD, 24 INT, 4.29 TTD/INT

Kirk Cousins— 12,423 yards, 67.6%, 7.9 YPA, 97 TD, 26 INT, 3.73 TTD/INT

Jared Goff— 12,062 yards, 65.6%, 7.1 YPA, 67 TD, 37 INT, 1.81 TTD/INT

There is good news and bad news for the Lions. The bad news is that Jared Goff is nowhere near a top ten quarterback. The good news is that he will be bumped from the list as soon as Lamar Jackson gets his new contract. We will take a look at Jackson and one other quarterback below just for fun. So, if we ignore the yards (since some QBs have been hurt) and total touchdowns, we can focus on completion percentage. yards per attempt, and total touchdowns to interception ratio.

Seven of the ten quarterbacks were above a three to one total touchdown to interception ratio. Stafford and Carr fall below that mark, but both were above average in yards per attempt. Carr was also well above average in completion percentage. So, clearly nine of the ten quarterbacks look like they belong. On a per season basis, these ten quarterbacks would average the numbers below.

4,300 yards, 66.8%, 7.8 YPA, 32 TTD, 9 INT, 3.56 TTD/INT

Right now, that has very little relevance to us in the immediate term. Our quarterback is on a rookie deal, so he doesn’t have to produce these numbers. However, it gives you some idea of what a top ten quarterback might look like. We will get to that in a minute. First, we have some loose ends to tie up.

Who’s Missing?

There are two names that are glaringly missing from the above list. Why are they missing? Well, they officially aren’t top ten quarterbacks in terms of their pay. Right or wrong, Tom Brady has consistently left millions on the table, so he is not one of the top ten paid quarterbacks even though he is clearly one of those guys. Lamar Jackson is as well and he will get paid in that grouping somewhere likely before the season. So, we will give them the same numbers as we did for the other guys.

Tom Brady— 14,127 yards, 64.8%, 7.2 YPA, 114 TD, 32 INT, 3.56 TTD/INT

Lamar Jackson— 11,744 yards, 65.0%, 7.6 YPA, 94 TD, 28 INT, 3.36 TTD/INT

While both of these guys have individual numbers that fall short (primarily completion percentage), they meet or exceed the markers in most of the areas. Obviously, some people out there can identify guys that should be a part of this group statistically. They may get there someday as their pay increases from their rookie deals. Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert obviously come to mind. If we assume their numbers will approximate these guys then we could easily identify up to 15 quarterbacks that could be top ten quarterbacks in any given season depending on how things play out.

Localize It

That brings us to Davis Mills. Mills only played in 12 games last season and started just over half the games in the season. So, taking his per-game averages for all of those numbers and assuming he played the next two seasons without missing a game, he would produce the following numbers.

9,790 yards, 66.8%, 6.8 YPA, 58 TD, 36 INT, 1.61 TTD/INT

I know what you are going to say. “But you aren’t assuming any improvement from year one to year two and then to year three.” Yup, you’re right about that. That also doesn’t account for the improvement that is likely to go on around him. That is also true. Let’s say he manages to get to 4000 total passing and rushing yards in each of the next two seasons. Let’s say he is able to get to 25 total touchdowns between passing and rushing in each of the next two seasons. Let’s say he limits himself to just 12 interceptions in each of the next two seasons. Is that reasonable?

Add up those three seasons and essentially you are talking about Jared Goff. Goff has had his moments. When he was surrounding with talent in Los Angeles he led them all the way to the Super Bowl once. That makes him similar to Jimmy Garoppolo. So, you essentially would be placing him somewhere in that group of guys that are anywhere from 15 to 25 in quarterback ranking. You could do a lot worse, but we know what the standard is and that isn’t the standard.