Seth WalderESPN Analytics
The NFL Honors are around the corner, and a couple of quarterbacks are destined to be recognized.
Consider this the off-Broadway production of a similar awards show. Here are the best and worst quarterbacks of 2018, based on information from Total QBR and NFL Next Gen Stats. Instead of Ernst & Young or Deloitte tallying the votes, I do the honors, sprinkling a little subjectivity in when needed.
Without further ado, let’s get to the distinguished — and not-so-distinguished — awards.
Best QB of the season: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes just eked out the QBR title ahead of Drew Brees this season, 81.6 to 80.7. But that doesn’t capture the full extent of Mahomes’ value. Not only was he the most efficient quarterback in football, but he was also the most productive from a volume standpoint. Mahomes had 722 action plays (passes + QB runs and scrambles + sacks + relevant penalties), well ahead of Brees at 562. The result is that Mahomes easily recorded the most points added above average (a translation of QBR that includes volume), ahead of Brees and everyone else.
Being more efficient than Brees on more plays makes this choice easy. Mahomes was the most productive quarterback in 2018.
Worst QB of the season: Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Was Rosen the least productive quarterback in the NFL or did he get less help from his teammates than anyone else? Yes.
Rosen finished last in Total QBR with a 25.9. The goal of Total QBR is to better allocate credit and blame for an offense’s success and failure to the quarterback beyond the scope of traditional statistics. It does a good job at doing that, but quarterbacks’ statistics are still influenced by their teammates at a level beyond what QBR can see.
Rosen didn’t exactly have a brick wall standing in front of him. In fact, no team had a worse pass block win rate than the Cardinals (PBWR is an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats). That has to be a major hindrance for a QB. Now, whether or not a quarterback is under pressure is factored into QBR, but there is reason to believe that a quarterback is still more likely to put up a stronger Total QBR with a better pass-blocking line in front of him.
Additionally, Rosen’s targets basically had defenders stuck to them. No quarterback threw into tight windows at a higher rate than Rosen. No quarterback threw a lower percentage of his passes to open receivers. Only Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s receivers averaged fewer yards of separation. It’s possible that Rosen just consistently made the wrong reads (Next Gen separation numbers are only for players targeted), but it’s also possible his receivers just didn’t get open.