SEC Prospect Passing Floors
Guest column by Clark Brooks
Everyone loves quarterback talk. Since it's the most important position in the sport and a passer's ability can often be the difference between victory or defeat—or sustained success or maintained mediocrity—extra weight is put into analyzing these fellows. While most fans are content with volume stats such as completions, yards, and touchdowns scored, those archaic metrics do little to tell the story of how a passer actually operates.
Naturally, a passer's overall figures will reflect his entire body of work. Pressured, clean, screen, RPO, dropback, deep, third-down attempts and other criteria are all merged together to form cumulative stats. But because no passer's style of play or scheme is exactly the same as another's, varying factors can help skew a quarterback's perception based on his final output. What if a passer leaned more on screens or lived on the wild side by pressing downfield more often or benefited from being a game manager? These questions go largely unanswered glancing at a box score.
This is where I come in—at least in regards to talking about SEC quarterbacks. As much I wanted to examine the passing bars of Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, Ian Book, and others, let's be real: talking about SEC passers just means more. OK, I'm kidding -- but in all seriousness, I have charted every offensive snap within the SEC the last three seasons, so I would like to think I have a good amount of dirt on these guys.
I get that the tale of the tape and the Good Ol'-Fashioned Eye Test reign supreme for many talent evaluators during draft season, but you can still determine a minimum threshold to expect from a passer based on his past performance in college despite the hodgepodge of philosophies. In order to determine which passers are actually good, we need to break off extra schematic elements that could in theory help boost a quarterback's output. As eager as I know some of you are to strip superfluous aspects away from a passer's profile, we first need to measure our passers' baseline exiting college. I only included results against Power 5 opponents, leaving out games against the Directional States of the world. And to give us a larger sample, our scope includes the last two seasons.
At a Glance
|Notable SEC QB Stats, 2019 & 2020|
|2020 SEC AVG||7.9||12.1||65.7%||62.3%||48.4%||31.6%||5.6%||2.4%||7.3%||16.0%||8.7||10.8%||48.0%||22.1%||19.5%|
- Acc%: Accuracy Percentage, the percent of passes that were deemed as such via being on-target throwing to a stationary receiver, hitting a moving receiver in stride with little to no adjustments, and placing the pass out of harms way from defenders.
- DAA%: Depth Adjusted Accuracy Percentage, a weighted accuracy stat that provides more weight toward downfield passes rather than treating all attempts (long or short) as equal. The further a throw travels downfield, the more risk/reward is applied. Passes behind the LOS are omitted.
- 1stD%: First Down Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts that result in a first down conversion
- TD%: Touchdown Rate, the percent of passer’s attempts that result in a TD
- INT%: Interception Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts that result in interceptions
- INTA%: Interceptable Pass Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts with turnover-worthy potential due to reckless, careless, or risky ball placement
- UNC%: Uncatchable Pass Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts that were deemed so off-target they had no chance of being caught
- ADOT: Average Depth of Target, how many yards past the line of scrimmage a passer’s downfield targets travel on average
- EXP%: Explosive Pass Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts that result in a gain of 20 or more yards
- Suc%: Success Rate, defined here as plays that gain 50% of needed yards on first down, 70% on second down, or 100% on third/fourth down.
- Press: Pressure Rate, the percent of a passer’s attempts (not total dropbacks) that experience pressure
- 10+ Acc%: 10+ yard accuracy percentage, the percent of a passer’s attempts beyond ten yards downfield that were deemed as such via being on-target throwing to a stationary receiver, hitting a moving receiver in stride with little to no adjustments, and placing the pass out of harms way from defenders.
Mac Jones, Alabama
|Mac Jones Passing Stats, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||11.5||75.4%||70.8%||39.0%||9.8%||1.3%||4.4%||11.7%||15.3||8.6||55.8%||16.7%||59.5%|
Michael McCorkle "Mac" Jones was college football's golden-boy passer in 2020—and that's saying something with Trevor "Sunshine" Lawrence slinging the pill over at Clemson. Jones presented a fairly sturdy passing floor entering the season, but the Crimson Tide quarterack initially was a facilitator. Due to his inexperience, a significant amount of his attempts were logged outside of dropback situations when he filled in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa. Over half of these snaps incorporated some form of play fake. Despite the rinky-dink facade, Jones provided an upgrade in terms of verticality for Alabama's offense. No disrespect to the Throwin' Samoan, but there was a reason Steve Sarkisian opted to play more "West Coast" schemes to suit Tagovailoa's strengths.
In addition to the Tide taking more deep shots, Jones emerged as an elite midrange passer. His metrics in those categories even trumped those of 2019's Heisman-winner ,Joe Burrow. Playing off of those characteristics, Sarkisian retooled his aerial offense to lean into deception tactics, play-action, and stretching the field versus single-high coverages this past fall.
Though some crimson cries clamored for Bryce Young to start the season and haters in other fan bases were convinced he was nothing more than a game manager, Jones responded by leading the nation in cumulative Expected Points Added. Continuing the trend of one-upping the dude who preceded him, Jones set records in copious metrics while boasting the best season Pro Football Focus has ever graded for a quarterback. Blessed with electric team speed and an updated scheme that aggressively strove to disorient and knock out opponents, Alabama's offense finished as an all-timer with Jones at the helm. The results on the surface cannot be knocked. Every time I look at his completion percentage from this past season, I think to myself, "that can't be right." Naturally, as he quarterbacked an undefeated team through an all-SEC slate while putting up video game-like stats on the way to a national title, Jones eventually caught the attention of NFL scouts. Against his four strongest defensive opponents in ESPN's SP+ ratings (Georgia, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M), Jones boasted an incredible 88.9% adjusted completion rate, 66.4% success rate, 12.0 yards per attempt, and 60.4% depth-adjusted accuracy. Of course, you all should know by now that he's being projected as a solid first-round pick.
Jones' overall profile suits the modus operandi of quarterbacks of yesteryear who overly preferred to function as pocket passers. Though I get the Tom Brady comparisons, I'm reminded more of a much less-spry Ryan Tannehill or Kirk Cousins type. His 40-time resembles Eli Manning's so that should stress Jones' limited mobility. That isn't to say he isn't an athlete, but no offense is dreaming of maximizing his talents via inverted power veers or bash counters. Jones could drop a little bit in the draft for that reason.
Critics will also bring up that one-third of Jones' pass attempts used true play-action, and nearly 30% of his throws were targeted to players behind the line of scrimmage in 2020. But even if he dealt with a loaded deck, Jones doesn't press, avoids danger, exhibits elite accuracy, and has made his share of big-time throws. After all, his touchdown rate more than doubled his interceptable pass rate over the last two seasons. Jones' top-end arm strength isn't premium, but it's not like he will have to be any bit of a nibbler at the next level. Again, his best trait is his intermediate precision. The last two seasons, over two-thirds of his passes to targets 11 to 19 yards downfield have been on-target. I have my doubts he can lead an NFL offense solo without the aid of a run game, play-action, or weapons out wide, but Jones' general resume makes him unquestionably worth the consideration.
Kyle Trask, Florida
|Kyle Trask Passing Stats, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||9.4||67.4%||65.5%||35.0%||8.5%||2.0%||7.7%||12.8%||13.6||9.5||53.3%||14.5%||53.5%|
Kyle Trask's career arc almost sounds like something you'd see in a Disney movie. Overshadowed by teammate D'Eriq King, Trask rode the pine at Manvel High School in Texas but managed to put up sturdy stats in his limited snaps. Doing what he could, he mustered a three-star rating and was ranked the 92nd pro-style quarterback as a college recruit, but he only received a single Power 5 offer. Though he only played in three games in three years prior to his breakout performance in 2019, Trask immediately impressed when his number was called. Like you'd expect from a kid who had not logged a start since he was 14, he made the most of his playing time, often testing tight windows and opting to go down swinging. While his predecessor (who I'll talk about in a bit) was a bit hesitant, Trask was eager to see if his guys could make a play. Though he was a bit of a lug and certainly made his fair share of risky throws, the Gators quarterback showed off very nice accuracy and decision-making to the point that only Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa bested the majority of his stats within the conference by the end of that season. And despite a volatile style of play that was buoyed by screens and performance under pressure, Trask's passing floor remained as high as anyone's entering 2020.
Thanks in part to the Gators' underperforming ground game, use of Trask was maximized this past fall. While some could call Trask a compiler, it's not as if he didn't display consistency or high-end precision with his increased volume. The Gators increased their pass rate to 61% (only Mississippi State's Air Raid topped that within the conference), lined up in empty on 13.4% of their snaps (no other SEC offense cracked an 8.0% clip), and went all-in on pressuring defenses with its two mismatch-makers in Kadarious Toney and Kyle Pitts. With those two catching passes and the increased dropbacks, Trask rewrote plenty of school records while racking up the nation's third-most EPA with the 10th-best clip on a per-play basis. Though it looked up to Alabama's laudable lot, Florida's offense was practically the next best thing due to its outstanding down-to-down passing results.
Trask's general profile is just fine. His results-based metrics like yards per attempt, success rate, first down rate, and explosive pass rate experienced year-over-year gains with his increased usage. Plus, his raw accuracy rate, depth adjusted accuracy rate, and uncatchable pass rate all improved despite his average depth of target increasing by nearly a yard from the previous season. That should tell you that Trask is a fairly good processor with adequate precision to hold his own at the next level.
Though his durable frame allowed him to make plays outside of structure, Trask could stand to shore up his off-rhythm mechanics, particularly with his lower body. Sometimes this led to a ball coming out a beat late, a slight flutter, or a true downfield underthrow that generated plenty of contested targets over the last two years. This shortcoming has many—me included—questioning if his arm strength (both in terms of zip and distance) can cut it when his targets have less of a competitive advantage over defenders. I fully understand why Trask put a lot of trust in Toney and Pitts, but due to either hubris in his pass-catchers, a mechanical malfunction, or a simple misread, over a quarter of his passes were contested this past year alone. His 116 such chances outnumbered the next SEC quarterback by 21. With so many 50/50 balls, one consistent red flag has plagued Trask's profile: turnover-worthy throws. Trask has tossed 61 the past two seasons, and his interceptable pass rate has sat in the danger zone over 7.5%. Mid- to late-career Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind—the version that enjoys playing YOLO ball despite waning arm talent. While believers will gravitate towards Trask's precision, just ask Jameis Winston and Carson Wentz what a high number of interceptable attempts does for one's outlook as a passer.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
|Kellen Mond Passing Stats, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||7.0||60.9%||61.4%||29.1%||5.3%||1.7%||6.3%||16.6%||11.4||9.3||49.3%||6.9%||45.8%|
Kellen Mond is a divisive prospect. Three years in Jimbo Fisher's QB School failed to see him post inspiring numbers or a winning record against ranked opponents. The past two seasons, Mond has recorded a yards per attempt, completion rate, first-down rate, and explosive pass rate below the conference mean. While it's easy to jump on the quarterback for such muted returns, there's a case that was by instruction and personnel limitations more than Mond's choosing. His average depth of target and explosive pass rate have dwindled since 2018 as Texas A&M's team speed slowed. With fewer field-stretchers, Fisher leaned into his patented West Coast staples such as slant patterns, spot, and smashes with the occasional comebacks. As a result, that offense became increasingly methodical. However, Mond's once-iffy ball placement figures improved each subsequent season, as did his interception rate.
Entering the year, Mond presented the conference's highest passing floor. Since he leaned on screen and RPO throws less than the other top returners, he presented the clearest representation of his true self in the dropback game. But with no real burners and predictable short routes, Mond's environment made it hard for him to shine. Only four other conference passers tested tight windows as frequently as Mond's 27.5% clip. Both his raw accuracy rate and depth-adjusted accuracy rate in tight-window situations ranked as the SEC's second-best this past season, as did his rate of turnover-worthy throws. He logged only two interceptable contested targets all season.
In Texas A&M's conservative scheme, Mond was rarely asked to throw deep. He only had 25 deep attempts all season; Georgia's JT Daniels had 27 in only four games. Among conference quarterbacks, only a pair of freshmen—Vanderbilt's Ken Seals and Mississippi State's Will Rogers—threw deep balls at a lower rate than Mond's clip of 8.4%. With so many bang-bang attempts, Mond's Interceptable pass rate worsened each year despite the eroding verticality in A&M's offense. While luck was on his side, that's not the best look considering his career passing success rate finished under 50% against Power 5 opponents.
Again, all that spells a pretty mixed bag. Exiting the season, analysts and scouts thought they had a pretty good read on Mond. But the Aggies quarterback tossed five 20-plus-yard completions in the Senior Bowl (he only totaled 24 in 2020) and suddenly has folks pondering his upside. With the rise of run-threat quarterbacks in recent years, Mond has the legs to keep defenses honest and potentially contribute on the ground. Plus, he has logged a good amount of experience evading SEC rushers during his time in College Station. That paired with the ability to deliver downfield strikes is a skill set most teams are craving.
That said, for a mobile guy, Mond plays rather stiff. On the move or in the pocket, the ball is right at his chin with both elbows flexed. This is sound, technically speaking, but the end result appears as if he has a steel rod for a spine. This rigidity doesn't mess with his lower body's ability to stay fluid, but sometimes it can be a little inconsistent up top, which creates errancy on occasion. In addition to his interceptable pass rate souring over his college career, Mond has logged 17 fumbles, with five of them coming on sacks. Still, Mond's coaching staff didn't sugarcoat his development and overly went out of their way to make him operate as a pro-style passer. Mond probably could have put up preferable stats with more screens or RPOs to take some downs off his plate, but he'ss more prepared to latch on with an offense on Day 1 thanks to A&M's tendency to drop back.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
|Feleipe Franks Passing Stats, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||9.0||68.1%||67.4%||32.6%||7.1%||2.5%||5.7%||15.6%||13.2||7.7||59.9%||11.0%||52.1%|
Feleipe Franks will be viewed as a flyer candidate by many. With coaching swaps, injuries, and venue changes, there's not a whole bunch of stability across his resume. Moreover, Franks predominantly has donned a herky-jerk playing style as a college passer. He started his college career at Florida, where he had a bad habit of holding onto the ball too long while being skittish in the pocket. Due to his weariness to let it rip, he logged a good amount of pressured attempts with the Gators. He was overly a "see it, throw it" passer early on, and often had to be goaded to take a shot. Only about an eighth of his passes traveled beyond 20 yards, with 60% failing to crack 10 yards in 2018. The process was certainly frustrating, but his dropback results were at least serviceable.
Franks' efficiency and accuracy figures improved in three games in 2019 before his season was lost to a gruesome injury. His replacement, Kyle Trask, was getting results and winning games, so into the transfer portal Franks went. Franks ultimately landed at Arkansas to lead Kendal Briles' first SEC offense. Franks' M.O. more or less carried over to his 2020 campaign. No SEC passer sported a higher average time to throw on dropbacks or a higher overall pressure rate. He threw four interceptions in nine games with the Razorbacks after throwing three in four with the Gators in 2019.
Franks' past timidness from the pocket incentivized Arkansas coaches to lean into tactics that heightened his efforts as a facilitator and to limit his time behind a rather poo-poo bunch of pass-protectors. Over one-third of the Razorbacks' plays were RPOs, and 34.5% of Franks' total targets were directed towards route tags on those designs. No other SEC quarterback owned a clip in the 30s. When tacking on his screen attempts, 41.2% of Franks' passes occurred outside of the dropback game, which was the most in the conference by 9%.
Though the Arkansas quarterback undeniably showed flashes of his old self, he was noticeably more tenacious, decisive, and effective. The scheme might have been rudimentary with bountiful slants, screens, and short stuff, but Franks looked much more comfortable running an offense even if Arkansas rocked the SEC's second-highest pressure rate at 34.6%. The emphasis on patterns closer to the line certainly allowed Franks to pad his numbers. His raw accuracy rate was only bested by McCorkle. While his deep pass rate fell into the SEC's bottom six, no conference quarterback topped his deep accuracy rate of 64% (Kyle Trask was the next closest at just under 49%). Though the offense had its intricacies, it was probably nothing like what Franks will be asked to orchestrate at the next level. Still, you would have to be a fool not to explore someone with his size with that level of precision.
Franks' ball-placement skills will buoy his general profile entering the draft. The knock on quarterbacks 6-foot-6 or taller is that their extra length makes their mechanics more erratic and unrefined, which can lead to maddening incompletions and inexcusable interceptions. While Franks appears to be turkey-tapping that trend with the best depth-adjusted accuracy rate the SEC had to offer in 2020, it's only fair to wonder if the simplified scheme and easy throws aided in skewing the figures. The jury is still out on whether he can function consistently in the dropback game, and scouts are probably worried he'll need quite a bit of nurturing on that front. Developmental projects used to be the norm for this position group, but professional teams are becoming increasingly inpatient on sitting prospective passers. Franks' NFL learning curve could be steep, but he still has envious physical tools that can take care of business at the next level.
Setting our 'Floor'
Again, glancing at a passer's overall production doesn't necessarily reflect how they operated or what aspects helped elevate their outputs. Two passers could be asked to complete the same RPO read, but one could be gifted a potential first-round pick at receiver 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 to make up for his lack of passing acumen. The point is, there are plenty of aspects to the game that can make evaluating a true passer's ability murky.
While play versus pressure might set a quarterback's ceiling, play from pristine pockets often sets one's 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, but that ability rarely reflects a passer's down-to-down trajectory. Since unpressured attempts present far fewer 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. Last time I checked, one-quarter is much less than three-fourths. Therefore, pressure plays are removed from discussion of each quarterback's floor.
RPOs and screen snaps are also omitted from this parameter. Since RPOs are modern day triple-options, their usage depends 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 is mostly outside of the quarterback's control. Any schmo could slide in and execute those concepts. In order for a passer to stand out, or at least show he's worth investing in, his dropback performance from pristine pockets has to be decent.
|Notable SEC QB Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, 2019 & 2020|
|2020 SEC AVG||9.1||13.7||66.1%||63.3%||50.0%||36.6%||6.2%||2.3%||7.7%||13.4%||11.1||13.2%||52.5%|
|Does not include screens, RPOs, or pressure plays|
Mac Jones, Alabama
|Mac Jones Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||12.0||70.2%||68.3%||43.9%||10.3%||1.5%||6.1%||11.1%||17.0||13.2||54.0%||20.2%||61.5%|
|Does not include screens, RPOs, or pressure plays|
His four hardest defensive opponents might have been able to affect his accuracy with duress, but Mac Jones' passing floor justifies his first-round projection. He's built to TCOB within structure. Despite missing out on a 65% success rate and double-digit explosive pass rate on screens/RPOs, the Alabama quarterback's passing prowess remained rock-steady. His results from 2019 kind of fudge his awesome numbers from last year, but Jones was lethal in this context. His gaudy 10:1 TD:INT ratio should speak volumes. His completion rate, accuracy rate, and interceptable pass rate took dings with less short stuff, but more downfield throws begat a better explosive pass rate and first down rate and more yards per attempt. Jones' success rate and uncatchable pass rate even improved compared to his overall figures.
Jones was often granted the green light to go deep, and no other quarterback in our sample topped his 13.2-yard average depth of taget or 17.0 yards per completion. This, of course, was often facilitated by the Crimson Tide's aforementioned affinity for play-action. Just under 40% of Jones' attempts in this parameter used that tactic, with one-third gaining at least 20 yards. Over 62% of Mac's clean dropback play-fakes generated either a fresh set of downs or a score.
Play-action or no, Jones' deep-ball placement was good, not great. Both his raw deep accuracy and depth adjusted accuracy barely cracked the conference's top five this past season as each hovered around 47%. For a reference point, his figures are very close to Joe Burrow's from 2019. (Arm strength was commonly Burrow's bugaboo entering last year's draft, and he finished near the bottom of the NFL in deep accuracy rate as a rookie.) But like Burrow, Jones' elite midrange figures remain his biggest selling point. On clean intermediate targets the last two years, Jones' success rate and depth adjusted accuracy finished in the 70s.
Kyle Trask, Florida
|Kyle Trask Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||10.1||65.9%||64.5%||38.3%||8.9%||1.6%||8.6%||11.0%||15.4||12.5||53.2%||18.2%||63.1%|
|Does not include screens, RPOs, or pressure plays|
Kyle Trask's passing the last two seasons wasn't a fluke according to his floor metrics. Both his completion percentage and accuracy rate stayed in the mid-60s, he connected on more explosive throws, and he rocked the best two-year success rate in our sample. Though his clean dropback numbers against Power 5 opponents in 2019 were a bit worrisome, Trask's performance this past season helped his figures improve across the board. All three of Trask's ball placement figures in these spots bested his overall marks, which fueled his spectacular encore. In 2020, his interception rate was cut in half, his yards per attempt increased almost 4 yards, his explosive pass rate improved by eight percentage points, and both his uncatchable and interceptable pass rates dipped into the single-digits.
That said, Trask's prominent flaw was further worsened in clean dropback situations. Along with the worst two-year depth-adjusted accuracy rate of our four prospective passers, his 8.6% interceptable pass rate screams that Trask won't survive at the next level unless that's fixed ASAP. The fact his INTA% is five time more than his interception rate should illustrate how fortunate Trask has been at avoiding turnovers with his knack for delivering contested throws.
The Florida offense's inconsistent run game played a part in the periodic stints of nickel-and-diming, but Trask certainly benefited from his scheme here. On throws beyond the line of scrimmage but less than 11 yards downfield, Trask rocked a top-five accuracy percentage, and no conference quarterback topped his 70% success rate, 9.22 yards per attempt, or 10.8% explosive catch rate this past season. Only five SEC passers donned a lower air yard makeup on these throws than Trask's 43.7% clip.
While dissenters will note that level of production outside of his control in the dropback game this past season, they'll also pick apart Trask's one-year increase in deep precision. Trask has always been at least an average midrange passer, and he further increased his capacity in that department in 2020. But he was unquestionably a cellar-dweller on throws beyond 20-plus air yards in his first season of extended action in Gainesville. Less than a quarter of these attempts were deemed accurate, and his clean dropback deep completion rate finished at 29.6%. Last fall, both clips equaled 50.9%. That's a massive uptick. As nice as reaching that plateau was, that kind of variance can't be ignored when trying to gauge Trask's long-term appeal.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
|Kellen Mond Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||7.9||64.0%||61.9%||34.1%||4.5%||1.6%||6.0%||11.3%||12.3||9.9||56.9%||9.2%||51.2%|
|Does not include screens, RPOs, or pressure plays|
Though Mac Jones and Kyle Trask each saw their screen+RPO rates shrink year-over-year, Kellen Mond has consistently been one of the most-featured conference passers on true dropbacks. Back-to-back years, his rate in that category has topped 86%; only the Mississippi State's two Air Raiders and Missouri's Conner Bazelak donned a higher mark than his 87.6% clip from 2020. With those facets carrying less weight across Mond's profile than anyone else's in our sample, his floor metrics resembled his overall figures more than his peers.
But by eliminating 175 pressured attempts over the last two seasons, Mond's passing bar was heightened even if his profile remains more muted than a silent picture. Though he saw improvement this past season operating TA&M's secondary facet, his two-year yards per attempt, yards per completion, completion percentage, accuracy percentage, first down rate, uncatchable pass rate, and success rate are the lowest floor metrics of our four prospective passers. Considering his average depth of target on clean dropback situations fell inside the conference's bottom five each of the past two seasons, Mond's interception and interceptable pass rates worsening along with the uninspiring returns should be a major concern moving forward.
Folks will also have hang-ups on his shortcomings targeting beyond 10 yards downfield. Mond was far from a liability, but he failed to stand out in any way with his intermediate and deep targets. I mean, check out his "death spot" from this past fall on his passer chart. Including all 10-plus-yard throws from the left numbers outward, the Aggies quarterback only completed seven of 36 attempts for one touchdown with three interceptions.
To reiterate, most of Mond's damage came on short, underneath throws in structure. This allowed him to seize relatively easy completions and find moderate situational success. Both his depth-adjusted accuracy rate and success rate cracked 50% the last two seasons on clean dropback attempts. At least he's got that going for him. And with the aforementioned team speed being on the wrong side of the conference average, Mond's zip was commonly put to the test in tight windows. Along with his natural traits, this characteristic is probably one of his best selling points. In our parameter, no SEC quarterback topped his ball placement figures on contested attempts in 2019, and he finished top-three in success rate. While his marks failed to replicate themselves from the year prior, Mond still finished inside the conference's top five in both accuracy percentage and depth-adjusted accuracy percentage on such throws this past season.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
|Feleipe Franks Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||10.9||70.2%||73.1%||38.5%||7.7%||1.0%||5.8%||8.7%||15.6||10.2||66.5%||14.4%||54.8%|
|Does not include screens, RPOs, or pressure plays|
Within structure, Feleipe Franks displayed nice floor metrics, especially thanks to Kendal Briles' influence. From clean dropback situations, he maintained a completion percentage in the 70s in back-to-back years, improved his accuracy percentage each season, set a career-high explosive pass rate and accuracy rate, and sliced his uncatchable pass rate in half year-over-year. His 11.5 yards per attempt in 2020 just missed out on topping Kyle Trask, and his two-year 5.8% interceptable pass rate in these spots was the lowest of any of our four quarterbacks. Though Franks' midrange figures finished behind Mac Jones' within the SEC, his short and deep depth-adjusted accuracy percentage led the conference. Franks has rocked at least a 64% DAA% and a 52% success rate in clean dropback situations since 2019. While you can look down on his somewhat risk-averse style of play, Franks was unequivocally efficient through the air within structure.
Still, analysts will be torn on Franks' upside based on his past reliance on aspects outside of the dropback game. Remember his screen+RPO rate trumped the next SEC quarterback by nine percentage points this past fall. Franks has only logged 104 attempts that met our parameter the past two years against Power 5 opponents; his 87 from 2020 accounted for less than half of Kellen Mond's total. Plus, the plurality of those snaps featured heavy play-action. Including all dropbacks, Franks' 41.5% play-action rate was only topped by Matt Corral within the conference. This scheme aggressively presented Franks with situations to win and deliver accurate passes. Despite donning more downfield gusto, there's no doubt that Arkansas' operation helped goad more gold out of him. Unfortunately, no NFL offense runs the Baylor spread full-time. Sure, he showed some success finding guys on pro concepts, but Franks' development will likely take longer than the others despite projecting sterling ball placement.
Taking It One Step Further
Judging our passers through the clean dropback lens told us quite a bit. Mac Jones' stats remained robust, Kyle Trask's tendency to toss turnover-worthy passes stained his profile, Kellen Mond's methodical style of play helped author his overly "meh" resume, and Feleipe Franks' accuracy showed up on all levels of the field despite commanding a simple scheme. Within structure and without the threat of defenders, each passer experienced gains in their result-based metrics and accuracy figures.
But to get the best representation of our passers' true throwing ability, we need to set one more little, extra parameter: omit play-action attempts. Within the SEC in the past few years, play-action has coaxed more aggressive tendencies that generally results in an increase in average depth of target, yards per attempt, and explosive pass rate at the expense of stuff like accuracy rate, uncatchable pass rate, and interceptable pass rate. Though a team doesn't need a good—or even elite—run game in order for play-action passing to work, having one certainly helps maximize the whole shebang. Moreover, a constant run threat eventually alters the back-end coverages defenses can call, which prevents them from dictating the action. Along with the natural deceptive ability to create an open receiver, play-action passes are generally scheme-driven rather than a product of one's passing ability. In order to account for that element and the tactic's effect at producing volatile results, let's see what happened to our quarterback's floors when taking out play fakes from clean dropback snaps.
Mac Jones, Alabama
|Mac Jones Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, No Play-Action, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||9.6||68.3%||69.5%||42.1%||7.9%||1.8%||4.9%||10.4%||14.1||9.5||59.0%||12.8%||58.5%|
Let's start with the bad news before switching gears to something more positive. Jones was a worse version of himself without play-action. His two-year yards per attempt, yards per completion, completion percentage, accuracy rate, touchdown rate, interceptable pass rate, uncatchable pass rate, explosive pass rate, and success rate all soured on straight clean dropback attempts compared to his overall marks. He's the only one of our passers to experience a dip in the latter while logging the largest drops in completion percentage (-7.1%), touchdown rate (-1.9%), and explosive pass rate (-3.9%). Behind dynamic deception, sometimes Jones didn't have to do too much in order for his bottom line to benefit. How many times can you think of the Crimson Tide housing a bubble screen or securing a splash gain via a slant in recent years?
Now for the glass-half-full angle: Jones' passing floor still remains high. Half of his passes resulted in either a fresh set of downs or a score. Both his completion and accuracy rates finished in the high 60s, and he generated a gain of at least 20 yards on one out of every eight such attempts. Exactly 59% of his throws 10-plus yards downfield were deemed as accurate. Though it did shrink some, no one is going to shove away a 58.5% success rate in this context or 9.62 yards per attempt, especially when the most recent showing generated respective clips of 66.4% and 10.7.
Kyle Trask, Florida
|Kyle Trask, Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, No Play-Action, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||10.3||67.6%||68.5%||38.9%||9.4%||1.6%||8.4%||10.3%||15.3||10.7||54.3%||17.8%||66.4%|
Trask was magnificent on straight clean dropback attempts. Two-thirds of these passes worked situationally, and he was the only quarterabck in our sample to experience gains in touchdown rate, yards per completion, and explosive pass rate compared to his overall figures in the two-year window. None of our three other passers matched his 1.2-yard and 12.8-percentage point improvement in yards per attempt or success rate, respectively. There weren't many negatives to Trask's game in these spots other than a slight dip in his completion percentage and still having issues with the whole "throwing the ball near defenders" thing. Every 12th pass had turnover potential, which is consistent with what his floor metrics told us. Now, his interception rate improved in these spots, but that is judging him on his results and not his process. NFL defenders won't be as kind as the "amateurs" Trask is used to dealing with in terms of letting him skirt with an interception rate under 2%. That said, he has the accuracy, decision-making, and confidence to hold his own at their level if those dangerous passes can be curbed.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
|Kellen Mond, Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, No Play-Action, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||7.1||62.4%||60.2%||33.0%||3.7%||1.8%||6.1%||11.6%||11.5||12.6||55.0%||4.9%||48.9%|
Mond was typically his most aggressive self on these snaps, but that didn't mean Texas A&M's modest aerial attack saw an uptick in potency. The Aggies quarterback's 12.6-yard average depth of target, which was over 3 yards more than his overall figure, finished as the highest amongst our four passers in this context. With more downfield tries, Mond was slightly more prone to turnover-worthy passes per his two-year sample. This past fall, Mond logged an 8.2% interceptable pass rate that was even worse than that of the heat-seeker Kyle Trask himself. But outside of that, folks have to like the way Mond is trending. Nearly two-thirds of his throws 10-plus yards downfield were on the money, his overall uncatchable pass rate was sliced in half, and Mond managed to rock at least a 50% success rate. While his normal mundane M.O. overly targeted short routes, he sported a 14.1-yard average depth of target. Mond has gotten better for three straight years with his precision. And in these spots, he has rocked a raw accuracy rate in the low 70s last season. Though the short stuff appeared to be the catalyst for his sturdy metrics, Mond's improvement in the dropback game within structure makes him a safe and respectable mid-round draft candidate even if the scheme he played in failed to produce a lot of fireworks.
Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
|Feleipe Franks, Clean-Pocket Dropbacks, No Play-Action, 2019 & 2020|
|2 Year Stats||9.4||75.8%||80.3%||39.4%||6.1%||1.5%||4.6%||7.6%||12.4||5.8||76.5%||9.1%||57.6%|
|** Only two attempts|
Despite his background, Franks could be a gem at the next level. Whoever drafts this kid better be a believer in the Millsap Doctrine. For the uninitiated, this is a theory from the world of the hardwood named for NBA player Paul Millsap that follows the notion if a player posts efficient rate-based stats in limited minutes consistently, those figures should carry over with increased volume. Simply, Franks has been elite targeting 10-plus yards downfield in these spots, but his sample size is on the small side. Franks was the least-utilized of our passers in this context. Captain Obvious wanted me to remind you all in case you forgot about the aforementioned notes about his style of play and reliance on screen and RPO attempts to round out his bottom line. Because of that, these findings can be susceptible to variance. And when Franks isn't comfortable with his pattern, he can be a Checkdown Charlie. As wonderful as his completion and accuracy rate project to be, his 5.8-yard average depth of target is over 1.8 yards lower than his overall clip. Someone will talk themselves into drafting the Razorbacks quarterback due to his athleticism and tantalizing traits, but no one will give him an extended chance if he never tests opponents downfield with his talents.
Clark Brooks is owner/operator of SECStatCat.com, which specializes in charting offensive play call data as well as advanced player stats for all SEC football programs. Film study, analytics, and trends dedicated to the conference where "It Just Means More."