For these rankings, I utilize a statistical technique called Bayesian Updating to solve the sample size issues. It is a method PFF has used many times in the past, notably when we looked at a number of different draft classes and why the New York Jets needed to draft a quarterback in 2021.
With Bayesian Updating, we can use the dynamics of the historical quarterback market and individual results to project their PFF grades and expected points added (EPA) per play. Even in a single season, there can be drastic differences in sample sizes for quarterbacks. This means that comparing unadjusted rate stats side by side can give too much credit to those who aren’t a big part of their offense and too little credit for those who dominate as their team’s No. 1.
You can find details of how Bayesian Updating is implemented here, including a primer on how we build a posterior belief (or projection) based on historical quarterback results and then update the beliefs (projections) for each quarterback with their actual NFL results on a play-by-play basis.
Before I dive straight into the PFF analytical quarterback rankings, I’ve provided some visualizations to give proper context to how these quarterbacks performed in PFF grade and EPA per play and some important data splits that show the potential for regression moving forward.
Patrick Mahomes was the clear leader in EPA per play for Week 1, but his grading was a bit lower. While Mahomes executed high value plays consistently, he was missing bigger downfield throws that pump up the grading, and also had a turnover-worthy throw in the end zone that didn’t end up an interception. Josh Allen was the best when looking across both categories, posting a 91.5 grade a the second-best efficiency.
Quarterbacks whose efficiency most exceeded our grading were Russell Wilson, Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield and Tua Tagovailoa. On the flip side, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Daniel Jones graded much better than their expected-points-based efficiency.
One of the biggest drivers of overall EPA efficiency is quarterback performance on third and fourth down. The reason these plays have such a large impact is that the upside for conversions is tremendous. Third-and-medium or third-and-long plays determine whether a team needs to punt and essentially turn the ball over or settle for a field goal rather than pushing forward for a touchdown.
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