By MARK SIMON and ALEX VIGDERMAN
OK, so in a manner of speaking, we’re pushing the reset button on The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking.
You might have read that we changed how our Total Points player value stat evaluates run plays. These changes were to incorporate relatively new data points like defensive line techniques and the combination of initial and eventual run directions allow us to evaluate players on both sides of the ball with much more confidence as to who was involved on each play and to what extent.
For example, we now divide responsibility for the yards before contact (plus expected yards after contact) so that the rusher has more responsibility if he is contacted late in the play and less if he is contacted early in the play. Previously the distribution was a consistent amount across all kinds of runs.
The ramifications of this were small in some areas and large in one. Lamar Jackson gained 18 Rushing Points Earned in 2019, giving him a league-leading 46. For those of you who thought it was odd that Jackson ranked in the 20s in the World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking, you’ll see shortly that’s no longer a concern.
A reminder that The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking is based on a model devised by Bill James to evaluate The World’s No. 1 Starting Pitcher. Bill’s model was based on cumulative evaluation of individual starts over an extended time period using the metric Game Score.
The World’s No. 1 Quarterback Ranking uses our player value stat, Total Points to make a cumulative evaluation of game performance over a three-year period. The key to our calculation is Points Above Average, the statistical underpinning of Total Points that is centered at zero so that positive numbers are above average and negative numbers are below average.
Success over time is key to maintaining a good ranking. Prolonged inactivity results in a ranking drop. The recent performances carry the most weight.
Russell Wilson’s not a Top 3 QB
Most of the other changes to the No. 1 Quarterback Ranking to emanate from these changes to rushing calculations were small. But even small moves loom large.
For example, Russell Wilson, who seemed locked in as a Top-3 quarterback, has now been ranked No. 4 or 5 for five straight weeks. There has definitely been some slippage to Wilson’s game. He’s had a negative Points Above Average four times in his last seven games.
Wilson has been usurped by Deshaun Watson, who has ranked No. 3 in four consecutive weeks with our updated calculations. Despite the Texans’ massive struggles, Watson has had a season befitting an MVP contender. He’s had a positive Points Above Average in all but one game in 2020.
The current Top 5 is
- Patrick Mahomes
- Aaron Rodgers
- Deshaun Watson
- Russell Wilson
- Tom Brady
Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray
Last week’s No. 1 Quarterback Rankings had Jackson as No. 22. Had we been using our updated rushing system a week ago, he would have ranked No. 15. Here’s a look at how the top 20 would have looked last week had we gone by the updated system.
|Week 14 Old System Rank||Week 14 New System Rank|
And since we’re using it now, we can tell you that he currently stands at No. 12 after competing 17-of-22 passes including three touchdowns in a rout of the Jaguars. Jackson’s ranking still took a dip this season. He was as high as No. 4 through games played in Week 3, but instead of dropping into the 20s as he did in the previous system, his fall was only to No. 18.
Jackson has recovered part of his ranking with five straight games with a positive Points Above Average.
Kyler Murray entered Week 15 ranked No. 18 in our old system and No. 12 in the updated system. This will sound odd on the surface, but despite throwing for 406 yards and three touchdowns, Murray finished with a negative Points Above Average due to an interception and two fumbles. He now stands at No. 16.
Murray fell four spots in part because of his performance but also because of circumstance. The three quarterbacks directly in front of him, Matt Ryan, Baker Mayfield, and Justin Herbert, all had big games in Week 15.
Long Climb up the (Tanne)hill
After throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for two more in a Week 15 win against the Lions, Ryan Tannehill is ranked No. 9, the highest he’s ranked in the three years of games that our system tracks.
We’ve previously written of the parity that exists outside the elite quarterbacks and Tannehill is the latest to be riding a wave that is still on its way up. He ranked No. 17 three weeks ago, but his big game in defeat against the Browns started a run of three straight standout games in which he’s recorded eight touchdown passes, one interception, and no fumbles.
Tannehill ranks second in Passing Points Earned the last three weeks, trailing only Mayfield. Much of that value has come on intermediate-length passes. Tannehill is 17-of-25 on throws 11-to-19 yards downfield and ranks third in that time and ranks third in Passing Points Earned on those throws.
Here are the updated rankings, with all references being to our updated evaluation system:
World’s No. 1 Quarterback Rankings – Through 2020 Week 15
|Rk||Player||Points Above Avg Per 60||Last Rk||Start Of Season Rk|
|69||Robert Griffin III||-3.3||70||60|