Who Throws the Best Deep Ball in the NFL?
This isn't a debate about which quarterback has the strongest arm. The criteria I'm looking at here has to do with results, pure and simple, on all throws that traveled over 20 yards in the air.
I took a look at the top quarterbacks in the last two years, plus what's happened already in 2012, to determine how to rank the top guns of the NFL when it comes to deep passes.
Note: Special thanks to Pro Football Focus for tracking every single play and providing me with the information for this post.
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5. Eli Manning, New York Giants
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Eli Manning has a huge arm and though he is prone to tossing an interception or three, he connects on deep passes with more regularity than any other quarterback on this list. He also throws more deep balls than any of them, often out of necessity at the end of games.
Thankfully for him, the New York Giants and their fans, Manning is pretty good when the games are on the line, as we saw in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Over the past two-plus seasons, Manning has completed 73-of-184 deep passes (10 were dropped) for 2,474 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His accuracy percentage on those throws, including drops, was 45.7 percent.
Given the talent Manning has on the outside, I expect to see plenty of deep passes from him the rest of the year and I personally can't get enough of his late-game heroics.
4. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
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Matthew Stafford finally had an injury-free year in 2011 and his production on deep passes last season was substantial.
Of course, having Calvin Johnson as your top receiver doesn't hurt.
Stafford's deep-throw stats for last year and this year are as follows: He completed 33-of-80 passes (seven were drops) for 1,194 yards with 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His accuracy percentage, including drops, was 50 percent.
As long as Stafford doesn't have to face the San Francisco 49ers each week, his deep-play numbers are only going to get better.
3. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
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When Tony Romo is on his game, there isn't a quarterback in the league that throws a prettier deep ball than him.
2011 was the first big year for Romo in this area of his game, though. Before last season, the most 20-plus yard passes he'd ever attempted in a season was 59, back in 2008. He and the Cowboys didn't do much in the way of throwing deep passes in 2009 and 2010, but the addition of Dez Bryant has opened things up.
Over the past two-plus seasons, Romo has completed 43-of-87 passes (with two drops) for 1,529 yards with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. His accuracy percentage on those deep passes, including drops, was 51.7 percent.
Romo's biggest problem this year is up front on the offensive line, and if that unit can't protect him, he'll have less opportunities to hit his receivers deep.
2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
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Drew Brees proves that quarterbacks don't need the strongest arm to be an effective deep-ball passer. If he were competing against the strongest arms in the NFL to determine who can throw the farthest, I don't think Brees would even rank in the top ten.
That hasn't stopped Brees from burning opposing defenses with deep throws on a regular basis and if it weren't for Aaron Rodgers' unbelievable accuracy on deep passes, Brees would be No. 1.
Since the start of the 2010 season, Brees has completed 73-of-157 passes (eight were dropped) for 2,384 yards with 30 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. His accuracy percentage, including drops, was 51.6 percent.
Brees is such a fun quarterback to watch, and he may be the best in the NFL at reading defenses. It will be interesting to see if he and the New Orleans Saints can pull out of their current funk to make something positive happen the rest of the way in 2012.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
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It's no surprise that the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL also throws the best deep ball.
Aaron Rodgers has put up some shockingly good numbers over the past two-plus seasons on throws that travel farther than 20 yards. He has completed 62-of-141 passes (13 of them were dropped) for 2,390 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His accuracy percentage, including drops, was 53.2 percent.
Last year, Rodgers took things to another level, completing 60.7 percent of all his deep passes for 13 touchdowns and only one interception.
His biggest problem is that his offensive line is subject to getting destroyed, much like the one Tony Romo plays behind. Rodgers is mobile enough to escape pressure, though, and oftentimes when there's a ton of pressure, he finds one of his receivers open downfield.
Rodgers has no peer when it comes to deep passes. He's simply the best.
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