NFL News & Analysis

Ranking all 32 NFL starters by deep passing performance in 2022

2JNTPJT Pittsburgh, United States. 13th Aug, 2022. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) starts the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday, August 13, 2022 at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI Credit: UPI/Alamy Live News

Geno Smith leads the way: The Seattle Seahawks passer ranked first in big-time throws (30) and percentage (47.6%) last year.

Joe Burrow not far behind: The Cincinnati Bengals signal caller gets the ball out quickly (2.65 average time to throw; tied for second) and rarely makes a mistake.

Tom Brady leaves on a high note: Brady not only finished fourth in big-time throws (23) but he did so at a high rate (33.3%, tied for fifth).

Estimated reading time: 15 minutes

Everybody wants explosive plays in the NFL. The league has known that for as far back as anybody can remember, and in today’s game, the most reliable way of producing them is by throwing the ball deep.

Thanks to PFF Premium Stats — available with a PFF+ subscription — we can see how quarterbacks perform in this critical area each season, but let’s go a step deeper and rank those quarterbacks by PFF grade on deep passes, rather than by any production-based deep passing metric that is heavily influenced by the receiver at the catch point and the coverage the ball was thrown into.

1. Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

  • 77 dropbacks, 99.3 passing grade
  • Deep Passing Yards: 846 (8th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 14 (1st)
  • Passer Rating: 120.2 (2nd)
  • Deep Comp%: 47.6% (4th)

Seattle was not afraid to turn Smith loose and with good reason. He ranked first in big-time throws (30) and percentage (47.6%) in addition to only throwing two interceptions. The deep passing game created many opportunities in 2022. Not only was Seattle first in touchdowns, but they also tied for second in first-down conversions (30). D.K. Metcalf (87.7) and Tyler Lockett (92.0) combined for 42 targets and 18 catches from deep. Seattle drafted Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who finished with a 91.9 deep receiving grade in 2021. If this group remains healthy, Seattle could finish with another top passing offense in 2023.

2. Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals

  • 64 dropbacks, 95.4 passing grade
  • Deep Passing Yards: 692 (15th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 8 (T-7th)
  • Passer Rating: 117.8 (4th)
  • Deep Comp%: 38.5% (18th)

Burrow gets the ball out quickly (2.65 average time to throw; tied for second) and rarely makes a mistake. He only threw one pick and three turnover-worthy plays this season. Burrow struggled to connect with Ja’Marr Chase (61.6), but he was in sync with Tee Higgins (93.9). Higgins paced Cincinnati’s deep attack with 12 combined touchdowns and first downs.

3. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • 77 dropbacks, 95.1
  • Deep Passing Yards: 745 (13th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 4 (T-17th)
  • Passer Rating: 89.3 (19th)
  • Deep Comp%: 34.8% (24th)

Tampa Bay’s offense struggled in 2022 (72.3 offensive grade, 19th), but Brady was still capable of creating big-play opportunities. He not only finished fourth in big-time throws (23) but he did so at a high rate (33.3%, tied for fifth). Baker Mayfield (62.1) is slated to be the starter in 2023, and he will have big shoes to fill.

4. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

  • 61 dropbacks, 94.4
  • Deep Passing Yards: 990 (4th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 10 (6th)
  • Passer Rating: 124.1 (1st)
  • Deep Comp%: 24.5% (2nd)

Tagovailoa thrived with the addition of Tyreek Hill (95.0), as Miami took advantage of his speed. Hill led the NFL in downfield targets (38) and receiving yards (669). Defenses have to be careful in how they defend Hill because Jaylen Waddle (349 deep yards) is a formidable threat as well. Tagovailoa’s health will be closely monitored because he battled concussion symptoms last season. If he can remain healthy, Miami should continue to have a strong deep attack in 2023.

 5. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

  • 77 dropbacks, 93.3
  • Deep Passing Yards: 912 (5th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 3 (T-23rd)
  • Passer Rating: 107.1
  • Deep Comp%: 44.4% (8th)

Conversely, Mahomes was still able to lead a strong deep attack in his first year without Hill. Mahomes’ touchdown numbers are low, but he protected the football (zero interceptions), finished fifth in deep passing yards and continued to connect with targets at a high rate. Marquez Valdes-Scantling (92.6) led the way with 21 targets and 322 yards. Mecole Hardman’s departure should open up more opportunities for Kadarius Toney (94.8).

6. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

  • 54 dropbacks, 92.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 477 (21st)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 4 (T-17th)
  • Passer Rating: 65.1 (30th)
  • Deep Comp%: 38.3% (19th)

Pickett was solid in his first season. He threw five interceptions (tied for fourth most) but recorded a 4.3% turnover-worthy play rate (eighth-best). Most encouraging was his 31.9% big-time throw rate (11th). With George Pickens leading the way (95.3), these two should become a formidable combination in 2023.

7. Daniel Jones, New York Giants

  • 28 dropbacks, 91.8
  • Deep Passing Yards: 359 (30th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 2 (T-28th)
  • Passer Rating: 119.4 (3rd)
  • Deep Comp%: 43.5% (9th)

Jones did not take many deep shots last season (23 attempts; tied for second-to-last) because Darius Slayton was his only trusted downfield target (91.9). They sought to address that issue in the off-season by trading for Darren Waller, and drafting Jalin Hyatt (92.3). Hyatt led Power Five receivers in deep yards (677) and touchdowns (eight) last season. Waller ranks top five among tight ends in deep receiving grade (92.8) and yards (652) since 2019.

8. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

  • 83 dropbacks, 92.4
  • Deep Passing Yards: 1,170 (1st)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 11 (T-3rd)
  • Passer Rating: 102.8 (9th)
  • Deep Comp%: 41.0% (13th)

Buffalo loves to push the ball downfield with Allen. He ranked second this season in deep throw attempts (83) and big-time throws (29), but that style also comes with higher risk. Allen finished the season with five interceptions (tied for fourth) and a 12% turnover-worthy play rate (seventh).

9. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

  • 72 dropbacks, 91.5
  • Deep Passing Yards: 996 (3rd)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 5 (T-14th)
  • Passer Rating: 79.4 (26th)
  • Deep Comp%: 46.0% (7th)

Cousins had a great connection with Justin Jefferson, as they connected for 594 yards (second) and 17 first downs (second). Minnesota boosted its receiving core with the T.J. Hockenson acquisition last season and the Jordan Addison (92.3) selection in this year’s draft. K.J. Osborn has also flashed as a deep threat for the Vikings (87.6 grade from deep since 2021). Cousins should have a nice trio of deep options to choose from in 2023.

10. Andy Dalton, New Orleans Saints

  • 40 dropbacks, 91.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 384 (28th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 3 (T-22nd)
  • Passer Rating: 84.5 (23rd)
  • Deep Comp%: 26.3% (last)

Dalton only threw one pick on deep passes last season, but he struggled to get anything going from deep. He signed a deal with Carolina in the offseason and is projected to back up Bryce Young. Derek Carr (72.0) will take over as the Saints' starting QB in 2023.

11. Davis Mills, Houston Texans

  • 76 dropbacks, 90.8
  • Deep Passing Yards: 855 (6th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 6 (T-12th)
  • Passer Rating: 85.8 (22nd)
  • Deep Comp%: 46.8% (6th)

C.J. Stroud (92.6) is set to take over the reins for Houston in 2023. Mills performed admirably in 2022, ranking sixth in completion percentage and passing yards, however, he also led the league in picks (seven).

12. Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

  • 27 dropbacks, 90.8
  • Deep Passing Yards: 330 (32nd)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 3 (T-22nd)
  • Passer Rating: 102.4 (10th)
  • Deep Comp%: 33.3% (29th)

Stafford led the league in deep passing yards in 2021 (1,272), but he struggled to sustain that pace, as he fell all the way to 32nd this year. Stafford’s season was cut short after 12 games. Cooper Kupp (92.6), Van Jefferson (77.7) and Tutu Atwell (72.5) were targeted a combined 31 times in 2022. Stafford will be relying on this group to reverse the offense’s fortune next season.

13. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

  • 49 dropbacks, 90.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 569 (19th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 6 (T-12th)
  • Passer Rating: 99.7 (12th)
  • Deep Comp%: 42.9% (10th)

Prescott finished the season tied for fifth in big-time throw rate (33.3%) and 10th in completion rate (42.9%). Dallas finished with 24 combined touchdowns and first downs with CeeDee Lamb (94.5) pacing the team (352 yards). Dallas traded for Brandin Cooks (93.9) in the offseason — a move that should place further pressure on secondaries in 2023.

 14. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

  • 28 dropbacks, 91.8
  • Deep Passing Yards: 785 (12th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 7 (T-9th)
  • Passer Rating: 95.5 (14th)
  • Deep Comp%: 35.3% (T-22nd)

Herbert aired it out in 2022 (68 attempts, 7th), and he did so while taking care of the football (2.9% turnover-worthy play rate (fourth-best). The offense combined for 31 touchdowns and first downs from deep. The Quentin Johnston (91.5) addition should help to open things up for the Chargers this season. If Mike Williams (92.2) and Keenan Allen (90.6) stay healthy, the Chargers could have one of the best downfield attacks in 2023.

15. Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

  • 31 dropbacks, 89.6
  • Deep Passing Yards: 275 (last)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 1 (T-31st)
  • Passer Rating: 65.0 (31st)
  • Deep Comp%: 28.6% (32nd)

Garoppolo did not take many shots downfield (28, fifth fewest) and results were lacking when he did. Will his luck change in Las Vegas with Davante Adams (94.9)? Adams ranked top five in deep yards (593), touchdowns (nine) and first downs (15) in 2022. Garoppolo could not ask for a better deep target.

16. Trevor Lawrence, Jacksonville Jaguars

  • 73 dropbacks, 88.5
  • Deep Passing Yards: 690 (16th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 8 (T-7th)
  • Passer Rating: 86.0 (21st)
  • Deep Comp%: 34.3% (27th)

Lawrence struggled early on from deep (69.6 passing grade through Week 9), but he got comfortable as the season wore on (92.8 grade from Week 10 on). Jacksonville will be welcoming Calvin Ridley into the fold in 2023. From 2018-2020, Ridley (94.5) ranked top 10 in receiving yards (1,038), touchdowns (10) and first downs (32). If he can return back to this form, he and Christian Kirk (92.4) should have no problem stretching the field.

17. Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts

  • 22 dropbacks, 88.0
  • Deep Passing Yards: 317 (33rd)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 1 (T-31st)
  • Passer Rating: 112.5 (5th)
  • Deep Comp%: 50.0% (3rd)

Ryan finished the season with zero interceptions or turnover-worthy plays on deep passes; however, Indianapolis did not take many shots downfield in 2022 (38 total). Ryan finished last in attempts among qualifying QBs (20) and was the only Colts QB to throw a touchdown from deep (one). Anthony Richardson (93.1) was drafted fourth overall, and his dynamic ability could open up many possibilities for the Colts in 2023.

18. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

  • 65 dropbacks, 86.4
  • Deep Passing Yards: 823 (10th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 11 (T-3rd)
  • Passer Rating: 104.2 (T-7th)
  • Deep Comp%: 39.3% (15th)

Hurts took a leap as a deep passer in 2022. Not only did he have a great connection with A.J. Brown (96.0), but he also improved his turnover-worthy play rate from 14.3% in 2021 (third worst) to 3.6% in 2022 (sixth best).

19. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

  • 61 dropbacks, 84.9
  • Deep Passing Yards: 723 (14th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 5 (T-14th)
  • Passer Rating: 104.2 (T-7th)
  • Deep Comp%: 41.8%

Goff struggled from deep through the first 12 weeks of the season (64.8; 33rd), but he caught fire towards the end, earning a 96.8 grade from Weeks 13-18 (first). D.J. Chark Jr. (93.2) and Kalif Raymond (92.2) led the way with 462 yards. Jameson Williams (91.9) showcased his deep-threat ability upon his return from injury, however, a suspension will cause him to miss the first six games this upcoming season. With Chark now in Carolina, Detroit will lean on Amon-Ra St. Brown (74.1) and others to help open up the attack.

20. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

  • 91 dropbacks, 84.9
  • Deep Passing Yards: 1,136 (2nd)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 7 (T-9th)
  • Passer Rating: 101.2 (11th)
  • Deep Comp%: 39.7% (14th)

Denver relied heavily on their deep attack in 2022 (78 attempts, third) for good reason. From 2017-2021, Russell Wilson ranked second (99.7) among quarterbacks from deep range. Although Denver’s offense struggled to score in 2022, Wilson still finished the season second in deep yards and first downs (30) while throwing for seven touchdowns (tied for ninth). Denver has a talented receiving group to work with, led by Courtland Sutton (75.8) and Jerry Jeudy (74.3). Sean Payton will be tasked with getting the offense back on track in 2023.

21. Mac Jones, New England Patriots

  • 72 dropbacks, 84.6
  • Deep Passing Yards: 808 (11th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 4 (T-17th)
  • Passer Rating: 73.5 (27th)
  • Deep Comp%: 38.8% (16th)

New England had a diverse attack, as four different receivers saw 10-plus targets. Jones posted low touchdown numbers, but he finished ninth in first-down passes (25). Meyers (17 targets, 241 yards) and Agholor (12 targets, 126 yards) were two of Jones’ favorite targets last season, and both are now on other teams. Expect New England to lean more on DeVante Parker (16 targets, 263 yards) while Tyquan Thornton (14 targets) fills a larger role. JuJu Smith-Schuster signed as a free agent in the offseason. He has not been used as a deep target in recent years (four targets since 2021), but he recorded an 88.7 receiving grade from deep from 2017-2020. If he can regain some of that form, Smith-Schuster can fill Meyer’s role and form a deep-threat duo with Parker.

22. Justin Fields, Chicago Bears

  • 54 dropbacks, 84.0
  • Deep Passing Yards: 624 (17th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 7 (T-9th)
  • Passer Rating: 89.4 (17th)
  • Deep Comp%: 35.3% (T-22nd)

Fields lacked a consistent receiving threat in 2022 outside of Darnell Mooney (90.6). Chicago sought to address this issue by trading for Chase Claypool (67.8) during last season and D.J. Moore (93.4) in the offseason. Moore’s acquisition should open things up for Fields. Moore led Carolina with 436 deep receiving yards in 2022 (eighth) and four touchdowns (tied for fifth). Fields can help himself by making quicker decisions with the ball. He averaged 3.52 seconds to throw from deep in 2022 (fourth highest).

 23. Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

  • 37 dropbacks, 83.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 468 (23rd)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 4 (T-17th)
  • Passer Rating: 88.5 (19th)
  • Deep Comp%: 38.2% (20th)

Wentz only played in eight games for Washington and was a volatile deep passer. He ranked top five in yards (468) and touchdowns (four) for the weeks that he played; however, he also placed top 10 in interceptions (three) and turnover worthy play rate (11.8%). Terry McLaurin (93.9) and Jahan Dotson (93.4) combined for 617 yards and four touchdowns with Wentz (83.2) and Taylor Heinicke (42.5) at quarterback for most of the season. Sam Howell is slated to take over as the starting quarterback. If he can perform as well from deep as he did at UNC (95.3), Washington could have a dangerous deep attack in 2023.

24. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

  • 96 dropbacks, 82.1
  • Deep Passing Yards: 851 (7th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 12 (2nd)
  • Passer Rating: 82.9 (24th)
  • Deep Comp%: 34.5% (26th)

Rodgers struggled to connect with a new receiving core in 2022, but his yardage and touchdown totals should give the Jets reason for optimism. Christian Watson showed his deep threat ability, as he led Green Bay in deep yards (183) and touchdowns (three) from Weeks 10-18. Green Bay will be leaning on him to continue to pace the deep attack as the Jordan Love era begins.

25. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

  • 36 dropbacks, 79.9
  • Deep Passing Yards: 500 (20th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 3 (T-22nd)
  • Passer Rating: 81.9 (25th)
  • Deep Comp%: 42.4% (11th)

Seeing A.J. Brown flourish last season in Philadelphia had to especially hurt the Titans. Tannehill struggled to open up the field, and Tennessee lacked a true deep threat outside of Treylon Burks (94.6). Tennessee’s receiving core remains largely unchanged for 2023. It will be interesting to see what adjustments will be made to open things up.

26. Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

  • 28 dropbacks, 77.5
  • Deep Passing Yards: 457 (24th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 2 (T-28th)
  • Passer Rating: 87.9 (20th)
  • Deep Comp%: 56.0% (1st)

Darnold started the last six games of the season for Carolina and ranked second in yards in the time that he played. Darnold signed with San Francisco in the offseason and is set to compete for the starting role while Brock Purdy recovers from elbow surgery. Should Darnold win the competition, he could bring an element to the offense that was missing last season.

27. Jacoby Brissett, Cleveland Browns

  • 60 dropbacks, 72.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 588 (18th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 3 (T-22nd)
  • Passer Rating: 57.7 (32nd)
  • Deep Comp%: 34.6% (25th)

Brissett started the first 12 weeks of the season and was able to spread the ball around. He ranked sixth in yards in the time that he played, but he also struggled to protect the ball. Brissett ended the season with a 13.7% turnover-worthy play rate (fourth). He signed a deal with Washington in free agency, and this is an issue they will monitor, as both starters — Wentz (11.8%) and Heinicke (27.6%) — also struggled with turnover-worthy plays.

28. Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

  • 78 dropbacks, 72.0
  • Deep Passing Yards: 842 (9th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 11 (T-3rd)
  • Passer Rating: 95.8 (13th)
  • Deep Comp%: 33.8% (28th)

Carr had great chemistry with Davante Adams (94.9) and will have talented options in New Orleans as well. Rashid Shaheed (96.2) and Chris Olave (80.3) combined for 547 yards last season. Michael Thomas is expected to return and has a 91.9 career receiving grade from deep. Turnover opportunities will also be monitored carefully with Carr, as he recorded an 11.3% (10th) turnover-worthy play rate last season.

29. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

  • 53 dropbacks, 62.0
  • Deep Passing Yards: 407 (26th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 5 (T-14th)
  • Passer Rating: 72.0 (28th)
  • Deep Comp%: 29.8% (31st)

Jackson struggled to find anything downfield, ranking near the bottom in completion percentage while averaging 3.83 seconds to throw (second). Devin Duvernay (86.5) was Baltimore’s top deep threat (141 yards) in 2022, and Mark Andrews has a career 92.8 receiving grade from deep. Baltimore also added other potential deep threats in Odell Beckham Jr. (93.9 career deep receiving grade) and rookie Zay Flowers. If Andrews and Beckham Jr. can return to form, Baltimore’s deep attack should be much improved in 2023.

30. Zach Wilson, New York Jets

  • 36 dropbacks, 51.2
  • Deep Passing Yards: 405 (27th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 2 (T-28th)
  • Passer Rating: 37.0 (34th)
  • Deep Comp%: 27.1% (33rd)

This past season was a turbulent one for the second-year signal caller. Wilson ranked near the bottom in nearly every category as a deep passer. The Jets traded for Aaron Rodgers (82.1) to help solidify its quarterback position. The Jets were also able to sign Allen Lazard (86.2), who was Green Bay’s highest-graded deep receiver in 2022. Lazard will be joining a Jets receiving core that will feature Garrett Wilson (83.0), Mecole Hardman (80.4) and Corey Davis (83.6). Although Rodgers had a down season in 2022, he has a 98.3 deep passing grade since 2018 (fourth) and a 6.0% turnover-worthy play rate (10th-best). His addition is an immediate upgrade for the Jets offense.

31. Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

  • 48 dropbacks, 48.5
  • Deep Passing Yards: 311 (28th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 1 (T-28th)
  • Passer Rating: 23.7 (32nd)
  • Deep Comp%: 26.7% (31st)

Murray had a year to forget. He led the league in turnover-worthy play rate (15.6%) and only threw one touchdown pass. Murray is recovering from ACL surgery (suffered in Week 14), so Colt McCoy (9 dropbacks) and Jeff Driskel (1 dropback) are the incumbent quarterbacks in the interim. Marquise Brown has a 79.1 career deep receiving grade. Jonathan Gannon will have to be creative in scheming opportunities for his new squad in 2023.

32. Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons

  • 55 dropbacks, 46.6
  • Deep Passing Yards: 410 (25th)
  • Deep Passing TDs: 2 (T-28th)
  • Passer Rating: 37.0 (34th)
  • Deep Comp%: 27.1% (33rd)

Mariota struggled to connect from deep, as he threw six interceptions (tied for third) and only two touchdowns. Mariota was benched after 13 games and will be playing for the Eagles in 2023. Desmond Ridder (58.9) also struggled from deep, as he only completed two of his 10 targets. Atlanta signed Taylor Heinicke (42.5) over the offseason, but he ranked last in deep passing grading and led the league with a 27.6% turnover-worthy play rate. Atlanta has a young promising trio on offense in Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson. All they need now is a reliable quarterback to get them the ball.


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