Explain the PFF grade: Josh Allen is still a top-five QB, even with the interceptions

Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) warms up against the Kansas City Chiefs before an AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen leads the league in interceptions yet still ranks third in PFF overall grade, behind only Miami‘s Tua Tagovailoa and Kansas City‘s Patrick Mahomes.

His turnovers have directly led to his team's last two defeats, and he was responsible for a mammoth six turnover-worthy plays in Week 3 — the same number as Jalen Hurts has all season.

The bad plays we've seen from Allen this season are the kind of plays he had largely cut out of his game, the kind we saw over the first two seasons of his career when he was far more “potential” than a reliable quarterback.

So, how has his PFF grade stayed so high when such critical mistakes should downgrade him enough to ruin any overall evaluation?

The most important reason is that his play doesn’t resemble those first two seasons in other ways. He has become a far better player.

Allen’s adjusted completion rate this year is over 10 percentage points higher than in his rookie season. He is averaging 1.5 more yards per attempt while making big plays at a far higher rate than in either of his first two seasons.

Josh Allen: Passing metrics since 2018
Season 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Yards per attempt 6.5 6.7 7.9 6.8 8.0
Adj. Comp. % 64.7% 71.7% 79.1% 73.8% 75.2%
BTT % 4.9% 2.7% 5.8% 5.7% 6.8%
TWP% 5.1% 4.0% 3.4% 3.4% 4.7%

If we look at his PFF grades at a granular level, we can see the differences in the grading and the stats. In his rookie season, 17.6% of his plays earned a positive grade. In Year 2, that number was 17.8%. This season, it’s all the way up to 22.3%.

His baseline of play is far better, but so is his frequency of big, high-impact plays.  Allen’s big-time throw rate this season is 6.8%, which leads the league. He may lead the league in interceptions, but he also trails only Mahomes in touchdowns and has more big-time throws than any other quarterback — and that's before we even touch on what he brings as a rusher.

Allen is the only quarterback in the league who has accounted for over 80% of his team’s yards and points between rushing and passing. That offense has been built on his shoulders, and he has been delivering despite all of that weight…right up until the mistakes.

That isn’t to diminish the magnitude of the mistakes or suggest that they aren’t problematic. Turnovers are critical when it comes to winning and losing games, and we have already seen the consequences of poorly timed turnovers in Buffalo’s regular-season losses (never mind the playoffs).

However, that shows the level Allen is playing at outside those plays.

If you look at his season without his three TWP-heavy games, Allen’s PFF grade shoots up to 93.6, and he leads the league by a significant margin at the end of the scale where ascending between grading points becomes increasingly difficult.

Obviously, any quarterback’s grade will increase if you strip away their worst performances, but they don’t all leap to the level Allen gets to.

Allen’s rushing has also been of critical importance. He has 35 rushing first downs and has been a key feature of the Bills’ short-yardage game. He is shouldering a huge load within that offense and broadly being exceptionally productive within that role.

If he could do that without the high frequency of mistakes, he would be the best quarterback in the league this season. Since he hasn’t been able to, he isn’t, but that doesn’t automatically follow that his grade should sink to the same level as an average quarterback.

The net output of everything Allen is doing is still overwhelmingly positive, even if the turnovers have been incredibly costly.


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