News & Analysis

Ranking the NFL QBs on 3-step concepts

By Brian Spoon
Nov 14, 2017

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Nov 12, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

At Pro Football Focus, every player, on every play, of every game is tracked and in doing so, we chart every conceivable data point available. With 10 weeks of data from the 2017 NFL season to filter, PFF’s Brian Spoon takes a look at how often quarterbacks use 3-step concept dropbacks, and how well they perform when they do.

Below is a list of the 29 quarterbacks who qualified (by attempting least 15 pass attempts on 3-step concepts), all ranked by passer rating on such throws. The top-2 of the list may not surprise you with how well their respective teams have fared this season:

*Note: these numbers do include those 3-step concept passes on designed screen plays.

1. Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 130.2

Goff is having a breakout season in his second year, and his performance on 3-step concepts is no exception, as he sees the highest passer rating on these passes. Under new head coach Sean McVay’s scheme, Goff has attempted 42 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 31 of them for 351 yards with four touchdowns against no interceptions. He has an average depth-of-target of 3.0 yards and has been pressured on only five of these dropbacks (11.6 percent), a rate good for eighth-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks.

Best QBs on 3-step concepts - Jared Goff & Carson Wentz

2. Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 118.5

Wentz is our sixth-highest graded quarterback (85.0 overall grade) through 10 weeks, and his use of 3-step concepts is a big reason why. With head coach Doug Pederson helping his young QB with open, quick reads, Wentz has the most pass attempts (103), completions (73), yards (698), and touchdowns (nine) on 3-step concepts. These dropbacks comprise 35.4 percent of his total, the highest rate in the league.

3. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 116.0

Winston has attempted 44 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 33 of them for 383 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. Winston leads the NFL in average depth-of-target on 3-step concepts at 8.4 yards (average is 4.7). This isn’t surprising considering he also leads the league in percentage of total passing yards coming through the air (68.3 percent).

4. Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 104.2

Smith has attempted 81 passes on 3-step concepts and completed 63 of them, second only to Wentz in each category. He has thrown three touchdowns against zero interceptions and his completion percentage (77.8 percent) is third among qualifying quarterbacks. 3-step concepts make up 27.6 percent of his dropbacks, the third-highest percentage in the league.

5. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 103.0

Wilson is our fourth-highest graded quarterback through 10 weeks (85.3 overall grade). He has attempted 46 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 36 of them for 261 yards and three touchdowns. His completion percentage (78.3 percent) is tops among quarterbacks with an average depth of target of at least 4.0 yards (Wilson’s is 4.7).

6. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 102.6

Cousins has gone 50-of-75 for 445 yards on 3-step concepts, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. These concepts account for 24.0 percent of his total dropbacks, the fourth-highest rate in the league. He has seen pressure on 17.7 percent of these dropbacks and been sacked four times, the most times sacked among qualifying quarterbacks.

7. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 101.9

Brissett has attempted 38 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 25 for 350 yards with two touchdowns against one interception. His average depth-of-target (7.9 yards) is third-highest among qualifying quarterbacks. Brissett came into Week 10 ranked in the bottom third of the league in 3-step concept passer rating, but his long touchdown to Donte Moncrief against the Colts – his only 3-step concept of the game – catapulted him into the upper quartile.

8. Josh McCown, New York Jets

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 97.0

McCown has taken 3-step concepts 21.5 percent of the time, ninth-highest in the league. He has completed 42-of-62 passes, throwing three touchdowns and no interceptions. Though McCown has been sacked 32 total times this year (second-most in the NFL), only one of those has come on a 3-step drop.

9. Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 96.4

Taylor has attempted 46 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 31 of them for 261 yards and two touchdowns against zero interceptions. He has seen pressure on just 10.4 percent of dropbacks, the fourth-lowest rate in the league. His has kept these passes relatively short, as his average depth of target (3.0 yards) is tied with the Rams’ Goff for fourth-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 95.0

Ryan has used 3-step concepts on 23.1 percent of his total dropbacks, the fifth-highest rate in the league. He has completed 51-of-69 passes (73.9 percent), a completion percentage that ranks him sixth. His 558 passing yards are third-most among qualifying quarterbacks. Ryan thrown two touchdowns against two interceptions, one of only six quarterbacks to throw multiple interceptions on these pass attempts.

11. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 94.4

Brees’ performance on 3-step concepts is a study in contrast. He has been deadly efficient, completing 31-of-34 total passes, but with the lowest average depth-of-target (1.4 yards) he managed just 226 total passing yards and zero touchdowns. Though he has been incredibly accurate at this range (a league-best 91.2 completion percentage), he has used 3-step concepts just 11.3 percent of the time, the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Brees is the only qualifying player to have not experienced a single pressure on 3-step concepts.

Highest completion percentage on 3-step concepts - Drew Brees

12. Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 94.3

Bortles has attempted 51 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 34 for 329 yards and four touchdowns against two interceptions. His average depth-of-target is 6.6 yards, fourth-highest among qualifying quarterbacks.

13. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 94.0

Prescott has used 3-step concepts on 19.0 percent of his total dropbacks, completing 37-of-55 passes for 293 yards. His six touchdowns on 3-step concepts are second only to Philadelphia’s Wentz, but three of his four total interceptions have also occurred here.

14. DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 93.6

Kizer is our second-lowest graded quarterback (52.1 overall grade) through 10 weeks, but his greatest struggles haven’t come on 3-step concepts. Kizer is 33-of-44 passing for 246 yards with two touchdowns and one interception when taking a 3-step drop. His completion percentage (75.0 percent) is tied for fourth among qualifying quarterbacks

15. Eli Manning, New York Giants

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 91.7

Manning has thrown three of his 14 total touchdowns on 3-step concepts, while also tossing two of his six interceptions. He has attempted 63 passes on these drops, completing 44 for 435 yards, the sixth-most passing yards on 3-step concepts among qualifying quarterbacks.

16. Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 91.0

Cutler has attempted passes on 3-step concepts 22.0 percent of the time, going 40-of-57 for 277 yards, including three touchdowns and one interception. That 22.0 percent is the sixth-most among qualifying quarterbacks and his offensive line has allowed pressure on 15.3 percent of those attempts, and he’s been sacked twice.

17. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 90.5

Stafford has attempted 63 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 46 of them for 357 yards. His 2.8-yard average depth-of-target is third-lowest among those listed here and his completion percentage (73.0 percent) is ninth-best.

18. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 89.2

Newton doesn’t use 3-step dropbacks very often (11.2 percent of the time, the third-lowest rate in the league). He has completed 26-of-36 passes for just 173 yards. His average depth-of-target (3.1 yards) is tied for sixth-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks and he has thrown two touchdowns against one interception on 3-step concepts. Newton’s offensive line has allowed a pressure just 10.8 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in the league.

19. Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 89.1

Brady, our top-graded passer (92.7 overall grade), has gone 25-of-41 passing on 3-step concepts with one touchdown against zero interceptions. His average depth-of-target (6.0 yards) is sixth-highest among quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify. Though he’s seen pressure on 22.0 percent of his dropbacks, he has yet to be sacked.

20. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 87.6

Rivers has used 3-step concepts only 9.9 percent of the time, second-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks. He has completed 17-of-32 passes for 157 yards, giving him the second-lowest completion percentage among qualifying quarterbacks (53.1 percent) despite being pressured just four times (12.5 percent of dropbacks).

21. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 81.7

Mariota has utilized 3-step concepts on 19.1 percent of his dropbacks, going 30-of-42 for 303 yards. Mariota has faced pressure on just 6.7 percent of his dropbacks – the second-lowest rate in the league – but two of these three pressures resulted in sacks. He has yet to throw a touchdown on a 3-step drop, though he has thrown an interception.

22. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 79.0

Big Ben uses 3-step concepts on 12.4 percent of his dropbacks, going 28-of-41 for just 217 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His average depth-of-target (1.9 yards) is the second-lowest among those listed here and his completion percentage (64.7 percent) is 5.0 percent worse than any other quarterback whose average depth-of-target is less than 3.0 yards. Pressure has not been the cause of the lower completion percentage, as he has faced pressure on these attempts just twice (7.3 percent of dropbacks), the third-lowest rate in the league, and not been sacked.

23. Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 78.4

Carr completed 36-of-55 passes for 288 yards on 3-step dropbacks, with no touchdowns or interceptions. He had an average depth-of-target of 3.1 yards on these throws and has been pressured on just six dropbacks, the 10th-best rate in the league among qualifying quarterbacks (10.9 percent).

24. Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 72.7

Keenum has attempted 19 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 14 for 142 yards. He has used 3-step concepts on just 7.3 percent of his total dropbacks, easily the lowest rate in the league. Keenum has been unafraid to throw the ball downfield in the rare occasions he does use a 3-step concept, however; his 8.1-yard average depth-of-target is second only to Tampa Bay’s Winston.

25. Tom Savage, Houston Texans

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 67.9

Savage has attempted 15 passes on 3-step concepts, completing nine for just 57 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. His 60.0 completion percentage is third-worst among qualifying quarterbacks. In limited work thus far, Savage has used 3-step concepts 16.1 percent of the time, compared to former starter Deshaun Watson’s 22.5 percent rate prior to his season-ending injury.

26. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 67.1

Dalton has used 3-step concepts 28.4 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the league. Dalton has attempted 77 passes on 3-step concepts, completing 54 of them for a total of 562 yards and two touchdowns. Although these drops represent barely a quarter of his total dropbacks, they have accounted for 75 percent of his interceptions. Six of Dalton’s eight picks have come on 3-steps drops, the most of any qualifying quarterback.

27. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 67.0

Beathard has gone 21-of-33 for 194 yards on 3-step concepts, netting zero touchdowns and one interception. His 53.6 completion percentage is sixth-lowest among qualifying quarterbacks. For Beathard, this mediocre production has come at a cost: he has faced pressure on 30.6 percent of these dropbacks (including two sacks), the highest rate among qualifying quarterbacks.

28. Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 62.6

Stanton has completed just 9-of-17 passes on 3-step concepts, a 52.9 completion percentage that ranks him last in the league among qualifying quarterbacks. Though he hasn’t been sacked on these dropbacks, he has been pressured 23.5 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in the league.

29. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens

Passer rating on 3-step concepts: 50.6

Flacco has completed 26-of-40 passes for 146 yards on 3-step concepts, with no touchdowns against two interceptions. His 65.0 completion percentage in these dropbacks ranked him sixth-worst among qualifying quarterbacks. He had the fifth-highest average depth of target (6.1 yards) and was pressured at the third-highest rate (22.0 percent).

Editor’s Note: Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson led the league in passer rating on 3-step concepts (132.8) at the time of his injury, with eight touchdowns against one interception. Denver’s Brock Osweiler, Green Bay’s Brett Hundley and Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky lacked the requisite number of attempts to qualify.

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