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Contextualizing the value of running plays for quarterbacks through NFL Quarterback prospect Anthony Richardson

Syndication: USA TODAY Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

It is unlikely the New York Jets will take a quarterback in round 1 of the NFL draft given reports the Jets will (hopefully?) acquire quarterback Aaron Rodgers from the Green Bay Packers. However, many quarterbacks will be taken this year and where they are taken will impact who is available when the Jets pick at 13. One quarterback who has received rather divided reviews is Anthony Richardson of Florida.

With this said, the intent of this article is not to sell you on the idea that the Jets should take Richardson at 13. Instead, I want to use Richardson as a vehicle through which to discuss the growing trend of running QBs. Specifically, I want to highlight how we often do quarterbacks who run regularly a disservice when we talk about their stats. Specifically, rushing is a huge part of their game, but we treat these stats as separate from their passing when they really should be treated together if we are to understand how effective a quarterback is. The aim of this article is to show how different statistical profiles look like when we equally weight rushing and passing attempts.

To start, Richardson’s passing stats from this season aren’t all that impressive:

  • 176 completions
  • 327 attempts
  • 53.8% completion rating
  • 2,549 yards
  • 7.81 yards per attempt
  • 17 passing touchdowns
  • 9 interceptions

By no means do I expect anyone to look at those numbers and say “Wow, there’s a guy that deserves to go first overall.” However, Richardson creates a lot of value on the ground, often by breaking the pocket on true passing downs and that isn’t reflected here. So instead what I’ll do is use some basic math to account for those runs alongside his passing stats.

Specifically, what I’ll do is:

  • Add each rush attempt to his pass attempts to get a total number of attempts
  • Add each rush attempt to his number of completions. I think this is appropriate because passes and runs can go for negative yards and college stats count both negative runs and sacks within rush attempts. Given that this accounts for negatie plays, this it isn’t loading the deck in Richardson’s favor when we merge the passing and rushing stats together
  • Add each rush yard to his yards to get a total number of yards
  • Add each rushing touchdown to his touchdowns to get a total number of touchdowns
  • Add each fumble to his interceptions to get a total number of turnovers credited to the QB. I am opting to use fumbles rather than fumble recoveries because recoveries are often outside of the control of the QB, so the defense failing to take the opportunity they were given doesn’t seem like something worth giving the QB credit for
  • After that’s done I’ll recalculate his rate stats to better contextualize how effective Richardson was on plays where he was a focal point on the play (i.e., a play where he ran or threw the ball)

Building on that, Richardson’s rush stats are as follows:

  • 103 attempts
  • 654 yards
  • 6.3 yards per rush
  • 9 touchdowns
  • 3 fumbles

If we put those numbers together, we land on the following combined output:

  • 279 successful attempts (completions + rushes)
  • 430 attempts
  • 65% “successful attempt” percentage
  • 3203 yards
  • 7.45 yards per attempt
  • 26 touchdowns
  • 12 turnovers

Put the rushing and passing numbers together and suddenly those numbers don’t look too shabby. In particular, we see a massive increase in his “success” attempt rating that brings him well over the 60% threshold of ‘acceptability’ for completion rating, which should be accounted for since he does buoy his passing numbers by being a very good runner. We also see a strong yards per attempt in the mid 7s and a TD to INT rate that clears 2.0, which are also good signs.

For context, I ran these same numbers for well regarded quarterback Bryce Young who played at Alabama with a far superior supporting cast. After accounting for rushing output, Bryce’s stats are:

  • 294 successful attempts (completions + rushes)
  • 429 attempts
  • 68% “successful attempt” percentage
  • 3513 yards
  • 8.19 yards per attempt
  • 36 touchdowns
  • 6 interceptions

Overall, we see Bryce was better, but outside of touchdowns and interceptions the numbers are relatively similar; we also don’t know how much of those differences are due to supporting cast given that Bryce played at SEC powerhouse Alabama. As another point of consideration, we can look to Will Levis who seems to be sharing generally agreed upon the “second tier” of QB prospects with Richardson.

  • 256 success attempts (completions + rushes)
  • 355 attempts
  • 72% “successful attempt” percentage
  • 2299 yards
  • 6.48 yards per attempt
  • 21 touchdowns
  • 13 interceptions

In this case, as much credit as Levis seems to get for his efficiency, he wasn’t actually more efficient than Richardson on a per-play basis. He was merely a more effective passer, but not by enough to offset how good Richardson is on the ground.

As I said, the intent of this article is not to sell you on Richardson. I would be shocked if the Jets even considered a QB at 13, nonetheless Richardson. Instead, I merely wanted to show how different numbers look when we value rushing and passing attempts equally. As I think is shown here, that difference can be rather stark and failure to consider both aspects of a QB’s play may lead to misevaluation of their effectiveness.

But what do you think? Does anything in here surprise you? Or do you think I completely missed the mark with analysis, and, if so, why?