Posted by Adam Kaplan on Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Labels: Joe Flacco
At the end of last year, if you told me to rate three young QBs for the next season between Matt Ryan, Tyler Thigpen, and Joe Flacco, I would rank them in that order. Ryan would ROY honors and then added another awesome weapon: Tony Gonzales. We'll see how Thigpen does in Miami but Joe Flacco is a top ten, maybe even top five QB this year!? WTF!?
Last year Flacco was 22nd in passer rating, 18th in YPA, 20th in completion percentage, and 25th in Y/G with 14 TD to 12 INT. This year he's 5th in passer rating, 7th in Y/G, 6th in YPA, and 9th in completion percentage with 6 TDs to 4 INTs. What gives, why the sudden turn around?
This year Baltimore didn't really do anything different on offense. They didn't add anyone big on the O-line or any big receivers, at all. Sure, they're running game with McGahee and Rice is awesome, but they're running game last year was nothing to slouch at either.
I think one important thing to look at was Flacco's game log last year. Within his first four games he threw 7 of his 12 INTs to only one TD. Since that game he threw 12 TDs to only 5 INTs. Then you look, and one of the games towards the end of the year was versus the Pittsburgh Steelers with their awesome defense (it's acceptable that any QB, no matter how good or bad they actually are, do bad against an amazing defense)where Flacco threw 2 picks to no TDs. You take that game out and Flacco threw 12 TDs to 3 INTs in his past 11 games. Excluding the Steelers game, Flacco had a passer rating of 95 or better in four out of his last five games at the end of the 2008 season.
I think next it's probably helpful to look at Flacco's receivers.
Derrick Mason: 11th in DYAR, 15th in DVOA, 67% catch rate (among WRs)
Mark Clayton: 61st in DYAR, 59th in DVOA, 50% catch rate (among WRs)
Todd Heap: 19th in DYAR, 22nd in DVOA, 55% catch rate (among TEs)
Derrick Mason: 32nd in DYAR, 38th in DVOA, 55% catch rate (among WRs)
Mark Clayton: 55th in DYAR, 55th in DVOA, 47% catch rate (among WRs)
Todd Heap: 4th in DYAR, 6th in DVOA, 63% catch rate (among TEs)
You may not understand the statistics I used but it's clear that (yes in the limited sample size) Mason and Clayton, Flacco's two main receivers are worse or just as bad as they were last year. Yes, this year, Heap is significantly better, but can one player, a TE, really explain the sudden boost in Flacco's numbers, probably not. In fact, these numbers are boggling because why does Flacco have such a good completion percentage when his receivers are worse?
So I took a look at Baltimore's RBs. L'Ron McClain has caught 80% of the passes thrown his way and Willis McGahee has caught 75%. Ray Rice has been no slouch catching 65% of his passes. All three RBs combine make up one third of Flacco's targets.
Throwing to Clayton and mason makes up about 40% in Flacco's targets and Heap makes up about 21% with about 10% going to other receivers. So if you look at it this way, about 50% of all of Flacco's passes are going to players that catch the ball: a RB or Heap.
I also took a brief look at Flacco's O-line had it's significantly better than last year ranking 7th this year in pass blocking. Sure Flacco seems to have more time to pass the ball, which will make any QB better, but I didn't think Flacco was all that good to begin with, so having even more time won't help a bad QB.
So if you ask me why is Flacco so good? I would say it's because of his dump off passes to his backs and because of Todd Heap. His others receivers have been garbage for three games, especially in terms of efficiency. But the other half have been doing very well. Does this explain why Flacco went from a below average starter to a top 10 QB? I don't know. But I think this explains explain why Flacco doesn't suck this year. Sure, he looked like he was developing at the end of last year which probably is a considering factor. Flacco has only played 19 regular season games plus three playoff games. Maybe he was worth being drafted in the first round and the more time in the pocket helps his development? However, just based on how Flacco seems to be getting his fantasy points still makes me think less of him.