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2024 NFL Draft: Measuring Quarterback Clutch Ability Using Points Earned Per Play on 3rd and 4th Down: J.J. McCarthy, Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye

Which of the top 2024 NFL Draft prospects is the most clutch in key moments? Among the many data points we measure to evaluate the quarterback position is their ability to operate in high-leverage situations. The top quarterbacks at any level of football, but most importantly in college football and the NFL, are those who can minimize mistakes, manage the game as needed, and activate their game-changing ability in key moments. The definition of a key moment can vary, and we can get extremely granular in the analysis if needed. However, for this circumstance, I chose 3rd down and obvious passing situations as one of the better ways to measure a quarterback's clutch ability. The rankings below use a measure referred to as the expected points model or the points earned model.



What is the Points Earned Model?

The Points Earned model is an analytical framework used to quantify a player's contribution to their team's scoring output, taking into account the context and impact of each play. It's derived from the Expected Points Added (EPA) concept, which measures how each play affects the team's scoring chances.


The Points Earned model goes beyond traditional statistics by considering the value of each play within its game context, offering a nuanced view of a player's performance and impact. It's particularly insightful for quarterbacks, as it captures their contribution to the team's scoring potential, factoring in the plays that lead directly to points and those that significantly improve the team's scoring chances.


How Does This Apply To The Analysis Below?

Today, we compare the top 2024 NFL Draft Quarterback prospects from this past 2023 college football season on third down and obvious passing situations of 5 yards or more. These throws by the QBs must be thrown past the sticks, eliminating some of the after-the-catch ability of their wide receivers from the equation.



The Key metrics we are going to use in this analysis include the following

*(Combined 3rd/4th down throws past the sticks of 5 yards or more to go)

Points Added Per Play Ranking (PAA Per Play Rank) *SIS

Definition: Points Above Average per pass play. This metric measures a quarterback's effectiveness by comparing the points earned on each pass play to the league average. A higher value indicates a quarterback contributes more points than the average per play, highlighting their efficiency and effectiveness in critical situations.

Positive Play%


EPA Boom%

Definition: The percentage of pass attempts that resulted in an exceptionally successful play, defined by an EPA of at least +1. This indicates the quarterback's capability to create big, game-changing plays. A higher percentage represents a higher capability for making impactful plays.


EPA Bust%

Definition: The percentage of pass attempts that resulted in a significant negative Expected Points Added (EPA), specifically less than -1. This metric identifies plays significantly decreasing a team's scoring opportunity or overall field position. A lower ranking (indicating fewer bust plays) is desirable, showing the quarterback's ability to avoid costly mistakes.


The top QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft Ranked BY 2023 PAA Per Play

*(Combined 3rd/4th down throws past the sticks of 5 yards or more to go)


1.) J.J. McCarthy (Michigan)

PAA Per Play Rank: 1st nationally (1.06 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: McCarthy's efficiency is unparalleled with a 1.06 Points Above Average (PAA) per play, complemented by a leading Boom% rank (71.4%, 1st) and a remarkably low Bust% rank (20.0%, 4th), highlighting his precision and capacity for high-impact plays. This balance between high success in Boom% and minimizing failures in Bust% underscores his precision under pressure.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: The comparison to Joe Burrow spotlights McCarthy’s ability to elevate his game under pressure, suggesting potential growth areas in play processing and decision-making to reach Burrow's level of NFL success.


2). Bo Nix (Oregon)

PAA Per Play Rank: 3rd nationally (0.96 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Nix's play is characterized by a solid 0.96 Points Above Average (PAA) per play, a high Boom% rank (71.40%, 2nd), and a lower Bust% rank (19.0%, 3rd), demonstrating his capability to generate significant plays while efficiently avoiding negative outcomes. This proficiency in maximizing positive plays and mitigating risks highlights his suitability for dynamic offenses that leverage quarterback mobility and improvisational skills.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: The parallel with Jalen Hurts accentuates Nix's potential. His precision and decision-making could elevate his performance, fostering a trajectory of development akin to Hurts.

3). Caleb Williams (USC)

PAA Per Play Rank: 5th nationally (0.87 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Williams showcases a notable 0.87 Points Above Average (PAA) per play, with a Boom% rank (59.0%, 13th) that contrasts with a higher Bust% rank (25.6%, 10th). This highlights his dynamic dual-threat abilities and indicates room for improvement in areas such as trusting his pocket and taking what the defense gives him rather than always chasing explosive plays.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: Williams' comparison to Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers suggests his fit in schemes that prize mobility and playmaking, emphasizing that refining structured play could unlock his elite potential.


4). Jayden Daniels (LSU)

PAA Per Play Rank: 23rd nationally (0.60 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Daniels' balance is evident with a 0.59 Points Above Average (PAA) per play. His moderate Boom% rank (52.9%, 27th) and Bust% rank (35.3%, 43rd) in key 3rd down and obvious passing situations are areas for improvement. This suggests that refining his decision-making could lead to more consistent high-impact plays.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: Comparing Daniels to Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray underscores his potential in an offense that allows for his creative playmaking ability to flourish. He will need to improve as a passer in key 3rd down and obvious passing moments; he is a dynamic runner who can beat you in two ways, but leveraging his running ability to create more opportunities as a passer will elevate his game at the NFL level.

5). Spencer Rattler (South Carolina)

PAA Per Play Rank: 24th nationally (0.59 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Rattler’s capability is marked by a 0.59 PAA per play, alongside a Boom% rank (46.3%, 66th) that is notably higher than his Bust% rank (41.5%, 85th), indicating a strong arm and creativity but also a need for better decision-making and consistency. This balance between creating impactful plays and the relatively higher occurrence of negative plays points to areas for growth in playmaking consistency.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: Rattler's parallels with Jameis Winston and Jay Cutler suggest a trajectory towards becoming a resilient quarterback, focusing on improving decision-making to mitigate bust plays and enhance overall performance.


6). Michael Penix Jr. (Washington)

PAA Per Play Rank: 68th nationally (0.345 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Penix demonstrates a classic pocket passer's profile with a blend of arm strength and accuracy, reflected in his Points Above Average (PAA) per play (0.345). Despite a moderate Boom% (48.0%, ranked 56th) and Bust% (34.0%, ranked 35th), Penix's tape shows a quarterback who can execute precise throws from the short to deep areas of the field. Ideal for a pro-style or West Coast offense, Penix's skill set aligns with a quarterback capable of managing the game effectively and making strong, accurate passes.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: Penix's comparisons to Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones resonate with the idea that he could thrive in the right system by leveraging his quick decision-making and accuracy. These comparisons suggest Penix possesses the foundational skills to develop into a reliable starting quarterback, emphasizing the importance of a supportive team structure and an offensive scheme that aligns with his strengths.


7). Drake Maye (North Carolina)

PAA Per Play Rank: 69th nationally (0.34 PAA Per Play)

  • Performance & Style Correlation: Despite a lower Points Above Average (PAA) per play (0.34), Drake Maye's role in the Tar Heel offense was evident from his tape. However, in key 3rd down and obvious pass situations, his high Boom% (34.9%, ranked 124th) and high Bust% (41.9%, ranked 90th) indicate raw talent in improvisation but also highlight a necessity for improvement as a passer in high-leverage situations. His capability for making plays outside the structure is notable, but he needs to develop a greater trust in his pocket. His skill set is desirable in today's NFL, but he will need time to develop.

  • Player Comparison Correlation: Maye's potential comparisons to Justin Herbert and Josh Allen highlight his ability to thrive in a system that values quarterbacks who can extend plays and make decisive throws. His comparisons make sense, as Josh Allen and Justin Herbert needed to improve consistency and decision-making when they entered the NFL.


Advanced-Data Glossary

PAA Per Play
  • Definition: Points Above Average per pass play. This metric measures a quarterback's effectiveness by comparing the points earned on each pass play to the league average. A higher value indicates a quarterback contributes more points than the average per play, highlighting their efficiency and effectiveness in critical situations.

Positive Play%
  • Definition: The percentage of pass attempts that resulted in a positive Expected Points Added (EPA). It reflects the quarterback's ability to consistently make plays that advance the team's position or score, with a higher percentage indicating more successful plays than total attempts.

EPA Bust%
  • Definition: The percentage of pass attempts that resulted in a significant negative Expected Points Added (EPA), specifically less than -1. This metric identifies plays significantly decreasing a team's scoring opportunity or overall field position. A lower ranking (indicating fewer bust plays) is desirable, showing the quarterback's ability to avoid costly mistakes.

Boom%
  • Definition: The percentage of pass attempts that resulted in an exceptionally successful play, defined by an EPA of at least +1. This indicates the quarterback's capability to create big, game-changing plays. A higher percentage represents a higher capability for making impactful plays.

Total Points Earned in 2023
  • Definition: The total points a quarterback is responsible for through passing in high-leverage situations during the season. It aggregates the value of all positive plays made by the quarterback. A higher total indicates a greater contribution to the team's scoring efforts in critical situations.

Total Pass Attempts in this situation
  • Definition: The number of pass attempts made by the quarterback in high-leverage situations (3rd down and 5+ yards). This provides context for the sample size of the data, with more attempts offering a broader basis for evaluating the quarterback's performance.



2024 NFL Draft Measuring Clutch Ability Quarterbacks

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