The Baltimore Ravens Best Direction in the 2016 NFL Draft

No matter who Ozzie Newsome selects in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the pick will be praised. Newsome is regarded as infallible. When he makes a selection it doesn’t matter if the player chosen was a popular choice, he will become a popular choice because Newsome took him. That is the kind of clout that the Baltimore Ravens general manager has.

Only Ted Thompson may be more widely praised amongst general managers across the league.

Newsome doesn’t normally get to pick in the top 10. The Ravens haven’t had a top-10 pick since 2003 when they picked Terrell Suggs 10th overall. Not since 2000 have they picked higher than they are slated to this year.

Picking sixth overall in this year’s class isn’t like picking sixth overall in some of the recent drafts. There isn’t a six-deep stretch of superstars that can come off the board this year. Instead, the Ravens will be hoping that two quarterbacks go in the first five picks, pushing one of Myles Jack, Jalen Ramsey, DeForest Buckner or Laremy Tunsil to the sixth pick.

Should that happen, the Ravens will have an easy decision to make and Newsome can rightfully be praised for taking the best player remaining on the board. Of the four, Ramsey would likely be the preferred option.

Ramsey should be a safety to maximize his potential, but the Ravens could move him around during the early stages of his career. With the departure of Will Hill after the arrival of Eric Weddle, the Ravens still have a starting spot that Ramsey could assume over the middle of the field. Weddle and Ramsey could complement each other well as both would be versatile options who could carry out different assignments while moving around the field to keep opposing quarterbacks off balance.

Even without Hill in place to be the starter next to Weddle, the Ravens would still be tempted to leave Ramsey at cornerback to start his career. The Ravens haven’t found consistency with any of their cornerbacks over recent years and Lardarius Webb can no longer be relied upon to be a starter. Ramsey would play across from Jimmy Smith if everyone was healthy, giving the Ravens two long, strong cornerbacks who could solidify each sideline.

If Ramsey plays cornerback, Kendrick Lewis would compete with Terrence Brooks to start alongside Weddle. If Ramsey plays safety, Webb or Shareece Wright would be in line to start from those currently on the roster. Another pick would likely be spent on a cornerback in the draft though.

Jack and Buckner would be straight-forward selections, as would Tunsil. However, Tunsil is the least appealing option of the group. As frustrating as Eugene Monroe has been since signing on as the team’s starting left tackle, he is still a very talented player. Ricky Wagner is also a fine starter at right tackle, so a Tunsil selection could be similar to the Andrus Peat pick that the Saints made last offseason.

Those options will of course only be there if two quarterbacks go in the top five of the draft. If those four players are gone off the board, the Ravens will likely end up picking Joey Bosa or trading back. Bosa isn’t an ideal pick at that stage so trading back would make a lot of sense with one of the quarterbacks still on the board.

Newsome should understand that the Ravens are in a bad spot right now. Their roster is severely flawed and the quarterback they are committed to as their starter moving forward is coming off of major knee surgery. That’s without even considering his poor play over the past few years.

Considering their respective standings in the laegue and past successes on the field, it’s hard to imagine that the Ravens would be in a rush to get rid of Newsome or John Harbaugh if they were forced to suffer through another middling season. For that reason, prioritizing the long-term and stockpiling assets by trading down would be a preferred route if none of the top four prospects fall.

Paul Perkins Could be the Steal of the 2016 NFL Draft

This running back class is nasty.

Ezekiel Elliott is expected to go in the top 10 or at worst fall into the teens. Elliott probably shouldn’t go that high in an average class but this year’s group of prospects is set up in such a way that he is an option. After Elliott, Derrick Henry is the most highly-regarded player because of his Heisman season while playing for Alabama. Henry also lit up the combine so he’ll be ticking a lot of boxes for teams.

Although Elliott and Henry are interesting prospects, neither is the sure-fire bet that Todd Gurley was last year. At least sure-fire in terms of his talent even if not his health.

Without a Gurley-type of back at the top of the draft, it makes more sense to wait until the second or third round to try and pick one up. Henry could even be that guy as opinion outside of the league is split on him. Outside of those two, there are a number of backs who make this class a good one. C.J. Prosise has already been broken down on PSR as one of the most intriguing players in the draft, while Kenneth Dixon should be taken high up to immediately start and Devontae Booker could have a similar role in the NFL.

Those are the five names you hear most often if you pay any level of attention to draft twitter. The next guy on the conveyer belt is UCLA running back Paul Perkins.

When you throw on Perkins’ tape, you quickly wonder why he’s not being talked about more. His talent looks like it should be threatening the first round alongside Henry, if not ahead of him. Perkins is sudden, controlled, has a great burst and can break tackles. Of course, the NFL doesn’t only focus on a player’s tape. Like with Duke Johnson last year, Perkins will probably fall in this draft because of his size. Johnson measured 5’9″ and 210 lbs at the combine, Perkins measured 5’10” and 208 lbs 12 months later.

Johnson had a good rookie season but the Browns didn’t trust him to carry the load. He finished the year with 165 total touches, 104 carries and 61 receptions after being picked in the third-round of the draft.

Like Johnson, Perkins proved in college that he could be more than just an ancillary piece of an offense. He carried the ball almost 500 times over his final two seasons at UCLA, but more importantly, he showed off a wide skill set that should allow him to excel in any situation in the NFL.

The foundation of Perkins’ success will be his footwork.

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This play is one of the most impressive you’ll see from a running back. It’s so impressive we’re going to slow it down and break it into multiple gifs. Even though the offense reads the backside defender to give them a numbers advantage inside, Perkins is met in the hole by an arriving linebacker. He should be stopped here for no gain or be forced to lower his shoulder to try and drive through for forward momentum.

Perkins does neither, instead he shows off exceptional quickness and deception to make the defender miss almost instantly.

It’s not just that Perkins combines decisiveness, quickness and balance to get away from the defender. He also drops low to control his center of gravity while making two movements with his inside leg in the time that most backs would make one. His first squares him to the defender before the second deceives him into thinking he is going to run inside. The Stanford defender falls to the ground because of how and how quickly Perkins beat him.

No matter how quickly you beat the defender in front of you, it’s always dangerous to move laterally behind the line of scrimmage. Moving laterally can help you find holes to attack and try to create cutback lanes by dragging the defense sideways, but you can also make yourself susceptible to being hit behind the line of scrimmage while having no momentum to help you finish the play moving forward.

Because of his quickly he acts and reacts, Perkins is able to make this movement without exposing himself. Even after his first movement he can quickly reverse his momentum again to cutback upfield before passing the edge defender falling to the outside.

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After jumping his way through the traffic at the line of scrimmage, Perkins is confronted in space by an arriving safety. Perkins quickly recognizes this and begins chopping his feet to manipulate the defender before he has come close to him. He doesn’t have to slow down to do this and it means that Perkins can beat the defender before he gets close to completing the tackle. He tightens his left foot before planting his right outside. Importantly, this isn’t one hard cut. Perkins’ left foot is beneath his body as he pushes off his right so he is essentially shuffling inside at speed.

One hard cut would have slowed Perkins’ momentum more while making it tougher for him to control his center of gravity. By taking this approach, Perkins not only evades the arriving safety but makes it easier to stop his speed and slip past the arriving cornerback from the outside.

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This play should have been stopped behind the line of scrimmage!

Against Stanford, Perkins showed off everything you need to see from a running back in terms of footwork.

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This carry immediately follows the one highlighted previously. Perkins shows off patience and light feet as he doesn’t stop his feet or drop his heels into the ground as he waits for the play to develop in front of him. Perkins strikes at the perfect time, holding the inside linebacker in his gap while waiting for his lead blocker to engage the outside linebacker.

Having this patience and footwork allows Perkins to set up his route to the endzone. He has the acceleration and strength to beat the angle of the arriving linebacker and dive into the endzone.

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Running between the tackles is less about being big and more about being quick, decisive and aware. Having shown off his patience and light feet, Perkins also showed off his peripheral vision and willingness to make decisive turns to attack running lanes. He is given space initially on this play, but creates more with the speed and angle that he cuts behind the block of his left guard.

When you can attack space with momentum consistently, your size is less of an issue. Perkins can accelerate to a high speed in short areas while changing direction. This will make him a very dangerous runner on the next level.

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If he is forced to use his size to create yardage against contact, Perkins will obviously be at a disadvantage against linebackers and defensive linemen in the NFL. He can counter that to some degree by using his lower center of gravity and running with a streak of aggression. He can create that aggression by being violent and energetic through the first point of contact. On this play, Perkins is hit inside initially before the backside defender arrives also.

That backside defender actually helps Perkins to stay upright, but after that he has to power his legs to force his way into the endzone.

You can’t afford to be a submissive runner in the NFL no matter how physically gifted you are. If Derrick Henry doesn’t consistently power his legs through contact or run with upper body violence he won’t be able to break tackles. Rarely do defenders in the NFL miss tackles that aren’t forced on them by the ball carrier.

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Compartmentalizing a player’s athletic traits is always a dangerous action. Being able to bench press or broad jump more than another player doesn’t mean much if it’s not fully felt on the field. If you’re as quick and explosive as Perkins is, with that low center of gravity and balance, it’s a lot easier to generate functional power. Wrapping Perkins up or knocking him to the ground becomes extremely difficult because of how those traits prop up his strength more than they ever could while lying on a bench press.

Perkins may not be big but he consistently broke tackles in college because of that Marshawn Lynch-like ability to stop and start while brushing defenders off his body. Comparisons to Lynch aren’t justified by that one trait alone, though it’s easy to be reminded of the former Seahawks runner because of Perkins’ appearance.

Josh Norris of Rotoworld has compared Perkins to Devonta Freeman, that’s another aesthetically dangerous comparison but a realistic one. Freeman shares the same elusiveness in space and he developed greater power after his rookie season to become an extremely tough back to locate and bring down. Neither Freeman or Perkins have long speed that scares opponents but long speed isn’t a foundational trait for a running back.

It’s more important that the runner can find space on the second level than it is for him to fully take advantage of it because you’re still gaining yardage on the second level for what is going to be a big play. If you have the long speed but can’t find or create space on the second level, it’s worthless speed.

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Perkins should fit in any type of offense that he is put in. He can be a one-cut runner behind a zone-heavy line or run power despite his size. His vision, patience and decisiveness makes him a well-rounded runner. He is quick enough to change direction in different ways from different body contortions with just enough long speed to threaten big plays when he does find space.

Where Perkins should be questioned is in pass protection. It’s not a major issue though.

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Pass protection is something that is often overstated for running backs at draft time. It’s a minor issue that can become a major problem with the wrong coaching staff in the NFL. NFL backs don’t need to be great pass blockers, they just need to account for their assignments without getting run through. A smart coaching staff will do everything they can to ease those assignments, asking the back to execute chip blocks or design plays where he has the option to release into routes against blitzes.

It’s only a fatal flaw for a running back if the player can’t contribute as a receiver. That’s not the case for Perkins. He’s not Darren Sproles, but he can do enough as a natural pass catcher working out of the backfield.

What is Simple YAC and Why it Matters

Over the past few weeks I’ve written about what an Interceptable Pass is and what a Non-QB Interception is. Today I’m going to look at a different section of the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue; Simple YAC.

Simple YAC is astoundingly…simple. Simple YAC tracks every single play where the ball doesn’t travel further than two yards past the line of scrimmage. It is designed to account for plays where the quarterback didn’t have to throw into coverage and where the onus is on the receiver to create the yardage gained.

Not every play that qualifies for Simple YAC is a simple play for the quarterback, but an overwhelming majority are. Most are checkdowns or screens, the rare exception is when the quarterback has to adjust against quick pressure or read through a full progression to find the right outlet in the flat or underneath.

For the sake of continuity between different quarterbacks, all of these plays count as the same.

Most of these plays are useless for evaluating the quarterback. They are plays that every single passer in the league should expect to make every single time they are asked to. Yet these plays can still have a huge impact on a quarterback’s production. For example, 37.8 percent of Nick Foles’ yardage came on Simple YAC plays, 33.5 percent of Matthew Stafford’s did. Compare that to Brian Hoyer who had just 13.9 percent of his yards come on those plays or Cam Newton who had 15.5 percent of his.

Those numbers don’t even consider the touchdown disparity between different quarterbacks across the league. For the purposes of exploring Simple YAC plays, we’re going to showcase some of Kirk Cousins’ examples. Cousins is a polarizing player who is relevant at this time because Washington didn’t extend him before free agency, instead extending negotiations by placing the franchise tag on him.

Cousins didn’t lead the league in Simple YAC nor did he lead the league in Simple YAC touchdowns. The percentage of his yards that were gained from Simple YAC was even below average. So what makes Cousins worthwhile? Cousins led the league in 31+ yard plays that qualified as Simple YAC. Those plays came over the second half of the year, the second half of the year that is used to justify his standing as the Washington starter moving forward.

It all began against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10.

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Cousins threw the ball 25 times and completed 20 passes in this game. He had 324 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. On the surface, it’s a phenomenal individual performance. Digging a little deeper you find that the Saints defense was simply atrocious that day. Of Cousins’ 324 yards, 202 came as Simple YAC. Of his 20 completions, 12 were Simple YAC. Of his four touchdowns, two were Simple YAC.

These are astronomical numbers for one game.

In the above gif, Jordan Reed caps the very first drive of the game by catching a pass in the flat to run in a 16-yard touchdown. The Saints blow the coverage as they react to the play fake, Cousins is rolled out of the pocket and Reed is his first read. He has a simple throw to make and didn’t have to adjust against pressure or diagnose a coverage downfield. This play results in a touchdown and offers a substantial boost in yardage, but it’s nowhere close to being the longest or even second-longest play of this type from this game.

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Half of Cousins’ six 31+ yard Simple YAC plays on the season came from this game. Two of the three came on screen plays to Matt Jones where the Saints showed no awareness or intensity in trying to stop the running back. On both occasions Cousins had to do nothing but execute simple assignments. In the first play Jones catches the ball at the 44-yard line and finishes the play at the 11.

This 30-yard chunk was valuable and almost twice as long as Reed’s touchdown, but again, it was nowhere close to the next big Simple YAC play.

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Jones’ second long screen play comes early in the second quarter and the Saints just defend it horribly. Washington uses play action to slow down the pass rush while Cousins takes a deep drop so he is in space. He has time to wait for Jones to uncover so that Cousins doesn’t need to throw a fast ball or lead his receiver to a spot. His pass is actually limp so Jones reaches for it. When Jones catches the ball he is wide open and exactly on his own 20-yard line.

He runs 80 yards to the Saints endzone, essentially untouched.

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Before the end of the half, Cousins added another 30+ yard play on a screen to Jamison Crowder. Not only did it gain 30+ yards, it converted a Second-and-21 after a sack and moved the offense into scoring position with less than a minute left. Once again, this was extremely easy for everyone on the offensive side of the ball. Cousins and Crowder reap the statistical rewards even though it was a relatively simple play for each.

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Jay Gruden has always been capable of creating easy yardage for his quarterbacks. He doesn’t accentuate the tougher aspects of being a quarterback, instead catering to his passer with misdirection, play action and easier by relying on scheme. Matt Jones was a huge benefactor on screen plays in 2015. On this play against the New York Giants in Week 12, Jones gains 45 yards on a screen play where he is once again given an unopposed route downfield after catching the ball cleanly in space.

Again, this is a simple play for Cousins. One you would expect every quarterback who makes it as far as the NFL to execute. The protagonist for success on this play was the misdirection created by the receiver running across the formation before the snap and Jones’ athleticism to take advantage of the space that misdirection created.

Cousins would have had to do something spectacular to not gain 40+ yards on this play.

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Screen plays were a huge part of the Washington offense over the second half of last season. They played a big role in bloating Cousins’ production against bad defenses and warping the perception of his ability as a quarterback. It wasn’t just huge plays either, Cousins had seven 21+ yard Simple YAC plays and four Simple YAC touchdowns over the second half of the year.

Against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17, Cousins threw two Simple YAC touchdowns in the redzone.

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Redzone touchdowns are supposed to be tougher to throw because of how the field tightens. That can often be the case but it’s not always. Smarter teams can scheme receivers open in the redzone despite the limited space. On this play, you can see the same concept that was previously highlighted for Jordan Reed’s touchdown against the Saints. Ryan Grant motions behind the line of scrimmage so he is tougher to track for the defenders at the snap.

This schemes Grant open and gives Cousins a simple throw after play action.

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Washington also makes use of natural pick plays and route combinations that consistently complement each other to create easier reads for their quarterback. On this play, Crowder catches the ball two yards downfield after running behind a natural pick from the slot. Cousins’ pass is wild, but Crowder, as he often did last year, showed off a natural ability to make difficult adjustments look easy.

The pick play allows Crowder to do this in wide open space. If the separation hadn’t been created, he would have been exposed to a hit or pass disruption by the covering defender.

Finding the plays where the quarterback is only tasked with doing replacement-level assignments and measuring the production that comes from them is important for evaluating any NFL quarterback. Quarterbacks don’t control the receiver’s ability to create YAC or the defense’s pursuit. He can help to set up the receiver for success in the initial stages with his ball placement, but that is a minor input overall.

Surpassed that, the quarterback also doesn’t control the scheme he is put in. There are players who are set up for success by their coaching staffs and then there are players who are set up to fail. Simple YAC is often a good reflection on that, though the overall context still needs to be examined through tape.

What is a ‘Non-QB Interception’?

In evaluation, it’s important to understand what each player is responsible for and what each player can control. Those should be the parameters for how you judge the quality of the individual’s performance. When it comes to interceptions, it’s not enough to know how many each quarterback threw, you must also understand how many throws the player made that could or should have been intercepted.

The quarterback can’t control if the defender catches the ball or not, he is only responsible for the opportunity he gives the defender.

In the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue, I measured how often each quarterback was giving up these opportunities to opposing defenders. You can see all of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Interceptable Passes in this article. Tracking opportunities that each quarterback gives up is only half of the equation though. You also have to acknowledge the plays when the quarterback was intercepted and it wasn’t his fault.

That is also one of the measurements featured in the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue.

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Unsurprisingly, Ryan Tannehill had the most interceptions that weren’t his fault last year. But PSR already looked at Tannehill and the treachery of his receivers on deep throws, so to explore Non-QB Interceptions we will take one step down the ladder and focus on Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford is a good example to use because of how his supporting cast created interceptions in different ways.

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Drops were a major issue for the Eagles throughout the whole season. Bradford had a failed reception rate of 9.7, so he was losing a reception to his teammates once every 9.7 pass attempts. Only seven quarterbacks had a rate worse than 10.0. Jordan Matthews was responsible for a large number of those plays as he repeatedly showed off poor focus and technique at the catch point.

This decisive interception from the team’s Week 1 loss to the Atlanta Falcons came in the final two minutes. Bradford found Matthews over the middle of the field with an accurate pass, but Matthews unnecessarily left his feet so he didn’t have to extend his hands to catch the ball above his head.

Matthews isn’t a natural receiver. He approaches the ball like this because he’s not comfortable when he is asked to make catches that aren’t into his body. His inability to coral this ball allows it to find the arriving Ricardo Allen in behind.

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Like any measurement that is relying on tape evaluation rather than the result of the play, this measurement embraces the subjective. However, like all measurements in the PSR QB Catalogue, there are frameworks in place to keep each quarterback uniformed and consistent on a play-by-play basis.

The quarterback needs to throw an accurate pass, this doesn’t mean that it has to be 100 percent perfect but it has to qualify as accuracy. This becomes more subjective when throwing into tight coverages. A throw is typically considered inaccurate if the defender gets to the ball ahead of the receiver and accurate if the receiver gets to the ball before the defender. Some plays are exceptions to this rule if the actions of the receiver allow the defender to get to the ball first.

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While this pass wasn’t perfect, it didn’t lead Zach Ertz downfield, it was in a position where his tight end could win it. He got both hands to the ball as Byron Jones’ impacted his left arm. Ertz wasn’t strong enough to hold the ball while absorbing that contact, causing the ball to bounce into the air for the deep safety to run underneath.

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One more of Bradford’s Non-QB Interceptions came when his intended target failed to control the ball after getting to it ahead of a defender. This time it was tight end Brent Celek who failed to show strength at the catch point. He initially caught the ball on a deep corner route, but had the ball wrestled away from him by the arriving safety.

The ball may be slightly high, but Bradford had to throw it high and trust his tight end to win the ball because of the coverage he was throwing into. This is the type of play you expect your tight end to make downfield.

Every quarterback gets the benefit of the doubt in every aspect of charting for the PSR QB Catalogue. This means that any quarterback-receiver miscommunications and passes tipped at the line of scrimmage are viewed favorably to the passer.

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On this play against the New York Giants, Bradford throws the ball into double coverage but he is aiming for a spot where Riley Cooper is supposed to be. Bradford’s throw may have been intercepted regardless of what Cooper did, but it’s not so definite that you can presume Cooper wouldn’t have made a difference if he ran through his route.

Cooper should have run down the seam, between the cornerback and safety, putting himself in a spot where he could have leapt for the ball in the air or even just tipped it away as a last resort. Instead he stopped his route long after the ball had been thrown.

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Many teams run option routes with their slot receivers or running backs out of the backfield. There are occasions when you can clearly figure out who made the wrong decision but more often than not it’s unclear. It’s unclear if this is an option route or not, but the quarterback and receiver were clearly on different pages.

When Bradford releases the ball, Ryan Mathews is looking back towards him over his inside shoulder. As the ball leaves Bradford’s hand, Mathews turns towards the sideline and looks back over his outside shoulder. This means the ball goes directly to the waiting linebacker inside. Had Mathews broke inside, he could have caught the ball working back across the face of the defender.

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On this play from Week 17, Bradford’s eyes follow his crossing route working from the left side of the field. He has a window to hit the receiver and his pass appears to be leading him across the field, he only has to be concerned with the linebacker who is trying to recover. He has no way of recognizing Jason Pierre-Paul’s presence working back from his left defensive end position.

Pierre-Paul didn’t move off the line of scrimmage and, when faced by two defenders, didn’t even try to penetrate upfield. Instead he lingered for a moment before breaking inside at the perfect time. Pierre-Paul was reading Bradford’s eyes through the crowd of bodies in front of him. The quarterback had no chance of doing the same because of those bodies blocking out his view.

Many analysts will put the onus on the quarterback to create a throwing lane. There are often times when they are put in those positions, but every quarterback in the league has passes tipped and they are mostly random occurrences rather than a result of any specific action from the quarterback.

Very often passes will fly just pass a defender’s outstretched hand so unless you believe quarterbacks are so accurate to throw with that kind of precision, then you have to accept that passes tipped at the line of scrimmage are mostly random except when they’re at either extreme. Even then those tipped passes can be a result of tightened pockets or play designs rather than the quarterback’s specific ability.

Adding six interceptions to your final total that aren’t your fault may not seem like a lot but it is when you consider how often teams turn the ball over. The 35 quarterbacks in the PSR QB Catalogue combined for 84 Non-QB Interceptions last year, therefore they averaged 2.4. Few quarterbacks had no Non-QB Interceptions but 20 had two or fewer.

This means that the perception of players such as Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford and Eli Manning are being unfairly impacted by their teammates. Each of Tannehill, Bradford and Manning ranked in the top 10 of Interceptable Pass Rate.

You can break down the charting data to greater levels, the PSR QB Catalogue also looks at how many of each quarterback’s interceptable passes were actually caught. Gauging a quarterback’s ability to take care of the ball can be understood by viewing his Interceptable Pass numbers and his Non-QB Interceptions.

You can buy the Pre-Snap Reads Quarterback Catalogue

from this page.

The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Best Direction in the 2016 NFL Draft

Since taking over in 2013, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley watched over teams that have combined for a 12-36 record. His teams haven’t won more than five games in a single season, so there is no reason to think that he will survive another disappointing season in 2016, his fourth year in charge of the team.

What the Jaguars need from this draft are players who can make immediate impacts. They no longer have the luxury of adding developmental players for the future. It’s time to win.

It’s hard to see the Jaguars taking an offensive player in the top five of this draft. This class is primarily celebrated for its wealth of options on the defensive side of the ball and that is where the Jaguars have more issues that need to be addressed. They are already locked into their starting quarterback, signed a potential starter at left tackle in free agency, have invested in running backs over each of the past two offseasons and have one of if not the best starting receiver tandems in the league.

Even though the unit as a whole ranked 21st in DVOA, 20th in passing and 28th in rushing, the Jaguars will be expecting their offense to improve through the growth of their young players rather than from adding more outside pieces.

Having added Malik Jackson and Tashaun Gipson in free agency, the Jaguars would ideally look to replace Paul Posluszny at middle linebacker or add another edge rusher to take some pressure off of last year’s first-round pick, Dante Fowler. The Jaguars have enough interior rushers and could be extremely effective pass-rushing from their base defense if Sen’Derrick Marks is fully healthy, it’s what they can do in obvious passing situations that is concerning.

Joey Bosa isn’t a speed rusher. He’s not the kind of defensive end who will relentlessly pursue the quarterback off the edge on every snap. He won’t step into an Aldon Smith-like role during his rookie season and give his new team a 10-sack defender. Expecting any defensive end to be as successful as Aldon Smith is irrational, but trying to find someone who is most likely to make a similar impact isn’t. In this draft, the best option at fifth overall will be Clemsonn defender Shaq Lawson.

Lawson is an explosive athlete who won’t necessarily bend the edge but can use his combination of strength and speed to beat offensive tackles in one-on-one situations. He’s not a consensus star at the top of the draft nor would he have been selected ahead of former teammate Vic Beasley had he come out last year. Lawson could likely be had closer to the end of the top 10, so a short trade down if available could be ideal.

Trading further down would put the Jaguars in position to look at Noah Spence or Kevin Dodd. Spence is the more interesting of the two.

Spence is an outstanding talent who should fall in the draft for off-field issues that impact his journey through college football. He was forced to transfer from Ohio State to Eastern Kentucky after failing multiple drug tests. Spence excelled at Eastern Kentucky without having anymore off-field issues, but those will still linger over his head during the draft. Furthermore, Spence will have to deal with transitioning from playing against FCS opponents to playing against NFL athletes, so his transition into his rookie year is unlikely to be smooth.

What makes Spence appealing is that he is probably the best pass rusher in this class. He shares some similarities with Cliff Avril during the early stages of his career. That explosiveness and comfort coming off the edge is exactly what the Jaguars should be looking to add to their defense. It would be an ideal match really because the Jaguars won’t need to force him into a full-time role in the projected construct of their defensive front.

Trading down makes a lot of sense, but it may also make sense for the Jaguars to trade up. There isn’t a pass rusher worth trading up for, at least not one who fits what the Jaguars need, so any move up in the draft would be for another defensive stud.

Jalen Ramsey would be appealing to the Jaguars simply because of his talent and their issues covering the middle of the field over recent years, but Myles Jack makes the most sense. Jack could be moved around the field into different roles, allowing Posluszny to still carry out a role in the defense, but his greatest impact would be felt in that middle linebacker role. Playing behind the Jaguars’ talented defensive tackles would allow Jack to attack in the running game while threatening as a pass rusher and excelling in coverage. Jack is a star, he will immediately become a foundational piece for any defense he is dropped into.

Even if you would be trading up for a non-pass rusher as the Jaguars, you would still feel comfortable doing so because of the sheer quality of the player you’d be adding to the spine of your defense. Furthermore, Jack shouldn’t have any issues adapting to become an immediate impact player.

Presuming they keep their second round pick in all of these scenarios, the Jaguars should be focused on defense again after the first round. Keanu Neal or Karl Joseph would make a lot of sense despite the addition of Gipson, Neal especially so since Gipson is better suited to the deep-lying role in a Cover-3 heavy scheme. Davon House and Prince Amukamara would make a very good starting cornerback tandem, but Amukamara was only signed to a one-year deal and has had major durability issues in his past. As such, the Jaguars could be interested in one of the cornerbacks who drops out of the first round. There are a plethora to choose from.

Whatever the Jaguars do this year, the payoff needs to be immediate. They should even consider trading picks for established players, presuming the money works out.