Thursday, October 3, 2013
Stat your case: Luck or Wilson?
By Evan Kaplan & Sunny Saini, ESPN Stats & Info
USA TODAY SportsEach week, the Stats & Information Group will look at a noteworthy discussion topic and debate the possibilities that come from it, using data to back up their points.
Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are two of the top young QBs in NFL.
This week’s topic is “which second year quarterback would you rather have, Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson?”
Luck is the better second-year quarterback, largely because of the improvement he’s shown from his rookie season to this year.
Luck posted a 65.2 Total QBR last season, ranking 11th out of 36 qualified quarterbacks. But he has been even better this season (76.2 QBR), partly because he’s completing a higher percentage of his passes.
Luck is throwing the ball downfield at a similar rate this year compared to 2012, but it’s his performance on short throws that has helped his overall game. Luck is completing 75.3 percent of his passes thrown within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, the sixth-highest percentage in the league and up from 60.3 percent last season (lowest in league).
Running the ball is another area where Luck has improved. He is averaging 31.5 rush yards per game, nearly double the amount he had in 16 games during his rookie season (15.9).
He has two rushing touchdowns through four games and is one of only four quarterbacks to scramble for a touchdown.
Wilson may have the reputation as the better running quarterback, but when you compare their stats this season, Luck comes out on top.
Luck’s play in the clutch also swings the argument in his favor. He has led eight game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in his career, the most in the league since the start of last season. Wilson has six game-winning drives.
-- Evan Kaplan
Since the start of the 2012 season, Russell Wilson is fifth in the NFL with a Total QBR of 68.1. Andrew Luck’s Total QBR of 67.4 ranks seventh. Those are the two highest QBRs of any first, second or third-year quarterbacks.
Wilson tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record for most touchdown passes with 26 and led the Seahawks to 11 wins last season, their first winning campaign since 2007.
Through four games this year, Wilson’s Total QBR is 50.4 compared with 71.7 last season. But the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
The Seahawks offensive line has been decimated with injuries and they have gone through seven different offensive line combinations. Pro bowler Russell Okung has missed multiple games and Max Unger missed the Seahawks’ Week 4 game against the Texans.
Wilson’s receivers have also not been the most reliable. This is perhaps why they have a pass drop percentage of 4.1 percent, 13th highest in the NFL. By comparison, the Colts have a 1.5 percent drop percentage, third best in the NFL.
Wilson is attempting just 24 passes per game this season, the fewest of any qualifying QB. That’s partly because the Seahawks are using designed rushes on 48.4 percent of their snaps, the second-highest rate in the NFL.
Even with all the injuries to the line and lack of a “go-to” receiver, Wilson has found a way to produce wins despite facing two of the top three passing defenses in the NFL in the 49ers (third) and Texans (first).
The reason for the success has been his ability to hit on passes outside the pocket. Of the 14 quarterbacks with at least 15 pass attempts outside the pocket, Wilson’s 70.9 QBR is the highest (Jay Cutler is next on the list at 55.3).
-– Sunny Saini