The latest round of checkdown stats from PFF prove Patrick Mahomes is one of a kind.
An NFL quarterback has to walk a fine line as a passer if he’s going to avoid the derision of his fans and NFL pundits.
Some quarterbacks are taken to task for being reckless with the football, for being overly confident and simply flinging it into questionable situations—often resulting in interceptions or near-turnovers that halt drives in their tracks. On the flip side, others are criticized for not having enough confidence, for simply taking what the defense is happy to give them. The gains are often minimal and the results typically speak for themselves.
Over at Pro Football Focus, a recent column from Sam Monson put together two years worth of checkdown stats, the moments when a passer checks down from his primary receiving options to take that easier out. At times, it’s the smart play. At other times, it’s a sign that a quarterback lacks the confidence in his ability to put the ball in the right place.
What’s amazing about the data set in this new column is that it further cements just how incredible a quarterback Patrick Mahomes really is—as if a Most Valuable Player award and Super Bowl trophy (along with an MVP award in that very game) didn’t speak for itself. Yes, we already knew that Mahomes was the best in the game, but it never feels old to see stats that back it up.
Monson put together checkdown rates from 2018-19 in two categories: overall passing and third down situations. In both instances, Mahomes comes out as the anomaly, listed among quarterbacks who are the most confident in the game yet one who has proven his accuracy.
Among overall passing stats, Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills is the quarterback who had the lowest checkdown rate in the NFL followed by Mahomes. The difference there should be obvious. While the Bills love Allen’s big arm and his level of confidence, the team will only go as far as his accuracy will take him. Allen has yet to cross the 60 percent completion mark yet as a pro and he looked miserable on most drives in the team’s playoff exit against the Houston Texans.
Others on the same list as Allen and Mahomes include Mitchell Trubisky and Sam Darnold, showing that brand of quarterback criticized for taking chances when it’s not necessary. On the flip side, familiar faces from rivals like Philip Rivers and Derek Carr are among the top five in checkdown rate, proving why those teams have lacked the big play ability in recent years to be able to put a team like the Chiefs on the ropes.
The whole column is worth a read to see numbers documenting how Mahomes doesn’t care about the threat of risk. His confidence in his abilities, his receivers and in Andy Reid‘s play calling shows up strong in his 1.3 percent rate of checkdowns on third downs, second again only to Allen. The Chiefs are led by a big-armed passer who makes the big throws at a much higher rate than his contemporaries, knowing he’s got the skill set to make them work even when everyone else finds it unbelievable.