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February 18, 2016

Putting Sam Bradford's completion percentage into context

Eagles NFL
021816SamBradford Michael Perez/AP

You can either read the article below or just look at this picture. They basically say the same thing.

In 2015, Sam Bradford connected on 65 percent of his pass attempts, which set a new Eagles single-season record for completion percentage. Impressive, right?


Bradford's completion percentage is really the only basic stat that he and his camp have to hang their hats on, as his other basic stats ranked near the bottom of the NFL:

 Sam BradfordStat Rank 
 QB rating86.4 26 
 YPA7.0 25 
 TD passes19 T-22 
 Completion percentage65.0% 11 

As you can see above, being the Eagles' all-time single-season leader in completion percentage was only good for 11th in the NFL.

A high completion percentage is often thought to be the mark of an accurate quarterback. Sometimes that's true. Sometimes, however, other factors can artificially boost completion percentage. 

Below is a list of every quarterback in the NFL who attempted at least 350 passes in 2015. We took their completions that traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, and compared that with their total completions. We then ranked them in order of percentage of completions in which the pass itself traveled at least 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Here are the results (data via ESPN):

QB Completions traveling 10+ yards past LOS Total completions % of completions traveling 10+ yards past LOS 
Carson Palmer 122 342 35.7% 
 Jameis Winston106 312 34.0% 
 Cam Newton90 296 30.4% 
 Marcus Mariota69 230 30% 
 Blake Bortles105 355 29.6% 
 Ryan Fitzpatrick94 335 28.1% 
 Brian Hoyer62 224 27.7% 
 Ben Roethlisberger83 319 26% 
 Andy Dalton66 255 25.9% 
 Tyrod Taylor62 242 25.6% 
 Ryan Tannehill86 363 23.7% 
 Derek Carr83 350 23.7% 
 Russell Wilson78 329 23.7% 
 Matt Ryan91 407 22.4% 
 Drew Brees90 428 21% 
 Aaron Rodgers71 347 20.5% 
 Jay Cutler62 311 19.9% 
 Kirk Cousins75 379 19.8% 
 Philip Rivers86 437 19.7% 
 Teddy Bridgewater57 292 19.5% 
 Tom Brady77 402 19.2% 
 Joe Flacco47 266 17.7% 
 Matthew Stafford70 398 17.6% 
 Sam Bradford60 346 17.3% 
 Eli Manning67 387 17.3% 
 Alex Smith53 307 17.3% 

Only 17.3 percent of Bradford's completions traveled 10 or more yards past the line of scrimmage. That tied him with Eli Manning and Alex Smith (shocker) for the lowest percentage in the NFL. To note, drops do not factor in here, as we are talking about passes that were actually completed.

Can Chip Kelly's scheme be a reason for that low percentage? OK, we can call it that. Did the Eagles' lack of a big play threat at receiver factor in? Sure, certainly they would have completed more passes downfield if DeSean Jackson were still on the team.

However, those questions miss the point. Why there were so few completions down the field is a different conversation. We're simply noting here that Bradford's completion percentage was unquestionably helped by the fact that the vast majority of his completions were short throws.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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