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The Definitive Guide to an Elite Sam Bradford

In track, the difference between average and elite is slight. In the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, the average time in the Men’s 100M final was 10.095 seconds. Gold medalist Usain Bolt had a winning time of 9.63 seconds. Just .465 seconds was the difference between being an elite sprinter in the London Games, and an average sprinter. We all know who Usain Bolt is, but have you ever heard of Ryan Bailey? Me neither, but he finished 5th with a time of 9.88 seconds. Sam Bradford is Ryan Bailey. As of today, Sam Bradford is average.

Sam Bradford ranks between 18th and 24th amongst NFL QB’s in the four major passing categories; Comp. %, Yards per Attempt (YPA), TDs, and INTs. Let’s compare Bradford’s 2012 stats to three of the league’s "elite" QB’s Aaron Rogers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady.

Comp. %

YPA

TD

INT

Rating

Sam Bradford

60.2%

6.75

18

11

83.3

Aaron Rogers

66.7%

7.57

32

8

104.7

Peyton Manning

67.9%

7.86

31

10

103.5

Tom Brady

63.4%

7.64

30

6

100.1

Average (Elite)

66.0%

7.69

31

8

102.8

So how far away is Bradford from being elite? Let’s start with completion percentage. All other Bradford stats being equal, in order to have an average elite completion percentage of 66%, he would have to have 313 completions, or 23 more completions than his current 290. So assuming Bradford had completed those additional passes (combo of better throws and fewer drops), and achieved a completion percentage of 66%, Bradford would have a passer rating of 88.4. That’s not elite. That’s Joe Flacco.

Doing the same rocket science mathematics and substitutions, Bradford would have the following passer ratings given each "elite" substitution (assuming we keep all of Bradford’s other stats the same for each calculation).

Comp. %

YPA

TD

INT

Average Elite QB Stats

66.0%

7.69

31

8

Revised Bradford Passer Rating

88.4

87.4

90.9

86.1

It can be seen that improving Bradford’s percentage of TD passes to an elite level would have the largest impact on his passer rating. Subbing an elite TD pass percentage of 6.0% (Avg. TD/Avg. Attempts) into Bradford’s 482 attempts results in 29 TDs (6% x 482 Bradford attempts) compared to his current 18 TDs. In other words, a 2.3% improvement (Bradford’s TD rate is 3.7%) in Bradford’s TD pass percentage equates to 11 more TDs. Spread over 14 games (roughly 6 more points per game) would’ve meant wins in games against the Lions, Dolphins and 49’ers (game 1). Essentially, the Rams are a 2.3% marginal increase in TD pass % from being 9 and 5, and playoff bound.

Bradford’s YPA and Interception rate have a smaller impact on his passer rating. All else being kept the same, with an average elite YPA of 7.69 Bradford would have 3,707 passing yards (7.69 x 482 attempts), or somewhat more than Eli Manning and somewhat less than Andrew Luck. Finally, in Bradford’s best relative category, INT, he would need 3 fewer to rise into the average elite category. This marginal increase could go either way regarding win/loss impact, but we all saw that even one fewer INT this past Sunday would’ve changed the tone of the game, and potentially resulted in a win.

Importantly, improvements in these stats taken individually would not make Bradford elite. He needs to improve just a little across the board. A couple more completions each game, especially in the endzone will go a long way in elevating Bradford to a more elite level. Yet, it’s painfully obvious that the difference between average and elite, while seeming so small, is so very wide. Just think, Ryan Bailey was only half a second away from beating the fastest man in the world.

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