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Sam Bradford, dink & dunk and the Rookie of the Year

St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford had a great rookie season, but could it have been better?
St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford had a great rookie season, but could it have been better?

Congrats again to Ndamukong Suh on winning the Pepsi Rookie of the Year award. Draftniks around these parts knew last spring that he was an incredible talent, and there was a boisterous debate about whether or not the St. Louis Rams should pick him or Sam Bradford with the first overall pick. 

In case you were living in a bunker for the last year, the Rams did pick Bradford, and were rewarded for that choice right away. He set rookie records for passes attempted and completed, and made it into the top five for the other big time QB stat categories. He should be a lock for the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award. However, we asked fans and experts on Twitter whether they felt like Sam or Suh would win the AP ROY award if it were given to just one player rather than split between offense and defense. Sadly, Suh might have gotten that award too if the experts picked just one player, and the reason for that, as well as a reason more national football fans didn't take note of Sam's rookie year, is partially the result of another stat where Bradford did not impress: yards per attempt. 

Yes, that decidedly non-sexy dink and dunk passing game slightly tarnished a (still) amazing rookie season for Sam Bradford, in my opinion. Let's explore the subject after the jump.

Bradford had an average of 5.95 yards per passing attempt. Of the 61 QBs who started at least one game in the NFL in 2010, that ranks 48th. It's the second lowest mark of any QB who started more than 10 games this season; only Jimmy Clausen (who started 10 games) has a lower Y/A mark at 5.21. 

Of course, plenty of other factors did help Bradford, like his 60 percent completion rate. His favorable INT rate was part of a conservative offensive approach, i.e. the dink and dunk passes. 

Pro Football Reference uses another stat, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, that takes into account a broader picture of a QB's performance in the passing game. This blog post from PFR goes into detail about Bradford's performance in the context of other rookie QBs, and find that Bradford's performance, through 10 games, is the worst in terms of ANY/A. Of course, Troy Aikman and Steve Young had similar marks as rookies, so take that into consideration. 

Bradford finished the season with ANY/A of 4.73 yards, 42nd among the 61 QBs who started at least one game. 

And how do Bradford's numbers compare with past quarterbacks named rookies of the year? Let's see. 


  • Matt Ryan had a Y/A mark of 7.9 yards per attempt and a 7.0 ANY/A in his 2008 ROY season. 
  • Vince Young had a Y/A mark of 6.2 yards per attempt and a 4.5 ANY/A in his 2006 ROY season. 
  • Ben Roethlisberger had a Y/A of 8.9 yards per attempt and a 6.9 ANY/A in his 2004 ROY season. 
  • Sam Bradford had a Y/A of 6.0 yards per attempt and a 4.7 ANY/A in his 2010 ROY (?) season. 

Bradford's numbers compare most to Vince Young, but Young had those impressive rushing totals.

To me, these numbers say nothing about Bradford's ability in and of itself. This is the result of A) the Rams conservative approach on offense, B) the lack of talent around him at receiver, especially the lack of a deep threat and C) inexperience around him.  

Bradford should still be a lock for the AP ROY award today, but these numbers make the race look a little closer.