NFL's best and worst deep passers

Rodgers and Brees are among best, Sanchez among the worst; Brady stands apart

Originally Published: November 16, 2011
By Peter Keating | ESPN Insider
Aaron Rodgers Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAaron Rodgers has an unbelievable QBR of 100 on passes of 20 yards or more.

You've watched the games, you've seen the stats, you've heard the news: NFL teams are attempting and completing more passes. Three quarterbacks are on pace to break Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yards (5,084 in 1984). Aaron Rodgers throws another touchdown every time you blink.

Which raises the question: Where is all this extra passing yardage coming from?

There are two answers. This week, we'll look at deep throws, where there's an interesting missing link in the stats, and we'll keep you in suspense about the second reason until later in the season.

Best deep throwers

As teams keep opening up their passing games -- spread formations, three-receiver sets and pass-catching tight end tandems are practically de rigueur around the league these days -- quarterbacks are seizing the chance to bomb away. Last year, just one quarterback, Drew Brees, threw for more than 1,000 yards on passes of more than 20 yards. This year, five are on pace to do so: Brees, Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Rodgers and Tony Romo. Even more impressive, from 2008 to 2010, only one quarterback (Brees in 2009) completed more than 50 percent of his passes on deep throws, while this season alone, three (Brees, Rodgers and Romo) are connecting on more than half their throws of more than 20 yards.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.