Ranking NFL’s 10 most accurate quarterbacks, and where they excel

By Warren Sharp
FOX Sports NFL Writer

Editor’s Note: NFL analyst Warren Sharp has joined FOX Sports for the 2022 NFL season. Throughout the year, he’ll analyze the top games of the week and look ahead to the numbers that can give you a betting edge.

As we prepare for the start of the season, we’re turning to the best resource available: Warren’s 2022 Football Preview (available at Sharpfootballanalysis.com). This article breaks down the 10 most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL by on-target percentage while featuring excerpts from Warren’s guide on the top 10 passers by this metric. 

No. 1: Joe Burrow

Burrow’s ascension to top-10 quarterback lays a strong foundation for the Bengals‘ future. When the Cincinnati offensive line protected Burrow for at least 2.5 seconds, he averaged .29 EPA (expected points added) per dropback, the league’s second-highest rate. With a more complete supporting cast, Burrow has MVP potential. 

Burrow is outstanding under pressure, and he has been top-three in aggressiveness for multiple years, meaning he’s willing to throw the ball into tight windows but also does so with extreme accuracy. He’s only getting better, it seems. Although his overall accuracy rate increased by a modest three percentage points last season vs. 2020, his accuracy in the red zone jumped from 69% in 2020 to 82% in 2021, which ranked second in the NFL.

No. 2: Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray had an encouraging start to the season, but the mobile quarterback struggled after suffering an ankle injury. Prior to his injury, the offense ranked third in the league with 0.16 EPA/play and second with 0.29 EPA/dropback. Both numbers dropped significantly after Week 8 as the offense managed 0.01 EPA/play and 0.05 EPA/dropback. If the Cardinals QB stays healthy, the offense can be one of the league’s top units.

Murray has improved all three seasons in the league. His yards per pass attempt, completion percentage, yards per completion, touchdown rate, and rating index all have risen each year of his career

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No. 3: Derek Carr

Last season, Carr averaged -0.36 EPA/attempt, a 32% success rate, 6.8 YPA (yards per attempt) and a 54% completion rate while under pressure.

Without pressure: 0.22 EPA/attempt, 53% success rate, 8.1 YPA and a 75% completion rate Surprisingly, though these numbers seem terrible, they actually are right around average in the NFL. That’s why it’s so important to keep pressure off your quarterback.

With an improved receiving corps, it’s certainly reasonable to hope Carr repeats his peak performance from his memorable 2016 season. 

No. 4: Kirk Cousins 

Cousins had the fourth-lowest percentage of inaccurate passes and had a positive completion rate over expected 2021. The Vikings‘ offense also benefits from Cousins’ ability to avoid mistakes, as he had the fourth-lowest percentage of dropbacks resulting in a sack or interception. A new head coach might be able to help this offense become a top-10 unit. 

There’s a strong consensus he Vikings QB is slightly above average, but not in the top tier of quarterbacks. As always, with a good supporting cast he’ll be productive, but he’s probably not the type who is going to carry the team to victories. 

No. 5: Justin Herbert

Herbert is the first player in NFL history to start his career with 30 touchdown passes in his first two seasons. The one area where Herbert and the Chargers offense can still extend is outward. Herbert ranked 19th in average depth of target (7.6 yards), but with primary target hogs in Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler operating on the shallow to intermediate levels of the defense, that is likely going to remain weighed down. 

Of Herbert’s 149 dropbacks on early downs in the first three quarters last year, 77 (52%) were thrown less than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. 

Look at the splits: 

Fewer than five air yards: -0.01 EPA/attempt, 36% success rate, 4.9 YPA on 77 attempts

Five to 30 air yards: 0.39 EPA/attempt, 64% success rate, 10.6 YPA on 55 attempts

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No. 6: Ryan Tannehill

Tannehill averaged 0.18 EPA/dropback with Derrick Henry on the field vs. -0.04 EPA/dropback without him. Defenses accounting for Henry is overwhelmingly important for the passing offense.

After touchdown rates of 7.7% and 6.9% in 2019-2020, Tannehill had a touchdown rate of just 4.0% a year ago. After passing for 9.6 and 7.9 yards per pass attempt, the Titans QB threw for just 7.0 Y/A in 2021. Even his 2.6% interception rate regressed from rates of 2.1% and 1.5%. 

No. 7: Matt Ryan

When Ryan was kept clean in the pocket, he generated +1 EPA or higher on 27% of his dropbacks, ranked 13th, indicating a strong performance level is still achievable behind a better offensive line — which the Colts can provide.

On non-play-action passes out of 33 quarterbacks with 400+ attempts the last two years, Ryan ranked seventh in accuracy, while Carson Wentz ranked 32nd. 

Not only is Ryan more accurate in general, he’s much more accurate when throwing deep, ranking third on passes thrown 10+ yards downfield, while Wentz ranked 31st.

On passes in which the quarterback was not pressured, Ryan was fourth-best as only 6.3% of passes were incomplete due to an inaccurate pass, whereas Wentz was near the bottom of the league at 12.7%. 

No. 8: Tua Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa saw improvement across the board from his rookie numbers but was still saddled with working in a suboptimal environment. The Dolphins QB worked behind the league’s worst offensive line, ranking last in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate and last in Pro Football Focus grades. 

Last season, on early downs when not pressured, Tua led the NFL in accuracy. His accuracy helped him and the Dolphins significantly in the red zone. He delivered the best success rate in the NFL inside of the red zone, and even if you rule out run plays, he ranked second in red zone passes only. And this all was done with rib and throwing finger fractures amidst all the other limitations of the 2021 Dolphins offense. 

So where does Tua need to improve? His ranks, by year, on third down: 

2020: 36th in EPA/attempt, 35th in success rate, 36th in YPA(yards per attempt).

2021: 25th in EPA/att, 20th in success rate, 28th in YPA 

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The good news is the 49ers‘ Jimmy Garoppolo ranked sixth in third down conversion rate last season with Mike McDaniel as his offensive coordinator. In fact, Jimmy G ranks fourth in third-down conversion rate in the last four years combined. We already know Tua can be quite accurate. But with better offensive designs on third down, just imagine what the Dolphins offense can do.

No. 9: Jared Goff

Jared Goff has limitations to his game, as evidenced by the 6.3 air yards per pass attempt. Goff attempted 25.2% of passes beyond 10 yards, the lowest rate in the league. The former No. 1 overall pick is not going to be an elite difference-maker, and the team will need to continue to game plan around him. 

When kept clean by the Lions for at least 2.5 seconds, Goff ranked 16th in EPA per dropback — that’s certainly good enough to keep the Lions competitive if they can protect him. 

When Goff tried to pass from 11 against light boxes, he was terrible. But if defenders were trying to stop the run with a heavier box, he was exceptional.

No. 10: Dak Prescott

Prescott remains a top-10 quarterback. His ability to handle pressure sets a high ceiling for his production. Prescott’s adjusted net yards per attempt while facing pressure (4.8) ranked second in the league. On dropbacks versus pressure, Prescott was also sacked at the eighth-lowest rate. 

Prior to Prescott’s calf injury, the offense averaged 6.57 yards/play and 0.22 EPA/dropback, which dropped significantly after the injury to 5.67 yards/play and 0.05 EPA/dropback.

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