Lamar Jackson, Mahomes low PFF grades prove how good they are

Pro Football Focus has continued to put logic behind itself with quarterback grades this year. Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson is the most recent victim.

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for 3 touchdowns, ran for one more, and didn’t throw an interception on Sunday.

Need more? He was also one-half of one of the toughest completions in Week 1, rushed for over 100 yards, and was the only quarterback to top 20 miles per hour as a rusher in Week 2 on this play:

The Ravens ended up losing by four in a high-scoring contest, but Jackson did everything he possibly could have to put the Ravens in a position to win in one of the best-played games we’ve seen from a quarterback through the first two weeks.

Does everyone agree? Guess not. Pro Football Focus graded Jackson at 66.4.

The highest-graded quarterback of Week 2 going into Monday night is the guy on the other team: Tua Tagovailoa.

Tua had a great game in his own right, no doubt. He threw for 469 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But in this incredible offensive showdown, how can there be this big of a disparity between the two players pushing the excitement along?

Lamar Jackson’s play this season needs to be appreciated

Lamar Jackson is playing things gutsy this year. He’s coming in having not yet agreed to an extension with the Baltimore Ravens, though he certainly deserves one. That lack of security puts him at serious risk if he were to get injured.

Jackson, though, is proving he deserves an extension. A big one. Through two games he has 531 passing yards, and 136 rushing. He has the league’s highest TD% (10.2%) and the highest adjusted yards gained per pass attempt (10.3).

PFF giving a low grade that doesn’t align with intuition happened last week with Patrick Mahomes and fans hated it. Same thing this week:

Despite seemingly passing the eye test and leading his team to a dominant win in Week 1, he scored a surprisingly low grade according to PFF. We wrote an explanation on how that can be, including some explanations from the lead NFL analyst at PFF, Sam Monson. You can also check out their own explanation of how they grade here.

A tl;dr:

  • The intended play call matters, so freestyling could hurt quarterbacks
  • Grading considers things like downs and field location but not necessarily plays before and after… Each play is graded in isolation of others

So, the Ravens converting just 33% of their fourth downs on Sunday matters, for instance. The heavy freestyle nature of Jackson’s game matters because it’s a deviation from the script, which is the basis on which PFF grades.

Still, guess what? You don’t have to like the grade. And guess what? PFF doesn’t have to like your opinion on the grades.

The coding PFF does needs to be standardized for it to make sense and to scale it for every player in the league for every play, which means a lot of context and interdependency is removed to make sure there is consistency in the grades week-to-week and year-to-year.

Players like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes going berserk and scoring such a low grade in the process should actually be appreciated. They’re so good and so fascinating that they’re breaking an otherwise consistent system because of what they do. They are the agents of chaos in the world PFF has done noble work in trying to make more predictable for us.

Appreciate the low grade. It’s proof that he doesn’t fit the mold.

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