Sams ranked among best in QB rating

By Joel Jellison

Despite the 2-4 start for Kansas State’s football team, one of its two quarterbacks is drawing big numbers in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating.

According to ESPN, Sams ranks eighth in adjusted Total QBR, a stat which gained recognition when the network applied it during the 2011 NFL season.

Sams’ adjusted QBR is rated at 86.5, putting him in with some of the top names in the country.

Oregon’s Marcus Mariota leads the nation at 97.0, while Baylor’s Bryce Petty is second at 95.1. Texas A&M’s Heisman winner Johnny Manziel is sixth at 88.3 and Lousiville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, presumed as a top draft pick next year, ranks 11th at 83.4.

The Total Quarterback Rating was developed to statistically measure the degree to which a quarterback contributed to scoring points for the team, and to winning the game. This is done using the same win probability function that can be seen on ESPN Gametrackers. 

To come up with the number, each play that the quarterback was involved in is examined. If a quarterback hands the ball off, no contribution to QBR is made. If he runs or passes the ball, whether positive or negative, his score is then affected. Each play affects the expected value of the points scored by each team. The play value is then compared to the maximum possible net point gain, leading to a net points percentage between 0 and 100 percent on each play.

The win probability function is used to determine a clutch index for each play between 0.3 and 3.0, with higher values for plays that have greater influence on winning or losing the game. The QBR is reached by taking the weighted average of the points gained percentage for each play, with each play having a weight equal the clutch index. The average rating for a quarterback in the NFL is 50.

In simplest terms, ESPN applied the model to gaining 5 yards on third-and-four. If the QB throws the full 5 yards, he splits credit with the offensive line and receiver. If he throws behind the line of scrimmage, he gets less credit. If he scrambles for the yards, he gets the most credit. If it’s a designed run play, he gets less credit. If he hands the ball off, he gets no credit. If he draws the defense off side, he gets a lot of credit.

The college version of the QBR also takes into account the schedule the team plays and how tough the defense is week-to-week, to come up with an adjusted QBR.

In comparison to the traditional NFL Passer Rating, the QBR is much more complex. The passer rating stat depends on only statistics rather than analysis of plays. Unlike the NFL’s model for passer rating, the ESPN QBR has yet to show the specific way it calculates the number, which draws its biggest criticisms.

Sams’ QBR was nearly perfect after the first three games of the season, in which he rarely threw and rushed for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns. His number dipped after performances at Texas and Oklahoma State, but against Baylor he registered a performance of 86.1. Sams’ lowest performance was 57.2 against Texas.

Jake Waters ranks 103rd out of 126 ranked quarterbacks at 35.9. Waters has finished above the average of 50 just twice this season, rated 63.8 against Louisiana and 64.1 against Baylor.

Based on traditional NFL passer rating numbers, both quarterbacks are fairing well. Waters has a team-leading rating of 136.3, while Sams is right behind him at 132.9.

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