Why Some Quarterbacks Hold the Ball Longer than Others


In fantasy football, quarterback performance is nearly impossible to predict for a 16 game season. The difference between the 3rd-best quarterback and the 8th-best in 2017 was just 18 points. Three touchdowns. In addition to the comparable points, the unpredictability of who will be in the top 5 is absolute. No one came into the 2017 season predicting Alex Smith and Carson Wentz as top 5 players at their position.

So how do you isolate a signal-caller to lead your fantasy team through the season?

You have to dig deep.

Finding the littlest of differences can be monumental in deciding who to draft. For example, people who did a little research last season would’ve seen that Carson Wentz finished 2016 with 71 deep ball attempts (total attempts where the ball travels 20 yards or more through the air), which was an indication that Wentz likes to air it out, giving him more boom-or-bust potential. Equally important, Wentz ran the ball in the red zone ten times in 2016, which was the 10th-most in the NFL, conveying the message that Wentz isn’t afraid to take off in the red zone. This also hints at the risk you get with Wentz when he runs the ball (i.e. his injury in 2017).

Another stat we can dig deep on is the average time a quarterback holds the ball. Will this parallel greatness? No.,but it is a good indicator of who takes just a millisecond longer, thus giving defenders a split-second more to catch up or get into lanes.

Holding onto the ball isn’t the worst or best stat to have. There are many different factors that can be taken into account, yet the underlying story of holding onto the ball is almost always the same. It shows you don’t have the anticipation or trust with your teammates to get the ball out in quick fashion. Does it inform our fantasy decisions?

In 2017, three quarterbacks held the ball on average less than 2.4 seconds. Their combined TD:INT were 66:38, they finished with 16 total wins, got sacked 90 combined times, and they all finished worse than quarterback 15 in fantasy football. Can you guess who they are?

1. Derek Carr (2.34 – average time to attempt)
2. Eli Manning (2.35 – average time to attempt)
3. Andy Dalton (2.38 – average time to attempt)

So, is the average time-to-attempt just an indication of teams with weak offensive lines, giving the quarterback less time to throw? Does it start to dictate which quarterback is scrambling less and just getting the ball out of his hands?

Like I said previously, there are many factors that go into reading a quarterback and why their time may differ from opposing quarterbacks. But if you can’t find a common theme between those three players, you’re not looking hard enough.

Please don’t read just that and come away with the idea that the longer the quarterbacks hold onto the ball the better off they’ll be. There were only three quarterbacks who held the ball longer than 2.8 seconds on average. These three quarterbacks were sacked a combined 118 times, with a 57:27 TD:INT, and a 20-19 combined record. A little better than the first three, except in the sack department. They were sacked 28 more times, and one of the quarterbacks only started 9 games. Did you guess which quarterbacks I was talking about here?

1. Russell Wilson (2.88 – average time to attempt)
2. Tyrod Taylor (2.85 – average time to attempt)
3. Brett Hundley (2.85 – average time to attempt)

We all know Russell Wilson’s strength is the ability to keep a play alive. Even Tyrod Taylor and Brett Hundley have an uncanny ability to keep a play alive with their legs. By doing so and scrambling out of the pocket, they tend to have higher average time-to-attempt. Wilson and Taylor also had porous offensive lines, but instead of looking to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible, like the aforementioned three quarterbacks, these quarterback, hold the ball longer and try to make plays happen in other ways.

All things considered, there are myriad factors that go into how long a quarterback holds onto the ball. They can be limited in their mobility, thus making them more likely to get rid of the ball quicker, which, in return, could shift the workload to the running backs on these teams for fantasy football. These quarterbacks will tend to throw short slants and screens more often than others. Or you could look at the wide receivers who are better at getting open on the fly, which would most likely be a great fit for the quarterbacks who tend to hold onto the ball longer. The average time to attempt stat won’t solidify your top quarterback, but it’s another in-depth stat to take notice of when doing your research this offseason.