Evaluating Subtle Differences in NFL QB Release Points
No two NFL quarterbacks are exactly alike. Some, like Philip Rivers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady, are more traditional pocket passers. Others, like Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson, have shown they are more comfortable passing when they’re on the move. We can see this by looking at the pattern created from a quarterback’s dropback and release point. The result: each quarterback’s unique “fingerprint.”
Here is a chart using NFL Next Gen Stats data that shows pass release locations for each QB in 2020, in order of least variety in their positions to most. Each pass is a red dot, and the darkened blue to yellow density areas correspond to the frequency with which each quarterback throws from each spot behind the line of scrimmage.
Rivers, Brees and Brady have the smallest variations in the locations from which they throw, with almost all release locations from a smaller area within the tackle box. QBs Wilson and Jackson cover more ground and throw from a wider variety of locations. Rivers throws 95% of his passes from within two yards to either side of the center (left to right), compared to 72% for Jackson. If you add up the collective area covered by Jackson’s release points in the plot above, he covers about 80 square yards of space, more than twice that of Rivers’ 38 square yards.