The deep ball is one of the most exciting plays in football, and it’s again a game of inches when it comes to connecting on the chunk plays down the field. There’s a lot that goes into completing a deep pass, including factors uncontrollable by the quarterback, like the play and ability of the receivers, so going exclusively by 20+ yard completion percentage or quarterback rating can certainly be misleading. Based on watching nearly every throw from NFL quarterbacks, I believe these five guys throw the best deep balls in the league entering this season.
5. Russell Wilson
Mitchell Trubisky (who was slightly more inconsistent with the deep ball last season), Derek Carr, and Nick Foles are among the quarterbacks that were closest to the top five, but Russell Wilson takes the No. 5 spot. Despite a relatively short stature, Wilson uses his superb arm strength to catapult passes deep down the field and on-target for his receivers. Wilson’s ability to throw the deep ball accurately has led to numerous plus-sized receivers making plays on the boundary over the years, and Wilson had a perfect quarterback rating targeting Tyler Lockett in 2018—with many of those passes traveling far in the air, as Lockett averaged 16.9 yards per reception. The NFL Twitter account even shared Wilson’s deep balls from last season, calling it “the prettiest deep ball in the league.”
— NFL (@NFL) December 29, 2018
4. Andrew Luck
At the beginning of last season, it looked like Andrew Luck might never have the same deep ball he once had—he was even taken out for a Hail Mary play early in the year. However, Luck’s arm got stronger as the season went on, and his deep ball appears to be firing on all cylinders again. The former No. 1 pick is not shy about turning it loose to any area of the field, and his deep balls often look like they are shot out of a cannon with excellent velocity along with touch. T.Y. Hilton is the Colts quarterback’s most frequent long-ball target, but Luck excels on more than just bombing it deep for Hilton to out-run defenders.
3. Jared Goff
The connection with former teammate Sammy Watkins was surprisingly slightly off for much of the year for Jared Goff in 2017, but overall, the Cal product throws down the field about as well as anyone in the league. Goff can throw the high-arching passes with exceptional touch and anticipation, but he’s also great at throwing the ball with the pace necessary on long passes that wouldn’t work with extra hangtime. This throw from the matchup against the Vikings last season—an absolute strike about 35 yards down the seam—is a prime example of that.
2. Dak Prescott
The general Twitter opinion of Dak Prescott is one of the reasons I thought this article diving into the league’s best deep ball throwers was a good idea. Prescott’s on-field play when it comes to throwing down the field is nearly the complete opposite of the public opinion found on social media—he’s clearly one of the best in football at it. Often, when Prescott unleashes a deep pass, I wonder why the Cowboys don’t utilize that part of his game more. Especially on passes deep down the sidelines, Prescott is really, really good.
1. Matt Ryan
Finally, while all of these quarterbacks and a few others have effective deep balls, the choice for No. 1 is pretty easy in my opinion. Matt Ryan gets plenty of arc on his down-the-field shots, giving his receivers time to track the ball in the air, and the throws is very accurately to the left, right, and middle deep parts of the field. Matty Ice’s deep ball was on display against the “Legion of Boom” in the 2012 Divisional Round when Roddy White beat Richard Sherman on a perfectly-placed pass between Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor—and his deep ball has arguably gotten better over the years. When Ryan’s deep ball is on, it’s basically a handoff to his receivers.