Like the home run in baseball, almost everyone loves the deep ball in football. There might not be a more exciting play than a dime deep down the field creating chunk yardage, and some quarterbacks really excel at hitting their receivers in stride on big-play attempts. There are so many variables that go into statistical success of throws of around 20+ yards down the field, so I am simply listing (not in order) about one-third of the league’s starters that I believe throw the best deep ball in particular. However, I will give a top three that I believe stand out as the NFL’s elite in terms of deep ball accuracy for 2020.
The entire team put around Matthew Stafford has not put him in position to be a consistent winner in the NFL, but he’s had the weapons (from Calvin Johnson to Marvin Jones to Kenny Golladay) to show off the natural arm strength and accuracy that made him the No. 1 overall pick over a decade ago. Stafford can launch it a country mile with the flick of his wrist, making his accuracy look almost effortless.
The Hail Mary attempts of Aaron Rodgers have reached legendary status, and the longtime Packers starter also still has one of the best “normal” deep balls in the league—whether it’s a complete bomb or a strike down the seam or sideline. Perhaps the weapons have a lot to do with it, as Rodgers used to have arguably the deepest receiving trio in the league on a few occasions, but he might have been in the top spot earlier in his career.
Throwing the deep ball well is not all about arm strength, as timing and anticipation are arguably more important—throws don’t often need to travel 50+ yards down the field anyway. Jared Goff has underrated arm strength, but his pace and touch on passes down the field have stood out in Sean McVay’s offense over the past few years. He can hit receivers on the typical 20+ yarders in stride, but he’s also great at getting the ball up and down through the back layers of a defense.
It’s pretty crazy that accuracy was supposedly a concern for Deshaun Watson heading into the NFL. While the Clemson product might not be a prototypical deadly-accurate passer, he places the ball with accuracy to all areas of the field—and he might be at his best on the long ball. Houston’s offense has plenty of speed on paper this season, and Watson should have many opportunities to throw deep while spreading the ball around.
He might have put it behind him last season, but Kirk Cousins gets some flak for not playing well in primetime games. However, his deep ball accuracy is not something that’s been much of an issue for him in Washington and Minnesota. Cousins was able to play with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen with the Vikings for the past few years, but like most quarterbacks on this list, he has done it with a variety of weapons. The former fourth-round pick has one of the best drop-in-the-bucket touches you will see in 2020.
I am assuming the injury to Ben Roethlisberger’s right throwing arm will not affect him this season, in which case the two-time Super Bowl champion should resume possessing one of the NFL’s top deep balls. Big Ben has obviously been a huge part in the statistical success of some of his receivers like Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster thanks in part to his ability to hit them on the mark down the field. Roethlisberger also gets a major plus for his potential on lengthy back-shoulder passes.
The work ethic of Tom Brady allows the soon-to-be-43-year-old quarterback to throw the ball about as well now as he ever has despite the struggles of most quarterbacks when they approach and hit 40. New England’s offense last season didn’t call for it often, but Brady still throws absolute lasers down the field, and he’s shown the accuracy on the deep balls he did attempt to Phillip Dorsett and company. Brady will take what the defense gives him and is not afraid to check down often, but look for him to open things up and display his long-ball this season.
Taking into account his top-tier arm strength, and many might believe Patrick Mahomes is a lock to be squarely in the discussion for No. 1. In terms of overall accuracy, I think a few players get the edge over Mahomes on the deep ball, though. All quarterbacks miss, but Mahomes has more easy misses than most fans might expect, which keeps him outside of the top three for me—but he’ll typically find a way to make up for it without much issue later in the drive or in the game.
3. Matt Ryan
Former NFL MVP Matt Ryan doesn’t have a complete cannon for a right arm, but his deep ball accuracy is undoubtedly among the best in football. Having Julio Jones certainly helps, but Ryan has always put his long balls on the money to a bunch of different targets over the years. Matty Ice throws outstanding high-arching passes all over down the field from sideline to sideline.
2. Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson has a relatively long release for a great NFL quarterback, but his throwing motion probably helps him throw a beautiful rainbow-like deep ball. While Seattle typically likes to have a situational type of size/speed deep threat, Wilson arguably hasn’t had a top “big” go-get-it weapon throughout his career (D.K. Metcalf looks set to be that for a long time). No matter his supporting cast, you can count on Wilson perfectly placing the ball into the waiting arms of his receivers down the field.
1. Dak Prescott
Next Gen Stats isn’t perfect, but it had Dak Prescott as the league’s top deep thrower last season, and I agree. Since his stellar rookie season, Prescott has shown excellent touch on long attempts, hitting his weapons perfectly when they have a step on a defender while also putting it up to a precise spot where his guy can go get it in tight coverage. After the Cowboys added CeeDee Lamb in the draft, Dak should have a bunch of chances to stand out with the deep ball again this year.