Top College Deep Ball Passers in 2020
By KYLE RODEMANN
Completing a deep pass is great for any offense. Not only do these plays flip the field, but they also increase the likelihood of scoring during the drive. Chunk plays lead to momentum shifts, and long touchdowns can often be the turning point a team needs to complete a comeback. This article will look to find out which college QBs were the best at throwing downfield during the 2020 season. Leaderboards found here will include draft-eligible players as well as underclassmen.
For our purposes, we’re referring to balls thrown at least 20 yards downfield, unless otherwise stated. Minimum 30 deep attempts unless otherwise noted (62 QBs). Only regular season data is included in this article.
Most Deep Balls Attempted
Finding a QB that can make all the necessary throws can be hard for a college organization; but once they find one, it opens up so much for a football team’s offense. Not only does it allow for more deep passes, but it also allows for more explosive plays and chunk gains. These QBs are the leaders in deep throw attempts for the 2020 season:
|Quarterback||School||Number of Throws|
|D’Eriq King||Miami FL||63|
|Layne Hatcher||Arkansas State||62|
|Levi Lewis||Louisiana Lafayette||58|
Dillon Gabriel leads the list of most deep pass attempts. This isn’t surprising given UCF’s high-powered offense and quick playing style. Florida’s Kyle Trask is near the top and worth noting. His most successful week throwing deep was against Alabama, where he completed 6 deep passes for 218 yards and 3 touchdowns. Trask is a Heisman finalist and has a chance to be the first Gator Heisman winner since Tim Tebow won the award in 2007.
Highest On-Target Percentage
On-Target Percentage looks at the percentage of passes that hit the receiver in stride. The quarterbacks that make up this list were the most accurate on throws downfield, giving their guys the best chance at coming down with the ball. Here are the most accurate college quarterbacks on deep passes:
|Quarterback||School||On-Target % (Attempts)|
|Zach Wilson||BYU||72% (50)|
|Trevor Lawrence||Clemson||70% (40)|
|Spencer Rattler||Oklahoma||69% (49)|
|Kyle Trask||Florida||68% (60)|
|Mac Jones||Alabama||67% (47)|
|Dillon Gabriel||UCF||66% (69)|
|Jake Haener||Fresno State||64% (34)|
A lot of big names make this list, with Zach Wilson leading the group with a 74% on-target throw rate. Trevor Lawrence is the potential No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. He has been incredible throwing the deep ball, returning an accurate pass on 28 of 40 long balls. He has shown massive improvement in this aspect of his game. Last season, Lawrence’s on-target percentage on deep balls was 48%, 22 percentage points lower than this year’s rate.
Highest Touchdown Percentage
Touchdown percentage tells you the rate in which a quarterback threw for a touchdown on deep passes. This can show you not only the accuracy of these throws, but also which receiving cores are finishing these plays with scores. Here are the QBs with the highest touchdown percentages for the 2020 season:
|Quarterback||School||TD% (TDs Thrown)|
|Mac Jones||Alabama||30% (14)|
|Malik Willis||Liberty||21% (9)|
|Spencer Rattler||Oklahoma||20% (10)|
|Dillon Gabriel||UCF||20% (14)|
|Carson Strong||Nevada||19% (11)|
|Grant Wells||Marshall||19% (9)|
|Kedon Slovis||USC||18% (7)|
Mac Jones has dominated this season, including on deep passes, where he has a 30% touchdown rate. For comparison, last year’s No. 1 pick, Joe Burrow, threw a touchdown on 28% of his deep passes during his historic senior season.
IQR is SIS’ proprietary stat for quarterbacks. It works like QB Rating but factors out things outside of the QB’s control. This includes dropped passes (which they receive positive credit for) and dropped interceptions (which they receive negative credit for).
Here are the QBs with the highest IQR on deep passes for the 2020 season:
|Devin Leary||NC State||121.5|
|Jake Haener||Fresno State||116.5|
A lot of names on this list also made other lists. This makes sense given the nature of IQR. Zach Wilson has had a meteoric rise this year in the eyes of NFL scouts. His efficiency on the deep ball has put his hat in the ring with the other first round QBs. Trask is another name to keep in mind, as he joins Wilson in that same ring as a potential first-round draft pick.
Last season, Burrow wowed the country with his historic rise. The deep ball factored into his success, as he led college quarterbacks in deep ball touchdown percentage, and was top 5 in on-target percentage, lowest interception percentage, yards, and touchdowns. If the deep ball is any indication, this year’s draft class has considerable talent at the QB position. Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Kyle Trask all excelled throwing deep but Mac Jones may be the best deep passer in this class.