Opinion

Case Keenum 14th, Aaron Rodgers 11th in NFL.com Year-End QB Rankings

NFL.com unveils its year-end quarterback rankings, with a couple interesting selections.

Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com posted his year-end quarterback rankings Thursday. In a bit of a head-scratching move, Rosenthal ranked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ahead of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum. Rodgers was rated as the No. 11 quarterback and Keenum was slotted in at No. 14.

The 11-13 selections were labeled as the “Brilliant and Breif” category. The trio included Rodgers, Jimmy Garappolo, and Deshaun Watson, in that order. All were rated higher than Keenum, who helped lead the Vikings to a NFC North Championship, a No. 2 seed in the NFC, and a 13-3 regular season record.

Keenum had an 11-3 record as a starter and threw 22 touchdowns and only seven interception in 15 games played. According to Seth Walder of ESPN Keenum had the second-highest QBR among all NFL quarterbacks in 2017 (69.8). Only Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles had a higher rating (75.8). Keenum even surpassed Tom Brady of the Patriots, who was third with a QBR of 67.4.

The regular season stats of the signal callers are in Rosenthal’s QB Index. He wrote the following for each selection:

11
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers
2016 rank: 3
 
2017 stats: 7 games | 64.7 pct | 1,675 pass yds | 7.0 ypa | 16 pass TD | 6 INT | 126 rush yds | 0 rush TD
12
Jimmy Garoppolo
QB
49ers
2016: N/A
2017 stats: 6 games | 67.4 pct | 1,560 pass yds | 8.8 ypa | 7 pass TD | 5 INT | 1 rush TD
13
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans
2016: N/A
2017 stats: 7 games | 61.8 pct | 1,699 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 19 pass TD | 8 INT | 269 rush yds | 2 rush TD
Rosenthal provided a brief explanation for why he ranked the three so high, starting with Rodgers at #11:

“I struggled with how to rank these three shooting stars of the 2017 season. Rodgers would be second in my per-game grading average and Jimmy GQ would be in the top-five, but they only played a third of the season and don’t deserve to be ahead of top-10 quarterbacks who stayed healthy.”

Garoppolo once compared himself to Rodgers, a correlation that makes more sense after watching the 26-year-old rifle the ball quickly from odd angles during his supernova stretch of starts with the 49ers. The presence of coach Kyle Shanahan should ensure Garoppolo’s fast start transfers to lasting success.

Watson’s stretch of healthy games was like a five-hour energy shot to the 2017 NFL season that wore off too soon, leaving America with a rotten stomach and Tom Savage. The 2018 season will be a lot more fun if we get a full season from this trio.

JEFF FISHER REFUGEES

14
Case Keenum
QB
Vikings
2016 rank: N/A
The advanced metrics (PFF, DYAR, QBR) all have Keenum in the top-seven quarterbacks, so it’s quite possible I’m underrating him. He graded slightly lower here because of how much the Vikings‘ sensational play-calling and receiver play helped out, in addition to an inordinate amount of dropped potential interceptions. Keenum’s ability to keep plays alive before finding receivers late in the down was a surprising joy to watch all season.
 
2017 stats: 15 games | 67.6 pct | 3,547 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 22 pass TD | 7 INT | 160 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Borman Breakdown

Grading Keenum lower because “receiver play helped out” and because of “an inordinate amount of dropped potential interceptions” is a stretch. Sure there were some drops, but remember the Carolina game? The receiver play did anything but help Keenum’s numbers, and it actually caused an interception. “Sensational play-calling” is a bit of a reach as well, and could be said of any good QB play.

Keenum ranked ahead of quarterbacks Jared Goff (15) and Cam Newton (16) which I find puzzling as well. Be that as it may, he had one fewer touchdown and one fewer interception than New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who No. 4 on the list. Keenum threw two more touchdowns than Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who came in at No. 9. Keenum may not have thrown for 4,000 yards but he didn’t start 16 games either.

Keenum was snubbed on this list. I would like a better explanation of why the three “Brilliant and Breif” quarterbacks are rated so high. Sure, when they played they played well, but they didn’t have much of an impact on their team’s season. Like Rosenthal said himself, they only played in a third of the games.

The intro of the article states that Rodgers, Garappolo and Watson all finished in the top ten of Rosenthal’s per-game grading average. That’s likely true, but extrapolating their season stats isn’t the same as actually doing it.

The Vikings earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC with Keenum at the helm, and for that fact alone I think he deserves to be rated higher than 14th.

This could be a simple case of Rosenthal not thinking very highly of Vikings quarterbacks. In 15 games last season, Sam Bradford threw for 20 touchdowns and five interceptions (he was pretty accurate, too). Bradford finished 20th in Rosenthal’s 2016 rankings.

Rodgers had a 4-3 record as a starter in 2017. Garappolo was 5-0 leading the San Francisco 49ers but only threw for seven touchdowns versus five interceptions. Watson had great numbers but was 3-3 as a starter before he tore his ACL.

Is Keenum a better quarterback than Rodgers, Garappolo and Watson? No, I don’t believe he is — but he clearly had a better season. The article states: “This is the Quarterback Index. For one final time this season, we ranked every team’s primary starter based on 2017 performance alone.”

Based on 2017 performances alone, I question ranking Rodgers, Garappolo and Watson higher than Keenum.

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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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7 Comments

  1. “Grading Keenum lower because ‘receiver play helped out’ and because of ‘an inordinate amount of dropped potential interceptions’ is a stretch.”

    No, it’s not, Sean. The particular ability of Diggs and Thielen to win contested balls has been a hallmark of their play this season, and duly noted by analysts, which is why those drops against Carolina stand out so much. Keenum’s troubles with accuracy are also well known. Some quarterbacks like Tom Brady elevate their receivers, and some receivers – off the top of my head, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, maybe, or James Lofton back in the 80’s – elevate their QB’s.

    ” ‘Sensational play-calling’ is a bit of a reach as well, and could be said of any good QB play.”

    If bad play-calling can depress a QB’s performance – see Marcus Mariota, and say goodbye to Jack Del Rio – then I don’t see how you can just dismiss the impact of sensational play-calling on a previously journeyman QB. Fitting your system to the available players is the hallmark of the best coordinators, and what often separates them from otherwise successful coordinators who try to mold the players into their system. Joe Walton is the classic example. He elevated the games of Norm Snead and Joe Theismann, who credits Walton with turning him into a Pro Bowl QB, but held back a Jets team with some of the best talent in the NFL in the 80’s.

    And how can you say that Rosenthal’s “Brilliant and Brief” quarterbacks didn’t have much of an impact on their team’s season?” The Texans were 3-3 with Winston and 1-9 without him, the Packers 4-3 and 3-6 with and without Rodgers, respectively, and the 49ers 1-10 without and 5-0 with Garappolo starting. Yes, none of them were perfect, but let’s not forget how often Keenum had games with one great half and one stinker, or that he could be both streaky – Games 5-7 vs. Games 8-11 – and on a rollercoaster from game to game – Games 2-4 and Games 12-16.

    On the other hand, I actually don’t have a problem with Keenum ranking above Goff, who also benefited from superb play-calling, and Newton, who in some ways amplifies Keenum’s own best and worst tendencies. In fact, I’d probably rank Keenum’s season ahead of Rogers’ and Winston’s, and maybe even Philip Rivers’s, who was owned this year by the Chiefs the way Keenum owns the Bucs, Alex Smith’s (a rollercoaster after Game 5) and Matt Ryan’s, which included two games with a passer rating lower than Keenum’s lowest rated game. That would slide Keenum into the Top Ten, but not the Top Five. I can live with that ranking.

    1. “Keenum’s troubles with accuracy are also well known.” I disagree.

      https://twitter.com/PFF_Minnesota/status/950503768478674944

      Did the Texans, Packers or 49ers make the playoffs? No, mainly because these starting QB’s only played in roughly a third of the games, which is my point. When they were in, yes of course they made a difference — IN THOSE GAMES. In the cases of Rodgers and Watson, playing slightly better than .500 ball likely wouldn’t have gotten them to the postseason anyway.

      As far as play-calling, I completely agree that bad play-calling can hinder a QB’s performance. I just question the fact that Rosenthal used this argument against Keenum and NO ONE else in the top 20. It’s a weak argument in my opinion.

      Are you saying that because Keenum was “streaky” and had good and bad halves he should be ranked lower?

  2. Well it’s obvious Gregg Rosenthal doesn’t have the faintest clue how to rate QB’s. The guy just lost a bunch of credibility.

  3. Case is who he is. He’s a bit streaky and doesn’t have the best arm… He’s been pretty accurate and he’s taking care of the ball. He’s gotten lucky a couple times. He is also very good at running and his pocket presence is exceptional.
    He is this and that and blah blah blah….
    I just want him to help this team to win 3 more games!
    SKOL

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