Quantifying the Explosive Play
We've heard a lot of analysts talk about 'the explosive play', and why its so important to the NFL these days, and how Colin Kaepernick has far more of them than Alex Smith. Smith has 23 plays of 20+ yards (1 run) out of 267 passes, sacks, and runs. Kaepernick has 13 plays of 20 or more yards out of 111 passes, sacks, and runs. On plays of 25 yards or more, Smith has 11 and Kaepernick has 9. On plays of 30+ yards, Smith has 6 and Kaep has 7.
This is despite that fact that Smith has 2.5x more plays than Smith -- discussion closed, right? wrong.
Question: which quarterback is more dependent on the 'big play' for yards? The answer is that they're the same!
On plays that didn't result in a turnover (more later), Alex Smith averaged 6.64 yards per play (pass/run/sack). If you throw out the top 5% of his non-turnover plays, this drops to 5.2 yards per play (pass/run/sack). In other words, his biggest plays are responsible for 22% of his yards.
Let's turn to Kaepernick. On plays that didn't result in a turnover, Colin Kaepernick averaged 7.89 yards per play (pass/run/sack). If you throw out the top 5% of his non-turnover plays, this drops to 6.08 yards per play. In other words, his biggest plats are responsible for 23% of his yards.
Its basically the same (I had to Split a Kaepernick pass in half to fit it within the top 5%). If I threw out the top 25% of plays, the results don't change (much) - Smith got 62.5% of his non-turnover play yardage from the top 1/4th of his plays, while Kaep got 63.5%.
50.5% of Smith's plays resulted in 5 or more yards. Kaepernick, 49.5%. 63.7% of Smith's plays resulted in positive yardage. Kaep - 65.5%.
Tack on the fact that Smith was 25% more likely to commit a turnover than Kaepernick, and 60% more likely to be sacked than Kaepernick.
Simply put, Kaepernick has been better than Smith at everything, on all types of plays. Put any idea that he's just more likely to complete a big pass or run downfield out of your head completely.
***I wanted to add a note about expected points added. Excluding 'no play' penalties, Alex Smith averaged 0.134 added expected points per play, or 35.82 in total. Colin Kaepernick is averaging .277 expected points added per play, or 30.7 in total. That's DOUBLE.
Twice as good.
In addition to having double the EPA/play, Kaep's EPA/play is far, far less volatile. Smith's coefficient of Variation (CV) for EPA/play is double Kaepernick's.