The End of the Pocket Passer era?

One of the benchmarks I like to use for NFL trends is championship success. Teams that make it to the championship games and the Super Bowl are NFL trend setters to ALL GM’s in the league. When you look at the 4 teams in the championship games this weekend, let’s consider the rushing stats for all 4 starting QB’s this weekend:

Jalen Hurts: 165 attempts, 760 yards, 13 td’s, 4.6 yards/carry
Patrick Mahomes: 61 attempts, 358 yards, 4 td’s, 5.9 yards/carry
Joe Burrow: 75 attempts, 257 yards, 5 td’s, 3.4 yards/carry
Brock Purdy: 22 attempts, 13 yards, 1 td, 0.6 yards/carry

Clearly, Hurts is the definition of a scrambling QB. If he wins the Super Bowl, expect every unimaginative GM to sit up and take notice, although a lot of what he does is due to the great offense around him. (the GM’s might miss that part)

Mahomes is kind of a unicorn, but even reading into his rushing skills, along with the Jalen Hurts factor, means an Eagles-Chiefs Super Bowl would definitely signal an end to the pure pocket passer era. (Brady and Rodgers, take note!)

Burrow is kind of a borderline QB between scrambler and pocket passer. While he is capable of running, he isn’t in the same league with a lot of the league’s scramblers. A Bengals-Eagles Super Bowl leaves the pocket passer question open, although showing a serious trend away from pure pocket passing.

Purdy is the big question mark in this debate. If the 49ers win the Super Bowl with him, the whole argument for scramblers goes back to the drawing board. Sure, scramblers are fun to watch, but look at the recent Super Bowl winners, and all you see are pocket passers: Stafford, Brady, Mahomes (unicorn), Brady, Foles, Brady, Manning, and Brady. You have to go back to 2013 when Russell Wilson (539 rushing yards, 5.6 yards/attempt) won the Super Bowl to find an accomplished scrambler. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1994 to find a scrambler who won the Super Bowl: Steve Young, who was also a brutally efficient passer (3969 passing yards, 70.3% completed, 35 td’s, 10 int’s).

This year’s Super Bowl contenders do lean towards the scrambler side, but they also prove that even scramblers have to be efficient passers to win championships.

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I don’t think the pocket passer era is over. Over the last few years, teams were infatuated with rushing QBs, as they would add another dimension to an offense. And they certainly do.

But, as a matter of fact, there were only 2 QBs who’d qualify as a rushing QBs to me, who made it to the Super Bowl: Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

The rest is a list of pocket passers. Some statues (Brady, Stafford, Ryan), some more mobile ones (Mahomes). But at the end of the day, all QBs whose focus is clearly on passing.


I have to agree with Zak. It’s great to have an athletic QB who can run when needed but there is no movement to a running QB. Hurts was the one injured at year’s end and do not expect him to run half as much next season.

One thing I have noticed on QBs is that the top guys have created more distance between them and the second tier. I do not have stats to prove the point just observations which tell me I really need a top 6 QB, very similar to TE. JMO

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Let me put it another way: A QB must be an efficient passer FIRST. Even game managers like Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson, and Joe Flacco have won Super Bowls. Admittedly, a game manager asks much more from his running game and defense, but it can still happen. A more efficient passer can take pressure off their running game and defense. But to take even more pressure off requires some scrambling skills, such as Burrow or Mahomes have.

From a strict fantasy perspective, we don’t care about who wins the Super Bowl. However, when you look at the top 5 fantasy QB’s by season total, three of them are still in contention: Mahomes, Hurts, and Burrow. Even if you only look at average points per game, those three are still in the top 5. For the record, if you only consider the 6 games Brock Purdy started, he averaged 18.05 points per game, putting him at 15th in average ppg. For fantasy purposes, the efficient passing QB’s who can scramble even a little carry more weight.


It easily reached a 10-year high last year, but this hasn’t exactly been an elongated trend between the top-six fantasy quarterbacks and the QB7 to QB12 tier. The below chart denotes the average fantasy points per game from each bucket over the past 10 years and the corresponding difference between the groups:

While scoring in both buckets is increasing, it’s tough to anoint 2022 as a true changing of the guard in terms of the disparity between high-end and low-end QB1s when 2021 marked the smallest difference between the two groups.

Just found this to support my post.

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Considering three of the top 5 QB’s can scramble, and are in the championship playoff round, I’d say my point carries more weight. We are moving towards an era where a scrambler is not only valued above a pure pocket passer, but is also a greater fantasy asset, which your chart proves.

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It does but also shows the widening gap from the top 6. It is no longer that top QBs are not much a difference than other top 12 QBs.

My top QBs over the past few years are Allen, Mahomes, Herbert, Hurts, Burrow and would now add Lawrence. They are all athletic and can run have great arms and can read D’s making great decisions. I would only call Hurts a running QB.

My next group is Jackson, Murray, Fields and lets add Lance here. What they have in common is injury. They all hurt their team by not being available and Hurts came very close.

I would take my top 5 over any of them including Hurts because of the added risk. JMO

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Here’s a run down of the top every snap graded QBs of 2022 from PFF.

1 Allen- 92 overall, 86 pass, 93 run
2 Burrow- 91.5, 90.5, 77.5
3 Mahomes- 91, 87, 87
4 Hurts- 86, 80.5, 84
5 Jackson- 85, 72, 93

Tua, Geno and Cusins came in 6, 7 and 8.

9 Lawrence- 79, 74, 84
10 Herbert= 78, 77, 60

The grades are for every snap of the year. Lawrence started slow but really came on in the second half.

Herbert was injured early and lost his WRs. His grades were way down but have no doubt he will come back.

The best are the best no matter how you look at them.

According to the PFF grades you supplied, Mahomes and Allen are both better runners than Hurts.

Yes, based on runs made last season. Do you disagree?

Not at all. But you said,

Yes, based on quantity not quality.

I think quality counts, because it forces defenses to respect your ability to run with the ball.

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A running QB to me is a QB who executes designed runs on a regular basis. QBs like Hurts, Fields, Lamar, Kyler or Josh Allen.

A mobile QBs like Mahomes will rush the ball whenever he sees an opportunity, but I still wouldn’t call him a running QB.

The question is how to distinguish pure pocket passers from what you call scramblers, @edmcgon. The ability to scramble is one that every pocket passer should possess, as no pocket will hold forever.

Mahomes’ mobility is certainly outstanding, especially in combination with his ability to scan both his vincinity and the downfield situation simultaneously. And that he can release the ball from the oddest motions and angles, including when he’s already been upended.

But there are other QBs who are quite capable of extending plays while still remaining in passer mode. Aaron Rodgers, to just name one.

Agreed and base my view on volume which your examples all have but, Allen I do not see as a running QB.

In my view the best should be able to run when open or needed but not looking to run The NFL has done everything short of “putting a skirt on QBs” to avoid injury and they should consider doing the same.

Agreed insofar as he doesn’t get too many designed runs.

But 126 attempts for 776 yards and 7 TDs - that’s not too far removed from what Austin Ekeler did on the ground.

Another QB who doesn’t look like a rushing QB at first glance, but puts up a surprising production on the ground when you look at the numbers, is Daniel Jones. 120 attempts for 708 yds and 7 TD is not bad at all.

A QB who may have lost his “running” tag this year is Kyler. Looks like the Cards understood that he won’t stay healthy if they give him 5-10 designed runs every game.

How many rushing attempts does a QB need to qualify as a scrambler?

Aaron Rodgers had 34 rush attempts. Clearly not a scrambler.

Tom Brady had 29 rush attempts. For -1 yards too. Blatantly not a scrambler.

Josh Allen had 124 rush attempts, for 762 yards and 7 td’s. THAT is a scrambler.

Mahomes seems to be the cut-off in this discussion: 61 attempts, 358 yards, 4 td’s. The problem here is his passing is so good, his rushing seems to get overlooked. But his rushing yards are exceptional for a pocket passer. In that case, Joe Burrow falls into the pocket passer category, even though he has more rushing attempts? But Burrow also has more rushing td’s than Mahomes?

There’s a gray area somewhere around Mahomes-Burrow.

Especially when he won’t read the playbook! :rofl:

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None, in my book. I understand the different QB roles as follows:

Pocket passer = QB who stays in the pocket and needs to pass the ball before it collapses.

Scrambler = QB who frequently leaves the pocket to avoid the pass rush, but will not necessarily cross the line of scrimmage, as they may still look for an open target while on the run.

Running QB = A QB who gets designed runs from the playbook and will produce rushing stats similar to an RB.

Typical examples:
Pocket passer: Brady, Cousins, Goff
Scrambler: Mahomes, Burrow, Geno
Running QB: Allen, Lamar, Hurts, Fields, Daniel Jones

Scramblers will still put up a solid production on the ground, as they will use gaps that open up while they scramble:

QB Att R-Yds
Geno 68 366
Mahomes 61 358
Burrow 76 259

These QBs are mobile and agile, but are still primarily passers.

Running QBs on the other hand put up significantly higher numbers on the ground:

QB Att R-Yds
Fields 160 1143
Hurts 165 760
Allen 126 776
Jones 120 708

There is no ultimate definition what you need to qualify as one of the 3 types. Also, there are different types of scramblers.

Type A will just flee the opposing pass rush, trying to minimize the damage as much as possible, by either throwing the ball away or trying to go for a minimal gain.

Type B will try to extend the play by escaping the pressure, but still look for open targets on the run. So their scrambles will rarely end in a rushing attempt.

Type C will pass the ball on the run, but also use open gaps for ground yards. Mahomes certainly is the master in this category.

There are certainly gray areas between pocket passers, scramblers and running QBs, as well as between the 3 types of scramblers. But that’s roughly how I would define QBs.

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