How many times have the QB’s been sacked?

Working on the prospect tracker earlier (see article below) I decided to look at how many times CFB quarterbacks have been sacked during the 2009 and 2010 season. The results were very interesting.

Andrew Luck has been sacked just nine times during the last two seasons. Incredible protection from the Stanford offensive line and a further sign as to how good that offense is functioning. But how many times have other prospects been sacked in the same time frame.

Jake Locker – 43

Ryan Mallett – 38

Blaine Gabbert – 24

Christian Ponder – 24

Matt Barkley – 30

Terrelle Pryor – 38

Cam Newton has only been with Auburn for one year – so far he’s been sacked 15 times in 2010.

It has to be said – that is a fantastic environment for Andrew Luck to perform. One of the knocks on Sam Bradford before his shoulder injury was that he didn’t face much pressure at Oklahoma. In the two years before his injury, he was sacked 23 times. The fact Luck has only been sacked nine times in nearly two full years of football is incredible. Compare that situation to Jake Locker – who has been sacked 43 times. It has to have an impact on how prospects perform.


  1. Matt

    How many more sacks would Locker have if he wasn’t incredibly fast or had such a quick release? It’s pretty crazy to think about.

    When you factor all of that in, it’s really hard to call Locker a “bad decision maker,” when you look at INTs compared to the game situation (usually losing) and how much pressure he faces. It’s hard not to think that he will only get better protection in the NFL, no matter what team he goes to. Not to mention, how much does this affect accuracy as well? And I’m not just talking sacks/QB hits, but just the ability to settle in the pocket/set your feet when throwing.

    • Matt

      Locker might be one of the hardest QB scouting cases in a long, long time. With most QBs, you are trying to almost downplay their stats/performance to figure out what they would do in a tougher situation (ie less protection/support), whereas with Locker, you are almost trying to figure out how much better he could be with better help.

      I still stand by the notion that it’s very much unfair to label Locker as inconsistent, inaccurate, and a bad decision maker, because the situation he is in with the UW, really doesn’t allow for a QB to be consistent, which ultimately affects every other aspect of his game. Not to mention, the constant losing/playing from behind, really makes an offense one dimensional, and it’s so much easier as a defense to key in on one individual and knowing that an offense can’t afford to be balanced if they wish to win the game.

      It really is an incredibly tough situation for GMs, in regards to accurately assessing and evaluating what Jake Locker might be able to accomplish. The negative side can say that his poor supporting cast has hindered his ability/confidence to stay in the pocket, while the supporters might say, throw him on a good team with help, and he could be all world. This, however, will not be known until a team takes the plunge in drafting him. Although, the senior bowl might give hints as to what he is capable of, considering it will be an equal playing field, albeit unperfect due to players not being familiar with the system and one another.

      • jianfu

        I agree with this. Even if you just compare YouTube highlights of Locker with others, it’s very easy to see guys like Luck or Bradford just stand back there for an age before throwing. Even in Locker’s highlights, he’s often facing gut pressure and is forced to improvise on the run.

        So is he a tough evaluation. Is he Elway? Plummer? Boller? I’m a Vikings fan and I wouldn’t mind them rolling the dice on him (they only have 6th-round rookie psuedo-QB Joe Webb under contract next season), although I could understand if they didn’t want to risk it. I will say with Minny’s young skill position talent, if he’s merely Jake Plummer (albeit preferably closer the Broncos vintage than the early-career Cardinals version), that would be perfectly fine. Anything above that would be gravy.

        • Matt

          And to me, that’s the intriguing part about Locker. It really is a gamble, but not in the sense of whether he can replicate previous success, but rather up his play by simply being surrounded by greater talent.

  2. jianfu

    Interesting. But keep in mind that sack rate tends to be one of the most consistent QB stats when they change teams (along with completion %), suggesting it’s a QB skill. Or at the very least, partly O-line and partly QB. In other words, it could be Luck has a good college line AND is quick with his decisions and release.

    • Matt

      Perhaps it’s a consistent stat in the NFL, but I can’t buy that for college football (not at all actually, even with Completion %). The difference in talent level from the top teams to the bottom teams is huge. I think the easiest way to do this is by the simple eye ball test. Watch a Stanford game, then watch a UW game, and tell me there isn’t a gigantic difference between offensive line play let alone the supporting cast.

      Now, I have no doubt that Luck is a good (maybe) quick decision maker, but all you really have to do is watch a game in it’s entirety to realize that Luck hardly ever faces pressure and those 9 sacks are more of a tribute to his great offensive line play (arguably the best in College), just like the 43 sacks against Locker can be directly on his.

      Now, we could keep running with this and say, “well, along with his poor offensive line play, let’s factor in lesser talent elsewhere that has a harder time separating from coverage, and the problem perpetuates…” My bottom line point here, is the fact that you can throw a majority of stats out the window in college because there are way, way too many factors that can really affect a player’s stats. Would anyone argue that Chris Polk wouldn’t put up better stats if he was running for Stanford or USC?

      • jianfu

        I’d agree mostly and if Locker played for Stanford I have little doubt he wouldn’t be considered a faller like he is now. I’m just saying avoiding sacks is at least partly a QB skill.

        • Matt

          Oh, I do agree that avoiding sacks is a QB skill. That said, (like you infer) it’s a case by case issue. As in, it would be easier to compare Mallett and Luck’s #s, because of similar situations.

          • jianfu

            Correct. By no means am I saying direct comparisons taken without context have merit or that we’ll see apples-to-apples translations when/if these guys make the jump. But I do think you can draw some vague conclusions from this stuff, as Oline only can explain so much (e.g., I think it’s safe to say Andrew Luck probably gets rid of the ball quicker than average).

            For example, Chris brought up Sam Bradford in the post. I have his college sack rate at an outstanding 2.7%, which would have been second to Luck, only Bradford did so in an amazing amount of attempts (824). Halfway through his rookie NFL season, Bradford’s sack rate is at 5.5% behind a young NFL line that probably isn’t as good relative to the opposition as his Sooners teams usually were. But, 5.5% is still better than NFL average.

            FWIW, I agree with your concerns about Luck and intrigue with Locker. I’d prefer to have Locker at 15 (or whatever) than Luck at #1.

        • Rob

          It’s very true jianfu and clearly being able to step into the pocket/get the ball out quickly/scramble/throw away are all skills that can positively impact how many sacks you take. To get a completely definitive assesment here we’d also have to see how many times Locker/Luck/whoever has thrown away under pressure, taken a QB hit etc. However, there’s such a difference there between Luck (9) and even guys like Sam Bradford (22) during their last two years in CFB. One of the knocks on Bradford (ironically, considering his injury) was that he never faced any pressure. He had more sacks than Luck. Locker/Mallett etc have had substantially more sacks than Luck. That has to offer at least some indication on the kind of environments they play in and for me – it has to play some part in how you grade prospects. It has to have an impact on how a guy like Locker/Mallett performs.

    • Matt

      Disclaimer, I’m not saying stats are useless. I’m simply saying comparing 2 players’ stats at the same position in college is useless because the discrepancy in talent, offensive systems, climate, etc can vary and have such a huge effect on #s.

      I don’t want to come across as not giving someone credit for their #s, but rather lining up a stat sheet next to another really isn’t a fair evaluation.

  3. jianfu

    I went ahead a converted the QBs listed sack totals into sack rates to get a better idea how often they’re sacked (ok, technically I divided sacks by pass attempts; I think a true sack rate would include sacks in the denominator, but you all catch my drift):

    Luck, 1.6% (546 att)
    Locker, 6.7% (641 att)
    Mallett, 5.5% (692 att)
    Gabbert, 4.3% (786 att)
    Ponder, 5.9% (574 att)
    Barkley, 4.6% (649 att)
    Pryor, 7.3% (520 att)
    Newton, 8% (185 att)

    The typical average NFL sack rate is 6%, with the leaders (typically Peyton Manning) at 2-3%.

    While I don’t think Luck’s rate is sustainable when he jumps to the NFL (and note that of all the guys except Newton–the only one listed who hasn’t started the past two years–the only guy with fewer pass attempts than Luck is Pryor) but I do think he has an ability to quickly get it out, which is quite valuable. It isn’t mandatory to be a great QB by any means–Aaron Rodgers and Big Ben beg to differ–but it’s valuable.

    • Matt

      Oh I agree that it is a very good skill. My argument is simply that in college, there can be huge extremes/discrepancies in #s that really reflect the situation more than the individual player. Like I’d say that Locker’s poor sack #s don’t truly represent his “avoiding sack skill set,” just like I don’t think Luck’s low # of sacks represents his.

      Don’t get me wrong, Luck is a very good QB with some very good skills. My argument towards Luck (not necessarily against, and this goes for all QBs) is that the eye ball test means more than the stat sheet. Just like I really don’t like completion % in college because different QBs are asked to make different types of throws to vastly different talents.

      My concerns (all along with Luck) have been the fact that he never faces pressure (not looking at sack #s, but actual game footage) and the fact that he is hardly ever asked to make difficult throws (ie tight windows, difficult intermediate range passes). That’s not saying he can’t make those throws, it’s simply that his high completion %, is more of a result of a great pocket to throw from, as well as easy completions (ie to the flats, crossing routes, off play-action). Obviously, I’d want the Hawks to jump on the chance to get him (if possible), but that doesn’t mean I believe the “next Peyton Manning” hype. He’s clearly smart, mobile, decent arm strength, good accuracy. I’m just recognizing the fact that he’s in about as good of a QB situation, that I’ve seen in a long time in college (ie elite O-line play combined with a power running game in the era of undersized spread offenses).

      • jianfu

        Another thing to consider is that while I wouldn’t call Locker a “scrambler,” necessarily (in the pejorative sense), he is very mobile and goes outside the pocket often. Although it’s a little counterintuitive, mobile QBs who can either run for yardage or extend plays when the pocket disintegrates tend to get sacked more often than the pure pocket guys, who are more likely to just check down or throw it away if it’s not there. It’s the yang to their skillset’s yin. I suspect if you asked someone who gets sacked more frequently, Ryan Mallett or Terrelle Pryor, they’d say Mallett, and they’d be wrong.

        So, while I wouldn’t anticipate Locker to be Manning- or Brees-like at the next level when it comes to avoid sacks, I wouldn’t expect him to be. That’s not who he is. And considering his style and circumstances, I think he has a pretty decent rate.

        • Matt

          Well said. Completely agree.

  4. Matt


    You bring up some great points my man. Part of the reason I enjoy Rob’s site is because of back and forths like this with people who understand football beyond how many TDs and Yards a guy throws for.

    And the reason this stuff is so fun to talk about, is because of the successes of the Sam Bradford’s (smart, “accurate) and Aaron Rodgers (physically gifted, rough), and the failures of the Jamarcus Russell’s (physical freaks) and Alex Smith’s (smart, “accurate”). There’s just no set formula or fool proof way to evaluate.

    Don’t tell my boss, but this made my usual slow thursday at work a lot more fun.

    • jianfu

      As do you. Well said about the site, too. I hope you guys don’t mind a Vikings fan hanging around, but I enjoy the commentary and analysis here. (Between this site and FieldGulls, you guys might have the best blogosphere of any team out there. Not sure if you get a trophy for that, but it is what it is.)

      Also, I called Rob “Chris” in a previous post. My apologies, Rob. I’ve had a long morning.

      • Rob

        No problem at all jianfu – I’ve been called a lot more offensive things than ‘Chris’ in the past…

        Seriously though, it’s always a pleasure to have fans from other teams visit the blog. Welcome aboard and I hope you’ll keep visiting and letting us know how the Vikings are shaping up before draft day (certainly helps when conducting the mocks).

  5. Scott

    I like the stats, Locker with a 6.7% sack rate behind that line does not scare me. Unless, he seems like it scares him, know what I mean? You would hate to get a college qb that is already pocket shy.

    I have only seen Luck one time this season, and it wasn’t one of his better games. I will have to defer judgement.

    But Barkley? that is a pretty high sack rate behind a pretty good USC line. Sophmore in learning? IDK.

    • Matt

      Barkley is truly/only a pocket passer, albeit a damn good one. He’s not a statue by any means, but he’s no threat at all on the move (running wise). That said, the kid is asked to make a lot of difficult throws a game.

      Pure passer wise, I think he’s on a whole different level from the rest of the group. For how young he is, he consistently makes some very high degree of difficulty throws. Yes, he’s on a talented team, but unlike Matt Leinart and JD Booty, he’s not a dump it off to a playmaker QB. He definitely makes pretty throws and is really the only college QB I’ve seen in awhile, actually throw a guy open. And I don’t mean just a nice lead pass, but actually redirecting a route by throwing to an open area (showing great touch). The only guy I’ve seen since Bradford who can consistently stick a tight throw, while also having very nice touch. The scary thing is, he’s still really young and only going to get better, all the while commanding a multiple set pro style offense.

    • Rob

      Hi Scott – I had a similiar impression of Luck after watching Stanford @ UCLA. In that game he was erratic and didn’t appear to be making the kind of progressive jump a lot of people were talking about. Even in the Oregon game when he was being crowned the best QB in CFB since Peyton Manning, there were a lot of the things you’d expect from a 2nd year guy who’s only a RS sophomore. However, I can’t stress enough how impressive he was against Arizona. A giant leap really in his entire performance from the UCLA game.

  6. Hunter

    In college are sacks counted anytime the QB is behind the line, even when they are running or when they are actually sacked dropping back passing?
    Also by any chance do you have number of passes dropped by each team.

    • Rob

      I believe they distinguish what is a QB draw and what is a broken scramble – but I may be mistaken. I might be able to find out team drops for the year – leave it with me.

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