QB Velocity Rankings: Nick Foles has an objectively strong arm

Posted on March 3, 2014

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Arm strength for NFL quarterbacks is typically a relatively subjective assessment. Without hard data, it’s tough to say definitively who has strong arms and who doesn’t.

Personally, I’ve always wondered why they don’t have QBs do a long distance toss or throw for a radar gun at the combine. Perhaps they fear it would hurt the players’ arms? Well, apparently there’ve been speed guns at the combine for years, and Ourlads.com has the results for 2008-2014, which I’ve compiled into the chart below (long, but Control-F-ible).

As you can see, Nick Foles ranks in the 13th-21st range among the 90 quarterbacks who threw at the combine from 2008-2014. Now, this isn’t a perfect dataset for measuring relative arm strength [1], but the results still demonstrate that Nick Foles has upper-end arm strength.

Quarterback Throw Velocities at NFL Combine 2008-2014

Rank QB Velocity Program Year
1 Logan Thomas 60 Virginia Tech 2014
2-7 Stephen Morris 59 Miami 2014
2-7 Tyler Bray 59 Tennessee 2013
2-7 Zac Dysert 59 Miami (OH) 2013
2-7 Brandon Weeden 59 Oklahoma State 2012
2-7 Kirk Cousins 59 Michigan State 2012
2-7 Colin Kaepernick 59 Nevada 2011
8-12 Austin Davis 58 Southern Mississippi 2012
8-12 Ryan Mallett 58 Arkansas 2011
8-12 John Wilson Parker 58 Alabama 2009
8-12 Mike Reilly 58 Central Washington 2009
8-12 Drew Willy 58 Buffalo 2009
13-21 Tom Savage 57 Pittsburgh 2014
13-21 James Vandenberg 57 Iowa 2013
13-21 Nick Foles 57 Arizona 2012
13-21 Chandler Harnish 57 Northern Illinois 2012
13-21 Jordan Jefferson 57 LSU 2012
13-21 Mark Sanchez 57 Southern Cal 2009
13-21 Josh Freeman 57 Kansas State 2009
13-21 Chase Daniels 57 Missouri 2009
13-21 Paul Smith 57 Tulsa 2008
22-33 Blake Bortles 56 Central Florida 2014
22-33 Jimmy Garoppolo 56 Eastern Illinois 2014
22-33 Jeff Mathews 56 Cornell 2014
22-33 Keith Wenning 56 Ball State 2014
22-33 Ryan Nassib 56 Syracuse 2013
22-33 Bradley Sorensen 56 Southern Utah 2013
22-33 Patrick Devlin 56 Delaware 2011
22-33 Andy Dalton 56 TCU 2011
22-33 Cam Newton 56 Auburn 2011
22-33 Levi Brown 56 Troy 2010
22-33 Nate Davis 56 Ball State 2009
22-33 Curtis Painter 56 Purdue 2009
34-42 Jordan Lynch 55 Northern Illinois 2014
34-42 Geno Smith 55 West Virginia 2013
34-42 Tyler Wilson 55 Arkansas 2013
34-42 Russell Wilson 55 Wisconsin 2012
34-42 Casey Keenum 55 Houston 2012
34-42 Scott Tolzien 55 Wisconsin 2011
34-42 Rhett Bomar 55 Sam Houston State 2009
34-42 Joe Flacco 55 Delaware 2008
34-42 Kevin O’Connell 55 San Diego St 2008
43-49 Tajh Boyd 54 Clemson 2014
43-49 Bryn Renner 54 North Carolina 2014
43-49 EJ Manuel 54 Florida State 2013
43-49 Matthew Scott 54 Arizona 2013
43-49 Patrick Witt 54 Yale 2012
43-49 Nathan Enderle 54 Idaho 2011
43-49 Jake Locker 54 Washington 2011
50-59 David Fales 53 San Jose State 2014
50-59 AJ McCarron 53 Alabama 2014
50-59 Dustin Vaughan 53 West Texas A&M 2014
50-59 Landry Jones 53 Oklahoma 2013
50-59 Darron Thomas 53 Oregon 2012
50-59 Tom Brandstetter 53 Fresno State 2009
50-59 Cullen Harper 53 Clemson 2009
50-59 Stephen McGee 53 Texas A & M 2009
50-59 Brian Brohm 53 Louisville 2008
50-59 Chad Henne 53 Michigan 2008
60-71 Collin Klein 52 Kansas State 2013
60-71 Ryan Lindley 52 San Diego State 2012
60-71 Kellen Moore 52 Boise State 2012
60-71 TJ Yates 52 North Carolina 2011
60-71 Max Hall 52 BYU 2010
60-71 Tim Hiller 52 Western Michigan 2010
60-71 Michael Kafka 52 Northwestern 2010
60-71 Zac Robinson 52 Oklahoma St. 2010
60-71 Jevan Snead 52 Mississippi 2010
60-71 Graham Harrell 52 Texas Tech 2009
60-71 Pat White 52 West Virginia 2009
60-71 Erik Ainge 52 Tennessee 2008
72-76 Colby Cameron 51 Louisiana Tech 2013
72-76 Marqueis Gray 51 Minnesota 2013
72-76 Christian Ponder 51 Florida St 2011
72-76 Sean Canfield 51 Oregon St. 2010
72-76 John David Booty 51 Southern Cal 2008
77-84 Connor Shaw 50 South Carolina 2014
77-84 Jacory Harris 50 Miami 2012
77-84 Aaron Corp 50 Richmond 2012
77-84 Ricky Stanzi 50 Iowa 2011
77-84 Tyrod Taylor 50 Va Tech 2011
77-84 Jarrett Brown 50 West Virginia 2010
77-84 John Skelton 50 Fordham 2010
77-84 Matt Flynn 50 LSU 2008
85-88 Michael Glennon 49 North Carolina State 2013
85-88 Dan LeFevour 49 Central Michigan 2010
85-88 Tony Pike 49 Cincinnati 2010
85-88 Josh Johnson 49 San Diego 2008
89 Armanti Edwards 46.5 Appalachian St. 2010
90 Colt Brennan 44 Hawaii 2008

I wanted another way to verify arm strength, so I looked at Football Outsiders’ 2012 game charting data (2013 not out yet) to find his longest throw that year. Only 15 QBs threw a ball farther downfield than Foles (53 yards) all year (and three tied him).

This is an even more imperfect measure than our combine data [2], but it is still additional objective evidence that Foles has a good arm, especially since Foles achieved such a high mark on fewer attempts than most quarterbacks on this list. (Also note how low Peyton Manning ranked. I would be curious to see how he did in 2010 or earlier before his neck injury, and I will be anxious to see how he fared in 2013.)

Arm Strength

I think part of the issue with anyone underestimating Foles’ arm strength was that Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick (subjectively) had cannons. I don’t have much hard evidence for either player, but both pass the eye test. People rave about the way the ball jumps out of Vick’s hand (and he did have a 56 yard toss in 2012). And no one ever complained about McNabb’s arm strength; if anything, he was criticized for throwing the ball too hard for his receivers to catch!

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Footnotes

[1] There is some sampling bias here if we’re looking to compare him to all QBs in the league. Not all future pro-QBs go to the combine, and it’s also common for a few prospects each year to attend without throwing. And those prospects also often tend to be the most highly rated prospects, and so we can assume that they would be likelier than normal to have strong arms. (On the other hand, maybe some don’t throw because they want to hide weak arms?)

Another issue is that the values seem off. Why is Armani Edwards’ velocity given with a decimal while the others’ are not? And was Colt Brennan’s maximum velocity seriously 16 mph slower than Logan Thomas’. A 44 mph max velocity implies he can throw the ball about 45 yards max (rough estimate based on playing around with a projectile motion calculator). Seriously? I tried to check this by watching Colt Brennan highlight videos on YouTube and saw zero tosses exceeding 40 yards in 4 minutes of watching. Is that right?

[2]

  1. Incompletions are marked based on where the ball lands and completions are marked where it’s caught so if a quarterback throws a ball that’s caught, it will have a shorter reported distance than the same ball that is not caught and travels a little farther before hitting the ground.
  2. You’ll get more distance throwing straight down the middle as opposed to down the sideline
  3. The starting point is the line of scrimmage as opposed to the spot where the QB released the ball.
  4. Not every QB unleashes a max distance throw each year
  5. Wind/weather may help some and hurt others

Regardless, these flaws affect all QBs about the same, so over such a large sample, it should still provide a reasonable approximation of arm strength.

Posted in: Eagles