Patrick Mahomes was insanely good in 2018 … and also very lucky

Looking at Patrick Mahomes’ 2018 stat line, it’s difficult to find any area where the reigning league MVP can really improve. He threw 50 touchdowns, averaged nearly nine yards per attempt, completed 66% of his passes and his 2.1% interception rate was well below the league average.

The Chiefs quarterback was efficient and made big plays at a ridiculous rate, all while avoiding mistakes. But there is at least one reason to believe Mahomes’ interception numbers are a bit misleading. He threw only 12 picks on 615 attempts, but, according to new data released by Football Outsiders, defenders dropped 10 of those attempts. No quarterback threw more “dropped interceptions” in 2018.

Football Outsiders has been tracking this data since 2011, and they’ve found that a quarterback’s “adjusted interception” total (which adjusts for dropped picks, interceptions on Hail Mary attempts and those that were first tipped by receivers is, on average, 30% higher than their actual interception total. That allows Football Outsiders to come up with an “expected interception” number for every quarterback:

“[A] player with 13 adjusted picks would be expected to finish with 10 actual interceptions. We can use that ratio to estimate how many interceptions a quarterback “should” have thrown based on his adjusted interceptions. Carr, for example, had 20 adjusted interceptions. Dividing that total by 1.3 results in a figure of 15.4. However, he only threw 10 official interceptions. That difference of 5.4 makes Carr the luckiest quarterback of 2018. He’s followed by Mahomes (-4.2, Rodgers (-4.2, Tannehill (-3.3, and new Denver Broncos starter Joe Flacco (-2.5, in only nine starts.”

Outside of Derek Carr, Mahomes was the luckiest quarterback in the league in terms of interceptions. Here’s a sampling of his dropped interceptions in 2018…

We should expect Mahomes to regress a bit in 2019 and throw more interceptions. It may not matter, anyway, because, even when factoring in those dropped picks, Mahomes was still very good in 2018 (duh. Sports Info Solution, which supplies Football Outsiders with charting data, has a proprietary metric they call Independent Quarterback Rating, which factors in those dropped picks. Mahomes led the league in the stat. So, sure, he probably should have thrown a lot more interceptions, but that wouldn’t have changed much.

It’s also worth noting that 2018 was Mahomes’ first as a full-time starter. With more experience, he should be a better decision-maker. Maybe his own development offsets a reversal of fortune and Mahomes puts up similar numbers without the benefit of luck. If so, the Chiefs star might need to make room for another MVP trophy.

(Thanks to Football Outsiders for sharing.

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