Sometimes, this exercise can be clouded slightly by those with whom these quarterbacks are playing. Wilson and Prescott don’t have Tyreek Hill at their disposal, and since Mahomes does, sometimes those deep passes intended for Hill are expected to be caught because Hill has run himself open by a significant enough margin for the pass to no longer be considered difficult to complete. Evidence of this effectiveness: Hill has 18 touchdowns on deep targets since 2016, which is the second-most in the NFL in that span of time. (Antonio Brown, despite playing just one game last season, still ranks first with 19 — a testament to his prolific production in Pittsburgh.)
That alone is the best explanation for why Mahomes has a nearly identical TD-to-INT ratio and passer rating as Wilson, yet his expectation difference is a decent amount lower than Wilson’s mark. Mahomes’ guys are open on deep passes more often than Wilson’s — and everyone else’s, for that matter — as evidenced by his 30.3 percent rate of targets considered to be open on deep passes (the next-closest QB in this measurement was Kirk Cousins at 25.9 percent). For comparison’s sake, the two most prolific deep-ball games of 2019 were enjoyed by Wilson and Mahomes, with Mahomes completing 7 of 11 deep passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns in Week 2 against Oakland, and Wilson completing 6 of 11 passes for 204 yards and no touchdowns in Week 3 against New Orleans. In Mahomes’ outing, his receivers were open on 27.3 percent of those 11 deep pass attempts. Wilson’s receivers were open on just 18.2 percent of his 11 attempts, and their average target separation was half a yard (1 1/2 feet). That’s all we can really say about it.
Mahomes is obviously an incredibly gifted passer who just led his team to a Super Bowl title. His 12 deep-ball touchdowns are the most of any passer on this list. He’s just not No. 1 because he’s also playing with better surrounding circumstances, which is, again, typical of a team that just won the Super Bowl.
A parting gift: Mahomes leads the NFL in deep-pass TDs since 2018 with 25. Stick that on your Super Bowl LIV fridge.