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Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

PFF analytics seemingly support popular criticism of 49ers QB Brock Purdy

Jun 19, 2024 at 12:05 PM

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Brock Purdy has accomplished a lot in his short NFL career. During his rookie 2022 season, he took over as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback in December. Since then, Purdy has helped guide the 49ers to two NFC Championship Game appearances and, this past season, a Super Bowl.

Next year, Purdy will undoubtedly take his place among the NFL's highest-paid players, a situation the 49ers have been gearing up for in recent years.

Entering his third NFL season, Purdy looks to improve upon a 2023 campaign that saw the young quarterback set a single-season franchise record with 4,280 passing yards.

Despite his accomplishments, Purdy's critics remain vocal, diminishing his achievements by crediting the playmakers around him and head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme over his actual talent.

Pro Football Focus analyst Gordon McGuinness recently assessed the NFL offenses, identifying quarterbacks who received the most help in 2023, aided by a strong supporting cast and scheme. His findings seemingly support what Purdy's critics have long claimed.

On the offensive side, the 49ers led the NFL in several analytics categories, scoring the highest receiving grade and the most expected points added (EPA) per play on screen pass, run-pass option, and play-action plays. The latter three can be partially attributed to Shanahan's scheme, while the receiving grade highlights Purdy's strong supporting cast.

"The 49ers totaled four players who saw 100 or more targets in the regular season and playoffs," wrote McGuinness. "All four earned an 85.0-plus PFF receiving grade."

Those four players are wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk (91.7 receiving grade) and Deebo Samuel (87.0), along with running back Christian McCaffrey (86.5) and tight end George Kittle (85.2). All four are returning in 2024, assuming Aiyuk doesn't hold out amid a difficult contract extension negotiation.

Regarding the NFL-leading 0.357 EPA on screen pass plays, McGuinness wrote, "With an EPA per play average more than three times higher than the next-best team (the Dallas Cowboys at 1.107), the 49ers screen game was in a class all by itself. Including playoffs, they picked up 517 receiving yards and five passing touchdowns on screens."

Discussing the 49ers' 0.498 EPA on run-pass option (RPO) plays, McGuinness noted, "The 49ers generated a positive EPA on a whopping 88.2% of their RPO passes in 2023, including the playoffs. Their quarterbacks went 15-for-16 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception from 17 dropbacks."

Finally, regarding San Francisco's 0.416 EPA on play-action plays, McGuinness wrote, "The 49ers once again led the way here, far outpacing any other team in the league. Their quarterbacks went 104-for-140 for 1,348 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions, including the playoffs last year."

Of course, none of this should come as a surprise. The 49ers' talented core of starters is widely considered among the best in the NFL, and head coach Kyle Shanahan remains one of the league's most respected play-callers. That shouldn't diminish what Purdy has accomplished. He's still been able to methodically get the football in the hands of his playmakers and set the offense up for success by playing relatively mistake-free football within Shanahan's complex scheme.

What this tells you about the 49ers' offense is that it is incredibly efficient with Purdy at the helm, bolstering the quarterback's case to be paid market value next year. It's unlikely the team wants to start its search over after struggling to identify a franchise quarterback before getting lucky by drafting Purdy with the last overall pick in 2022.

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