I know there's been a lot of verbal slings and arrows flying around about Tebow, inaccuracy, receivers, drops, et cetera. Well, now it's the end of the season and we finally have the ability to take a clear look. Some short and sweet numbers below the jump.
First, Denver had the fewest pass attempts of any team in the regular season, by far. Denver was in last place with pass attempts, at 429. Detroit was in first place with 666.
Let's remember what a drop is - that's where it's solely the receiver's fault, so it is not appropriate to explain these away by pointing the finger at Tebow (or Orton). These are entirely on the receiver; catchable balls and pure drops.
Average drop rate for all teams was 4.91% . You'd expect receivers to drop just under 5% of all the balls thrown to them. Denver receivers collectively dropped 28 passes. That is 6.53% of the passes thrown their way, and that worked out to third-worst in the league, better than only San Francisco and Cleveland.
As you'll see in statistical curves like these, there was a bit of a gap in the drop rates. Most teams were clumped in the 4-6% range, while the edges got more extreme. Fourth-worst was 6.19% (St. Louis Rams). Worst was an incredible 7.54% from the Cleveland Browns.
If Denver had had an average drop rate, that would have meant just under an extra seven pass completions, spread throughout the season. I'm sure that would have helped.
Leading the way in drops was Lance Ball, with six drops. Demaryius Thomas and Eddie Royal each had five.
Finally, let's look at the impact on completion percentage. For the entire season (Orton and Tebow combined), Denver was last in the league, at 50.58% completion percentage. If every team in the league had had an average drop rate, then Denver's completion percentage would have improved to 52.2%, which would have instead made them second-worst, ahead of Jacksonville.
Now, that is moderated by the number of deep passes that Denver throws. One low-tech way to look at that is to look at all the passing yards that a team has, and divide that by the number of pass attempts. If we do that, then we see that Denver ended the regular season fifth-worst in YPA, behind Jacksonville, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Indianapolis, in that order. If we instead assume each team had an average drop rate, and add in the additional completions at their beginning YPA rate (which would short-change them a tiny bit, but whatever), then Denver's ranking improves, but only by one - they jump ahead of Minnesota as well.
I'll leave you all to come to the conclusions from all this. I didn't (and couldn't) split this apart by quarterback, because I couldn't find drop numbers by quarterback. However, since Thomas and Ball got more playing time under Tebow, we can probably assume that the drops were disproportionately happening while Tebow was throwing.