Quantifying Quarterbacks, Pre-Season Edition: Gustafson Needs to Prove He’s Up to the Task


Coming from the FCS level, Brady Gustafson is already drawing comparisons to Carson Wentz. Not only is that an unfair expectation for Gustafson to live up to, but the two are not that similar as players.

By: Derrik Klassen

Both of them have interesting tools that need to be refined, sure, but Gustafson’s situation is much different. Gustafson was playing with a new coaching staff last season and his team did not have the overall talent that North Dakota State did. Gustafson’s prospects are entirely disconnected from Wentz.

Games Sampled: North Dakota State (W), Cal Poly (L), South Dakota State (W)


  • ADJ = Adjustment from receiver
  • DE = Drop w/ effort or defended pass
  • DB = Dropped blatantly
  • TD = Touchdown
  • INT = Interception
25+ 4/7 (3 ADJ, 1 DB, 1 TD) 1/3 2/2 (1 TD) 1/4 (1 ADJ)
21-25 1/1 0/1 (1 DE, 1 INT) 0/1 (1 DE, 1 INT)
16-20 2/3 (1 ADJ) 1/3 (2 DE, 1 INT) 0/1 (1 DE)
11-15 1/4 (1 DE) 5/7 (1 ADJ) 4/11 (2 DE, 1 INT) 3/5
6-10 3/9 (1 DE) 3/6 (2 DE) 4/9 (1 DB, 2 DE) 7/9 (1 DE)
1-5 9/13 (1 ADJ, 2 DE) 16/17 (1 TD) 12/19 (1 DB, 5 DE, 1 TD) 1/4 (1 DB, 2 DE)
0 7/8 (1 DE) 5/9 (2 DB, 1DE) 2/3
Throwaways: 0 Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside

Total: 94/159 (59.12%)

FCS completion numbers are tricky. The systems that FCS quarterbacks operate in are often simplistic, but the skill position talent they are working with are often prone to mistakes. Gustafson’s team was especially prone to mistakes, specifically miscommunications, because they were operating under a new play caller. Bob Stitt came to campus last year as the new head coach and implemented a new offense. It’s a quality offense, no doubt, but the players had clear issues with the play calls that lead to a number of incompletions.

Next year’s offense should prove to be much smoother, but we don’t have those numbers to work with yet. We have Gustafson’s 2015 numbers. His numbers are unique in that he has rather specific hot zones, as opposed to general areas in which he is exceptional. For example, Gustafson threw 10/14 to the right boundary in the 6-15 yard range, but was just 4/13 in that same range to the opposite boundary. Yet, when throwing to the left middle area of the field in the 6-15 yard range, Gustafson was 8/13. To the right middle of the field in that same range, he was a miserable 8/20. His numbers around most areas of the field are a mess to try to interpret.

Gustafson is clearly proficient down the field, though. He has an outstanding arm that allows him to launch the ball deep down the field without having to sacrifice quality arc on his passes. Beyond 15 yards, Gustafson was 12/26 (46.15%). Granted, his aggression shines through with three of his four interceptions being thrown beyond 15 yards. Gustafson walked the line between aggression and recklessness last season, but he made as many great throws as he made poor throws. For a player who was working in a new system as a first year starter and still has eligibility left, having miscues down the field are acceptable when the flashes of greatness also show up. Hopefully Gustafson can clean up some of his mistakes and turn them into a few more explosive plays in his senior season.

Pass Rush Breakdown:

    • 3 Man Rush: 38 Times, 1 Pressure – 26/38 (2 ADJ, 5 DE, 1 TD, 2 INT)
    • 4 Man Rush: 87 Times, 17 Pressures – 56/87 (3 ADJ, 3 DB, 15 DE, 5 TD, 1 INT)
    • 5 Man Rush: 18 Times, 5 Pressures – 4/18 (1 ADJ, 2 DB, 3 DE, 1 INT)
    • 6 Man Rush: 15 Times, 5 Pressures – 8/15 (2 ADJ, 1 DB, 2 DE)
    • 7 Man Rush: 1 Time, 1 Pressure – 0/1 (1 DE)


Passing When Pressured: 14/29 (2 ADJ, 4 DE, 3 TD, 1 INT)

Gustafson’s completion percentage under pressure could use some improvement, but to his credit, he threw just one interception on 29 attempts. Too many quarterbacks fold under pressure and make miserable decisions with the ball, but Gustafson was able to secure the ball fairly well and even turn a few broken plays into touchdowns.

The most interesting piece of Gustafson’s numbers against different pass rushers counts is where his interceptions came from. In the 38 attempts Gustafson had versus three man rushes, he threw two interceptions. He threw two interceptions over the rest of his 121 attempts that came versus four or more pass rushers. Gustafson’s interceptions tend to root in poor reading of the field, so it makes sense for him to have a high interception percentage when there are more defenders in coverage.

Situational Passing


  • Play Action: 28/44 (4 ADJ, 3 DE, 3 TD, 1 INT)
  • Rolling Out: N/A
  • 3rd/4th Down: 20/42 (3 ADJ, 1 DB, 12 DE, 1 TD, 1 INT)
  • Red Zone: 7/21 (1 DB, 3 DE, 3 TD)

Gustafson did not record any rollouts in his three games, but he did run play action about 28% of the time. On those plays, he was completing at a slightly higher rate than his overall completion percentage. That is to be expected from a quarterback and it’s not a major feat, but at least Gustafson checks the box in that regard.

On critical downs and in the red zone, Gustafson was subpar. He completed fewer than half of his passes in both portions. To his defense, he threw just one interception in 42 attempts on critical downs and did not throw any in the red zone. He even converted three of his handful of red zone completions into scores. Gustafson’s lack of live snaps more than likely played a part in his production in these high-pressure situations.

Route Break Key:


  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing
S 15/23 (2 DB, 2 DE)
O 17/32 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 4 DE)
I 42/67 (1 ADJ, 2 DB, 15 DE, 1 TD, 2 INT)
V 12/27 (6 ADJ, 1 DB, 4 DE, 3 TD, 1 INT)
C 7/10 (1 DE, 2 TD, 1 INT)

Gustafson whiffed on a shocking amount of screen/shoot/swing throws. Two of his eight incompletes were not his fault, but completing just 65% of one’s screen/shoot/swing passes is miserable. They are the highest percentage throws, yet some quarterbacks finish with higher overall completion percentages than Gustafson did in the easiest category of them all. Gustafson struggled throwing to the boundary, too, as he completed a hair over half of his throws there.

It’s a different story for Gustafson in the other three categories, though. He is a solid vertical passer who is not scared to barrage opposing secondaries down the field. Some of his deeper throws can hang in the air longer than they should, but he generally displays impressive arc and velocity. His best work comes over the middle of the field. Having just ten crossing routes is a small sample to work with, but completing seven of those ten passes, including two of them for touchdowns, is encouraging. When throwing in-breaking routes, Gustafson looked the most comfortable. He could more cleanly step into throws, for one. On top of that, he was throwing at more favorable angles and trajectories for a quarterback, whereas throwing to targets moving away from a passer and toward the boundary is a difficult task, especially for a first year starter.

Target Distribution

Brady Gustafson (No.3) 1/1 (1 DE*) *ball was swatted at line of scrimmage, Gustafson caught own pass
Chase Naccarato (No.5) 10/20 (6 DE, 1 INT)
Jamaal Jones (No.6) 20/37 (2 ADJ, 2 DB, 5 DE, 2 TD)
Ellis Henderson (No.7) 16/31 (2 ADJ, 1 DB, 9 DE, 3 TD, 2 INT)
John Nguyen (No.20) 14/18 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 1 DE)
Joey Counts (No.21) 2/3
Caleb Lyons (No.23) 1/2
Riley Kack (No.48) 0/1
Josh Horner (No.80) 8/14 (1 ADJ, 2 DE, 1 INT)
Ryan Burke (No.83) 4/5 (1 DB)
Reese Carlson (No.85) 7/10 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 1 DE)
Ben Roberts (No.86) 11/17 (1 ADJ, 1 DE, 1 TD)

Jamaal Jones, a returning player for Montana in 2016, was far and away Gustafson’s favorite target last season. Jones was the best vertical threat on the team, though he was also a weapon in the short and intermediate areas of the field. When Gustafson was in a pinch or wanted the surest yards available, Jones was his man. Chase Naccarato had a very specific role in the offense. He was almost solely a screen, slant or quick out option for Gustafson. Naccarato did not really have the athleticism for his position, though, and he failed Gustafson on a number of occasions. The last interesting piece to Gustafson’s 2015 arsenal was Ellis Henderson, who was another do-it-all receiver. His results were more mixed than Jones’, though. Henderson had a number of plays where he created a huge window for Gustafson, then other times where he struggled to separate and crumbled when he had to fight for the ball with bodies around him.

Brady Gustafson is going to be a good case study for Quantifying Quarterbacks. He has a number of great tools that he brings to the table on film. He is fairly smart, has a fitting NFL physique, flashes some controlled creativity and has immense arm talent. There are moments in his film that want to make you believe in him, at least as a reliable No.2.

The numbers, on the other hand, do him no justice. His overall completion chart and percentage is questionable. His ability to complete passes under pressure and salvage broken plays needs work, as well. Lastly, he struggled mightily in the red zone and did not fare much better during 3rd/4th down situations. Maybe his poor situational numbers are a testament to his lack of playing experience. At the same time, he will be 23 years old by the time his senior season ends. He has had more than enough time to acclimate to the pressure of playing quarterback and it would be risky to project, with any degree of certainty, that Gustafson will improve in that regard. He is an NFL player in some capacity, but Gustafson’s senior season could make the difference between being a top 100 selection and being an undrafted free agent.

Arrow to top