Quantifying Quarterbacks, Pre-Season Edition: Iowa’s CJ Beathard Lacks a Dynamic Element Right Now

willie harris

The Iowa Hawkeyes managed to go undefeated last season up until the conference championship versus Michigan State, a game that was theirs until the Spartans final possession. CJ Beathard, who forced Jake Rudock to transfer because he stole the starting job, was at the helm of the team’s offense.

Beathard did not prove to be a spectacular talent, but he did flash interesting tools, sufficient mental processing and the toughness to keep his team in any game.

Games Sampled: Pittsburgh (W), Indiana (W), Michigan State (L)


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

Total: 63/96 (65.63%)

Beathard’s charts indicate that he is not a proficient passer down the field. Of his 12 attempts beyond 20 yards, he completed a mere three passes to bring him to 25% of completion. 25% completion in that area is not inexcusable, but it is not the type of execution that is going to strike fear into opposing defenses. Beathard’s deep passing issues go beyond his efficiency, though. He rarely tests defenses down the field. Only 23 of his 96 passes (23.96%) traveled further than 10 yards, let alone more than 20 yards.

Hitting on a different note to the same problematic song, more than half (54.17%) of Beathard’s passes traveled in the air five or fewer yards from the line of scrimmage. It’s normal for a large chunk of a quarterback’s throws to be short throws, but Beathard is abnormally conservative. He may be taught to be ultra conservative and allow the offense to grind itself ever so slowly toward the end zone, but there is reason to be concerned regardless of his teachings.

It is rare to see Beathard get out of his comfort zone and attack defenses. He is a calculated, methodical passer who plays with a style that lacks creativity and aggression. His legs give his game a little bit of spontaneity, but his rushes are more often a product of him shying away from an aggressive throw than it is him truly avoiding defenders in the pocket. Beathard likes to stick to a strict script and negate his presence as a creator for his offense. Analysts are going to cling to Beathard’s preference to stick to the plan, but a quarterback has to do more than facilitate in order to set himself apart from the ordinary signal caller. A good quarterback needs to be able to create — or at give his best receivers a chance to make plays — but Beathard is not that type of passer right now.

Pass Rush Breakdown:


  • 3 Man Rush: 1 Time, 0 Pressures – 1/1
  • 4 Man Rush: 54 Times, 10 Pressures – 38/54 (1 ADJ, 9 DE, 1 DB, 1 INT)
  • 5 Man Rush: 25 Times, 10 Pressures – 13/25 (1 ADJ, 4 DE, 1 TD)
  • 6 Man Rush: 16 Times, 11 Pressures – 12/16 (1 ADJ, 2 DE, 1 INT)

Passing When Pressured: 19/31 (4 DE, 1 TD, 1 INT)

For as uncreative as Beathard is, he is tough and fearless in the pocket. He stands in the pocket with confidence and delivers throws with defenders crushing him immediately after he releases the ball. His maneuvering of the pocket is not world class, but he has the gall to hang in the pocket no matter what and has enough wiggle to keep himself clean on a fairly regular basis. With as rarely as pass rushers phase Beathard, he is able to keep the offense on track and make the throws he sought out to make with his pre-snap read regardless of the chaos around him.

It is also worth noting that Beathard was reportedly playing with an injured right groin since Iowa’s matchup versus Illinois, which was played prior to the Indiana and Michigan State games that ended up on Beathard’s charts. Playing most of a season with an injured groin is the grittiest, most Iowa thing Beathard could have done. All jokes aside, it’s impressive feat on his part.

Situational Passing:


  • Play Action: 13/24 (2 TD)
  • Rolling Out: 5/7 (1 TD)
  • 3rd/4th Down: 11/23 (1 ADJ, 9 DE, 2 INT)
  • Red Zone: 5/11 (4 DE, 1 TD, 1 INT)

Beathard’s numbers continue to fascinate. While pressure from pass rushers does not get to Beathard, situational pressure takes a toll on him. He gets antsy and his mind appears more cluttered. He gets stubborn and clings to his pre-snap reads, regardless of whether or not his intended target is covered well or not. For Beathard to have nine DE (drops with effort or defended pass) on 23 third/fourth downs is evidence to Beathard’s strong headedness on critical downs. Both of Beathard’s interceptions came on critical downs, too.

Play action is not a strong suit of Beathard’s. He did score two touchdowns on those plays, but a completion percentage only a hair above 50% is odd. It may be further evidence to Beathard being better with shorter, quicker passes considering play action passes tend to be further down the field. Beathard looked good on his few rollouts, though, which are plays that tend to single out a primary target crossing the middle of the field for the quarterback to gun down.

Beathard needs to work on his red zone play, too. Completing fewer than half his throws in the most critical area of the field is less than ideal, especially when he also wasn’t able to throw more touchdowns than interceptions in the red zone. He was not a complete liability, but his ability in the red zone is not up to par.

Route Break Key:


  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing
S 18/18 (1 TD)
O 20/35 (2 ADJ, 6 DE, 1 INT)
I 15/23 (7 DE, 1 INT)
V 7/16 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 1 DE, 1 TD)
C 3/4 (1 DE)

It may not sound like an impressive feat, but Beathard completing all of his screen/shoot/swing passes is exceptional. Most other quarterbacks will have a few get away from them or allow defenders to break up a few passes. Beathard was able to keep a clean sheet there. Beathard’s worst thrown routes are out-breaking routes. His completion percentage on vertical throws is lower, but that is to be expected. Beathard is not a poor outside passer, but many of the outside throws he makes beyond the five yard range lack touch. He throws on a line. Of course, that is great for generating velocity and getting the ball to the perimeter on time, but sometimes a passer needs to add a bit of arc on his pass to get the ball over a defender and pin the ball to the sideline for his receiver. Beathard can not consistently do that.

On in-breaking routes, Beathard excelled. He likes to throw those routine passes as often as he can and he throws them well. He completed many of his in-breaking passes and nearly all of his incompletions were contested, meaning his receiver more than likely had some sort of shot at the ball. In-breaking routes are also where Beathard is most willing to let it rip. He trusts his reads and believes in his ability to fit the ball into tight windows over the middle of the field.

Target Distribution

Tevaun Smith (No.4) 12/26 (6 DE, 1 TD)
Jerminic Smith (No.9) 1/2 (1 DB)
Jacob Hillyer (No.17) 7/11 (3 DE,1 INT)
Akrum Wadley (No.25) 3/3
LeShun Daniels Jr. (No.29) 0/1
Derrick Mitchell Jr. (No.32) 3/3
Jordan Canzeri (No.33) 6/6
George Kirrle (No.46) 7/10 (1 ADJ, 2 DE, 1 TD, 1 INT)
Henry Krieger Coble (No.80) 10/11 (2 ADJ, 1 DE)
Matt VandeBerg (No.89) 14/23 (3 DE)

Beathard had two clear favorites last season, but used both of them in different ways. Tevaun Smith, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent, was used by Beathard as a multi-tool receiver. Smith was used for any type of route and was Beathard’s most common target when throwing down the field. Matt VandeBerg, on the other hand, was more of a short game possession receiver. A majority of his targets came on screens or quick routes. Luckily for Beathard, VandeBerg will be on the team in 2016 to provide continuity at the receiver position.

It’s easy to understand why many are buying Beathard’s stock heading into 2016. He is a fairly smart, methodical passer who can will to a game plan and keep an offense chugging along. He has ample arm strength, requisite accuracy in the short-to-intermediate areas and a level of toughness that teams will appreciate. Conversely, Beathard lacks a dynamic element to his game and is not as aggressive as he needs to be. Quarterbacks who do not attack down the field consistently need to be impeccable in the short-to-intermediate area. While Beathard is sufficient there, he is not the absolute surgeon he would need to be.

Assuming Beathard is healthier than he was reported to be last season, he will need to be more of a vertical presence and playmaker than he was throughout his junior campaign in order to take the next step. If he can add more dynamic elements to his game, he would turn himself into a quality quarterback prospect all-around and possibly assert himself as one of the top passers in the 2017 class.

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