Best running quarterback in the NFL? No question, it’s Cam Newton

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Recently on Monday Morning Quarterback, writer Andy Benoit wrote a column saying that the best running quarterback in the NFL is not Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, or even Robert Griffin III.

Benoit proclaimed that the best running quarterback in the NFL is Andrew Luck. In his exact words, “The conclusions: Newton, [Russell] Wilson and Kaepernick are insanely talented athletes, Griffin was not himself last year and Luck is a comparable athlete to all of them and an overwhelmingly better quarterback.”

The categories he looked at were sacks, scrambles and designed runs.

First, with sacks, he said that of the 36 sacks Luck took in 2013 not a single one was his fault. I’m not kidding. Of all 36, he didn’t blame on the young Indy signal caller. The second lowest percentage was Cam Newton at 19.1%, then Kaepernick at 21.6%, RGIII at 26.3% and finally Russell Wilson at 31.3%. The sacks were subsequently broken down into coverage sacks, blocker errors and protection concept, in addition to fault of the quarterback (and Cam had one garbage sack, none of the others did).

For scrambling, they were broken down into good decisions to scramble and also successful scrambles. Luck had the highest percentage of good decisions to scramble (and it wasn’t even close, Luck had 88.6% good decisions while Kaepernick came in second with 74.5%). Newton had the lowest percentage of good decisions, but he had the second highest percentage of successful scrambles with 73.2%, a category Luck led at 75%.

Lastly, on designed runs, Luck only had two designed runs last season, both of which were not successful. RGIII led the group in that category with a 59.5% success rate on 42 designed runs. Cam had the most successful runs with 33 (of 59, 17 more than Griffin attempted, who was second in attempts), which came out to a 55.9% success rate for Newton.

Here’s what I find interesting about the scrambling (as he notes below in the article): Newton still produced a successful outcome even when he made a bad decision 13 of 16 times. I’ll admit Cam runs too much. With his ankle surgery this offseason, I think he and the coaches should look to limit the amount he runs in 2014, otherwise his clock will start ticking faster and faster. But it speaks to the fact that Cam has athleticism that is uncommon for his size. His scramble on Monday Night Football vs. the New England Patriots last year was a fine example of that. It also was no surprise that Newton had the highest percentage of coverage sacks, which is why they need Kelvin Benjamin to have a productive rookie campaign.

Even though Benoit laid out his criteria in the article, the analysis of the film he saw is entirely subjective. What one defines as successful could not be successful to someone else. After reading over his data, I think it actually points to Newton being the most skilled runner, but I can see his point about Luck. Luck is the wisest runner. Luck knows when to run and when not to. Luck is a good athlete, but not in the same ballpark as Newton, RGIII or Kaepernick. I think Wilson belongs closer to Luck than he does to the other three. Wilson seeks to throw first, but has clearly shown he can use his mobility when needed.

Is Luck the best overall quarterback of the group? Yes. Does Luck have the highest football IQ of the group? Most likely. Is Luck the most athletic of the group? No way. It comes down to this for me—do you want the most skilled runner or the most efficient?

Give me the most skilled. You can work on efficiency, but you can’t improve on God given talent. That’s why Benoit’s analysis proved to me that Cam Newton, not Andrew Luck, is the best running quarterback in the NFL.

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