NFL Free Agency: Evidence that Case Keenum won’t be one-hit wonder


Despite his breakout season with the Minnesota Vikings, few are listing Case Keenum as a top free agent quarterback. Should be held in higher regard?

Of all the incredible stories to emerge from the 2017 NFL season, few were quite as compelling as the rise of Case Keenum. Labeled as a system quarterback coming out of college, Keenum went undrafted in 2012 and bounced around the league for the next five seasons.

In 2017, however, Keenum emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the game—a development that no one seems to know how to process.

As Keenum prepares for free agency, there’s a rational fear that he was a one-hit wonder. It wouldn’t be the first time that a veteran quarterback stepped up with a solid season on a team that happens to have an elite defense.

That’s certainly a fair concern, as the Minnesota Vikings ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total yards allowed and points allowed in 2017.

True as that may be, there are factors that imply Keenum is more legitimate than the skepticism would imply. He may not be a franchise player, but for a team that’s looking for serviceable contributions, he appears to be overqualified.

There’s no way to deny that there are reasons to lack confidence, but Keenum has been overlooked by so many critics that he’s become an underrated quarterback.

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Keenum is coming off of a regular season that redefined the way NFL fans view him. In relief of injured quarterback Sam Bradford, Keenum flirted with the MVP conversation and turned in an incredibly efficient season.

While the basic statistics can only tell us so much about a player, they’re certainly worth acknowledging with Keenum.

Even in a span of 15 unexpected starts, Keenum managed to produce compelling numbers.

Keenum finished 2017 with 3,547 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. He also ran for 160 yards and a touchdown during what was easily the best season of his six-year career.

In terms of the advanced metrics, Keenum ranked No. 2 in the NFL in QBR (69.7), No. 7 in passer rating (98.3), and No. 9 amongst quarterbacks in Pro Football Focus’ Player Grades (85.3).

Keenum admittedly struggled in the NFC Championship Game, but that shouldn’t completely overshadow his strong season. He may not be the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help a team win.

In contrast to the many one-hit wonders of the past, Keenum displayed a trait that’s often reserved for high-level players: Poise under pressure.

Keenum was under pressure on 522 dropbacks during the 2017 NFL regular season. That number ranked No. 19 in the NFL, but the context is that Keenum was under pressure on 39.3 percent of his dropbacks—the third-highest figure in the NFL.

Keenum completed 55.7 percent of his passes under pressure in 2017, which ranked No. 1 in the NFL—a compelling piece of information.

A better figure is accuracy percentage, which accounts for, “Drops, batted passes, spikes, throwaways, and passes where the quarterback was hit as he was throwing.” On dropbacks during which he was under pressure, Keenum checks in at an impressive 69.2 percent—No. 4 in the NFL.

Keenum also had the second-lowest sack percentage under pressure, which is a testament to his ability to get the ball out quickly when the pocket collapses.

That’s what makes Keenum such a riveting and polarizing player. Most backups who step in and excel are kept clean in the pocket and do an excellent job of getting the ball to where it needs to be, even showing brief flashes of clutch ability.

When the game slows down and the pocket collapses, however, they often show their true colors and revert to backup form.

With Keenum, he was under pressure as often as just about anyone in the NFL in 2017. Even still, he managed to produce what can only be described as a high-level season—no matter the circumstances.

Thus, while the past and the postseason may be concerning, the evidence states that Keenum is better than he’s been given credit for.

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The question is: Which NFL franchise will take a chance on Case Keenum being more than just a one-hit wonder?