Passing in the NFL comes in any number of flavors, but the general trend has been an emphasis more efficiency, higher completion percentage, and overall, shorter passes. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and all those guys. But Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson don't have time for all that.
Football Perspective took a look at which quarterbacks throughout NFL history produced the most yards per completion above the NFL average. Among current players, Kaepernick and Wilson have produced the most yards per completion over NFL average per attempt. (That's a mouthful, and we'll get into the complications, but it essentially means that these two throw the ball farther than their peers.) Kaepernick was 0.94 yards above the NFL average completion per attempt and Wilson was 0.69 yards above average. Raw yards per attempt is still a better measure of overall effectiveness (Kaepernick and Wilson were eighth and fourth, respectively), but this is a good window into their style of play.
Here's how the methodology breaks down: Last year Kaepernick averaged 13.16 yards per completion, which was 1.56 yards above the NFL average of 11.6 YPC. Taking 1.56 multiplied by his 243 completions tells you he provided 370 yards above the average completion. Dividing that by his 416 attempts last season tells you that he produced 0.89 yards above the NFL average completion per attempt in 2013.
While Kaepernick and Wilson significantly outpace the NFL average in this regard, several of today's most prolific passers hover closer to the average. Peyton Manning is just 0.14 yards above the average the average completion per attempt and Tom Brady is 0.16 yards above average. Drew Brees is actually 0.08 yards below the average.
This is because Manning, Brady, and Brees run offenses different than the ones Wilson and Kaepernick run. Their yards per attempt are typically so good because they complete a high rate of passes. Last season the 49ers had the third highest rushing yards per game and the Seahawks had the fourth highest. Meanwhile New England, Denver, and New Orleans's ground games ranked ninth, 15th, and 25th respectively. Manning, Brady, and Brees threw the ball more often as each had a minimum of 628 attempts and ranked within the top five of the NFL in attempts. No doubt influenced by audibles and quick-short passes, which Manning especially has relied heavily on throughout his career. Meanwhile, Kaepernick ranked 20th with 416 attempts and Wilson 22nd with 407 attempts.
Which is to say the Seahawks and 49ers rely more on the run and less on passing than the Pats, Broncos, and Saints. When the 49ers and Seahawks do throw, they tend to throw it deeper as they ranked second (49ers 12.2) and third (Seahawks 12.1) in yards per completion last year while Denver ranked fifth (11.7), New Orleans 12th (11.1), and New England 16th (10.9).
Wilson and Kaepernick are also dual-threat, each rushing for more than 500 yards last year. Manning, Brees, and Brady had fewer than a 100 rushing yards combined. Mobile quarterbacks buy time for receivers to get downfield for deeper throws as they move in or out of the pocket, and the list of the best deep passers in the league is littered with guys who can run.
It's worth checking out Chase Stewart's full writeup over at Football Perspective, which has career listings for the highest and lowest yards per completion guys by career and for last year.