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Passing Volume Was Down in 2021 (and what it means for the 2022 season)

By Jared Smola 10:37am EST 2/1/22


We’ve got 1 more game to go in the 2021 season … but I’m already starting work on 2022 projections. They’ll be ready for Draft Sharks Insiders — along with the Draft War Room — by the end of February so that we can start to hop in these early best-ball drafts.

But before getting into the minutiae of projecting target shares and TD rates, I like to look at league-wide macro trends. Play calling, personnel usage, positional volume, etc.

One thing in particular stuck out to me as I went through that exercise following the 2021 campaign: Passing volume is down.

Check out team pass attempts per game over the past 10 seasons:


We saw a general rise in passing volume from 2012 through 2016, with a big spike in those final 2 years. That was followed by a massive drop in 2017. The next 3 seasons brought incremental growth. But pass attempts went south again in 2021.

And it was by design. Here are the league's median situation-neutral pass rates for the last 10 seasons. This shows whether teams are calling run or pass when not affected by the scoreboard.


After climbing from 2017 through 2019, situation-neutral pass rate has declined the past 2 seasons. Teams are opting to run it more often.

So what does it all mean as we look ahead to 2022? It’s plenty possible that passing volume and situation-neutral pass rate rebound a bit. But I feel confident in saying that pass attempts won’t reach 2015/2016 levels again. And if passing rate and volume remain muted, that can only help the mobile QBs that do a big chunk of their fantasy scoring with rushing production.


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