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Manny Wilkins, Arizona State’s deep-ball threat

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins (5) throws against North Carolina State during the first half of the Sun Bowl NCAA college football game in El Paso, Texas, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

After watching Manny Wilkins quarterback the Arizona State Sun Devils for two seasons, certain parts of his game stand out.

Of course, there’s his propensity to scramble out of the pocket, hurdle defenders and excite the crowd. He’s also been pretty steady as a passer, completing over 63 percent of his passes for 5,599 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 17 picks in 23 games as a starter.

But not many people would classify Wilkins, at least based on the eyeball test, as a great deep-ball passer. Now, there’s numbers that dispell that thought.

Pro Football Focus ran the stats and determined that Wilkins was the best deep-ball thrower in the Pac-12 in 2017 — ahead of future first-round draft picks Josh Rosen of UCLA and USC’s Sam Darnold.

Of course, Wilkins is helped out by his receiving corps. N’Keal Harry, ASU’s leading receiver, is a prime deep ball threat because of his size, strong hands and ability to high-point the football on downfield throws. Kyle Williams and Jalen Harvey further developed in 2017, while Frank Darby emerged as a deep-ball threat, averaging 26.0 yards per catch in limited duty.

While Wilkins was the best on the long ball, other Pac-12 signal callers were tops in different categories based on PFF’s analysis. Oregon’s Justin Herbert was the best under pressure, with a 100.1 passer rating in such scenarios. Washington’s Jake Browning was the best Pac-12 QB when working in a clean pocket, posting a 117.3 passer rating. And on play-action passes, Arizona’s Khalil Tate topped the conference with a 123.5 passer rating.

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