Drew Brees' arm stronger than you think

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC South. But Brees isn’t the first guy I look to when I think about pure arm strength.

Carolina’s Cam Newton and Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman probably can throw a ball further than Brees. In terms of arm strength, I’d probably lump Brees in the same area as Atlanta’s Matt Ryan.

But, when you look at the numbers that are most representative of arm strength, Brees stands well above Newton, Freeman, Ryan and every other quarterback in the league. He might not have the strongest arm, but he’s the most efficient passer on long throws.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brees has completed a league-high 62.5 percent (15-of-24) of his passes of 21 or more yards. On those throws, Brees has four touchdowns, no interceptions and is No. 1 in NFL passer rating at 145.8.

The other category that reflects arm strength is passing outside the numbers. Brees has completed 66 percent (second to Kevin Kolb at 66.2) of those throws. Brees has completed 70 of 106 attempts in those situations and he leads the league in touchdowns (10) and NFL passer rating (111.0).

For comparison, Newton is the only NFC South quarterback remotely close to Brees on passes of 21 yards or more. Newton is 18 of 38 (47.4 percent and No. 5 in the league). Newton’s thrown three touchdowns, two interceptions and has 98.0 NFL passer rating.

Freeman hasn’t had a lot of deep throws. He’s attempted just 10 throws of 21 yards or more and completed only three (30 percent). He’s produced two touchdowns, one interception and has a 74.2 NFL passer rating.

Then, there’s Ryan. He’s completed just 2 of 16 passes (12.5 percent). His completion percentage is second-lowest in the league -- Kerry Collins is 0-for-7. Ryan hasn’t thrown a touchdown or an interception on a throw of 21 yards or more and his NFL passer rating is 51.6.

On throws outside the numbers, the other three NFC South quarterbacks aren’t up there with Brees, but they are respectable. Freeman is No. 7 in the league with a 60.5 completion percentage (52-of-86) with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

Newton is No. 15 at 59.1 percent (68-of-115). He’s thrown three touchdowns and three interceptions. Ryan is No. 18 at 57.3 percent (63-of-110) with four touchdowns and one interception.