Since posting the first tier of WRs, I received a number of tweets and emails asking why “X” player wasn’t in the first tier. A player’s exclusion from a tier doesn’t mean they won’t have some incredible stats, it just means I ran out of space to include them in the piece. To allay your concerns this week, I added a fifth player – Jarvis Landry to compare to the rest of the crop. The stats were gathered by hand charting every target from every game of these players. It’s important to note that these stats won’t predict which WR will be better, but explain their production and complement film study. You can find the first WR tier here.
QB Metrics featuring Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel.
WR Metrics 1.0 featuring Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin.
Where Did They Catch the Ball?
The table below represents the percentage of catches in each zone, it is color-coded so that an above-average number of receptions is greener and a below-average number is redder.
- You can’t get more average in terms of receptions than Brandin Cooks. Aside from some slight variation, Cooks has a strong distribution across all the zones showing that he isn’t a one trick pony.
- Jordan Matthews’ map of completions is very similar to that of Sammy Watkins. They both caught around 50% of their receptions behind the line of scrimmage with limited experience downfield. Whereas the average WR caught 35% of their passes deeper than 10 yards, Matthews only caught approximately 24%
- Representing an offense that often eschews shorter passes, Landry and Beckham both caught more passes downfield than average. Striking though, is the fact that Odell Beckham caught 62% of balls thrown to him past 10 yards. Beckham is clearly the deep threat here while Landry shows a tendency toward more intermediate passes.
- While he caught a low amount of passes 20+ yards (10.3%), Allen Robinson also caught a greater percentage of balls in the intermediate portion of the field. His biggest strength and most often run routes seem to be along the sideline in the intermediate zones.
What Did They Do After They Caught It?
- At first blush Allen Robinson’s YAC looks very impressive at 7.56 yards per reception. That’s nothing to sneeze at regardless of circumstances. However, that number is propped up significantly due to Robinson’s ability to gain nearly 14.25 yards after the catch on screens. When that’s taken away, his YAC drops down to 4.2. There’s a good explanation that we’ll get to in a bit.
- Noticeable with Beckham is how deep he catches the ball - 13.81 yards from the line of scrimmage on average. His run after the catch overall tops out at 5.6 yards, which puts him in the middle of the pack. His strength though may not be creating amazing yards after the catch, but rather gaining first downs by beating his defender downfield.
- Jordan Matthews is in a similar YAC predicament as Robinson. His overall YAC of 7.8 would put him second in this class only behind Sammy Watkins. However, his screens up this number significantly. On the 55% of his receptions that aren’t screens, he averages 4.7 YPC – a number that is slightly below average.
- To be honest, I was a bit surprised at how low Cooks’ YAC was. For a quick WR, you’d expect much more ability after the catch. However, I believe this is a product of Oregon State’s offense. While Brandin Cooks would have led all these draftable WRs in YAC during the 2012 season, Markus Wheaton (then #1 WR) had similarly low YAC. I’ll explain this more in the next section.
How Did they Catch the Ball?
The chart below represents the final break each WR made before catching the ball. The goal isn’t to tell you exactly what routes each WR ran, but the variety of breaks they made as well as how those affected their production. For instance, comebacks typically yield very little YAC (2.5 yards on average) while posts/corner/slants yield high yards after the catch. The chart has factored out screens.
- Here’s where we get into Brandin Cooks’ low YAC. As I noted in the above intro, comebacks nearly always yield 2.5 yards after the catch regardless of receiver while posts/corners/slants bring the highest YAC. 39% of Cooks’ routes were comebacks while only 18% were high YAC yield routes. It seems that the number one WR in the Oregon State offense is destined to get low YAC due to play design.
- Allen Robinson is in the same predicament, except nearly half of his receptions were on routes breaking back to the QB. We can’t necessarily say he would have been incredible at gaining yards after the catch in another system, but when we see that he averaged 14 yards on screens, it’s obvious that he’s not a slow mover.
- It’s much harder to explain away Jordan Matthews’ poor YAC than Cooks or Robinson. 45% of his non-screen receptions were high YAC producing slants/posts/corners, so why did he barely average 4.6 yards after the catch? It’s tough to say, but that’s when you have to start wondering if his run after the catch ability is a product of the Vanderbilt system.
- If we want to advance a pretty strong narrative we can put Jarvis Landry in the ‘possession receiver’ bucket where 36% of his receptions were on hard breaking in/out routes and another 33% were on slants and posts/corners. He does have a wide range of route running experience which is really a positive.
- Odell Beckham, like Landry, has a wide variety of route running experience (and runs those routes well) which should translate nicely to the NFL.
How Are Their Hands?
Here are the drop rates for each of the WRs. I defined drops as balls that were easy receptions and likely bounced off the hands of a WR, not passes that a WR ‘could have caught’ with an acrobatic play.
- There’s not a whole lot of bad to see in this group. Anything below 6 or 7% is just about normal for NCAA wide receivers.
- The biggest player to watch out for here is Jordan Matthews who has a slightly above-average drop rate of 7.69%. There were a few 50/50 drops that I hedged on Matthews’ side for. He could realistically be anywhere between 7-11%. If you’re watching Matthews intently, keep an eye on his hands.
- I only have 2 dropped balls for Landry all season, that’s incredible.
So much of a WR’s numbers depend on the quarterback, so we can’t always use stats as effectively as we do for other positions. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t value in them. Whether you use them to identify problems with a prospect’s hands or examine a WR’s YAC in depth, there is merit if you understand their potential and limitations. That’s all I have for now. I’ll answer any questions and tweet out additional info I have on Twitter @NU_Gap. Thanks for reading.