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Going Deep

Yards After the Catch Regression Candidates

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: May 4, 2020, 1:07 am ET
YAC

Yards after the catch aren’t created equal. A dump off to a running back behind the line of scrimmage goes for a lot more yards after the catch than a pass 15 yards down the field, so using blanket yards after the catch stats to argue how explosive a player is doesn't tell the whole story. That’s why I created a yards after catch model that adjusts for air yards. The model knows that a reception behind the line of scrimmage should gain more yards than one down the field. Here are the 2019 results:

 

2019 YAC Over Expected

These players exceeded expectations for yards after the catch, which means these players are 1) truly elite, or 2) negative regression candidates for the 2020 season.

Rank

Player

YAC

Expected YAC

YAC +/-

1

Austin Ekeler

939

663

276

2

A.J. Brown

465

250

215

3

Christian McCaffrey

991

809

182

4

Dalvin Cook

591

411

180

5

Chris Godwin

577

429

148

6

Deebo Samuel

473

330

143

7

Mecole Hardman

292

157

135

8

George Kittle

598

475

123

9

Darren Waller

578

467

111

10

Noah Fant

330

223

107

 

Austin Ekeler is due for major negative regression as a receiver in 2020. He led the NFL in yards after the catch over expected by picking up 939 yards after the catch when he was expected to pick up 663 yards after the catch based on the depth of all of his targets. Of course, Ekeler is actually better than the average player, so he should outperform my model, but not by 276 yards. Expect his YAC total to drop by at least 200 yards this upcoming season even if he remains a stud playmaker.

Most of the players on this top-10 list are running backs and tight ends, but A.J. Brown checks in as the second-biggest negative regression candidate after absolutely shredding defenses as a rookie. Brown is obviously very explosive and strong, so he should be an above-average player after the catch, but not even Tyreek Hill can sustain the YAC numbers Brown put up last season (465 yards after the catch). Brown’s league-leading yards per target (12.5) should regress to more normal levels with regression coming.

Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook are both great running backs in space, so we should expect them to outpace the rest of the players after the catch, but even they are set for slight regression in the receiving yards department. McCaffrey will probably settle in closer to 850 receiving yards instead of the 1,005 he had last season. That’s still more than enough to finish as the RB1 overall in fantasy.

 

2019 YAC Under Expected

These players under performed compared to expectations for yards after the catch, which means these players are 1) dusty, or 2) positive regression candidates for the 2020 season.

Rank

Player

YAC

Expected YAC

YAC +/-

1

Allen Robinson

272

472

-200

2

Marvin Jones

106

276

-170

3

Zach Ertz

255

407

-152

4

Calvin Ridley

138

284

-146

5

DeAndre Hopkins

387

526

-139

6

Julian Edelman

330

469

-139

7

Jason Witten

162

293

-131

8

Tyler Lockett

301

431

-130

9

Curtis Samuel

153

277

-124

10

Keenan Allen

364

488

-124

11

Tarik Cohen

420

544

-124

12

Julio Jones

342

460

-118

13

John Brown

210

326

-116

14

Michael Thomas

579

690

-111

15

Tyler Boyd

348

458

-110

 

Allen Robinson is good at football, so I was surprised to see him at the top of this under-performers list, but it makes sense on second thought. Robinson gets fewer opportunities to pick up yards after the catch because he’s constantly having to adjust to inaccurate passes from Mitchell Trubisky or whoever else the Bears trot out at quarterback instead of exploding upfield with the ball coming to his hands. Even with the expected poor quarterback play coming his way, Robinson should pick up far more yards after the catch in 2020, making him a positive regression candidate this season at least in the yardage department.

Marvin Jones is a perfect example of someone just being unlucky for no fault of his own. Jones isn’t a crazy athlete at this point in his career, but he’s plenty capable of picking up yards after the catch. In 2020, he should be healthier, have Matthew Stafford for more games, and regress back to the YAC mean. Jones is a positive regression candidate.

Zach Ertz and Jason Witten are not positive regression candidates. They fall into the “dusty” category, especially Witten who should be serving as a coach or announcer at this point. Ertz is still a reliable underneath target, but he’s not a yards after the catch threat at all. His lack of YAC has gotten so bad that there’s this twitter account:

Calvin Ridley, like Robinson, is good at football and by no means should be on this under-performers list. Ridley was already ready to explode with the Falcons leaving behind the most available targets in the NFL, and now there’s even more reasons to buy Ridley. He’s a positive YAC regression candidate after only picking up 138 yards after the catch when my model expected him to have 284 based on his usage in 2019. I bet he’ll have more than 300 yards after the catch this upcoming season.

 

2019 Yards After The Catch Leaders

Scroll right to view the entire table.

Rank

Player

Team

YAC

Expected YAC

YAC +/-

1

C.McCaffrey

CAR

991

809

182

2

A.Ekeler

LAC

939

663

276

3

G.Kittle

SF

598

475

123

4

D.Cook

MIN

591

411

180

5

M.Thomas

NO

579

690

-111

6

D.Waller

OAK

578

467

111

7

C.Godwin

TB

577

429

148

8

R.Woods

LA

576

520

56

9

L.Fournette

JAX

558

551

7

10

A.Kamara

NO

557

573

-16

11

C.Kupp

LA

538

484

54

12

J.White

NE

530

467

63

13

D.Samuel

SF

473

330

143

14

A.Brown

TEN

465

250

215

15

L.Bell

NYJ

440

460

-20

16

J.Landry

CLE

439

420

19

17

S.Barkley

NYG

438

379

59

18

A.Jones

GB

437

358

79

19

T.Cohen

CHI

420

544

-124

20

M.Sanders

PHI

413

355

58

21

T.Kelce

KC

412

455

-43

22

D.Williams

KC

409

343

66

23

E.Elliott

DAL

395

374

21

24

D.Adams

GB

388

430

-42

25

D.Hopkins

HOU

387

526

-139

26

D.Moore

CAR

384

410

-26

27

T.Higbee

LA

384

350

34

28

J.Samuels

PIT

366

360

6

29

K.Allen

LAC

364

488

-124

30

D.Johnson

HOU

361

293

68

31

J.Crowder

NYJ

353

394

-41

32

C.Sutton

DEN

352

342

10

33

T.Boyd

CIN

348

458

-110

34

D.Freeman

ATL

344

376

-32

35

L.Fitzgerald

ARI

343

418

-75

36

J.Jones

ATL

342

460

-118

37

C.Thompson

WAS

337

276

61

38

A.Hooper

ATL

335

382

-47

39

D.Goedert

PHI

334

322

12

40

M.Gallup

DAL

333

283

50

41

J.Mixon

CIN

331

267

64

42

J.Edelman

NE

330

469

-139

43

C.Beasley

BUF

330

312

18

44

N.Fant

DEN

330

223

107

45

R.Cobb

DAL

329

274

55

46

O.Beckham

CLE

324

358

-34

47

M.Gordon

LAC

321

306

15

48

N.Chubb

CLE

318

268

50

49

D.Chark

JAX

316

378

-62

50

D.Westbrook

JAX

313

377

-64

51

C.Carson

SEA

313

282

31

52

N.Hines

IND

311

295

16

53

K.Golladay

DET

304

305

-1

54

T.Lockett

SEA

301

431

-130

55

S.Diggs

MIN

298

304

-6

56

J.Conner

PIT

298

261

37

57

D.Johnson

PIT

293

311

-18

58

M.Hardman

KC

292

157

135

59

M.Andrews

BAL

291

301

-10

60

S.Watkins

KC

291

255

36

61

H.Renfrow

OAK

288

235

53

62

R.Jones

TB

287

199

88

63

C.Kirk

ARI

286

372

-86

64

L.Murray

NO

284

263

21

65

T.Hill

KC

280

313

-33

66

J.Williams

GB

279

286

-7

67

G.Tate

NYG

278

242

36

68

D.Metcalf

SEA

276

292

-16

69

K.Hunt

CLE

276

262

14

70

B.Scott

PHI

273

206

67

71

J.Smith

TEN

273

196

77

72

A.Robinson

CHI

272

472

-200

73

D.Parker

MIA

263

321

-58

74

M.Evans

TB

261

306

-45

75

K.Drake

ARI

261

246

15

76

R.Freeman

DEN

259

298

-39

77

Z.Ertz

PHI

255

407

-152

78

J.Cook

NO

254

184

70

79

E.Engram

NYG

252

230

22

80

D.Washington

OAK

246

221

25

81

J.Graham

GB

246

211

35

82

J.Akins

HOU

246

186

60

83

P.Lindsay

DEN

243

268

-25

84

A.Cooper

DAL

240

338

-98

85

C.Conley

JAX

240

200

40

86

Z.Pascal

IND

238

197

41

87

J.McKissic

DET

237

245

-8

88

L.McCoy

KC

236

234

2

89

J.Richard

OAK

236

214

22

90

D.Henry

TEN

236

142

94

91

R.Burkhead

NE

229

173

56

92

A.Erickson

CIN

227

209

18

93

M.Brown

BAL

226

260

-34

94

D.Johnson

ARI

226

229

-3

95

J.Smith-Schuster

PIT

222

221

1

96

G.Bernard

CIN

220

208

12

97

M.Ingram

BAL

220

177

43

98

W.Fuller

HOU

219

260

-41

99

A.Miller

CHI

217

272

-55

100

T.McLaurin

WAS

217

258

-41

101

C.Davis

TEN

217

198

19

102

J.Doyle

IND

216

216

0

103

T.Hilton

IND

213

240

-27

104

J.Brown

BUF

210

326

-116

105

D.Amendola

DET

207

294

-87

106

D.Ogunbowale

TB

207

203

4

107

I.McKenzie

BUF

206

182

24

108

T.Coleman

SF

204

157

47

109

G.Olsen

CAR

201

250

-49

110

T.Hockenson

DET

200

165

35

111

J.Ross

CIN

198

138

60

112

R.Anderson

NYJ

197

249

-52

113

T.Gurley

LA

196

215

-19

114

D.Slayton

NYG

194

221

-27

115

D.Singletary

BUF

193

212

-19

116

D.Lewis

TEN

193

190

3

117

K.Rudolph

MIN

190

209

-19

118

T.Williams

OAK

190

189

1

119

M.Williams

LAC

187

225

-38

120

J.Washington

PIT

185

217

-32

121

J.Jacobs

OAK

183

149

34

122

R.Griffin

NYJ

182

190

-8

123

S.Shepard

NYG

179

272

-93

124

A.Wilson

MIA

179

243

-64

125

G.Everett

LA

178

186

-8

126

P.Laird

MIA

176

151

25

127

M.Gesicki

MIA

175

250

-75

128

S.Sims

WAS

172

196

-24

129

D.Thomas

NYJ

170

176

-6

130

B.Cooks

LA

169

224

-55

131

J.Hollister

SEA

169

219

-50

132

D.Fells

HOU

168

181

-13

133

J.Witten

DAL

162

293

-131

134

A.Peterson

WAS

161

125

36

135

N.Boyle

BAL

160

157

3

136

H.Henry

LAC

159

242

-83

137

J.Hill

NO

159

149

10

138

V.McDonald

PIT

158

210

-52

139

B.Jarwin

DAL

157

151

6

140

K.Juszczyk

SF

157

125

32

141

D.Montgomery

CHI

156

169

-13

142

M.Valdes-Scantling

GB

155

151

4

143

E.Ebron

IND

155

146

9

144

R.Mostert

SF

155

93

62

145

C.Samuel

CAR

153

277

-124

146

R.Gage

ATL

151

235

-84

147

D.Byrd

ARI

151

165

-14

148

O.Howard

TB

150

178

-28

149

T.Hill

NO

149

116

33

150

H.Hurst

BAL

148

138

10

 

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4. 2019 Receiving Efficiency Rankings

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6. 2019 Expected Receiving TD Rankings

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