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Thread: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

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    Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics
    Greg Peshek
    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    Much will be written about the talent and depth in this year’s wide receiver draft class; it’ll be one of those truisms that gets passed around non-stop. Just looking at the stats of the top tier of WRs shows us that it isn’t just an empty platitude, but rather a statement that has a lot of merit. On average, this year’s class of WRs gained more yards after the catch, dropped fewer balls, and achieved production utilizing a much wider array of talents. I’ll expand on those stats in the piece, but it’s important to note that these stats won’t predict which WR will be better, but explain their production and complement film study.


    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.



    -Sammy Watkins’ receptions stick out like a sore thumb. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s watched Clemson that 57% of Watkins’ catches came off screens. We’ll examine his yards after the catch in relation to screens later in the piece, but that doesn’t discount the fact that you’d like to see more than 30% of his receptions come past 6 yards – just for some variation.

    -The most normalized reception chart belongs to Mike Evans, who was the closest to average among the top tier. Much will be made about Manziel and Evans’ connection and reliance on each other for deep balls. However, we still have to be impressed by the fact that at 6’5” Evans has caught the highest percentage of receptions past 20 yards amongst the top 15 WRs in this class.

    -Like Evans, 25% of Benjamin’s receptions came on throws deeper than 20 yards. Benjamin’s receptions are well distributed among the various zones with the exception of screens. He caught 3 screens on the year where he totaled -8 yards. The screen game is not going to be strong for Kelvin at the next level.

    -Lee’s receptions are the most stunning, as only 3.5% of his catches (2 receptions) came deeper than 20 yards. He actually dropped more deep passes (3) than he caught. Other than that, we can see the influence of Kiffin’s passing game where the majority of Lee’s receptions came on short passes designed to get yards after the catch.



    What Did They Do After They Caught It?



    -As alluded to earlier, Marqise Lee was put in situations where he could catch the ball short and take it for good yardage. His 7.05 yards after the catch is top 5 in the class, although his paltry 3.7 yards after the catch on screens leaves a little something to be desired.

    -We can see the effects of Benjamin’s deep receptions as he caught the ball an average of 13.4 yards from the line of scrimmage, proving to be a solid deep threat. However, his 4.89 yards after the catch is the lowest among the top 15 WRs. That’s not necessarily a problem with a bigger WR as that’s not ‘where he wins’. However, we still have to take that into account when comparing him to other similarly sized WRs.

    -Benjamin’s YAC becomes relevant when compared to Evans who averaged 7.63 yards after the catch. His yardage wasn’t just racked up on broken Manziel plays. On screens he averaged 8.92 yards after the catch, displaying an innate shiftiness/burst that he may not always get credit for.

    -I was a bit hard on Watkins earlier for his lack of receptions downfield, however we have to be impressed with his YAC. Despite catching 70% of his passes within 5 yards of the LOS, where defenses were keying in on him – he averaged the highest YAC of this class gaining 8.48 yards on average. Most importantly he still averaged a solid 6.1 yards on non-screen passes showing he can get it done all over the field


    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.



    -When he’s not running screens, Watkins has the most normal distribution of route types. This makes his overall YAC on non-screens all the more impressive because we know he’s not running an excess of routes that lead to exaggerated YAC totals.

    -As many have surmised via his tape, nearly 44% of Mike Evans’ catches are from coming back to the QB. Whether that’s on a scramble drill or designed route, that high number of comebacks takes away from his experience running sharp-breaking routes like square outs. Although we must consider Evans’ high YAC as a positive sign despite catching so many comebacks.

    -Most interesting here is Benjamin and FSU’s utilization of the go route to take advantage of his height mismatch, nearly doubling the average for that specific type of route.

    -Nearly 43% of Marqise Lee’s receptions came on short breaking in/out routes designed to put him in a position to gain yardage after the catch. I’m personally a bit surprised by the lack of post/corner/slants that have seemed to factor more heavily into USC’s past offenses.



    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. I won’t provide any commentary since it’s pretty self-explanatory.



    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.


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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Pleasantly surprised by Benjamin's metrics, didn't think of him as someone who catches the deep ball

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    This is why I like Evans at #13, his skill sets according to the stat sheet will complement Bradford's as well. He will have a reliable possession receiver who can catch in traffic with good deep ball stride (think Alshon Jeffery)
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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    What is extremely glaring to me is the difference between Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee. Though they both made the majority of their receptions within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Sammy has markedly better hands.

    Based on these metrics, I'm also impressed with Mike Evans. Though based on their film, I still like Benjamin better.

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Quote Originally Posted by Flippin' Ram View Post
    This is why I like Evans at #13, his skill sets according to the stat sheet will complement Bradford's as well. He will have a reliable possession receiver who can catch in traffic with good deep ball stride (think Alshon Jeffery)
    Based on these metrics, I'm also impressed with Mike Evans. Though based on their film, I still like Benjamin better.
    --Originally posted by Fortuninerhater


    Looks like a toss-up call on Evans & Benjamin. Win-win WR situation?

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    This makes me feel better about Evans and Benjamin. I already felt good about Watkins. It makes me want to run from Lee…fast. Even accounting for QB differences, that drop % isn't good. We've seen too many dropped passes already from our current WRs.

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Thanks for sharing this Nick.

    Evans looks to be well rounded. Like his hands. Surprised about his YAC yards on screens. I wonder how much of an impact the QB play helped him catch some of his deep balls by buying time.

    Benjamin almost 10% drops not good and not to effective in short passes.

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Firstly, I don't think these are neccessarily the "TOP 4" WRs....but assuming that is true....

    These numbers are very relative because in NCAA football the system and QB dictated the play:

    Boyd and Kessler don't have the ability nor the system to throw the ball down the field.

    Lastly, YAC does not factor in the fact that some players catch tough fades in the endzone or on 3rd down over the middle with there is not a potential for YAC yards....and that is a good thing if you actually catch the ball.

    There is so much more than what is offered with this data, so the conclusion are not pure from this vaccum but just another tool for overall valuation.

    Although, I think it is clear that Watkins is making himself the "class" of the draft, guys like Allen Robinson can't be discounted...

    So, to look at these 4 only is a start by biased...because with an open mind you would start everyone on the say playing field....

    Thats why evaluation is hard in the long run....I am sure if a burner like Marquise Lee played with Winston or Manziel he would have tons of 60yd TD grabs......

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Peshek: WR Metrics 2.0
    Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    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.


    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.

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    Quote Originally Posted by richtree View Post
    Firstly, I don't think these are neccessarily the "TOP 4" WRs....but assuming that is true....

    These numbers are very relative because in NCAA football the system and QB dictated the play:

    Boyd and Kessler don't have the ability nor the system to throw the ball down the field.

    Lastly, YAC does not factor in the fact that some players catch tough fades in the endzone or on 3rd down over the middle with there is not a potential for YAC yards....and that is a good thing if you actually catch the ball.

    There is so much more than what is offered with this data, so the conclusion are not pure from this vaccum but just another tool for overall valuation.

    Although, I think it is clear that Watkins is making himself the "class" of the draft, guys like Allen Robinson can't be discounted...

    So, to look at these 4 only is a start by biased...because with an open mind you would start everyone on the say playing field....

    Thats why evaluation is hard in the long run....I am sure if a burner like Marquise Lee played with Winston or Manziel he would have tons of 60yd TD grabs......
    just fyi, after kiffin was fired, they started allowing kessler to throw the ball down field, and they did so very successfully

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    Re: Peshek: Top 4 WR Metrics

    So Evans it is at #13 for me. Could you imagine if Evans became the player he is suppose to be and then Quick continues to improve... Scary to think guys

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