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19 Aug 2008

Fifth Anniversary Special: Best and Worst WR Seasons, 95-07

by Aaron Schatz

In honor of our fifth anniversary, we're running a series of articles looking at the best and worst players in the history of our advanced stats, DVOA and DYAR. If you are unfamiliar with our advanced stats -- perhaps you are a new reader visiting our website for the first time after picking up a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2008 -- you can read all about them here. The series so far:

Today, we'll be looking at the best and worst games and career totals for wide receivers. In conjunction with this, I've posted all the wide receiver pages back to 1995, with the new versions of DVOA and DYAR. However, I'm having a small problem with my macro that builds tables, and needed to make changes with the opponent adjustments for 1997 and 2006; therefore, those tables are currently missing. Hopefully, I'll be able to fix that within a day.

At the risk of upsetting stats completists, this article concentrates solely on receiving DVOA and DYAR, and ignores rushing DVOA and DYAR. Most receivers only get one or two "carries" each season (some of those carries, of course, are actually "backwards passes" at the line of scrimmage) and that value would not be enough to dramatically change these rankings, with one major exception that I'll note below.


Best WR Seasons in Receiving DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 50 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2002 Dennis Northcutt CLE 289 61.0% 50 39 604 5 78%
1999 Tim Dwight ATL 251 51.7% 50 32 669 7 64%
2001 Ricky Proehl STL 268 48.2% 55 40 563 6 73%
1999 Az Hakim STL 235 44.6% 56 36 677 8 64%
2007 Anthony Gonzalez IND 239 43.5% 51 37 576 3 73%
2002 Jerry Porter OAK 303 41.5% 70 51 688 10 73%
2006 Devery Henderson NO 228 40.7% 54 32 745 6 59%
1998 Eric Moulds BUF 461 39.1% 116 67 1,368 9 58%
2004 Reggie Wayne IND 496 38.0% 115 77 1,210 12 67%
2004 Lee Evans BUF 294 37.7% 75 48 843 9 64%

Notice anything about a lot of these names? Many of the highest DVOA ratings have been put up by third receivers in explosive offenses, where opponents are forced to concentrate on the starters on the outside. Proehl and Hakim in St. Louis qualify, as does Porter playing next to Jerry Rice and Tim Brown. Anthony Gonzalez counts for part of 2007, although he was a starter once Marvin Harrison was hurt. Devery Henderson was a sort-of starter in New Orleans in 2006, but was more of a third or fourth option behind Marques Colston, Reggie Bush, and (when healthy) Joe Horn.

The top two men on the list were also slot receivers, but they didn't exactly put up their numbers in explosive offenses. Northcutt was playing next to those renowned studs Quincy Morgan and Kevin Johnson. Dwight actually started eight games at receiver in 1999 next to Terance Mathis (who had a 1,000-yard season but -7.5% DVOA) and Chris Calloway (who struggled with injuries and had 3.6% DVOA). In PFP 2008 we compare Mathis to Wes Welker, but in 1999, with Tony Martin gone in free agency, Mathis was actually Atlanta's number one wideout.

Increasing our minimum to five passes per game gives us a list that's primarily made up of starters rather than slot receivers.


Best WR Seasons in Receiving DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 80 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1998 Eric Moulds BUF 461 39.1% 116 67 1,368 9 58%
2004 Reggie Wayne IND 496 38.0% 115 77 1,210 12 67%
2004 Brandon Stokley IND 401 37.7% 102 68 1,081 10 67%
1998 Terrell Owens SF 392 36.7% 104 67 1,097 14 64%
1998 Ed McCaffrey DEN 373 36.6% 99 64 1,053 10 65%
1995 Michael Irvin DAL 630 33.5% 165 111 1,595 11 67%
2000 Randy Moss MIN 466 33.3% 128 77 1,437 15 60%
1996 Derrick Alexander BAL 375 33.2% 107 62 1,099 9 58%
2004 Randy Moss MIN 327 31.8% 86 49 769 13 57%
1999 Isaac Bruce STL 430 31.6% 119 77 1,165 12 65%

Wait, how did Eric Moulds end up with the best DVOA despite a catch rate of just 58 percent? Well, he gets bumped up significantly by a tough schedule; the Dolphins and Jets ranked 1-2 in passing defense DVOA in 1998, and the Bills also played the pass defenses ranked fifth (Oakland), seventh (San Francisco), eighth (St. Louis), and 11th (New England). Opponent adjustments also knock Isaac Bruce down significantly; most people know that the 1999 Rams had one of the easiest schedules in NFL history.

A number of 2007 seasons fall just below the top ten, including Greg Jennings at 31.5% DVOA (11th), Andre Johnson at 29.9% DVOA (18th), and Randy Moss at 29.3% DVOA (19th).

The highest DVOA for a receiver with a minimum of 25 passes belongs to Ricky Proehl in 2000 (70.9%). The highest DVOA for a receiver with a minimum of 10 passes belongs to, I kid you not, David "B.D." Terrell in 2002. Terrell caught nine of 10 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns for 97.4% DVOA. Greg Camarillo is second with 82.1% DVOA last season.


Best WR Seasons in Catch Rate, 1995-2007 (min. 50 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2002 Dennis Northcutt CLE 289 61.0% 50 39 604 5 78%
2007 Wes Welker NE 384 21.3% 145 112 1,175 8 77%
2004 Hines Ward PIT 325 24.4% 109 82 1,010 4 75%
2006 Eric Moulds HOU 117 6.6% 77 57 557 1 74%
2001 Az Hakim STL 30 -5.5% 53 39 374 3 74%
1995 J.J. Stokes SF 190 35.0% 52 38 517 4 73%
2002 Jerry Porter OAK 303 41.5% 70 51 688 10 73%
2001 Ricky Proehl STL 268 48.2% 55 40 563 6 73%
2007 Anthony Gonzalez IND 239 43.5% 51 37 576 3 73%
1997 J.J. Stokes SF 180 16.7% 80 58 733 4 73%

Northcutt's 2002 season is a colossal fluke that sticks out both in his career numbers and in Cleveland's total 2002 numbers. Northcutt somehow caught 78 percent of passes even though he was generally a deep threat, tied for 11th in the NFL with 15.5 yards per reception. Three other Cleveland receivers had at least 50 passes, and not one of them caught more than 60 percent of passes. Northcutt had barely caught half his passes in 2000 and 2001, and after 2002 his catch rate went down every single year until he left for Jacksonville in 2007.

Of course, Northcutt barely makes the minimum with 50 passes; the real catch rate superstar was Wes Welker in 2007. Sure, any Internet blogger with half a brain obviously foresaw Welker's potential to surpass his career highs by seven touchdowns and nearly 500 yards, but did anyone think he would catch more than two-thirds of all intended passes?

Are you as surprised as I am to see J.J. Stokes on the list twice? He's not even there as a slot receiver -- he was a starter in 1997, the year Jerry Rice tore his ACL early in the season.

Now here's the big list, the top 20 wide receiver seasons in total value since 1995:


Best WR Seasons in Receiving DYAR, 1995-2007
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1995 Michael Irvin DAL 630 33.5% 165 111 1,595 11 67%
2007 Randy Moss NE 569 29.3% 160 98 1,482 23 61%
1995 Jerry Rice SF 547 26.0% 175 122 1,848 15 70%
2001 Marvin Harrison IND 537 28.5% 164 109 1,524 17 66%
2006 Marvin Harrison IND 510 30.3% 148 95 1,366 13 64%
2005 Steve Smith CAR 497 28.6% 150 103 1,563 12 69%
2004 Reggie Wayne IND 496 38.0% 115 77 1,210 12 67%
2003 Randy Moss MIN 482 22.6% 172 112 1,632 17 65%
2002 Marvin Harrison IND 478 16.8% 205 143 1,722 11 70%
2003 Torry Holt STL 474 21.2% 183 117 1,694 12 64%
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1995 Isaac Bruce STL 474 18.1% 199 120 1,787 13 60%
1995 Herman Moore DET 473 15.4% 206 123 1,686 14 60%
2006 Reggie Wayne IND 469 30.9% 137 86 1,314 9 63%
2000 Randy Moss MIN 466 33.3% 128 77 1,437 15 60%
1998 Eric Moulds BUF 461 39.1% 116 67 1,368 9 58%
1999 Jimmy Smith JAC 454 19.5% 177 116 1,636 6 66%
2007 Terrell Owens DAL 449 28.2% 141 81 1,355 15 57%
2007 Reggie Wayne IND 443 22.5% 156 104 1,515 10 67%
1999 Cris Carter MIN 439 26.5% 136 90 1,239 15 66%
1999 Randy Moss MIN 432 27.2% 138 80 1,413 12 58%

When I did my first look at the 1995 DVOA ratings back in March, one of the most surprising results was that Michael Irvin's 1995 season came out as more valuable than Jerry Rice's 1995 season. It doesn't seem to make much sense. Not only did Rice set the all-time NFL record for receiving yards, he also had more touchdowns and a higher catch rate than Irvin. The two seasons have moved closer together with the improvements in the stats (Rice was eighth all-time with the old DPAR numbers, and now he's moved up to third) but Irvin still ranks higher. Why?

  • Irvin gets a slight boost from opponent adjustments, while Rice has a small penalty. In YAR (no opponent adjustments), Irvin leads 616 to 563 instead of 630 to 547.
  • Rice had three fumbles, while Irvin had just one.
  • Rice's high yardage total is helped by a few very long receptions: an 81-yard touchdown (against Dallas, ironically) and four other catches of 50 yards or more. Irvin's longest play of the year was 50 yards.
  • Irvin's average play came with 9.0 yards to go, Rice's average play with 8.6 yards to go.
  • In the red zone, Irvin (29.1% DVOA) was much better than Rice (-2.2% DVOA).

These are small differences. Rice still had an awesome 1995, but Irvin's was just ever so slightly better.

Now let's look at the worst performances by wide receivers since 1995.


Worst WR Seasons in Receiving DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 50 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2000 Plaxico Burress PIT -165 -45.4% 65 23 283 0 35%
2004 Bobby Wade CHI -190 -41.3% 89 42 481 1 47%
2007 Jeff Webb KC -115 -39.6% 57 28 313 1 49%
2002 Marcus Robinson CHI -108 -39.5% 53 21 244 3 40%
1997 Charlie Jones SD -160 -38.2% 80 32 423 2 40%
2006 Alvis Whitted OAK -122 -37.9% 63 27 303 0 43%
1999 Leslie Shepherd CLE -111 -37.9% 59 23 274 0 39%
2006 Chris Chambers MIA -300 -37.3% 153 59 677 4 39%
1998 Eddie Kennison STL -98 -36.7% 51 17 234 1 33%
2001 Quincy Morgan CLE -125 -36.2% 72 30 432 2 42%

One of the current problems with FO stats -- something we definitely know we need to adjust in the future - is that wide receivers who run longer routes will get penalized for their lower catch rates. Because we only have pass length information for the last three years, DVOA has to count an incomplete 12-yard pass the same as an incomplete 30-yard pass. Still, 35 percent catch rate? That's really, really bad. Burress had -53.6% DVOA with Kordell Stewart at quarterback and -35.9% DVOA with Kent Graham at quarterback (his passes were split almost 50-50). Despite being a deep threat, he had only five catches above 15 yards and he fumbled one of those away. Burress has never really had a good catch rate, but he's certainly improved since his rookie season.

As we did with the best receivers, let's look at the worst receivers in DVOA with a minimum of 80 passes so that we can limit our list to starters.


Worst WR Seasons in Receiving DVOA, 1995-2007 (min. 80 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2004 Bobby Wade CHI -190 -41.3% 89 42 481 1 47%
1997 Charlie Jones SD -160 -38.2% 80 32 423 2 40%
2006 Chris Chambers MIA -300 -37.3% 153 59 677 4 39%
2003 Az Hakim DET -200 -35.8% 108 49 449 5 45%
2004 Travis Taylor BAL -136 -34.4% 80 34 421 0 43%
2003 David Terrell CHI -134 -32.5% 85 44 366 2 52%
2007 Arnaz Battle SF -151 -31.3% 104 50 600 5 48%
2001 Peter Warrick CIN -194 -31.3% 137 70 667 1 51%
2004 Peerless Price ATL -143 -30.3% 106 45 575 3 42%
1998 Irving Fryar PHI -151 -29.8% 112 48 556 3 43%

I know Bobby Wade played with some of the worst quarterbacks in history (Craig Krenzel, Jonathan Quinn, Chad Hutchinson) but still, he was really, really bad in 2004. The Bears threw Wade the ball 44 times on third or fourth down. Only 13 of those passes converted to move the chains, and only one was a touchdown. Unfortunately, it wasn't a touchdown for the Bears -- it was an interception return for a touchdown by Green Bay in Week 17.

Speaking of the Bears, David Terrell proves here that a good DVOA rating in 10 passes doesn't say a lot about what you will do when given 85. But shouldn't a good DVOA rating in 50 passes say something about what you will do when given 100? Apparently not, if you are going from the Greatest Show on Turf to the Millen Lions like Az Hakim. Hakim is one of four players who managed to go both above 30% DVOA and below -30% DVOA with at least 50 passes in each season. Can you guess the other three? Answer below.

In Irving Fryar's defense, he was 97 years old in 1998.

The lowest DVOA by a wide receiver with at least 25 passes belongs to Reche "Big Eyes" Caldwell, with -59.8% DVOA in 2003. Caldwell caught only eight of 34 intended passes. The lowest DVOA by a wide receiver with at least 10 passes belongs to Anthony Ladd of the 1998 Patriots, the only player in the database who managed the astonishing feat of going without a single catch despite being the intended receiver 10 times. This gives him a perfect -100% VOA, although opponent adjustments make it a -92.2% DVOA. Ladd never played another season in the NFL, although he did go on to some success in Arena ball.

The worst catch rate for a receiver with at least 50 passes does not, in fact, belong to Plaxico Burress. Two receivers were even worse, including a player who had a lot of success later on...


Worst WR Seasons in Catch Rate, 1995-2007 (min. 50 passes)
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
1998 Eddie Kennison STL -98 -36.7% 51 17 234 1 33%
1996 Mike Pritchard SEA -100 -33.1% 63 21 328 1 33%
2000 Plaxico Burress PIT -165 -45.4% 65 23 283 0 35%
2002 Jason McAddley ARI -101 -30.8% 69 25 362 1 36%
1997 Michael Westbrook WAS -22 -15.6% 92 34 559 4 37%
1998 Mark Carrier CAR -39 -23.0% 51 19 301 2 37%
1998 Leslie Shepherd WAS 1 -12.6% 114 43 712 8 38%
1999 Rob Moore ARI -25 -15.8% 97 37 621 5 38%
2000 Albert Connell WAS -9 -13.7% 102 39 762 4 38%
2006 Chris Chambers MIA -300 -37.3% 153 59 677 4 39%

Completion percentage has been at an all-time high over the past few seasons, and this table shows evidence of that. There have been 16 seasons where wide receivers had catch rates below 40 percent with at least 50 passes, but only four of those seasons have taken place since 2001: McAddley, Chambers, Chad Bradford in 2003, and Rashied Davis in 2006.

A special all-time catch rate booby prize goes to Alvin Harper, who went on to Washington for the 1997 season after he had failed as the number one receiver in Tampa Bay. Washington threw Harper the ball 20 times and he caught two passes for a catch rate of 10 percent. At least he managed 65 yards on those two receptions.

Here's the list of the worst receiving seasons of the DVOA Era. If you own a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2007, you already know who is at number one, and it isn't even close.


Worst WR Seasons in Receiving DYAR, 1995-2007
Year Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Catches Yards TD Catch
Rate
2006 Chris Chambers MIA -300 -37.3% 153 59 677 4 39%
2003 Az Hakim DET -200 -35.8% 108 49 449 5 45%
2001 Peter Warrick CIN -194 -31.3% 137 70 667 1 51%
2004 Bobby Wade CHI -190 -41.3% 89 42 481 1 47%
2000 Plaxico Burress PIT -165 -45.4% 65 23 283 0 35%
1997 Charlie Jones SD -160 -38.2% 80 32 423 2 40%
2000 Peter Warrick CIN -155 -29.2% 126 51 592 4 40%
2007 Arnaz Battle SF -151 -31.3% 104 50 600 5 48%
1998 Irving Fryar PHI -151 -29.8% 112 48 556 3 43%
2004 Peerless Price ATL -143 -30.3% 106 45 575 3 42%
2004 Laveranues Coles WAS -138 -23.3% 168 90 950 1 54%

How bad was Chambers in 2006? Between 1995 and 2007, there are 163 different seasons for wide receivers thrown at least 140 passes. The wide receiver who ranks 162nd in yardage is Peerless Price in 2003 with 888 receiving yards -- more than 200 yards ahead of Chambers in 2006 (despite being targeted on a dozen fewer passes).

However, remember how I said that rushing DYAR for wide receivers didn't matter very much when it came to our rankings? This is the one place that isn't quite true. Chambers had 48 rushing DYAR in 2006, so his total DYAR is still the worst ever. However, Peter Warrick led all wide receivers with 80 DYAR in 2000, gaining 148 yards on 16 "rush attempts" (or laterals) with two touchdowns. That means his 2000 season really isn't one of the ten worst of the DVOA Era, which is why I've listed 11 seasons on the table above.

Incidentally, in PFP 2007 we ran a list of the worst DPAR seasons ever and most of them, for reasons we never quite figured out, were from 2003. The changes that improved our individual stats and changed them over to DYAR also improved some of those 2003 seasons so that there is now only one 2003 season in the bottom ten and only three (Hakim, David Terrell, and Reche Caldwell) in the bottom 20.

Before we move on to the best and worst career totals, the answer to the question of which two receivers other than Az Hakim managed seasons above 30% DVOA and below -30%:

  • Plaxico Burress (35.7% in 2004, -45.4% in 2000)
  • Joe Horn (32.7% in 1999, -32.1% in 2007)
  • J.J. Stokes (35.0% in 1995, -34.2% in 1999)


Best WR in Career DYAR, 1995-2007
Total Career
DYAR
DYAR/Season
(min. 4 seasons)
Marvin Harrison 12 3,581 Randy Moss 10 318.9
Terrell Owens 12 3,234 Marvin Harrison 12 298.4
Randy Moss 10 3,189 Reggie Wayne 7 284.4
Isaac Bruce 13 2,948 Torry Holt 9 274.1
Jimmy Smith 11 2,528 Terrell Owens 12 269.5
Torry Holt 9 2,467 Chad Johnson 7 263.7
Rod Smith 11 2,357 Michael Irvin 5 233.6
Keenan McCardell 13 2,177 Jimmy Smith 11 229.8
Tim Brown 10 2,025 Isaac Bruce 13 226.8
Reggie Wayne 7 1,990 Rod Smith 11 214.3
(only includes seasons with 10+ pass targets)

The players with the most career DYAR won't shock anyone, although there might be a little bit of surprise at the fact that Randy Moss has the most DYAR per season despite -56 DYAR for the 2006 Raiders. The big name missing here is Jerry Rice, but Rice is 11th in DYAR per season (208.9) and 12th in total DYAR (1,880). Hines Ward sits between Rice and Reggie Wayne.

Three different wide receivers have at least 10 passes in all 13 years of DVOA: Isaac Bruce, Keenan McCardell, and Joey Galloway. A year from now we'll have 1994 and 2008 added to our database, and barring injury, Bruce and Brett Favre will be the only two players to qualify for listing in our stats for all 15 years of DVOA. McCardell is unlikely to hook on anywhere this year but it is interesting to note that he had at least 10 passes in both 1994 and 1993.


Worst WR in Career DYAR, 1995-2007
Total Career
DYAR
DYAR/Season
(min. 4 seasons)
Dez White 6 -321 Dez White 6 -53.5
Bryan Gilmore 5 -223 Charlie Jones 4 -48.0
Charlie Jones 4 -192 Bryan Gilmore 5 -44.6
J.T. Thomas 3 -149 Alvis Whitted 5 -28.5
Russell Copeland 3 -146 Kerry Colbert 4 -20.9
Alvis Whitted 5 -142 Rod Gardner 6 -17.9
Will Blackwell 3 -142 Brandon Lloyd 5 -14.8
Jason McAddley 3 -138 Aaron Moorehead 4 -11.9
Lawrence Dawsey 3 -134 Bobby Wade 5 -11.5
Wayne McGarity 3 -132 Peter Warrick 6 -10.3
(only includes seasons with 10+ pass targets)

And the winner is... Dez White. In fact, White actually is worse than this, because one of his six seasons had exactly 10 passes. Take that season out, and he had -58.3 DYAR per season. On the other hand, White had to play in the ineffectual offenses of Chicago and Atlanta. Perhaps the real worst receiver of the past dozen years is Aaron Moorehead. Yes, none of those four seasons had more than 22 passes, but still -- can somebody please explain to me how on earth you manage four straight seasons of negative DVOA in the Indianapolis offense? Most of the negative value came last year with Peyton Manning at quarterback, not in the final game of previous seasons with Jim Sorgi under center.

Next week, we'll finish out the fifth anniversary special with a look at the best and worst tight end seasons and career totals. I will also be doing a mailbag sometime before the season begins, answering various questions from the comment threads of the fifth anniversary articles.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 19 Aug 2008

57 comments, Last at 22 Aug 2008, 2:38am by thestar5

Comments

1
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 7:32pm

I know he looked a lot better last year, but I still love this comment about Chris Chambers:

It’s worth noting that Chambers had a hand in 74 incompletions this year! That’s 18 and a half drives! That’s two games worth of nothing but incompletions to Chris Chambers on offense.

2
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 7:50pm

Perhaps the real worst receiver of the past dozen years is Aaron Moorehead.

Yes.

I wonder whether Mike Rumph could cover him. That would be an epic battle.

3
by Catfish (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 8:16pm

Wait, wouldn't Aaron Morehead and the scout team offense have lined up opposite Jason David a few years ago?

4
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:01pm

Not sure, but was 2002 the year that Northcutt appeared on Blind Date? Maybe there's a Blind Date anti-curse!

5
by PaulH (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:06pm

I just don't get the Chambers bashing, I really don't. In one of the earlier threads someone mentioned how he felt the WR stats are pretty useless, and I have to agree somewhat. I know it can say some things about WR performance, but the quarterback you have throwing it to you and the offense you are playing in can have a huge impact. Hell, just look at the top DVOAs... the trick seems to be a pretty average player as the third option in a great offense.

And I didn't know that the distance of passes wasn't taken into account. It's common sense that longer passes have a lower chance of being completed, and frankly that may very well go a long way in explaining the year-to-year consistency in catch rates. Deep threat receivers tend to run more deep routes each year, possession guys tend to run shorter routes each year, etc., so that would explain a lot of that. If anything, that only makes me think less of WR statistics.

As for Chambers, he's not a great receiver, but he's decent. His terrible numbers from him time in Miami, it seems to me, is just the unfortunate result of him being about the only receiving option in a terrible offense with a terrible quarterback throwing him the football. When he switched to San Diego last year -- a trade that, in the interests of full disclosure, I thought was a dumb idea by the Chargers -- he did really well. He was the key on the two-minute drive in the fourth quarter to beat the Titans in the regular season, and he did very well in the playoffs too. If you take away his performance against the Titans in the playoffs, they might not get out of the wild card round.

6
by shake n bake (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:10pm

Re: 3
But David would have been playing zone with safety help over the top. He was ok to pretty good at that. It was manning him up a a WR with little safety help that made him a disaster.

7
by Quentin (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:29pm

#5:

I just think it's amusing that you could splice footage from his 2006 season and have enough incompletions for two whole games. It's just a mental image that makes me smile.

DVOA is certainly prone to overvalue a third down player, which is why the list changes so dramatically when you increase the minimum number of catches to weed out non-starters. DYAR is even more helpful, because it shows their total value over the course of a year rather than focusing on a per play basis.

8
by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:34pm

J.J. Stokes . . . J.J. Stokes . . .

Ya know, no matter how many times I look at that it just doesn't make sense.

9
by Jerry (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:40pm

And I didn’t know that the distance of passes wasn’t taken into account.

It's not in the play-by-play. It's probably part of game charting, but that's only a couple of years of data.

10
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:48pm

"Despite being a deep threat, he had only five catches above 15 yards and he fumbled one of those away."

If I'm not mistaken, that fumble was when he slid to make a catch, wasn't touched down, and either spiked or spun the ball while taunting the defense.

That Northcutt 2002 season was pretty awesome. He was also pretty good on special teams, including one absolutely amazing onside kick recovery against Tennessee. It was a good enough season that the Browns seemingly kept him around for far too long hoping he'd somehow be able to do it again.

11
by Some Dude (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 9:55pm

I clicked on the "Best and West Wide Receiver and Tight End Games" link hoping to get that East Coast Bias taste out of my mouth, but the number one game was by some guy from Jacksonville! What's the deal, brah?

12
by Some Dude (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 10:07pm

"I hate yall"
-Peerless Price

13
by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 10:33pm

3 - But the big question is can Aaron Morehead get open against Hole-In-Zone?

14
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 08/19/2008 - 11:18pm

I don't suppose its possible to do a "quarterback-adjusted" voa or yar?

15
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:21am

-5

I agree to a large extent, there is often great pains made to highlight the contextualized nature of the system when some FO hero has a good game. But when a whipping boy like Chambers is stuck in an extremely bad offense and has the ball forced his way so much D-Coordinators know exactly what is coming, there is no "This stat represents Chambers with his QB and his shoddy OL and teamates".

Now FO was right to highlight that Chambers was never as good as some people thought, but their love of the classic (and incredibly stupid) sports journalism narrative of HERO/VILLAN weakens a lot fo their pieces.

The stunning lack of excuses for some player, and the absolutely Farvian excess of them for others is unsettling.

Luckily the numbers are all still really interesting. The copy often not so much.

Also I enjoy the site greatly, as it is the best football journalism out there right now, sadly. So don't tell me that if I don't like it to leave.

16
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:24am

crap...that should read "FO hero has a *bad game*"

17
by Mart (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:31am

re : 14
No equation can take into account how bad Chicago's qbs were/are/will be.

18
by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:44am

I don't know, Dez White seemed about that bad to me. He was fast, but he didn't run routes well and had hands made out of stone and covered in bacon grease.

19
by Tom D (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:46am

Re 17:

Chicago rarely has the worst quarterbacking in the league, it's just consistently in the 25th best or worse range.

20
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:17am

The most reliable way to have an awful catch rate is to have a bad qb, bad offensive line, and really, really, terrible reciever/teammates; so terrible that your bad qb, while being pressured due the performance of your bad offensive line, wouldn't even dream of attempting to toss one of his crappy passes under pressure to one of your teammates, but instead flings a hopeless duck in your general direction, while you are dealing with a corner underneath and a safety over the top.

The continued development of the charting project is the key to making the indivdual stats much more useful.

21
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:23am

"Sure, any Internet blogger with half a brain obviously foresaw Welker’s potential to surpass his career highs by seven touchdowns and nearly 500 yards, but did anyone think he would catch more than two-thirds of all intended passes?"

Probably not, but did anyone know he would not run a route over 5 yards and be in one of the best offenses ever? Its not exactly hard when you have one of the best QB's ever, and are surrounded by so many weapons that you're QB only needs to throw to you when you're wide open. At the same time those weapons draw all of the coverage off of you. And don't forget that the ridiculous O-line gives you 5 seconds to get open every time on these 5-yard routes, often againt nickel-backs.

Honestly, I think the fact that slot receivers in great offenses have the top catch rates/DVOA show that those stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. SOO much of them is just based on context, and they hugely favor possession receivers. Welker is a nice player in a monster offense, but guys like Plax are just better than him, no matter what the stats say.

22
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:55am

This comment thread is really redundant and silly. There's no need for everyone to talk about how DVOA doesn't measure receiver talent well. That's not what it's supposed to do. The article itself talks about how the best DVOAs tend to be put up by third or fourth options in good systems.

23
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 3:13am

Now FO was right to highlight that Chambers was never as good as some people thought, but their love of the classic (and incredibly stupid) sports journalism narrative of HERO/VILLAN weakens a lot fo their pieces.

Please go read the Chris Chambers comment in PFP 2008.

24
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 3:30am

So, if Northcutt and Porter could retrieve their form of 2002, life in Jacksonville would be so easier :o)

25
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 9:17am

9. Pass yardage through the air has been in the play-by-play for the past 3 years, hence why we have this information.

26
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 9:18am

22:
Don't fret. It's interesting that a rate stat like DVOA doesn't measure WR quality well.

DVOA measures how well a WR does when the QB thinks he is the best option. So it doesn't measure "gets open" as well as it measures "doesn't drop the ball". And, as has been pointed out, it measures "doesn't get targeted when covered" best of all. Which is not very useful.

Until we have detailed charting, I would find it very informative to see a "percent targeted" stat next to DVOA.

27
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 9:37am

If I remember correctly (and I probably dont'), Anthony Ladd only played one game for the Patriots....that game against the Jets when the entire receiving corps but one player (Jefferson, I think) had gotten hurt the week before. It was the same week they signed 37-year-old Henry Ellard off the waiver wire to play.

28
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 10:01am

Re: 27

Ladd played 3 games with the Patriots in 1998; Week 8 vs. the Dolphins, Week 10 vs. the Falcons, and Week 17 vs. the Jets. The game logs don't tell how much he played in each game, however.

29
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 10:13am

Ellard was on the Patriots for Weeks 9-13 in 1998 before being released, so he didn't play in that game against the Jets.

The Patriots QB in the Jets game was Scott Zolak, which accounts for at least some of the incompletions.

30
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 11:14am

Low catch rates with a high # of targets reminds of a trivia question they flashed on the scoreboard at a baseball game last night. "Which Detroit Tiger had a league high 182 strike-outs in 1988?"

My buddy asked "If you struck out that frequently, why would any manager give you that many plate appearances?"

Well, part of it is that every time said batter goes up to the plate, he has a high chance of whiffing, but he has a higher chance than the average batter of really knocking one deep for multiple bases. In the end a strike-out counts the same as a ground-out or pop-out.

I just compared the avg yards per catch for the worst catch rates vs the avg yards per catch for the highest catch rates. No receiver in the bottom 10 had an avg less than 11 yards per reception. 3 receivers in the top 10 had an avg less than 11 yards per reception. The top 10 averaged 12.7 yds per reception between them, the bottom 10 averaged 15.3 yds per reception between them.

So whether the bottom 10 receivers deserved it or not their teams probably considered them "home-run threats" of sorts.

The answer was Cecil Fielder (I answered correctly btw).

31
by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 11:33am

#10 (Trogdor) -- good memory! I watched that game, and when Plaxico did that incredibly stupid thing, the whole Jax defense was momentarily stunned! Then, reason prevailed and the Jax defense (I don't recall which player) picked up the bouncing ball (yes, it was a spike) and got a nice return out of it. Plaxico was sat down for a few plays by an understandably upset Bill Cowher. I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere in the vicinity of him at that time; the spit was flying. It looked like the Red Sea parting as Plaxico got chewed out, and the other players gave them a wide berth for a minute or two.

P.S. -- spam word "doofus"; very appropriate.

32
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 12:58pm

30. Alternatively, if you use yards per intended pass, the high-catch % receivers come out way ahead as a whole. Yards per catch: low %--15.3, high %-- 12.3. Yards per intended pass: low %--5.6, high %- 9.2.

Also, if you sort the low catch% receivers by Yards per Intended pass, they come out in perfect order by DVOA. Not so for the high catch% receivers

Also, note that the 3 Washington Receivers (in 2000,1998, and 1997) all appear, all played in the same Norv Turner system, and have 3 out of the top 4 yards per Intended pass. And suprise!-- they all have drastically higher DVOAs than everyone else on that list except for Rob Moore.

In conclusion, the weakness of DVOA in this issue, while there, does still relatively accurately describe the performance of these receviers-- it recognized that these Washington receivers played in a certain system that did not engender high catch %, but was efficient. So don't overblow this issue to "FO doesn't measure receivers well".

33
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:00pm

Horrible writing above by the way. But I'm at work :(

34
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:20pm

Temo-

I don't think 95% of the commenters here have problems with the FO stats per se, the ANALYSIS here is usually great. It is that most of the time the site slips from ANALYSIS to JOURNALISM the journalism is really very average for sports journalism.

And average sports journalism is really pretty bad. Most of the readers here are trying to get away from the really crappy sports journalism that passes for average in the MSM. So it really rubs us the wrong way when confronted here.

As far as Bill B.'s comment, its hardly worth points to start changing your narrative about Chambers after he goes to a better system and does pretty darn well. By that point you have beaten over the head with data that flies in the face of your narrative.

35
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:38pm

Temo - where are you finding intended-pass statistics?

36
by Chad W (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 1:59pm

Re: 30

"Well, part of it is that every time said batter goes up to the plate, he has a high chance of whiffing, but he has a higher chance than the average batter of really knocking one deep for multiple bases. In the end a strike-out counts the same as a ground-out or pop-out."

I don't mean to turn this into a baseball discussion, but this statement is only true when no one is on base. When someone's on base, it can be extremely valuable to make contact, even if it's an out - much more valuable than a K. Of course, if that contact results in a double play, then it's actually less valuable than a K.

37
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:05pm

I was in part responding to comments like #5 above (WR stats are pretty useless).

But for your case read the Chambers comment in PFP 2007: "Chambers is the NFL player with the largest gap between his perceived and actual value. He's simply not an elite wide receiver and has shown nary a sign he's going to become one."

I don't see any problem with them writing that at the time of the trade. In my opinion, Chambers was never as bad a receiver as his 2006 season suggests, but that's partially his own fault. The chambers we saw in SDG was working much harder than the one from 2006. And anyway, he still posted a 4.1% regular season DVOA despite having one QB for 4.5 games (Trent Green) who had a 7.8% DVOA, and Philip Rivers for 10 games (6.9% DVOA). Cleo Lemon played 1.5 games with Chambers, (-15.5% DVOA for the season, no idea for those two games).

38
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:09pm

35. The tables above, yards divided by passes.

39
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:15pm

Although in hindsight, I should have averaged the individual averages of the players instead of adding up the passes and yards and dividing. The way I did it biases the data in favor of players who had more passes intended. Although since with the prominent exception of Chambers all the receivers with high yards per intended reception also had the most passes intended (makes sense), the unbiased data would only favor my point even more (that receivers with low catch % also have low yards per intended pass).

40
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:24pm

35, again:Although in hindsight, I should have averaged the individual averages of the players instead of adding up the passes and yards and dividing. The way I did it biases the data in favor of players who had more passes intended. Although since with the prominent exception of Chambers all the receivers with high yards per intended reception also had the most passes intended (makes sense), the unbiased data would only favor my point even more (that receivers with low catch % also have low yards per intended pass).

41
by Bill Barnwell :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:38pm

As far as Bill B.’s comment, its hardly worth points to start changing your narrative about Chambers after he goes to a better system and does pretty darn well. By that point you have beaten over the head with data that flies in the face of your narrative.

Yeah, it's really ridiculous of us to say nicer things about Chris Chambers when he goes to a better offense, plays a totally different role, and does that to the tune of a 51% catch rate. You've both criticized us for having binary narratives and then changing our narratives to reflect reality. Both criticisms, I'm sorry, are silly.

42
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 2:56pm

Oops, double post above. Delete please!

Also, my comment 37 should read -4.1% DVOA for Chambers, not positive.

41. Who was the second of "both" in your comment?

43
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 3:24pm

Re #30
Quite an accomplishment for Fielder to have 182 strikeouts for the Tigers in 1988, considering he played 88 games for the Blue Jays and 0 for the Tigers that year. B-R profile linked in name.

44
by David Mazzotta (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 4:16pm

So I count six of the top 20 seasons coming from Peyton Manning's receivers. Wow.

And Randy Moss makes in 4 times from 3 differnt QBs. (George/Cunningham, Culpepper twice, and Teh Brady)

If they were ever on the same team, Aaron's spreadsheet might explode.

45
by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 4:33pm

Re 36 (Chad W): I don’t mean to turn this into a baseball discussion, but this statement is only true when no one is on base. When someone’s on base, it can be extremely valuable to make contact, even if it’s an out - much more valuable than a K. Of course, if that contact results in a double play, then it’s actually less valuable than a K.
Again, not wanting to hijack this thread, but you've refuted your own claim. In nearly all situations, a strikeout is no worse than an out in play. Granted, there are some situations (runner on third, less than two out, for example) where a flyball out is preferred.
In fact, if you didn't give me the situation (outs, runners on base) and told me that the next batter was going to make a guaranteed out, I'd hope it was a strikeout, because that would mean he at least forced the pitcher to throw three pitches.

46
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 4:50pm

#44 I was thinking about that myself. I am happy with the WRs Indy has, but in an alternate universe, yeah, that would be cool.

47
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 4:56pm

You really think that Manning is THAT much of a better QB that Moss would up drastically better numbers than what he did last year? That seems... unrealistic.

48
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 5:04pm

#43 - yeah, I was quoting from my own notoriously bad short-term memory about the question. But the thought process that brought me to the answer was "what Tigers hitter would have been so devastating at the plate that a manager would have given him the opportunity to strike out 182 times?" While my memory of that era is sort of convoluted (because, well, I was 5 in 1988) I do know that the premiere Tigers hitters of the late 80s/early 90s were Fielder and Gibson. They were the only ones I could remember that a coach would have tolerated so many strikeouts from. They struck out 25 & 22% of the time respectively in their careers (the Babe only whiffed 15% of the time in his career).

I think it is relevant to football as a parallel to wide receiver discussions, since certain players who flash "big-play" skills will be given more opportunities to fail in high-failure-risk situations.

49
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 5:21pm

Just a couple notes on how awesome Irvin was in getting first downs:
He lead the team in catches on third or fourth down for first downs in '92 (22), '93 (16), '94 (20), '95 (27), '97 (23) and '98 (16). (That's right in '95 25% of his 111 catches were first downs on 3rd or 4th down). He had 165 first down catches on third or fourth down in his last 121 games and 185 after returning from the knee injury in 1990.

Quoted from his ring of honor page, can't find actual first down numbers anywhere.

50
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 7:06pm

Quoted from his ring of honor page, can’t find actual first down numbers anywhere.

First down numbers for Michael Irvin (and other NFL players) since 1991 can be found on NFL.com.

51
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 08/20/2008 - 9:58pm

50. Thanks, I never thought to click "more" :(

Looking at some of the top names in receiving, the only names that did better getting first downs are Reggie Wayne and Harrison. Wayne was the only one with a higher 1st down % (an astounding 84% in first down rate in 2006 to Irvin's 80% in 1995). Harrison was the only one with more total first downs (92 first downs on 143 receptions in 2002).

52
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 3:03am

Temo, after you wrote 47 and then 51, care to change your mind? Each one of them has shown he can consistently produce top receiver numbers and top QB seasons with multiple "partners." Why wouldn't they forge new records annually together?

Of course that's the same logic that put Will Smith, Ken Branaugh, and Kevin Kline together and ended up with "Wild Wild West." Sometimes the sum of the parts... is a major crap shoot.

53
by Graham (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 3:21am

#48 - please don't forget the immortal Rob "whiff-a-minute" Deer.

54
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 11:21am

"Honestly, I think the fact that slot receivers in great offenses have the top catch rates/DVOA show that those stats need to be taken with a grain of salt."

As do I, but when the Patriots go to 2-WR, Welker doesn't come off the field like most slot guys, and his performance doesn't decrease any. Theres a lot more evidence that hes just good, than that hes just good in the slot.

55
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 11:27am

"You really think that Manning is THAT much of a better QB that Moss would up drastically better numbers than what he did last year? That seems… unrealistic."

I think he would. I don't think theres much of an 'overall' gap between Brady and Manning, but Manning certainly throws a nicer deep ball. There were too many plays (and incompletes) last year where Brady underthrew Moss by a good 10 yards, and Moss had to slow up.

The fact that Moss is SO GOOD helps offset the only real weakness in Brady's game (the deep ball).

56
by MC2 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/21/2008 - 8:43pm

I just wanted to add that this article (and thread) is good evidence to support my long-held belief that there's too much emphasis on catch rate around here.

Looking at the Top 10 and the Bottom 10, I don't think there's that much difference, especially if you throw out Welker and Ward (you don't need catch rate to tell you those guys are good).

57
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Fri, 08/22/2008 - 2:38am

54,
No arguement there. He's definitely a good receiver, but I think catch rate greatly overrates him.