2021 Receiving Plus/Minus: Cooper Kupp Cleans Up

Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp
Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - Our annual look at the advanced stats in the passing game continues with what has become a very NFC West-focused series this year. Last week, we talked about YAC+ and the dominance of the San Francisco 49ers. We also covered passing plus/minus, where Kyler Murray reigned supreme. But the 49ers and Cardinals didn't win the Super Bowl last year; that was the domain of the Los Angeles Rams. And it was the Rams who had the receiver who shattered all of our DYAR records, as Cooper Kupp's triple crown was just as good in advanced stats as it was in traditional ones. Today, we get to celebrate Kupp's exceptional season once more as we switch to receiving plus/minus, just one more stat where Kupp stood head-and-shoulders above his competition.

Receiving plus/minus is a stat we annually track to help provide context to catch rate. Given the location of a receiver's targets, it compares his catch rate in each area to historical baselines. This stat does not consider passes listed as "Thrown Away," "Tipped at Line," "Miscommunication," or "Quarterback Hit in Motion" by Sports Info Solutions charting. The odds of a pass being completed are based on the pass distance, the distance required for a first down, and whether the ball was thrown to the left, middle, or right side of the field. This is a counting stat, so more targets are obviously a great thing for the purposes of what we're talking about here.

Receiver stats are often tied very closely with quarterback stats, as it takes two to tango. A completion is the responsibility of both the receiver and the quarterback, and it's unusual for a passer to be highly accurate to just one target. Since our numbers begin in 2006, the leading wideout in receiving plus/minus had a quarterback who, on average, ranked third in passing plus/minus, accurate to everyone at every depth. The only time we had a quarterback rank outside of the top 10 was in 2012, when Andre Johnson was clearly the superior half of his connection with Matt Schaub.

And Schaub, at least, finished with a +8.6 plus/minus. Kupp was working with Matthew Stafford, who finished 20th in passing plus/minus at +3.0—or, to put it another way, at -14.3 to everyone not named Cooper Kupp. There's an argument to be made that Kupp's numbers are even more impressive than they appear at first blush. In addition to celebrating Kupp's numbers, we'll also look at just what the heck was up with the rest of the Rams' passing attack. Let's dive in.

2021 Wide Receivers

A total of 91 wide receivers qualified last season, but we'll just show the 15 from the top and bottom of the rankings to save space here. Each receiver's plus/minus can be found in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022.

2021 Wide Receivers: Top 15 in Plus/Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
1 Cooper Kupp LAR 186 78.0% +17.3
2 Hunter Renfrow LV 124 83.1% +14.6
3 Davante Adams GB 165 74.5% +13.6
4 Christian Kirk ARI 97 77.3% +13.4
5 Tyler Lockett SEA 103 70.9% +12.0
6 Justin Jefferson MIN 158 68.4% +9.7
7 Chris Godwin TB 123 79.7% +9.6
8 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 115 78.3% +8.6
9 Tyreek Hill KC 155 71.6% +8.3
10 Mike Evans TB 109 67.9% +7.7
11 DeAndre Hopkins ARI 57 73.7% +7.6
12 Kendrick Bourne NE 69 79.7% +7.0
13 Tyler Boyd CIN 86 77.9% +7.0
14 Michael Pittman IND 122 72.1% +6.7
15 Adam Thielen MIN 92 72.8% +6.3


2021 Wide Receivers: Bottom 15 in Plus/Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
77 Nico Collins HOU 58 59.6% -4.0
78 Van Jefferson LAR 87 57.5% -4.4
79 Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB 54 48.1% -4.5
80 Jarvis Landry CLE 82 63.4% -4.6
81 Jalen Reagor PHI 56 58.9% -4.9
82 Darnell Mooney CHI 133 60.9% -5.2
83 Ray-Ray McCloud PIT 62 61.3% -5.6
84 Laviska Shenault JAX 93 67.7% -5.6
85 Chase Claypool PIT 103 58.3% -5.9
86 Odell Beckham 2TM 82 53.7% -6.3
87 Kenny Golladay NYG 73 50.7% -7.2
88 Darius Slayton NYG 55 47.3% -7.8
89 Zach Pascal IND 68 55.9% -9.2
90 DJ Moore CAR 156 59.6% -9.5
91 Robby Anderson CAR 106 50.0% -17.0

Kupp's +17.3 is impressive in and of itself. While it wouldn't have topped the list in any of the past four years, it is the seventh-highest plus/minus we have seen since 2006—we have been in a run of very good seasons since the tail end of the Michael Thomas/Drew Brees era. The only players to have a higher mark than Kupp since 2006 are Thomas, Antonio Brown, Reggie Wayne, and Stefon Diggs.

It is worth noting that plus/minus is a counting stat, and Kupp did a lot of counting in 2021. Kupp had 191 targets (including pass interference), 22 more than anyone else last season and in the top 15 all-time. I think it's more accurate to say that Kupp was very good over tremendous volume last season as opposed to being tremendous on a play-for-play basis. That's extraordinarily valuable, and why Kupp broke so many Football Outsiders records, but it means that his numbers aren't quite as impressive when you break it down as a rate rather than as a total. A +17.3 plus/minus on 186 qualifying targets comes out as a catch rate over expectation of 9.3%—once again, very good, but not generally league-leading. In fact, the only player with a lower CROE to lead the league in plus/minus was Andre Johnson in 2008 at 8.3%. Kupp's 9.3% was seventh among qualified receivers, but he had at least 60 more targets than anyone up above him. Very good in tremendous volume equals league-leading numbers.

Kupp's also interesting because he's not the prototypical guy you would expect to lead the league in plus/minus. Since he entered the league in 2017, he's seventh in plus/minus at +35.4. With the exception of Michael Thomas, however, everyone ahead of Kupp is more of a deep-ball threat—Tyler Lockett, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Davante Adams, and DeAndre Hopkins. Kupp is racking up his numbers by catching basically all of his diet of high-probability targets, nickel and diming his way to the top of the league. Since 2017, he is the plus/minus leader for all players with an average depth of target under 8.0 yards, more than doubling any other eligible player apart from Hunter Renfrow's +19.7, most of which came from 2021 alone. I'll be very interested to see if Kupp can come close to these numbers again next season; while he has improved in plus/minus every year he has been in the league, going from +6.4 to +17.3 in one season does somewhat shout outlier.

But, of course, Kupp's improvement didn't come in a vacuum—it came with Matthew Stafford replacing Jared Goff at quarterback, which is sure to improve things. After all, Goff's career CPOE is a paltry 0.2%, which can't hold a candle to Stafford's … uh, -0.8%. Huh. That's worse. Well, Goff was working with better receivers in Los Angeles than most of Stafford's crew in Detroit, so we should instead look at Stafford's connection with players more in Kupp's caliber—after all, with Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson, Stafford had a career plus/minus of … uh, +14.2, or less than what he did with Kupp last season. And a CPOE of just 1.7%. In fact, Stafford's 9.3% CPOE to Kupp dwarfs any other connection he has ever had, with the next-closest player with at least 100 targets being Golden Tate at 3.0%.

In fact, let's go ahead and print the complete table of Rams receivers last season and their plus/minus numbers so you can see how much Kupp stood out over his teammates.

2021 Rams Receivers Plus/Minus
Player Targets Catch
Cooper Kupp 186 78.0% +17.3
Tyler Higbee 81 75.3% +1.5
Robert Woods 64 70.3% +0.7
Cam Akers 3 100.0% +0.5
DeSean Jackson 15 53.3% +0.4
Johnny Mundt 1 100.0% +0.3
Brycen Hopkins 1 100.0% +0.3
Ben Skowronek 18 61.1% -1.2
Kendall Blanton 7 57.1% -1.3
Odell Beckham 48 56.3% -3.2
Darrell Henderson 40 72.5% -3.4
Van Jefferson 87 57.5% -4.4
Sony Michel 32 65.6% -6.4

It is very, very strange for a league leader to overperform his teammates by this much. The average plus/minus for a second banana since 2006 was +7.5, with the previous low-water point being Jimmy Graham's +3.7 in 2016 behind Doug Baldwin. Accuracy is not Stafford's primary skill as a passer at any depth, making Kupp's league-leading totals all the more impressive.

Christian Kirk was the most impressive on a play-for-play basis, as +13.4 is the third-highest plus/minus we have ever seen for a player with fewer than 100 targets. You can question whether or not he's worth the $18 million a year Jacksonville is paying him, but he's just a slight improvement over the hands of, say, a Laviska Shenault. Kirk is one of several of last year's top finishers on the move, joining Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams. As receiving plus/minus is at least somewhat dependent on quarterback accuracy, it will be interesting to see how their numbers change in 2022.

Adams probably has the best chance of holding on to a top spot, considering Derek Carr helped Hunter Renfrow to a second-place finish in 2021. Adams joins Tyler Lockett, Justin Jefferson, Chris Godwin, and DeAndre Hopkins as players returning to the top 15 from 2020. Lockett and Hopkins have both been near the top of the leaderboard since 2018, but their streaks are in jeopardy due to Hopkins' suspension and Lockett's quarterback situation.

We also need to focus on the bottom of the leaderboards for just a moment, with Carolina finishing one-two at the bottom in the form of DJ Moore and Robby Anderson. Having Sam Darnold as your primary quarterback will do that for you, but even taking that into account, Anderson couldn't catch a cold in 2021. A -17.0 plus/minus is historically terrible—fourth worst since our data began.

Worst Receiving Plus/Minus, 2006-2021
Year Player Team Targets Catch
2006 Chris Chambers MIA 134 44.0% -20.5
2012 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 144 49.3% -19.7
2008 Braylon Edwards CLE 126 43.7% -18.8
2021 Robby Anderson CAR 106 50.0% -17.0
2011 Devin Aromashodu MIN 76 34.2% -14.8
2009 Louis Murphy OAK 89 38.2% -14.7
2013 Davone Bess CLE 83 50.6% -14.4
2016 Brandon Marshall NYJ 121 47.9% -14.0
2018 John Ross CIN 57 36.8% -13.3
2020 Jerry Jeudy DEN 107 48.6% -13.3

That's not normal for Anderson, who was up at +3.8 in 2020. He struggled with drops all season long and just seemed to lack any sort of connection with any Panthers quarterback—he was technically worst with Darnold, but he had a -6.1 plus/minus on just 42 targets from P.J. Walker and Cam Newton too, so it's not all on one quarterback. It was more normal for Moore, who joins Darius Slayton and Jalen Reagor as returnees from 2020's bottom 15. Either way, Carolina's receiver corps was a disaster last year, and we'll continue to see more of that as we move to tight ends.

2021 Tight Ends

A total of 55 tight ends qualified last season, but we're only listing the top and bottom 10 for space reasons.

2021 Tight Ends: Top 10 in Plus-Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
1 Mark Andrews BAL 159 71.3% +8.3
2 Dalton Schultz DAL 101 77.2% +5.8
3 George Kittle SF 93 76.3% +5.4
4 Dallas Goedert PHI 75 74.7% +5.4
5 Hunter Henry NE 69 72.5% +5.2
6 Durham Smythe MIA 40 85.0% +4.8
7 Noah Fant DEN 87 78.2% +4.8
8 Gerald Everett SEA 59 81.4% +4.5
9 Hayden Hurst ATL 31 83.9% +3.3
10 John Bates WAS 23 87.0% +3.2


2021 Tight Ends: Bottom 10 in Plus-Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
46 Mo Alie-Cox IND 41 58.5% -3.1
47 Ryan Griffin NYJ 41 65.8% -3.2
48 Ian Thomas CAR 29 62.1% -3.9
49 Jared Cook LAC 78 61.5% -4.4
50 Austin Hooper CLE 58 65.5% -4.5
51 Cameron Brate TB 50 60.0% -4.6
52 Darren Waller LV 90 61.1% -4.8
53 Evan Engram NYG 69 66.7% -4.8
54 Jonnu Smith NE 45 62.2% -5.5
55 Ricky Seals-Jones WAS 49 61.2% -5.6

Tight ends and running backs are less consistent from year-to-year than wide receivers as a general rule of thumb. Durham Smythe is the only returnee from 2020's top 10 tight ends, while Noah Fant and Hayden Hurst both rose from the bottom 10 in 2020 to the top in 2021—Fant got a quarterback upgrade, while Hurst saw his usage shift dramatically with Kyle Pitts in town.

Tight ends do help explain one of the more surprising results from the quarterback plus/minus rankings: Lamar Jackson's finish ahead of Justin Herbert. Jackson had Mark Andrews as a safety net, and Andrews set all sorts of franchise records during his career year. Herbert, on the other hand, had to deal with Jared Cook, seventh-worst among tight ends last season. The difference in tight end connection explains away all of the difference between Jackson and Herbert's totals, and it's worth noting that the Chargers have dumped Cook and added Gerald Everett, eighth best last season. A tight end that can catch should help Herbert immensely in 2022.

In terms of rates, the best tight end was actually rookie John Bates in Washington, who caught 20 of his 23 eligible targets. That's a small sample size, but considering his teammate Ricky Seals-Jones was dead last with a -5.6 plus/minus, there's something to be commended there. Bates may well be the Week 1 starter for the Commanders as Logan Thomas continues to heal from his December knee injury. At the other end of the spectrum, Carolina's Ian Thomas had the worst year on a per-play basis—he had an expected catch rate of 75.5%, and only brought in 62.1% of his targets. Not a great year for the Carolina passing attack.

2021 Running Backs

There were 57 qualified running backs, but we are just going to list 10 from the top and bottom here.

2021 Running Backs: Top 10 in Plus-Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
1 Christian McCaffrey CAR 40 92.5% +5.7
2 James Conner ARI 40 95.0% +4.4
3 AJ Dillon GB 37 91.9% +3.3
4 Cordarrelle Patterson ATL 64 81.3% +3.2
5 Kyle Juszcyzk SF 38 78.9% +2.7
6 David Montgomery CHI 48 87.5% +2.6
7 Jamaal Williams DET 28 92.9% +2.4
8 Tony Pollard DAL 44 88.6% +2.3
9 Devonta Freeman BAL 38 89.5% +2.3
10 Devontae Booker DET 45 88.9% +2.3


2021 Running Backs: Bottom 10 in Plus-Minus
Rk Player Team Targets Catch
48 Chuba Hubbard CAR 34 73.5% -3.6
49 Kenneth Gainwell PHI 47 70.2% -4.0
50 Saquon Barkley NYG 55 74.5% -4.2
51 Dalvin Cook MIN 45 75.6% -4.7
52 James Robinson JAX 43 72.1% -5.2
53 Michael Carter NYJ 51 72.5% -5.2
54 Alvin Kamara NO 65 72.3% -5.8
55 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 64 73.4% -6.0
56 Sony Michel LAR 32 65.6% -6.4
57 Ty Johnson NYJ 53 64.2% -8.0

Hey, a Panther what done good! While Carolina hopes that Christian McCaffrey will be healthy enough to earn more than 40 targets in 2022, it's nice to see him back on top of these rankings where he belongs. Despite missing most of the last two seasons, McCaffrey still leads all running backs in plus/minus since he entered the league with +18.8. A healthy McCaffrey is the league's best receiving option out of the backfield, and goodness knows the Panthers need that.

The Jets could use literally anyone who could hold on to a football out of the backfield, with Ty Johnson and Michael Carter both finishing in the bottom 10. Drops were the major culprit, especially for Johnson, which doesn't help a developing young quarterback like Zach Wilson! Enter Breece Hall, who was a substantial contributor in the receiving game at Iowa State, and will hopefully keep the Jets off the bottom of this list in 2022.


43 comments, Last at 24 Jul 2022, 2:00pm

#1 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 19, 2022 - 9:45am

LOL @ FO still taking potshots at Chris Chambers. 15 years have gone by! That man has a family!

Can we get a Leigh Bodden tribute next? 

Points: 0

#3 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 10:25am

Unless Im missing something

Points: 0

#8 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:14pm

Not sure how long you’ve been reading the site for, but “Chris Chambers is terrible” was one of the first contrarian takes FO ran with back in the early/mid 2000s. Seeing him at the top of the worst WR seasons table made me chuckle. 

Points: 0

#11 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:31pm

He was listed on the table but wasn't mentioned in writing

Points: 0

#2 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 10:17am

Maybe there is something to St. Brown.

Kirk's presence on the list is interesting. FO can't seem to make up its mind whether he's good or not. This suggests he's at least good at catching the ball.

A completion is the responsibility of both the receiver and the quarterback, and it's unusual for a passer to be highly accurate to just one target.

The Rams list of receivers can basically be broken into two groups:

Guys meant to be starters:
Cooper Kupp18678.0%+17.3
Tyler Higbee8175.3%+1.5
Robert Woods6470.3%+0.7
Cam Akers3100.0%+0.5
DeSean Jackson1553.3%+0.4

Guys not meant to be starters
Ben Skowronek1861.1%-1.2
Odell Beckham4856.3%-3.2
Darrell Henderson4072.5%-3.4
Van Jefferson8757.5%-4.4
Sony Michel3265.6%-6.4

Beckham's numbers are rough for two teams. I think his Cleveland numbers break out to be 34-50%- (-3.1) -- the catch number and the catch percentage don't seem to work out to be integer attempts, so there may be a rounding error in there somewhere.

The Rams basically lost Woods and Jackson and added Beckham and Jefferson. Jefferson was much worse than either, and Beckham took a while to integrate in, and it was two new receivers thrown in to what was already a new team/system for the QB. Stafford was pretty efficient throwing to WR1, WR2, TE1, and RB1. It's just two of those guys missed most of the season.


The difference in tight end connection explains away all of the difference between Jackson and Herbert's totals, and it's worth noting that the Chargers have dumped Cook and added Gerald Everett, eighth best last season. A tight end that can catch should help Herbert immensely in 2022.

It amuses me that Bryan is apologizing so hard for Herbert here, putting all the blame on one TE, while ignoring that Jackson had to overcome injury apocalypses on both sides of the ball. (He had to no healthy offensive players with whom to shoot out the points his devastated defense was allowing)

Yes, Cook was solely why the healthy Chargers (36 games lost) weren't as efficient passing as the Ravens (103 games lost).

Points: 0

#17 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:59pm

The thing about St. Brown is that the early-season version of him was bad (or, at least, typical rookie), and the later-season version of him kicked into gear.

Before the bye week, St. Brown had a -14.1% DVOA, with a +1.3 plus/minus and a -0.8 YAC+.
After the bye week, St. Brown had a 16.7% DVOA with a +7.3 plus/minus and a +0.5 YAC+.

Early/late splits don't necessarily mean anything, but it did look like St. Brown got more comfortable at the NFL level as the season went along.


As for Beckham, it's -3.0 for the Browns -- or, rather -3.04 for Cleveland and -3.22 for Los Angeles for a total of -6.26.  Rounding!

Points: 0

#23 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 2:49pm


The rounding comment was because when I divided catches by completion percentage, I wasn't getting integer values. Not sure why.

Points: 0

#4 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 10:27am

I noticed throughout the season, helped back to back rookie QBs. About to be back to back to back with Bailey Zappe. 

Points: 0

#5 by mehllageman56 // Jul 19, 2022 - 10:57am

As a Jets fan I support this message.  Yes, Belichick, please start Zappe overJones.

Points: 0

#9 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:20pm

Not that I know why the Patriots drafted Zappe after spending a 1st on Mac then re signing Hoyer (for 2 years).

Literal strange draft

Points: 0

#12 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:44pm

Belichick has always taken fliers on QBs throughout the draft. Cassel, Brisset, and Garoppolo they turned into trade value. There may have been a compensatory pick in Hoyer's history -- he's been everywhere and it's impossible to keep track. And sometimes some late round scrub turns into Tom Brady.

I don't think Zappe will work out, but I didn't think Brady or Cassel would, either.

Points: 0

#16 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:58pm

But Zappe specifically was strange this time. 

Hoyer would be entering his age 39 when he's done with this contract. Pretty crazy to expect a comp pick on that. In reality he's gonna get cut but that'll actually have them LOSE cap space. It's that or immediately flush a 4th rounder out. Or theyre rostering 3 QBs. None seems ideal for a playoff team. 

And it's all just a waste of cap since you don't want either to see the light of day and we're 99% sure neither has a long future in NE.

Points: 0

#19 by takeleavebelieve // Jul 19, 2022 - 1:33pm

Exactly what was so strange about the Zappe pick in 2022? Is it really that much stranger than Brissett in 2016, Garoppolo in 2014, Ryan Mallett in 2011, Kevin O’Connell in 2008, or Rohan Davey in 2002?

Belicheck has a long track record of wanting a developmental QB with a decent pedigree on the roster. He even did it in Cleveland with Eric Zeier. 

Points: 0

#20 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 1:42pm

I dont remember the contracts back then and

it's all just a waste of cap since you don't want either to see the light of day and we're 99% sure neither has a long future in NE.

4 years of Jones and 2 of Hoyer left. Zappe doesn't fit a realistic timeline unless you're praying both of those guys in front of him are out (obviously not). 

Points: 0

#21 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 1:53pm

I didn't mean Hoyer now. Hoyer has had three tours of duty in New England. They got him back, the first time, as part of the Garoppolo trade. I meant that in at least one of his departures, they may have gotten a comp pick for him.

Long story short, though, the Pats have a history of churning the back end of the draft for QBs and try to at least turn them into trade/pick fodder with a fair amount of success.

About half of a team's roster you hope never sees the light of day. They are usually backups for a reason.

Points: 0

#22 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 2:08pm

it seems silly to re up Hoyer (would anyone other than NE given him that contract?) then spend a mid round pick on one (little upside and even smaller chance of seeing the light of day).

Spending that capital on Tyreek Lite (the next pick, a position that actually rotates and gets hurt) >>>>> another mediocre QB

Zappe makes sense there for Seattle who has no QB worth anything, not NE who had the best rookie QB and, for some reason, keeps believing in Hoyer.

Points: 0

#25 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 2:53pm

I realize you've spent your entire life in the Favre/Rodgers bubble, but if there's anything a Packer Backer should be well aware it's that unearthing a QB is hugely valuable, and if you have one you can basically plug'n'play WRs as fungible cogs. It's worth sifting for gold in the ass-end of the draft, because none of those guys are expected to be worth much of anything.

Points: 0

#27 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 3:11pm

"unearthing a QB is hugely valuable, and if you have one you can basically plug'n'play WRs as fungible cogs. It's worth sifting for gold in the ass-end of the draft, because none of those guys are expected to be worth much of anything."

This isn't true. From experience. Favre and Rodgers were early round QBs with a pathway to play. With the past few years begging the team to take more stabs at WR, instead of screaming at my back to back MVP "WHY YOU NO TRUST UDFAS?!" and wishing we could even just get back to the SB.

Yeah Zappe isn't expected to be anything...because he's buried under the only QB last year that got OROTY votes and a vet Bill can't quit. CA3 (or whoever actually) can at least make a way on ST, if needed (RB was their next pick and 5 went off the board between them). Not a thing for a backup at the most protected non ST position.

Wish my team had Tee Higgins (who I wasn't even that big of a fan of as a prospect) and Brycen Hopkins (ST w/>11y/tgt sure is a nice thing to call upon) instead of Jordan Love (who couldn't provide any value when called upon despite a year and half to learn everything and a, rare, chance to play over a rightful sitting of Rodgers). Isn't it ironic they both just played in the SB...and caught four passes? Should we be surprised GBs backup/future plan didn't help the present team(s)?

Points: 0

#43 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 24, 2022 - 2:00pm

Top 33 picks weren't wanted. Very comparable to the 137th pick stuck behind the 15th (and Brian won't die Hoyer)

Points: 0

#6 by mehllageman56 // Jul 19, 2022 - 11:00am

I think the RB chart shows why the Jets drafted Breece Hall.  I knew Johnson was bad, but I didn't know Michael Carter was in the bottom 10 as well.  Given that the tight ends were atrocious last year, the Jets offensive additions make a lot of sense.  Hopefully Wilson improves.

Points: 0

#18 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 1:32pm

You're still a bad team, spend those picks on more valuable positions.

If you wanted such a RB, Pierre Strong Jr in the mid rounds >

Points: 0

#7 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 11:05am

Some of this list is bad receivers. (looking at you, MVS) But some of this is just terrible passing.

I don't think every receiver on the Giants and Panthers sucks; I suspect that's mostly on bad passing. Which tends to make McCaffery look like a golden god, if he can be efficient in that offense.

Points: 0

#15 by mansteel // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:48pm

...and a bad scheme, and a bad o-line, and...

The Giants have kept the QB but changed the coaching and o-line, so it'll be interesting to see the REC +/- next year (not mention their passing game in general). 

Points: 0

#29 by Pat // Jul 19, 2022 - 4:05pm

I think evaluating RBs with receiving +/- is probably difficult. You might notice that a lot of the top guys (McCaffrey, Patterson, Jusczyk) are used with a bit more flexibility than a standard RB. The problem is that when you're already at such a high expected completion percentage (say like 90%) there's not a lot of room to rack up positive +/-. But as soon as you start getting a more varied distribution of passes suddenly you can rack up more positive +/-. You catch 4/4 passes with a 50% expected completion percentage and that's as much +/- as catching 40/40 passes with a 95% expected. It'd honestly probably be worse with more than the play-by-play since you've got such coarse depth information.

Points: 0

#34 by DisplacedPackerFan // Jul 19, 2022 - 6:22pm

The way the Packers used Dillon and Jones in the passing game highlights another factor with just one team. Dillon has good looking advanced numbers this year in the passing game. He looks better than Jones in most of the advanced metrics. But when you watch the film he basically is never split out wide, he pretty much only sees the ball when there is like 3 yards of space around him. Jones would get motioned out, Rodgers would throw to him when he was closely covered.

Jones had the opposite of the effect you mention. He was fine 11.6% receiving DVOA is fine. He just wasn't exceptional. He lost some points failing on easier catches because he still saw the ball while covered and Dillon didn't, and he racked up a few more smaller negatives seeing the ball more on less likely to be caught passes. So Dillon shows up in the +/- and has a 36.5% receiving DVOA, but Jones is still the better receiver of the two. There are several Dillon catches where he is wide open and barely makes the catch because he has like 5 seconds to secure it.

So I do like +/- for highlighting something a bit surprising and giving me something else to think about. Dillon is still improving and the experience and confidence from doing so well last year has value. He wasn't used much in the passing game in college so only using him in high success situations in the pros during his 2nd season was fine by me. This offense wants RBs that can catch so I'm hopeful he'll have some real improvement.

But yes this number can be swamped pretty quickly for the RB position by guys who do well on the less used RB routes. I would really like to see it back in the 80's and 90's when lots of running backs would go over 100 targets with all kinds of route usage. RB usage in the passing game has scaled back over the decades it feels like. Makes sense with higher WR count sets becoming more common, and the role of the TE not really diminishing either. But I would be curious about how RB looked before this stat was being tracked.

Points: 0

#37 by Pat // Jul 20, 2022 - 11:22am

I think RBs are really the position that's most screwed by only having play-by-play information. Well, and not knowing play information. Generally WRs have plenty of catches that are like, 50-60-70% likelihood just due to ability, so you look at catch % and it's a decent proxy for ability.

But like you said, there are plenty of RBs that literally only get passes which are functionally runs anyway. In practice I'd bet a bunch of those passes are more like 95+%, and the only reason that incompletes happen in game are due to weird defensive one-offs anyway. Like, the QB gets slightly distracted because "woah that guy's not supposed to be there" and the ball sails. Or the even more fun "this is actually my 4th option and I'm really freaking out" toss.

Really you'd almost like to toss those plays entirely, because they just have very little to do with what you think of as receiving: leverage, route-running, hands, etc. But all you get in the play by play is "complete short right."

Points: 0

#39 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 20, 2022 - 1:01pm

Really you'd almost like to toss those plays entirely, because they just have very little to do with what you think of as receiving: leverage, route-running, hands, etc. But all you get in the play by play is "complete short right."


We can do that!  It's terrible for sample size concerns, but we can do that.

First note: we don't just use "short right"'; we also use air yards both in general ("two yards downfield") and relatively ("two yards short of the sticks).  I think you already knew that, but it's good to clarify.

A 95% threshhold is way too high -- there were nine passes all year long which we had with > 95% chance of being completed.  And, in practice, quarterbacks went 8-for-9 on them, with one incomplete pass on a Josh Jacobs drop against the Chiefs in Week 14.  Tossing those obviously doesn't make a significant difference to the overall numbers.  But we can look at plays that have, say, less than an 80% chance of being completed.  That cuts out the easiest 65% of running back targets

Your top 5 qualified running backs on those targets become:
1. Christian McCaffrey (+4.2)
2. Kyle Juszcyzk (+2.4)
3. David Montgomery (+1.9)
4. A.J. Dillon (+1.9)
5. Cordarelle Patterson (+1.6)

James Conner is still at +1.5, so he doesn't drop too far.  Players with high plus/minus tend not to get there from sopping up easy catches.

The bottom 5, however, is more intersting:
1. Ty Johnson (-4.9)
2. Ameer Abdullah (-3.6)
3. Austin Ekeler (-3.5)
4. Michael Carter (-3.2)
5. Saquon Barkley (-2.5)

Jets still can't catch a cold, and Saquon still comes out terribly, but Ekeler in the bottom five is a surprise.  He's at -1.6 overall, so he was feasting on those relatively easy receptions.  Some of this is volume, as he had 33 targets below 80% expected completion, tied for second-most in the league behind Cordarelle Patterson, but still.  That's more interesting discussion fodder for Justin Herbert's numbers, there.

The numbers look mostly the same if you look at, say, passes beyond the line of scrimmage as opposed to setting an expected completion threshhold -- Conner replaces Patterson in the top five; Kenneth Gainwell and Alvin Kamara replace Ekeler and Barkley in the bottom five.

Points: 0

#40 by Pat // Jul 20, 2022 - 2:57pm

That's interesting. I didn't expect the top 5 to change pretty much at all because that's what I was saying (you can't actually rack up significant +/- from easy catches because each catch just gives you so little).

Ekeler is one of the guys I noted that I was surprised he was missing from the RB lists: he's 5th overall in DYAR and obviously has great receiving yardage for a RB. But I'd guess it's probably more about what he does when he catches the ball rather than his actual ability to catch it.

Points: 0

#41 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 20, 2022 - 3:36pm

Yeah. Ekeler hits the top five in receiving value through a combination of YAC+ (ninth among running backs) and volume (second-most targets/receptions), as well as usage stuff we'll talk about more when we get to slot versus wide.  Ekeler had the 10th deepest aDOT among qualified running backs, so you have, in general, more valuable routes with better results after the completion on significant volume.  That equals a valuable player.  This was also Ekeler's worst year in terms of plus/minus, though how much of that is random fluctuation and how much is significantly deeper routes this season (1.6 aDOT, 0.5 for the rest of his career) is a matter of some discussion.

Points: 0

#10 by Romodini // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:25pm

Every list of analytical stats involving RBs always seems to have Tony Pollard near the top and Zeke at the bottom. I'm not sure he adds anything to the offense at this point other than good blocking. And I guess keeping Tony Pollard fresh so he can actually advance the ball when he's offered snap scraps.

Points: 0

#13 by ImNewAroundThe… // Jul 19, 2022 - 12:44pm

Potential out next year though. He did bounce back rushing wise last year a bit. But yeah, a prime example of that second contract being deadly. Sunk cost fallacy keeps him playing so much.

At least you didn't spend a high pick on the backup then pay big bucks to the starter just to see the cheaper one you did let walk away end up at least a few spots higher on this list. And that's with similar opponents since he remained in division (ranking on Aaron Jones FO authors?)

At least my Jones > Cook narrative is thriving.

Points: 0

#26 by colonialbob // Jul 19, 2022 - 3:04pm

Zeke did fine on the ground, but is awful in the passing game. And of course they're paying him way more than "fine on the ground" money. Eye test, it seems like his explosiveness is gone, but he's still a tough back. Reminds me of the old "if you need a yard, he'll get you three; if you need ten, he'll get you three." 

Points: 0

#30 by Pat // Jul 19, 2022 - 4:11pm


Every list of analytical stats involving RBs always seems to have Tony Pollard near the top and Zeke at the bottom.

DYAR has them roughly identical. Pollard's high value, low usage, and Zeke's low value, high usage. I mean, that might be an equilibrium. Give Pollard more and his value would decline, give Elliot less and his would climb.

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#32 by Romodini // Jul 19, 2022 - 4:34pm

I think I'd prefer that option. The higher value would at least give the illusion that Zeke's paycheck isn't such a deadweight. And would also answer whether or not Pollard can handle a full workload if Zeke gets cut next season and they roll with Pollard full-time on a hopefully cheap extension.

Points: 0

#33 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jul 19, 2022 - 4:56pm

We used to joke about setting Jamaal Charles free, but it turned out there were only so many attempts per season he could hold up for any he never exceeded a 1A role.

\also KC and Denver loved to platoon guys
\\which you can do when you go Priest Holmes/Larry Johnson/Jamaal Charles

Points: 0

#38 by Pat // Jul 20, 2022 - 11:47am

Oh, God, once you fold in money obviously it's silly.

That being said, Elliot's paycheck isn't really that big a deal. It's big this year really only because of its structure and because they're trying to keep the 'out' year next year. If they didn't have an equivalent option on the roster already it wouldn't exactly be bad to keep him.

Even in the end the contract's not going to look too horrible. They'll likely release him next year having paid him like $70M over 7 years total, or around 5.3% cap in flat salary cap percentage. It really just looks bad because of the structure and because running back salaries are deflating so quickly. But, I mean, teams make mistakes on the scale of Elliot's contract all the time. Philly paid Malik Jackson $20M for 570 snaps (around 10 games worth) and 2.5 sacks. That's easily the same scale of mistake.

Points: 0

#35 by MJK // Jul 19, 2022 - 10:42pm

Out of curiosity, where is Kelce?  Given how heavily he is used, I would have expected him to show up on the leaderboard. 

Points: 0

#36 by Bryan Knowles // Jul 20, 2022 - 1:27am

In reply to by MJK

Kelce finishes at +2.1, his lowest mark since 2015.  It was the first time he caught fewer than 70% of his targets since 2018, and he had more drops than he normally does. A slightly down year, at least by his lofty standards.

Points: 0

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