Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Dec 2011

ESPN: Jordy Nelson's Great Season

A number of stats here to show what a great season Jordy Nelson is having. Right now he would set a record for highest DVOA by a wide receiver with at least 60 pass targets. This article also features the debut of slightly tweaked receiving plus-minus and YAC+ stats for use in-season. Nelson does excellent in these as well. Since this piece is ESPN Insider, I'll run some larger tables with those stats for other players here on FO sometime this weekend.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 08 Dec 2011

36 comments, Last at 08 Mar 2012, 12:15am by C.J.


by Tommy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 2:30pm

This is dumb. Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson isnt Brady to Moss. Clearly Rodgers is the guy getting it done, and Nelson is just along for the ride.

by Hardy Har Har Nickerson (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 2:55pm

Lots of other receivers catch passes from Rodgers, and I dont see them on this list.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 5:32pm

Use the template next time.

by C.J. (not verified) :: Sat, 02/04/2012 - 1:44am

Bro your retarded Jordy Nelson isn't just along for the ride. Sure aaron gets good passes to him but how much times did Jordy drop the ball? barley any drops. how much times did he fumble it? Never. Greg jennings fumbled it they're last game. PLUS, Jordy set up a game winner field goal. if it was for that, they might have lost that game so don't give Jordy crap. He's way over estimated.

by C.J. (not verified) :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 12:15am

Under estimated**

by Mr. X (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 2:44pm

Nelson had some drops in the Super Bowl, yet he still had a good game. This is his best year and yes, Rodgers is on another planet, but I'd suggest you go to NFL.com and watch highlights of all the Packer games this year to see if he's just another stiff. He's behind only Gronkowski and Megatron for receiving TDs. Watch the 93-yd pass reception he had against the Rams.

by Anonymous454545 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 3:09pm

Nelson adjusts to those deep back shoulder throws very well. As mentioned here many times, he IS NOT your (stereo)typical Caucasian slot gut. He doesn't play like Brandon Stokely or Welker. He plays like those 6-5 guys that get drafted in the first round are supposed to play--when Rodgers sees him 1-on-1 on the sideline he trusts Nelson to go up and catch the ball before the CB can react. And he does it for far less than Dez Bryant.

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 7:39pm

The QB might be the thing. If you look at the list on the ESPN site, the 04 Colts had two receivers on teh top-DVOA list with Wayne and Stokley. It is no surprise that Manning still holds the single-season DVOA with his 2004 season (yes, that and the '07 Brady season is now ahead of Rodgers in DVOA). It really goes hand in hand. I will say, for receivers, I like DYAR more.

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 3:34pm

The catch that Nelson made on the left Sideline against NYG is simply an unbelievable catch. Even when watching replays, it is hard to believe that he will be able to get both feet in bounds. It was almost matrix like in his ability to contort his body

Nelson accepting a 3 year extension for only $12 is borderline stealing for GB. It is pretty stunning that Nelson over the next 3 years will barely make more than Santonio Holmes gets for 1 Season

by ammek :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 5:12pm

Four dollars a year is more than borderline stealing.

by Yaguar :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 3:49pm

As Aaron wrote, Nelson will only set the record for Wide Receivers, not the receiving DVOA record for all players.

That honor belongs to Marshall Faulk, and it's not even close. Let that serve as a reminder that Faulk is the greatest offensive weapon of our lifetimes. His 1999 receiving numbers stand alone as the most efficient receiving season in NFL history.

Nelson, 2011: 48/63 (76% catch rate) for 876 yds
Faulk, 1999: 87/104 (84% catch rate) for 1048 yds

Nelson: 58.7% DVOA.
Faulk: 71.2% DVOA. Not a typo.

A list of some of the absolute greatest receiving seasons of all time, and their DYAR totals:

Marshall Faulk, 1999: 453 DYAR
Marshall Faulk, 1998: 409 DYAR
Marshall Faulk, 2000: 367 DYAR
Marshall Faulk, 2001: 363 DYAR
Michael Irvin, 1995: 630 DYAR
Marvin Harrison, 2002: 478 DYAR
Jerry Rice, 1995: 550 DYAR
Jerry Rice, 1993: 420 DYAR
Randy Moss, 2007: 569 DYAR
Randy Moss, 1998: 431 DYAR
Andre Johnson, 2008: 493 DYAR
Larry Fitzgerald, 2008: 402 DYAR
Torry Holt, 2001: 340 DYAR
Torry Holt, 2003: 474 DYAR
Cris Carter, 1999: 439 DYAR

Marshall Faulk was a Hall of Fame receiver from 1998-2001. It just so happened that he also ran for 5400 yards and 43 touchdowns during that period. No big deal.

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:31pm

And yet Faulk doesn't actually have the single-season receiving DVOA record.

Antonio Gates (2010): 50/65 for 782 yards (77% catch rate). 79.5% DVOA. Also not a typo.

by Yaguar :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:48pm

I knew of that season, but I thought the target threshold was higher than it actually was. Gates barely exceeds it, when I thought he barely failed to reach it.

In any event, Faulk, Reggie Wayne, Vincent Jackson, and Mike Wallace deserve a lot of credit for sustaining such high DVOAs over much higher target numbers.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 3:50pm

Is it me or is every receiver on your top reveiver by DVOA chart at the bottom a deep threat?

Plus I think that Nelson benefits to some extent from what I call 'the Patrick Crayton effect' (I think FO names it after someone else but I can't remember who it is). While I do think he is a good player, who reminds me a great deal of Ed McCaffery (perhaps a little quicker though) , he is clearly the number two to Greg Jennings and attention will also be diverted to Driver and Finley. I think this helps make him more efficient. This does suggest that the Packers have a great stash of talent at receiver. Rogers helps too.

(Is it wrong that the player that I find most comparable is also a white receiver?)

by Yaguar :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:13pm

The all-time great seasons often come from high-risk high-reward players in the seasons where they happened to get lucky.


Lee Evans is a perfect example of someone whose rate stats bounce all over the place. His specialty is the long bomb - and that reflects a genuine ability, not luck - but the distribution of his success is going to be heavily influenced by luck because it depends so much on a few brilliant plays. It's a fluke that his brilliant plays tended to land mostly in even-numbered years. He wasn't constantly improving then regressing then improving again.

A possession receiver who gets thrown mid-range passes over and over again, like Brandon Marshall, will have more consistent stats from year to year.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:42pm

Definitely some truth in what you say, though I'd point out that Nelson in particular is pretty good at all ranges of throws this year. In addition to having a great year as a deep threat has also been great on smoke routes (the quick passes thrown at the LOS when the CB is playing off). He seems to have a great knack for slipping around the tackle and picking up 7-10 yards when it looks like he should only get 3-5 yards.

Also, his DVOA was not nearly as good last year, but was 39% with a limited number of targets in 2009. He's definitely exceeded expectations this year, thanks to a combination of Rodgers' excellence, other guys drawing attention, and virtually eliminating dropped passes.

by Independent George :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 7:00pm

It's a fluke that his brilliant plays tended to land mostly in even-numbered years. He wasn't constantly improving then regressing then improving again

If only he could have been paired with Chad Pennington, and they would have been invincible.


Also, I think if we're going to name it after someone, I'd call it the Jake Reed effect.

by ebongreen :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:48pm

At least you didn't compare him to Joe Jurevicius.

Yes, he's nominally the #2 receiver. OTOH, not many WRs of any stripe hold a 75+% catch rate over a season, so he's obviously doing something right so far. As far as I can tell, he's fast enough to outrun many corners and safeties, tall enough to be a size mismatch against many corners, disciplined enough to be where AR wants him to be, and athletic and coordinated enough to make difficult catches common and "Wow!" catches occasionally. Whatever the pecking order is, that's a man with skills that are good to have on your team.

If other teams call him a #2 receiver and put their #2 corner on him, so far that's a matchup Jordy wins. If they flip and make him the #1 and Jennings the #2, that's a mismatch of a different type but similar magnitude. Having Nelson, and Jones and Cobb and Driver and Finley, is an absurd level of talent and depth in a receiver corps.

I was pretty confident that the Packers offense had the makings for greatness at the beginning of the year - the question at this point is will their defense keep them from winning a second straight title, or make enough plays that the offense's brilliance will overwhelm the defense's relative incompetence?

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 7:41pm

Stokley was not really a deep-threat.

How sick was it that the 2004 Colts had two of the top-DVOA receiving seasons, and the highest QB DVOA season? Of course, they were held to 3 in the playoffs. Should be a nice reminder to the Packers that January can be a different animal.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 10:28pm

"Stokley was not really a deep-threat."

I disagree. What else was he good at?

by dmstorm22 :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 10:59pm

He was the slot guy in Indy. His numbers were insane that year because everyone on Indy's numbers were. He's not the deep threat that Mike Wallace or Vincent Jackson (two others that appear on the list) are now.

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 12:21am

I'm pretty sure his nickname was the Slot Machine.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 12:21pm

Why can't a slot receiver be a deep threat, Isn't it more about the routes that they run well?

by tuluse :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 5:02pm

He could, but most schemes run shorter routes with a slot receiver because he isn't getting jammed so he can get open almost immediately.

As for what Stokely was good at. He was shifty and had good hands.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 6:20am

When the whole "they don't cover him well because he's white" story broke about 3 weeks ago, Rodgers himself compared Nelson to McCaffery and Joe Jurevicius. So everybody's guilty of racial stereotyping, although I'm not sure that's the right word.

I believe all of the Packers' 4 main wide receivers are now in the top 10 in their category of receptions in DVOA-- Driver and Jones don't have as many but they ar among the leaders for the 2nd group. I think Rodgers obviously has a lot to do with that-- they're all feeding off of each other.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Thu, 12/08/2011 - 4:30pm

Nelson freely admits that he benefits from the attention paid to Jennings and Finley. Driver is always single covered because while he still has the hands, the body control and the strength the speed and quickness are mostly gone. Teams are not overly concerned with Driver.

Nelson's season is a combination of Nelson playing REALLY well, Rodgers getting him the ball and Nelson/Rodgers being able to exploit Nelson being covered by someone other than a team's number one cover guy.

Nelson also plays on kickoff coverage because McCarthy likes having him there to track down someone who breaks free.

by nuclearbdgr :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 12:07am

Rodgers has also noted that when he scrambles, Nelson always goes to the correct spot (see 2010 4th down TD @ATL during reg season) - Rodgers attributes this to Nelson having been a HS QB.

by Ryan J Harris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 2:36am

I bet that a few years ago the Welker-haters made the same points:

- Welker just benefits from defenses covering Moss
- Brady is so good that anyone could step in and catch 50+ balls

Blah blah blah, watch the games fellas, Jordy Nelson is a really good football player. He catches everything in sight, he is really difficult to tackle, he runs great routes and he excels at getting off the line and creating separation.

by NYMike :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 10:37am

... and he's FAST.

by ebongreen :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 11:32am

But - it must be asked - is he deceptively fast?

by Flounder :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 12:29pm

The thing is......... the answer to that question is yes. His acceleration isn't great, but his top end speed is quite good.

by DGL :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 12:58pm

And is he a fan favorite?

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 6:02pm

No he is just fast.

I've posted this here before. I'm aware that 40 times aren't a great measure for what happens on a football field, but it's still interesting.

NFL combine numbers.
Randy Moss 4.25
Calvin Johnson 4.35
Jordy Nelson 4.37
Andre Johnson 4.41
Greg Jennings 4.42
Randall Cobb 4.46
Larry Fitzgerald 4.53

I've not been able to find one for Jurevicius from a reliable source, but I've seen 4.57 thrown around. I see 4.65 for Welker at a Pro Day no combine numbers (since he wasn't invited).

He was a track guy in high school, I think it was a 10.48 100 his senior year in high school. Bradon Saine holds the Ohio state high school record at 10.38 for comparison. Texas was won last year with a 10.39. I think the fastest any high schooler has done is 10.08 (J-Mee Samuels).

He's just fast. Might not be as explosive as some but he isn't that bad.

by Flounder :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 7:39pm

Have you seen his kick returns? He's certainly fast, but he doesn't have a ton of burst in his first few steps.

by dmstorm22 :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 8:06pm

I remember in teh 2009 Wild Card game against Zona, where Nelson's kick-returns were just so awful. Of course, the sample size wasn't all that small since Arizona kicked off about 9 times.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2011 - 7:41pm

Gotta agree with Flounder. Nelson has a great top speed but getting from first to fifth takes an extra moment.