Quick Reads: 2018 in Review

Quick Reads: 2018 in Review
Quick Reads: 2018 in Review
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Vincent Verhei

The elevated offensive numbers of 2018 produced some memorable totals for individual players. At quarterback, three first-year starters stood out -- one for good reasons, one for (very) bad reasons, and one for reasons that may shock you. We had the most efficient pass-catching back of the past three decades, who won't be a part of his team's playoff run, but may not be missed anyway. We had the most efficient wide receiver on record, and one of the worst seasons a tight end will ever see. Let's break it down.


Best Quarterbacks, 2018
Name Team Pass DYAR Rush DYAR Rec DYAR Total DYAR
Patrick Mahomes KC 2039 39 -- 2077
Drew Brees NO 1632 43 -3 1672
Matt Ryan ATL 1233 68 18 1319
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 1208 62 -2 1267
Philip Rivers LAC 1321 -55 -- 1266

Analysis: As FO big cheese Aaron Schatz noted on Twitter, Patrick Mahomes had one of the ten best passing seasons we have ever measured:

What Aaron didn't note is the age of the players in that table. Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers were all at least 28 years old in their big seasons. Mahomes just turned 23 in December. Not since Dan Marino have we seen a young quarterback take the NFL by storm like this.

Other than Mahomes, though, 2018's best passers were veterans. The quartet of Brees, Matt Ryan, Ben Roethlisberger, and Philip Rivers are all in the top six active players in career passing yards.

Worst Quarterbacks, 2018
Name Team Pass DYAR Rush DYAR Rec DYAR Total DYAR
Josh Rosen ARI -1122 28 -- -1094
Cody Kessler JAX -457 20 -- -438
Nathan Peterman BUF -380 18 -- -362
Josh Allen BUF -534 192 -8 -350
Mark Sanchez WAS -300 4 -- -296

Analysis: Josh Rosen's average dropback this season gained just 4.47 yards, nearly a full yard less than anyone else. Rosen wasn't just the worst quarterback of 2018, though -- by DYAR, he was the worst in a decade and a half, the second-worst we have ever measured, and the worst ever for a non-expansion team.

Worst Single-Season Passing DYAR and DVOA, 1986-2018
Year Name Team DYAR
Year Name Team DVOA
2002 David Carr HOU -1130 2016 Jared Goff LAR -74.8%
2018 Josh Rosen ARI -1122 1992 Kelly Stouffer SEA -72.7%
2011 Blaine Gabbert JAC -1010 1998 Bobby Hoying PHI -68.2%
1998 Bobby Hoying PHI -962 2009 JaMarcus Russell OAK -62.0%
2014 Blake Bortles JAC -955 2007 Trent Dilfer SF -55.4%
2016 Jared Goff LARM -881 2018 Josh Rosen ARI -53.0%
1992 Kelly Stouffer SEA -837 2007 Alex Smith SF -52.8%
2009 JaMarcus Russell OAK -834 1998 Ryan Leaf SD -51.8%
2010 Jimmy Clausen CAR -760 1999 Donovan McNabb PHI -51.6%
2017 DeShone Kizer CLE -756 1997 Heath Shuler NO -51.6%
Minimum 200 passes

The good news for Rosen is that some of the names in those tables -- Jared Goff, Alex Smith, Donovan McNabb -- were able to turn their careers around. Goff and McNabb, like Rosen, were rookies in their worst years. It's not a good sign for Rosen and the Cardinals that his career got off to such a slow start, but it's not a death sentence either.

By passing numbers alone, fellow rookie Josh Allen was second-worst among quarterbacks this season. He finished last among qualifying passers in completion rate, and was also in the bottom four in yards per pass, touchdown rate, and interception rate. He somewhat made up for that by leading all quarterbacks in rushing DYAR, but suffice to say there is room for improvement here. Cody Kessler is a third-year quarterback who has now failed in starting stints in both Cleveland and Jacksonville. Nathan Peterman, like Mahomes, was a 2017 draftee; he has thrown one fewer interception than Mahomes, with 47 fewer touchdowns. Mark Sanchez, well, was the worst version of Mark Sanchez in 2018.

The Curious Case of Lamar Jackson

Though Allen led all quarterbacks in rushing DYAR, he was actually second in rushing yardage behind another rookie, Baltimore's Lamar Jackson. The advanced numbers, however, weren't nearly as kind to Jackson's season -- not by a long shot.

Worst Single-Season Quarterback Rushing DYAR, 1986-2018
Year Name Team DYAR Runs Yards TD FUM
1991 Warren Moon HOIL -115 27 74 2 6
2018 Lamar Jackson BAL -112 133 696 5 10
1995 Chris Chandler HOIL -85 22 60 2 4
1991 Vinny Testaverde TB -78 26 115 0 3
2012 Mark Sanchez NYJ -67 15 30 0 3
1998 Donald Hollas OAK -66 27 122 1 3
2014 Geno Smith NYJ -65 54 235 1 4
1993 Drew Bledsoe NE -62 20 87 0 3
2014 Brian Hoyer CLE -59 19 37 0 1

That far-right column tells a lot of the story here. Jackson had ten fumbles on running plays; no other quarterback in 2018 had more than four. Further, on a play-for-play basis, Jackson's carries didn't go as far those of most other quarterbacks. There were 25 quarterbacks with at least 20 runs this season (not counting kneeldowns). Jackson's average of 5.3 yards per carry ranked 20th in that group, far below their average of 6.1. Take that deficit and multiply it by 133 runs -- 44 more than any other quarterback -- and watch the DYAR drop.

The problem with all of this is that DYAR, as a metric, is based on comparing players to others at their position -- and there has never been an NFL player who plays the quarterback position like Jackson did this year. Officially, Jackson had at least 10 completions and 10 runs in all seven of his starts this year. Nobody has ever done that in a single season before; Jackson did it in less than two months. Jackson's rushing ability isn't just a secret weapon or an added bonus to his game, it has become the focal point of the Baltimore offense. And while that may be dampening his individual numbers, it's doing wonders for those of his teammates. Gus Edwards, an undrafted rookie running back, entered Baltimore's starting lineup in November, as did Jackson. He finished with a rushing DVOA of 14.0%, best among all Ravens running backs and ninth in the league. More impressive, he had a success rate of 62.8 percent. That wasn't just the best in the league this year, it was the second-best we've ever measured for any back with at least 100 carries. The last running back with more consistent success was Gary Brown (63.1 percent) with the 1993 Oilers. That was a run-and-shoot team that was first in the league in pass plays; Edwards plays for a team that has 70 more runs than any other club since Jackson's first start. Nobody ever expected the Oilers to run; everyone's doing everything they can to stop Baltimore's ground attack. It's possible that Edwards is the most unstoppable running back the league has seen in decades, and he slipped underneath everyone's radar -- including Baltimore's. More likely, though, he's a fringe NFL player exploiting the seams torn open in defenses by the legs of his quarterback.

(While we're discussing quarterback futility on the ground, we should mention Philip Rivers' rushing DVOA of -98.0%. That's in the bottom five of all time, and the worst of any quarterback with at least eight carries since Andrew Walter's -101.1% with the 2006 Raiders. That's what happens when your ten carries result in 10 yards and a fumble.)

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Joe Flacco, BAL

Flacco finished 28th in NFL passer rating, but he was 16th in DVOA, right in the middle of the pack. Flacco was among the top five quarterbacks in best sack rate, and only two of those sacks resulted in fumbles. The Ravens may or may not be a better team with Lamar Jackson, but there were plenty of quarterbacks worse than Flacco this year who didn't lose their jobs.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Russell Wilson, SEA

Wilson's 2018 season was one of great extremes. His 35 passing touchdowns were a career-high; his seven interceptions were a career low. When Wilson had a chance to throw, he was more effective than ever. All too often, though, he never had that chance, because he was sacked a career-high 51 times. Wilson was third in passer rating but tenth in DVOA, which accounts for all those sacks.

Most Improved: Mitchell Trubisky, CHI

Technically, Joe Flacco's DVOA improved the most from 2017 to 2018, but we already talked about him. So let's talk about Trubisky, who went from seven touchdowns, seven interceptions, and 31 sacks as a rookie to 24, 12, and 24 as a sophomore. Matt Nagy's scheme no doubt helped, as did a rebuilt receiving corps. And we would expect Trubisky to improve with experience -- remember, he started just one year at North Carolina.

Biggest Decline: Case Keenum, DEN

One year ago, Keenum led everyone -- everyone! -- in DVOA. The Vikings figured that was a mirage and let him go; the Broncos hoped it might be reality and signed him. It turns out the Vikings got this one right, but at least Keenum didn't cost Denver $84 million.


Best Running Backs, 2018
Name Team DYAR Name Team DYAR Name Team Rush
Todd Gurley LAR 367 Kareem Hunt KC 198 Todd Gurley LAR 367 98 -- 464
Derrick Henry TEN 280 Alvin Kamara NO 197 Alvin Kamara NO 237 197 -- 434
Alvin Kamara NO 237 James White NE 194 Christian McCaffrey CAR 167 183 38 388
Marlon Mack IND 215 Tarik Cohen CHI 184 Kareem Hunt KC 131 198 -- 329
Melvin Gordon LAC 208 Christian McCaffrey CAR 183 Derrick Henry TEN 280 -4 5 281

Analysis: Maybe the running game isn't dead after all. Four of the top five backs in rushing DYAR made the playoffs, and the fifth wasn't eliminated until the 256th game of the year. Youth plays a big part of this -- all five players in that column are 25 or younger.

Youth also plays a big part of the middle portion of this table, where four players were in their second seasons in 2018 and James White was the grand old man at the ripe age of 26. The most notable name here is Kareem Hunt, who led all backs in receiving DYAR even though he was released with five games to go. Hunt finished with a receiving DVOA of 79.4%, the best for any back on record with at least 25 targets in a season. That's what happens when you average 14.5 yards per catch and score seven touchdowns in only 35 targets.

Best Single-Season Receiving DVOA, Running Backs, 1986-2018
Year Name Team DVOA Passes Catches Catch % Yards TD Rec FUM
2018 Kareem Hunt KC 79.4% 35 26 74% 378 7 0
2008 Darren Sproles SD 70.7% 34 29 85% 348 5 1
2004 Larry Johnson KC 70.0% 28 22 79% 278 2 0
2003 Tony Fisher GB 68.7% 25 21 84% 206 2 0
1996 Jerris McPhail MIA 67.3% 29 20 69% 282 0 0
2017 Chris Thompson WAS 67.3% 54 39 72% 510 4 0
1990 Barry Sanders DET 67.0% 49 36 73% 480 3 0
1997 Jamal Anderson ATL 66.5% 37 29 78% 284 3 1
1999 Marshall Faulk STL 64.8% 104 87 84% 1048 5 0
2011 Charles Clay MIA 62.5% 25 16 64% 233 3 0
1997 Larry Bowie WAS 61.8% 40 34 85% 388 2 1

This is why Hunt is likely to return to the NFL even though nobody will touch him right now. But will he be a big loss for Kansas City? Not necessarily -- the Chiefs' other running backs (mostly Spencer Ware and Damien Williams) had 62 targets and a collective DVOA of 57.8% That still would have been much better than any other back this year; San Francisco's Matt Breida finished second with a DVOA of 44.8%.

Worst Running Backs, 2018
Name Team DYAR Name Team DYAR Name Team Rush
LeGarrette Blount DET -126 Marcus Murphy BUF -76 LeGarrette Blount DET -126 -38 -164
LeSean McCoy BUF -108 Carlos Hyde CLE/JAX -51 LeSean McCoy BUF -108 -26 -135
Alfred Morris SF -102 Wayne Gallman NYG -47 Alfred Blue HOU -94 -10 -104
Alfred Blue HOU -94 LeGarrette Blount DET -38 Alfred Morris SF -102 6 -96
Elijah McGuire NYJ -90 Peyton Barber TB -34 Peyton Barber TB -40 -34 -74

Analysis: Hey, it's a bunch of aging backs in their 30s! LeGarrette Blount will be 33 years old in 2019 and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry last year. He caught only ten of 15 pases for just 67 yards. He has played for five teams in the past seven years, and may not get a chance on to make it six in eight. LeSean McCoy had just one 100-yard rushing game in his 13 starts; eight times he finished with less than 40 yards. Morris, like Blount, is a journeyman, with three teams in his past four seasons. Alfred Blue (27) and Elijah McGuire (24) are much younger, but that does not mean they are better. In two starts for Houston, Blue had 24 carries for 60 yards; in three starts for the Jets, McGuire had 50 carries for 118 yards.

Our list of poor receivers here is comprised mainly of guys who caught the ball and went nowhere -- Marcus Murphy, Carlos Hyde, Peyton Barber, and Blount each averaged less than 5.0 yards per catch. Wayne Gallman was better at 6.4, but he only caught 14 of 22 passes -- and he fumbled on two of them.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Mike Davis, SEA

There really aren't a ton of strong candidates for this category this year. Davis only ran for 514 yards, but he was more effective than you might realize. He spent most of the year as Seattle's change-of-pace back -- he had 10 carries or less in 11 of his 15 games -- but he finished 19th in DYAR, 11th in DVOA and 14th in success rate.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Ezekiel Elliott, DAL

Elliott led the league in rushing, but was just ninth in DYAR and 18th in both DVOA and success rate. He led all running backs with six fumbles on running plays -- or, one for each rushing touchdown he scored.

Most Improved: Melvin Gordon, LAC

Gordon didn't hit 4.0 yards per carry in any of his first three seasons; he averaged 5.1 in 2018. Gordon was 33rd in DVOA and 41st in success rate in 2017; he was third and ninth in those categories this year.

Biggest Decline: Dion Lewis, TEN

Lewis averaged at least 4.4 yards per carry in all three of his seasons with New England; that average fell to 3.3 in Tennessee. You'll recall that Lewis' teammate, Derrick Henry, was one of the best runners of the year, so Lewis can't blame this decline on his environment in Nashville.


Best Wide Receivers, 2018
Name Team DYAR Name Team Rec
Tyler Lockett SEA 464 Tyler Lockett SEA 464 24 -- 488
DeAndre Hopkins HOU 455 Tyreek Hill KC 387 88 -- 475
Michael Thomas NO 442 Michael Thomas NO 442 -- -- 442
Mike Evans TB 412 DeAndre Hopkins HOU 455 -12 -6 438
Tyreek Hill KC 387 Robert Woods LAR 316 96 -- 412

Analysis: Tyler Lockett has been steadily climbing the wide receiver tables all season. He was 29th after Week 4, 20th after Week 8, and seventh after Week 12; he didn't move into the top spot until the last week of the year. It was a climb built on haymakers, not jabs -- he barely averaged four targets per game, but he still led all wideouts in DYAR thanks to the most efficient season we have ever measured.

Best Single-Season Receiving DVOA, 1986-2018
Year Name Team DVOA Passes Catches Catch % Yards TD Fum
2018 Tyler Lockett SEA 66.3% 70 57 81% 965 10 1
2002 Dennis Northcutt CLE 60.5% 51 40 78% 609 5 0
1989 John Taylor SF 56.3% 75 60 80% 1077 10 1
2011 Jordy Nelson GB 52.9% 96 68 71% 1263 15 0
2011 Malcom Floyd SD 51.9% 70 43 61% 856 5 0
1999 Tim Dwight ATL 51.8% 50 32 64% 669 7 0
1993 John Taylor SF 51.3% 74 56 76% 940 5 1
2010 Mike Wallace PIT 49.5% 89 60 61% 966 10 1
2001 Ricky Proehl STL 47.5% 55 40 73% 563 5 0
1999 Az-Zahir Hakim STL 46.9% 56 36 64% 677 8 0
1987 Eric Martin NO 45.5% 49 30 61% 572 4 0

Lockett had a few other impressive numbers that aren't listed in that table. He drew six defensive pass interference flags for 182 yards, 32 more than any other receiver. And this isn't a part of his DVOA, but none of the passes thrown in his direction were intercepted. Add that to his targets, completions, yards, and touchdowns, and you find that Russell Wilson had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 when throwing to Lockett.

The other names in our list of best wideouts are largely familiar -- mostly, they're the top wideouts for playoff teams. The exception is Tampa Bay's Mike Evans, who was the top wideout on the team that finished with the most passing yards in the league. Evans was responsible for 1,524 of those yards, adding eight touchdowns.

We should make special mention of Michael Thomas, whose catch rate of 85 percent is the highest on record for a wideout with at least 50 targets in a season, surpassing the 82 percent mark of Austin Collie with the Colts in 2010. Lockett is third at 81 percent.

Worst Wide Receivers, 2018
Name Team DYAR
Name Team Rec
Chad Williams ARI -142 Chad Williams ARI -142 7 -135
Golden Tate DET/PHI -134 Golden Tate DET/PHI -134 12 -122
Jarvis Landry CLE -111 Quincy Enunwa NYJ -105 -2 -107
Quincy Enunwa NYJ -105 John Ross CIN -96 -4 -100
John Ross CIN -96 Jermaine Kearse NYJ -95 -- -95

Analysis: Is Chad Williams a victim of the poor passing environment in Arizona, or part of the problem? Probably a little bit of both. A third-round draft pick out of Grambling in 2017, Williams was both unreliable (37.0 percent catch rate) and unexplosive (10.1 yards per catch). John Ross (36.2 percent, 10.0) had remarkably similar numbers, and was also drafted in 2017 -- but ninth overall, making him a terrible disappointment thus far. Golden Tate had a -22.3% DVOA in seven games with Detroit, which sunk even lower to -36.9% in eight games in Philadelphia. Jarvis Landry's first season in Cleveland was an odd one -- in four seasons in Miami, he averaged 10.1 yards per catch, with a catch rate of more than 70 percent. In Cleveland, that average gain climbed to 12.0, but the catch rate plummeted to 54 percent. Quincy Enunwa had 118 catches for 1,621 yards and five touchdowns -- not in 2018, but in the four seasons since he was a sixth-round draftee in 2014. For this, the Jets have opted to guarantee him $20 million. (The Jets fired head coach Todd Bowles this week, but retained general manager Mike Maccagnan. Odd.) Enunwa's teammate Jermaine Kearse got off to a slow start (in his first four games, he had seven catches in 17 targets for 71 yards) and never really recovered.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Tyler Lockett, SEA

Lockett led the league in DYAR despite finishing just 39th among wide receivers in catches.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Stefon Diggs, MIN

Diggs was one of nine wide receivers with 100-plus catches, and for all those receptions, he had just eight DYAR, 63rd at the position. We got an email in November asking if there was an error in Diggs' numbers, because nobody with that many catches should be ranked so low. We explained that Diggs had a lot of incomplete targets and failed completions (83 by season's end, third-most) but not many successful catches (66, 19th). The fan politely disagreed with our analysis.

Most Improved: Tyler Lockett, SEA

Yes, Lockett's name keeps popping up, but he's clearly the best fit for these categories. He was Seattle's third receiver in 2017 behind Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson; neither his 48 DYAR nor his -3.4% DVOA were among the top 40 at his position.

Biggest Decline: Golden Tate, DET/PHI

In 2017, Tate's 204 DYAR put him in the top 20 wide receivers, and his 9.7% DVOA was in the top 30. One year later, he's one of the worst receivers in football, and it seems doubtful he'll get the $15 million a year he will reportedly be looking for in free agency.


Best Tight Ends, 2018
Name Team Rec DYAR
George Kittle SF 207*
Travis Kelce KC 196
O.J. Howard TB 169
Mark Andrews BAL 159
Jared Cook OAK 146
* Kittle also had 7 DYAR rushing.

Analysis: Not many things in 2018 went right in the Bay Area, where the 49ers and Raiders won just four games apiece, but at least each team could boast of a great tight end in George Kittle and Jared Cook. Kittle led all players, regardless of position, with 870 yards after the catch. And it's not because he was catching swings and checkdowns -- his average reception came 5.8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. In Oakland, Cook set career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He surprised everyone, including us -- and we were higher on him than most coming into the year. Elsewhere, Travis Kelce gained 1,336 yards receiving for Kansas City. Only one tight has ever gained more in a single season: Kittle, this year, with 1,377. O.J. Howard was a big part of the aerial assault going on in Tampa Bay. He led all tight ends with a 44.0% DVOA and finished third in DYAR even though he missed the last six games of the year with foot and ankle injuries. Mark Andrews was the second tight end drafted by Baltimore this year, but he outplayed first-rounder Hayden Hurst, averaging more than 16 yards per catch and catching three touchdowns.

Worst Tight Ends, 2018
Name Team Rec DYAR
Ricky Seals-Jones ARI -158
Jordan Reed WAS -80
Charles Clay BUF -70
Jeff Heuerman DEN -70
Mike Gesicki MIA -70

Analysis: When it was announced that Ricky Seals-Jones would miss Week 17, I noted on Twitter that barring dramatic shifts in opponent adjustments, he would finish with the worst single-season DYAR for any tight end on record. Well, the shifts in opponent adjustments were somewhat dramatic, and so Seals-Jones falls back into second place. But since I had already run the research, let's run that table anyway:

Worst Single-Season Receiving DYAR, Tight Ends, 1986-2018
Year Name Team DYAR Passes Catches Catch % Yards TD Rec FUM
2011 Marcedes Lewis JAX -161 85 39 46% 460 0 0
2018 Ricky Seals-Jones ARI
-158 69 34 49% 343 1 0
1998 Freddie Jones SD -155 111 57 51% 602 3 1
2010 Daniel Graham DEN -140 37 18 49% 153 0 1
2004 Boo Williams NO -138 75 33 44% 362 2 2
1997 Jamie Asher WAS -129 99 49 49% 474 1 0
2004 Stephen Alexander DET -129 76 41 54% 377 1 0
1989 Jay Novacek PHX -129 53 23 43% 225 1 0
1990 James Thornton CHI -126 48 19 40% 254 1 1
1996 Keith Cash KC -124 33 14 42% 90 0 1

In D.C., Jordan Reed's catch rate dipped to 64 percent, 10 percent lower than his previous career low. Buffalo's Charles Clay saw a similar dip in catch rate, and worse, his 8.8 yards per catch was nearly 2 yards lower than his career average (and this is a guy who started his career as a fullback). Denver's Jeff Heuerman and Miami's Mike Gesicki are both, to some degree, victims of circumstance -- role players who had bad numbers in large part because they were on bad offenses.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: O.J. Howard, TB

Nineteenth among tight ends in catches, but third in DYAR.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Zach Ertz, PHI

You may have heard that Ertz set a tight end record with 116 catches this year. That's fine and dandy, but what did he do with those catches? Kittle and Kelce had more yards. Kelce and Eric Ebron had more touchdowns. Thirty players on our tight end tables averaged more yards per catch. That's not to mention the 40 passes thrown Ertz's way that he didn't catch. Despite all those receptions, Ertz only finished eighth in DYAR.

Most Improved: Jesse James, PIT

James played a smaller role in Pittsburgh's offense this year, and it seemed to suit him better. He had 60-plus targets in both 2016 and 2017, a number that was cut to just 39 this year. But despite the drop in opportunities, James set a career-high with 423 receiving yards.

Biggest Decline: Rob Gronkowski, NE

Gronkowski was first in the league with 339 DYAR in 2017, one of the five best tight end seasons in our books. He was sixth with 98 DYAR this year. It would have been a good total for most any tight end; for Gronk, it was the second-worst mark of his nine-year career -- and the one worse year was 2013, when he still had 91 DYAR in only seven games.


45 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2019, 6:03pm

#1 by jgibson_hmc95 // Jan 02, 2019 - 12:12pm

How much of Henry's DYAR came in the last 4 games of the season?

Points: 0

#2 by big10freak // Jan 02, 2019 - 12:28pm

Really enjoyed the summaries. Thanks

Points: 0

#3 by xMRNUTTYx // Jan 02, 2019 - 12:53pm

Rosen threw 393 passes this year, for a DYAR/ATT of -2.85.

David Carr threw 444 times in 2002, DYAR/ATT of -2.54.

Nathan Peterman, however... woo! A DYAR/ATT of -4.69 !!!!!!

Points: 0

#10 by Will Allen // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:35pm

The fact the Vikings didn't get Peterman when they played the Bills was a significant factor in them missing the playoffs. I mean, the Vikings stunk that day, especially the offensive line, in a preview of what was to come, but if they had drawn 25 or so pass attempts from Peterman, they might well still be playing.

Points: 0

#4 by BaldColumbian // Jan 02, 2019 - 12:53pm

Anyone notice how underwhelming the list of WRs on the "Best Single-Season Receiving DVOA, 1986-2018" is?

In contrast to to most other all-time best lists, this one is populated almost entirely by WRs not traditionally viewed as outstanding.

What is FO's view on this? Why are no HOF WRs on the list of best single seasons of all time? It would seem to me that DVOA is not capturing WR value well. Surely one of the historically great (by traditional metrics) seasons would show up on the list, right? Yards are only 1 metric but man, only 2 seasons over 1,000 yards, only a couple at 10 TDs, catch % in the 60%s.. this is the BEST WR seasons of tracked time?

Did anyone in 1999 think that Az-Zahir Hakim had a historically great season when he caught 63% of his passes for < 700 yards?

Points: -1

#5 by xMRNUTTYx // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:12pm

"Surely one of the historically great (by traditional metrics) seasons would show up on the list, right?"

No, because those are counting stats and that's not what DVOA is.

The better explanation is that receivers- even great ones- are unlikely to be consistently successful over 100+ targets. Being a classic deep threat means a lower catch rate; being a "possession" receiver means more balls caught short of the marker. These situations add up.

You're also falling into the trap of "why isn't my guy better in your numbers?" Just because you're seeing names other than Randy Moss on a list doesn't mean Randy Moss wasn't good. It's just that that metric doesn't necessarily tell you what's good about Randy Moss' best seasons. Stats that do show that exist (DYAR for one).

Points: 1

#28 by BaldColumbian // Jan 03, 2019 - 8:25am

I hear you on counting stats vs DVOA.

I don't think it's accurate to state that ALL, because we're talking about all here not even most, of the top "traditional/counting" stat WR seasons, are lacking in efficiency.

For instance let's look at Michael Thomas's year. He saw 147 passes and caught 85% of them, 9.5 YPA. He had 9 touchdowns, fumbled twice, and drew 8 DPI penalties. Add that extra 100 yards of penalties to his yardage total and he's at 10.2 yards per attempt.

That's pretty damn efficient, and if the average pass thrown to him netted 10 yards you have to figure his success rate is substantial - we all know the Saints weren't only throwing to him on 3rd & 11.

Yes, DVOA is a weighted stat, opponent adjustments, etc etc, I get it. It's just... surprising .

Others in this thread have pointed out that DVOA tends to favor over-qualified WR#2s.. or in Az's case, WR#4s...that seems to me like a bit of an issue with the statistic. It has to tell us there's a major component of VALUE WRs provide that is left uncaptured by DVOA. We don't have great ways of tracking coverage in play-by-play, but maybe overall target share is a meaningful metric which should be tracked. There are reasons why a WR is the #1 option on their team, and it doesn't seem those reasons are being captured at all in DVOA.

Points: 0

#32 by bravehoptoad // Jan 03, 2019 - 10:38am

Sure. That's why there are other stats besides efficiency ones. Compile a list of top DYAR seasons and you'll see plenty of#1 receivers.

Points: 0

#37 by Eddo // Jan 03, 2019 - 11:10am

I'm not sure Michael Thomas is a great example to use to criticize DVOA, necessarily. If you just go by yards per catch, the most "traditional" per-play WR stat, he's 77th this year. By VOA(*), he's 4th. The only players ahead of him are:

Tyler Lockett, a deep threat who had a wildly efficient year (81% catch rate at 16.9 yards per catch, 10 TD)
Mike Williams, a good deep threat (65% catch rate at 15.4 yards per catch)
T.Y. Hilton, a no-doubt #1 with a smaller sample (63% catch rate on 120 passes at 16.7 yards per catch, 6 DPI for 150 yards)

Then you look at YAR(*), and Thomas is actually #1 overall. But by the most traditional counting stats, yards, he's 6th.

I think a strength in FO metrics is that they reward players like Thomas - who has both high efficiency and high volume - more than traditional stats.

(*) Thomas falls to 9th by DVOA and 3rd by DYAR, but since "traditional" stats don't do any sort of opponent adjustments, I think it's better to view this through VOA and YAR.

Points: 0

#6 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:19pm

It's an interesting list.

It's mostly a group of over-qualified #2 WRs. Most of them did not lead their team in receptions and/or yards. Wallace did, just, but was probably technically a #2 behind Ward. Nelson did, just, but was a slot guy on a team with Driver and Jennings and Finley at TE. Hakim was the #4 option for the Greatest Show on Turf.

Taylor, of course, played with Jerry Rice.

Points: 0

#9 by Aaron Schatz // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:35pm

The list of top WR seasons by DYAR is much more what you are expecting from total value: Michael Irvin 1995, Randy Moss 2007, Calvin Johnson 2011, Jerry Rice 1989, Antonio Brown 2014, Marvin Harrison 2001, Jordy Nelson 2011, Antonio Brown 2015, Jerry Rice 1994, and Randy Moss 2003.

Points: 0

#11 by ChrisS // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:53pm

If you are a great WR it's hard to have the best DVOA because you are going to be used a lot, past the point of maximum efficiency but not maximum effectiveness, and you will be thrown to in many difficult situations. However a good #2 WR with a very good #1 will be thrown to in better circumstances, wide open because #1 is being double teamed or while being covered by the safety. Specifically for Az his catch rate was top ten, average in 1999 was about 57%. His yards per catch of almost 19 was third highest and he had 8 TD on 36 receptions (over 22%). So a very good season in limited opportunities, playing with Isaac Bruce as the other WR certainly boosts ones stats. Regardless of the DVOA I would definitely rather have Bruce (422 DYAR) than Hakim (243 DYAR).

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#13 by Will Allen // Jan 02, 2019 - 2:03pm

The other point is that the receiver who is truly the worst never makes the list, because the qb always has a better option to target.

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#43 by Dan // Jan 04, 2019 - 3:46am

I think the main thing that's going on with the WR DVOA leaderboard is just the law of large numbers. It's much easier to have extreme numbers over a smaller sample size.

It's not that the high-volume guys are less effective, it's just that you need way more luck to maintain a hot streak over 150 targets than to maintain it over 50 targets. If you equated the sample sizes by instead looked at which WR was most productive over his first 50 targets of the season, then you'd probably get a pretty wide mix of guys including some high-volume stars who started the year with a few big games.

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#7 by raregokus // Jan 02, 2019 - 1:32pm

Great analysis. One minor point: Charles Clay is included in the "best receiving DYAR by a running back" table, but he's a tight end. Did he play a ton of H-back to qualify for the table or was this an error?

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#12 by ChrisS // Jan 02, 2019 - 2:01pm

I was starting to accept QBR as a decent stat (low bar warning), it is certainly better than passer rating, but it ranks Trubisky as #3 for the season, I assume it weighs his scrambling too highly or perhaps he is super "clutch". The rest of the rankings correlate fairly well with DYAR. So i will continue to take QBR with a big grain of salt.

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#15 by xMRNUTTYx // Jan 02, 2019 - 2:19pm

I wonder if there's data for a bigger gap between QBR and DYAR/DVOA than his this year. It certainly makes me side-eye QBR since there's so obviously a heavy running/scrambling component to it.

That said, I think Trubisky's skills in that have greatly helped his moderate success everywhere else.

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#19 by Chip // Jan 02, 2019 - 3:54pm

His scrambling was highly efficient - through about week 10, he had something like 50 rushes for 25 first downs. Roughly 2-3x a game, he would slip out of the pocket and convert the FD, most often on 3rd D.

So yes, it’s a combo of rushing and high leverage situations. And yes, QBR should be taken with a grain of salt - it seems to overweight high leverage situations more than anything else.

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#20 by Steve in WI // Jan 02, 2019 - 5:23pm

Yeah, that is a huge outlier and while I have been mostly impressed with Trubisky this season and have really liked the way he has handled himself as of late, any stat that ranks him as the 3rd best QB of 2018 is pretty absurd. On the other hand, I'm a little surprised that he only came out 18th in DYAR and 20th in DVOA.

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#45 by Steve in WI // Jan 05, 2019 - 6:03pm

On the other hand, I heard on the radio that Pro Football Focus ranked Trubisky as the 30th best QB in the league. That’s just insane.

Out of PFF, QBR, and DYAR/DVOA, it’s clearly DYAR/DVOA that seem most reasonable to me.

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#21 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 02, 2019 - 5:28pm

In my experience don't trust any stats that are black boxes and trust QBR even less since they said they're trying to measure clutch.

One thing to note is that Trubisky had a pretty easy schedule, losing dropping from 510 YAR to 418 DYAR. So if your stats are not adjusting for opponent that will make him look a lot better.

Edit: He's also *really* good at running. 2nd in DYAR and 8th in DVOA among QBs. So if you combine these two things he slots in at 11th* in total YAR as compared to 18th in DYAR

*I didn't check this very carefully

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#22 by Chip // Jan 02, 2019 - 6:12pm

Thanks Tuluse. This makes a lot of sense - he’s probably somewhere between 10-15th overall. Higher than QB Pass DVOA but not nearly as high as QBR.

Anecdotally, he’s been running less since injuring his shoulder against the Vikings and probably to the detriment of the team at this point. I’d prefer he scramble for the FD rather than throw it out of bounds or into double coverage.

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#36 by bravehoptoad // Jan 03, 2019 - 11:02am

Hmm, well, DVOA and DYAR would also be black boxes. I guess we could stick to EPA and WPA and ANY/A and the like, but I've developed respect for FO's proprietary stats.

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#41 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 03, 2019 - 4:39pm

I think Aaron has explained DVOA well enough I could reverse engineer it if I cared to.

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#23 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2019 - 7:00pm

I thought the controversial "clutch" component of QBR was removed not that long after the metric was introduced.


It appears it was. This article about the QBR methodology states:

"As we know, amassing yards and points in a blowout does not tell you too much about a quarterback’s true skill. When the game is out of reach, which is measured by a team’s win probability at the start of the play, a quarterback receives less credit than on an otherwise “normal” play. Unlike the initial version of QBR released in 2011, plays are no longer up-weighted for “clutch situations,” but we felt it was important to keep the down-weighting feature."

So the "clutch" aspect was partially removed, in that garbage time plays are omitted (or weighted less?).

Overall, I think it's right to be skeptical of QBR, because there's no evidence they've tested the output's correlation to other metrics, like points scored, as Aaron does with DVOA.

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#24 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 02, 2019 - 7:02pm

Thanks for the update. I basically instantly wrote it off and hadn't paid attention to the changes.

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#26 by Mountain Time … // Jan 03, 2019 - 12:31am

Me too. It would be nice if they had said "we changed it because the new one is better, in such and such a way, and here is how we measure what "better" means…" QBR is as masturbatory as classical QB ratings, perhaps slightly less so, but not nearly enough to be interesting.

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#38 by Eddo // Jan 03, 2019 - 11:13am

Right, that's what I was trying to get at with my last sentence (and you said it better than me). I've yet to see anything to show that QBR produces better results than standard passer rating, or ANY/A, or DVOA, or whatever.

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#40 by RickD // Jan 03, 2019 - 4:37pm

I don't see any real need for QBR, esp. since it's a "secret" (i.e. it uses a proprietary, undisclosed formula) to produce a number. What use is a statistic whose exact meaning is unknown?
QBR only interests me when it diverges from the other QB stats you cite, and then only to the extent where I try to figure out what it's doing differently. That's not really what I want from a statistic.
It also annoys me that they use the adjective "total" which implies that it's an accumulative stat, when in fact it's a rate stat. I know the idea is that it's the "total" of a bunch of rate stats, but really one could just as easily say it's the weighted average of a bunch of rate stats and thus dispense with confusing the issue of whether it's a rate stat or an accumulation stat.

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#30 by ChrisS // Jan 03, 2019 - 10:03am

On this site QBR is included in the QB stats page and this explanation (and 4 others) is included to describe the main differences between QBR & DVOA "Total QBR has a clutch factor which adds (or subtracts) value for quarterbacks who perform best (or worst) in high-leverage situations." but perhaps this is not updated

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#42 by JudoPrince03 // Jan 03, 2019 - 4:43pm

Glad you posted this. I thought clutch factor was up-weighted, therefore I was confused at Lamar Jackson's low QBR. For the record, Jackson has a QB rating of 114.3 when the Ravens are trailing in games.

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#16 by jimbojonessmith // Jan 02, 2019 - 2:35pm

It's kind of interesting to watch the formulae struggle (and kind of come up short) with Baltimore's offense since Lamar Jackson took over. It's not anyone's fault - the Ravens are doing things that haven't been done in more than 40 years (first to rush for 190+ in 5 straight games since 76 Steelers, most yards rushing in a 7-game stretch since 77 Bears), so it's no wonder such an outlier is confounding. But, even with the 10 fumbles, a formula that calls Jackson's mesmerizing 2018 rushing performance the second worst of all-time for a QB isn't reflecting the action on the field.

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#18 by ChrisS // Jan 02, 2019 - 3:40pm

I wonder what his DYAR would be if his runs were computed off of the RB baseline, which is perhaps more relevant, rather than to other non-running QB's. 10 fumbles seems like an awful lot, but I'm sure pitches the ball way more than any other QB and if those are dropped by the RB the QB is charged with the fumble so some of those are not really comparable to the average modern QB. So I would discount some of these bad numbers and add some of general run game improvement to his totals.

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#17 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 02, 2019 - 3:21pm

How much of Henry's DYAR came in the last 4 games of the season?

172 rushing DYAR, most of anyone in the league. (If we go with the last three weeks instead of the last four, the leader is C.J. Anderson -- and he only played two of those weeks.)

What is FO's view on this? Why are no HOF WRs on the list of best single seasons of all time?

The more targets you get, the more attention you're going to get from opposing defenses. Now instead of getting four targets per game, you might get four against single coverage and four against double-teams, and those double-team targets are going to torpedo your efficiency. It's virtually a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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#25 by LionInAZ // Jan 02, 2019 - 10:40pm

Sad to see the sudden drop off for Golden Tate. On the positive side, even Larry Fitzgerald has had a recent down year that he has rebounded from. Tate might not be quite done yet.

Blount, on the other hand, had the kind of year I expected when the Lions signed him. Waste of at least $1M .

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#27 by Jerry // Jan 03, 2019 - 1:56am


"and may not get a chance on to make it six in eight"

Is that an extra 'on'?

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#34 by Chuckc // Jan 03, 2019 - 10:47am

Your Worst QB of 2018 table lists Sanchez as playing for Arizona

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#35 by Raiderjoe // Jan 03, 2019 - 10:47am

in worst quartyerbacks chart it shows Mark sanchez with "ARI" . it should be "WAS"

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#44 by gomer_rs // Jan 04, 2019 - 2:07pm

I'm so glad the Seahawks re-upped Lockett last offseason. This year's performance will put teams in a real coverage bind once Lockett and Baldwin are healthy at the same time.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

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