Quick Reads: 2019 in Review

New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas
New Orleans Saints WR Michael Thomas
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The top statistical stars of the 2019 season were a do-it-all running back who kept his team alive in the playoff race despite the loss of their franchise quarterback, and a record-setting wideout who set new standards for what a possession receiver can do.

We'll start with the running back. The eighth overall draft pick in 2017, Christian McCaffrey was productive enough as a rookie in Carolina, going over a thousand yards from scrimmage, most of it through the air. He blossomed as a sophomore, topping a thousand yards rushing and 800 yards receiving. And in his third season he exploded. 1,387 rushing yards, third in the league. A running-back record 116 catches (second-most of any NFL player in 2019) for another 1,005 yards. He became the third member ever of the 1,000-1,000 club, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk. His total of 2,392 yards from scrimmage was the third-highest in NFL history, and the most since Chris Johnson had 2,509 a decade ago.

McCaffrey's advanced numbers were impressive too. We touched on this back Week 12, but now we can update that with final numbers. McCaffrey finished second among running backs with 273 rushing DYAR, and he led all players at the position with 385 receiving DYAR and 658 combined DYAR. In those statistics, he had the third- and sixth-best seasons we have ever measured.

All RB Seasons, 300-plus Receiving DYAR, 1986-2019
Year Name Team Rec
Passes Yards TD Catch% Catches Avg.
1998 M.Faulk IND 421 105 908 4 82% 86 10.6
1999 M.Faulk STL 419 104 1048 5 84% 87 12.0
2019 C.McCaffrey CAR 385 143 1005 4 81% 116 8.7
2002 C.Garner OAK 378 110 941 4 83% 91 10.3
2001 M.Faulk STL 360 103 765 9 81% 83 9.2
1995 L.Centers ARI 355 119 962 2 85% 101 9.5
2000 M.Faulk STL 345 113 830 8 72% 81 10.2
2019 A.Ekeler LAC 323 108 993 8 85% 92 10.8
2014 L.Bell PIT 316 105 854 3 79% 83 10.3


All RB Seasons, 600-plus Total DYAR, 1986-2019
Year Name Team Rush
Runs Yards TD Rec
Passes Yards TD Catches Total
2000 M.Faulk STL 501 253 1359 18 345 113 830 8 81 846
2002 P.Holmes KC 497 313 1615 21 263 81 672 3 70 760
1999 M.Faulk STL 339 253 1381 7 419 104 1048 5 87 757
2003 P.Holmes KC 485 320 1420 27 234 90 690 0 74 719
2001 M.Faulk STL 347 260 1382 12 360 103 765 9 83 707
2019 C.McCaffrey CAR 273 287 1387 15 385 143 1005 4 116 658
1998 T.Davis DEN 602 392 2008 21 45 38 217 2 25 647
1998 M.Faulk IND 226 324 1319 6 421 105 908 4 86 647
2002 C.Garner OAK 239 182 978 7 378 110 941 4 91 617
2005 L.Johnson KC 488 335 1741 20 115 50 352 1 34 603

(Yes, there were two running backs with excellent receiving numbers this year. We'll get to the other one later.)

Volume, obviously, played a big role in McCaffrey's numbers -- his 143 targets were in the top 10 among all players, and 33 more (two per game!) than any other running back. But he wasn't just padding his stats with useless dumpoffs and checkdowns. He was seventh in the league in successful receptions and ninth in receiving first downs -- he was moving the chains and helping the Panthers score points.

When it comes to catching passes, though, nobody could outdo the Saints' Michael Thomas. A second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2016, Thomas has been an instant sensation, catching at least 92 passes and going over a thousand yards in each of his first four NFL seasons. His fourth year was clearly his best, as he broke Marvin Harrison's record for most catches in a season with 149. He also led the league with 1,725 yards receiving.

As you'd expect, Thomas has fared well in advanced metrics as well. In his first three seasons, he finished second, fifth, and third third among wideouts in receiving DYAR. He had never finished first however, always falling behind players who gained more yards or scored more touchdowns, even if they didn't catch as many passes. Nobody was better in 2019, however -- and few have been better in recent history. This was the 18th time on record that a wideout has topped 500 receiving DYAR in a single season.

All WR Seasons, 500-Plus Receiving DYAR, Single Seasons, 1986-2019
Year Name Team Rec DYAR Pass Yards TD Catch Avg. Catch%
1995 M.Irvin DAL 591 165 1603 10 111 14.4 67%
2007 R.Moss NE 568 160 1482 23 98 15.1 61%
2011 C.Johnson DET 565 158 1680 16 96 17.5 61%
1989 J.Rice SF 563 129 1483 17 82 18.1 64%
2014 A.Brown PIT 554 181 1697 13 129 13.2 71%
1986 S.Morgan NE 544 135 1492 10 84 17.8 62%
2019 M.Thomas NO 535 186 1727 9 149 11.6 80%
2001 M.Harrison IND 534 164 1524 15 109 14.0 66%
2011 J.Nelson GB 520 96 1263 15 68 18.6 71%
1987 J.Rice SF 518* 112 1078 22 65 16.6 58%
2015 A.Brown PIT 517 193 1841 10 136 13.5 70%
1994 J.Rice SF 516 150 1499 13 112 13.4 75%
2003 R.Moss MIN 515 172 1632 17 112 14.6 65%
1995 J.Rice SF 514 175 1848 15 122 15.1 70%
2003 T.Holt STL 513 183 1694 12 117 14.5 64%
2006 M.Harrison IND 508 148 1366 12 95 14.4 64%
2008 A.Johnson HOU 506 171 1575 8 115 13.7 67%
2005 S.Smith CAR 506 150 1563 12 103 15.2 69%
2014 E.Sanders DEN 481 141 1404 9 101 13.9 72%
* Prorated statistics. Rice had 389 receiving DYAR in 12 games in a strike-shortened season.

For those keeping score, Jerry Rice (naturally) leads the way with four 500-DYAR seasons. Antonio Brown, Randy Moss, and Harrison have two apiece.

What's most notable here is that Thomas is a completely different player than anyone else on this list. He averaged only 11.6 yards per catch, lowest in that table by a yard and a half. And his nine touchdowns were among the lowest totals as well. While Thomas was nothing special at generating big plays or getting into the end zone, however, he was phenomenally reliable, with a catch rate of 80%, best among this group by far. For comparison's sake, Christian McCaffrey's catch rate was 81%, and his average target came within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage. Thomas' average target this season came 8.2 yards downfield. And he did all of that with his starting quarterback out for one-third of the year (though Teddy Bridgewater is obviously something more than your typical backup passer). I don't know if Thomas is the best all-around wide receiver in the Football Outsiders database, but if you wanted to call him the best possession receiver since the mid-1980s, you'd have a strong case.


Best Quarterbacks, Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Pass
Dak Prescott DAL 1546 63 1609
Lamar Jackson BAL 1272 261 1532
Patrick Mahomes KC 1322 66 1388
Russell Wilson SEA 1297 32 1329
Drew Brees NO 1324 0 1324

Analysis: The Dallas Cowboys had the NFL's most valuable quarterback and still failed to make the playoffs in the league's weakest division. Mind you, "most valuable" does not mean best -- though he led the league in passing DYAR, Dak Prescott was just sixth in DVOA, behind the other four names mentioned here as well as Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill and Detroit's Matthew Stafford, who were excellent in their abbreviated seasons. What made the difference for Prescott was volume. Between pass attempts, sacks, and DPI flags, he was seventh in the NFL in total passing plays, and nobody else in the top 10 could touch his DVOA of 27.2%. (The next-closest was Aaron Rodgers at 9.1%.)

The other four names in this table did make the playoffs -- in fact, they had each clinched playoff berths with several weeks to go in the season. We'll have more to say about Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson later. As for Drew Brees, he didn't just lead the league in passing DVOA, he was the first qualified passer to top the 40.0% threshold since Peyton Manning with Denver in 2013. He also led the league in completion percentage for the sixth time in his career, posting the NFL's lowest sack rate to boot. If you ignore rushing data, he was actually second in passing DYAR -- which is astounding when you remember that he missed five games.

Worst Quarterbacks, Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Pass
Dwayne Haskins WAS -466 6 -460
Josh Rosen MIA -409 0 -409
Kyle Allen CAR -408 18 -389
Luke Falk NYJ -313 0 -313
Sam Darnold NYJ -290 -7 -297

Analysis: Dwayne Haskins threw 203 passes in his rookie season, about two dozen short of qualifying for the official leaderboards. If he had qualified, he would have finished in last place in completion percentage and sack rate. He did qualify for our leaderboards, where he finished in last place in both DYAR and in DVOA (-43.4%). That's still better than the -53.7% Josh Rosen had as a rookie in 2018 … which in turn is still better than the -63.1% Rosen had with Miami this year in limited action. One year after completing an all-time terrible season, Rosen actually declined across the board with Miami -- his completion percentage, yards per pass, and rates of touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks were all even worse with the Dolphins than they had been with the Cardinals. And you can't just blame that on the mess in Miami -- Rosen's teammate Ryan Fitzpatrick exceeded his career numbers in most of these stats. Kyle Allen was filling in for Cam Newton, and he got off to a hot start, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in his first four games. He threw 10 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in nine games after that, including a four-interception outing against Atlanta in Week 11 that was the worst game of the year. Luke Falk also had one of the worst games of the year, taking nine sacks against the Eagles in Week 5, but he was only playing because Sam Darnold was out with mononucleosis, and was waived a week later. Darnold soon returned to the lineup, but he was no savior, showing only marginal improvement from his disappointing rookie campaign.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Philip Rivers, LAC

There's not a great option for this category this year, so Rivers will have to do. Rivers certainly wasn't great this season, but he wasn't horrible either. He finished 14th in DVOA, ahead of playoff quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and Carson Wentz. He was 18th according to the NFL's passer rating, however. Rivers' passer rating is torpedoed by his 23:20 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, but his completion, yardage, and sack rates were all quite good. DVOA does reflect this -- he had a -14.6% DVOA in the red zone, compared to 10.8% over the rest of the field -- but just because he struggled in scoring range doesn't mean we should ignore his efforts to get the Chargers there in the first place.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Ryan Tannehill, TEN

Remember our piece on quarterback styles in Week 16? Remember how Tannehill ended up way off to one side because he had a very poor sack rate but was otherwise very good? Well the NFL's passer rating does not account for sacks, but DVOA does. Tannehill's passer rating of 117.5 was the best of any qualified passer since Nick Foles' 119.2 in 2013, but he was just fifth in DVOA this year.

Most Improved: Lamar Jackson, BAL

Jackson was a below-average passer in limited action as a rookie in 2018; he was the second-most efficient passer in 2019. It might surprise you to learn, however, that Jackson's improvement as a runner was even more pronounced than his improvement as a passer. As we detailed in this space last year, Jackson as a rookie had one of the worst rushing DYAR seasons for a quarterback we had ever seen, in large part due to fumbles. His rushing DYAR as a sophomore, however, was one of the best.

All QB Seasons, 200-plus Rushing DYAR, 1986-2019
Year Name Team DYAR Runs Yards Avg. TD FUM
1990 R.Cunningham PHI 297 105 949 9.0 5 3
2014 R.Wilson SEA 269 97 872 9.0 6 4
2019 L.Jackson BAL 261 156 1223 7.8 7 7
2006 M.Vick ATL 261 119 1038 8.7 2 4
2004 M.Vick ATL 241 106 919 8.7 3 2
1998 S.McNair TEN 214 66 573 8.7 4 1
2000 D.Culpepper MIN 209 72 490 6.8 7 0
2002 D.McNabb PHI 200 57 469 8.2 6 1

Had Jackson played against Pittsburgh in Week 17, he likely would have passed Russell Wilson for second place in this table, and would have had a shot at matching Randall Cunningham's all-time record. He'll likely break that record eventually anyway, so long as he can stay healthy and cut down on his fumbles somewhat.

Biggest Decline: Patrick Mahomes, KC

When you start at the top, there's only one way to go. Mahomes' first season as a starter was one of the greatest any quarterback ever had. In 2019 he suffered a sharp decline … to finishing third in both DYAR and DVOA despite missing two games. We should all be so fortunate as to suffer a slump like this.

We should also mention Ben Roethlisberger, who led the NFL in passing yards in 2018 but missed virtually all of 2019 with an elbow injury.

Schedules: In Week 15, we looked at which quarterbacks had played the hardest and easiest schedules, predicting that Russell Wilson would finish the year having played the most difficult slate of any quarterback. That prediction proved accurate.

Most Difficult Schedules, QBs, 2019   Easiest Schedules, QBs, 2019
Name Team DYAR YAR Dif Name Team DYAR YAR Dif
Russell Wilson SEA 1297 1105 +193 Carson Wentz PHI 453 662 -209
Matt Ryan ATL 742 620 +122 Sam Darnold NYJ -290 -124 -166
Ryan Fitzpatrick MIA 441 321 +119 Jameis Winston TB 65 198 -133
Kyler Murray ARI 289 170 +119 Mason Rudolph PIT -219 -116 -103
Baker Mayfield CLE 59 -59 +117 Kirk Cousins MIN 801 881 -80

Ironically, Wilson's wild-card counterpart, Carson Wentz, had the easiest schedule of any quarterback this year. And yes, Jameis Winston somehow threw 30 interceptions while facing a very weak schedule of opposing defenses.


Best Running Backs by DYAR, 2019
Rushing   Receiving   Total
Name Team Rush
Name Team Rec
Name Team Rush
Ezekiel Elliott DAL 320 Christian McCaffrey CAR 385 Christian McCaffrey CAR 273 385 658
Christian McCaffrey CAR 273 Austin Ekeler LAC 323 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 320 95 416
Mark Ingram BAL 250 Dalvin Cook MIN 145 Mark Ingram BAL 250 138 387
Aaron Jones GB 209 James White NE 145 Dalvin Cook MIN 184 145 329
Kenyan Drake MIA/ARI 196 Mark Ingram BAL 138 Austin Ekeler LAC -9 323 314

Analysis: The Dallas Cowboys had the NFL's most valuable running back (as a runner, anyway) and still failed to make the playoffs in the league's weakest division. Ezekiel Elliott was fabulous this year, combining explosiveness (38 runs of 10 yards or more, fifth-best among running backs), reliability (56% success rate, fourth-highest) and volume (second in the league with 301 carries). Elliott and Prescott join Tom Brady and Dion Lewis of the 2017 Patriots as the only teammates to lead the league in passing DYAR and rushing DYAR in the same year.

Mark Ingram and Aaron Jones are the lead running backs for two of the four playoff teams who have this weekend off. Kenyan Drake will hope to join them in the postseason next year -- he had -34 DYAR in six games with Miami, but 230 DYAR in eight games with Arizona. After his trade to the desert, no player in the league had more rushing DYAR.

In any normal, non-CMC year, we'd be talking about Austin Ekeler as a historically great scatback. He had 92 catches for 993 yards and eight touchdowns while fighting with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Hunter Henry for targets. And while he wasn't nearly so active, Mark Ingram had a higher DVOA than either one of them. And Dalvin Cook failed to score on any of his catches, but he was reliable, with an 84% catch rate and an average of 9.8 yards per reception.

Worst Running Backs by DYAR, 2019
Rushing   Receiving   Total
Name Team Rush
Name Team Rec
Name Team Rush
Peyton Barber TB -140 Phillip Lindsay DEN -67 Kalen Ballage MIA -76 -65 -141
Le'Veon Bell NYJ -76 Kalen Ballage MIA -65 Peyton Barber TB -140 17 -123
Kalen Ballage MIA -76 Devin Singletary BUF -53 Giovani Bernard CIN -54 -53 -106
Jaylen Samuels PIT -66 Giovani Bernard CIN -53 Le'Veon Bell NYJ -76 6 -70
Giovani Bernard CIN -54 Bilal Powell NYJ -46 Bilal Powell NYJ -22 -46 -68

Analysis: Peyton Barber's rushing DYAR is the worst of any running back since Ray Rice in 2013. He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry and was second-to-last in success rate. In that light, Le'Veon Bell's first season in New York doesn't look so bad! In any other light it was a disaster -- he averaged career lows with 3.2 yards per carry and 52.6 yards per game, and now he and his coach are publicly feuding. Kalen Ballage averaged 1.8 yards over 74 carries for Miami. ONE POINT EIGHT. He is the first running back with an average below 2.0 on 50-plus carries since Louis Carter of the 1975 Raiders. Jaylen Samuels was somewhat effective as a receiver, but when carried the ball as a fill-in for James Conner or Benny Snell, he came up short. And while almost everything went wrong for Cincinnati's offense this year, Joe Mixon made the top 20 running backs in both DYAR and DVOA, so Gio Bernard can't just blame his struggles on his circumstances. As for Bilal Powell, I'll be honest with you, I forgot he was still in the league until I was putting these tables together.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Mark Ingram, BAL

Third in combined DYAR, 15th in yards from scrimmage. Ingram may have been the most reliable weapon in the league this year, finishing first among running backs in rushing success rate and receiving DVOA, and second in rushing DVOA.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Leonard Fournette, JAX

Only four running backs had more yards from scrimmage, but by DYAR Fournette had negative value both as a runner and as a receiver. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry, but he was very boom-and-bust, finishing 39th in success rate. And he was the target on a lot of Jaguars dumpoffs, finishing with 38 failed receptions, third-most in the league.

Most Improved: Dalvin Cook, MIN

Cook has been an explosive runner for most of his NFL tenure, but he added some goal-line punch this season, with 13 rushing touchdowns after only scoring on four runs in his first two seasons. And he was an effective receiver for the first time in his career, blowing away all of his prior receiving statistics in both volume and efficiency.

Biggest Decline: Todd Gurley, LAR

Most of the blame for the Rams' failure to return to the playoffs has fallen on Jared Goff, but Gurley's slide has been even more dramatic. He averaged 89.4 rushing yards per game in 2018, and 4.9 yards per carry. Those numbers fell to 57.1 and 3.8 this year. And he wasn't much good as a receiver either, with a 63% catch rate and just 6.7 yards per catch.


Best Wide Receivers by Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Rec
Michael Thomas NO 535 -10 525
Chris Godwin TB 433 6 439
Calvin Ridley ATL 310 25 335
Amari Cooper DAL 325 4 329
Stefon Diggs MIN 284 44 327

Analysis: In Week 10, we talked about the Bucs' Chris Godwin and Mike Evans and how they were threatening to break the record for most DYAR by a pair of teammates. Naturally, it was a jinx, and the two missed five games between them down the stretch. They finished with a total of 737 DYAR, just barely sliding into the top 20. The record remains 981, set by Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.

Elsewhere, Calvin Ridley surpassed Julio Jones in efficiency, if not in volume -- he only saw about two-thirds as many targets per game as his veteran teammate. In Dallas, the Cowboys had the NFL's fourth-most valuable wide receiver and still failed to make the playoffs in the league's weakest division. Stefon Diggs had a tremendous bounceback season in Minnesota, where he had a below-average DVOA in 2018 but thrived this year despite the absence of Adam Thielen.

Worst Wide Receivers by Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Rec
Jarius Wright CAR -123 -13 -136
Nelson Agholor PHI -127 -3 -130
Trey Quinn WAS -118 0 -118
KeeSean Johnson ARI -106 -1 -107
Geronimo Allison GB -106 6 -100

Analysis: Usually, the list of worst wide receivers is a list of names who had the misfortune to play with the worst quarterbacks in the league. And in the case of Jarius Wright and Trey Quinn that's certainly true. Nelson Agholor, KeeSean Johnson, and Geronimo Allison, however, have no such excuse. None of them averaged even 10 yards per catch. Among the Eagles wide receivers with better advanced numbers than Agholor you'll find such players as Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, who were both cut during the season, as well as AAF refugee Greg Ward. Allison was outdone in Green Bay by such household names as Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard. Johnson was one of five wide receivers in Arizona with at least 20 targets; the others were all above replacement level. At least Johnson was a late-round rookie with low expectations. Agholor and Allison have been key contributors to the Eagles and Packers for years now.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Mecole Hardman, KC

Hardman only saw 41 passes, not enough to qualify for our wide receiver leaderboards. However, he scored a half-dozen touchdowns, more than 47 of the 81 receivers who did qualify. And he gained 538 yards, which is more than 20 of the qualifiers too.

Worse Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Julian Edelman, NE

Edelman was fourth among wide receivers in catches, but just 56th among qualifiers in DYAR and 63rd in DVOA. Edelman has never finished higher than 35th in either DYAR or DVOA, as he is not as reliable as advertised nor particularly explosive -- he has never had a catch rate higher than 70% in a season, and only once has his average reception gained more than 12 yards. This year, however, he saw 153 targets, second-most in his career. That's a lot of chances to pick up the empty-calorie completions that DYAR hates. Seventy-seven of his targets were either incomplete or failed completions. Only Tyler Boyd and Odell Beckham had more.

Most Improved: DeVante Parker, MIA

In 2018, Parker didn't even get enough targets to qualify for our wide receiver leaderboard. If he had, he would not have made the top 75 in either DYAR or DVOA. This year, he led the Dolphins with 128 targets, finishing eighth in DYAR and 17th in DVOA. In his fifth NFL season, Parker set career highs with 72 catches, 1,202 yards, nine touchdowns, and 16.7 yards per catch. His average completion was caught 4 yards deeper down the field than it had been in 2018, yet his catch rate improved from 51% to 56%.

Biggest Decline: Tyler Boyd, CIN

By raw numbers, Boyd's year looks like a good one. His ninety catches for 1,046 yards were both career highs, and his five touchdowns weren't bad for a team that only threw 18 of them. In 2018, though, he was primarily a sidekick to A.J. Green. Though Green only played nine games that year, that's nine more than he played in 2019, and Boyd struggled as the new No. 1 man in Cincinnati. His average reception dropped by nearly 2 yards, and his catch rate fell from 70% to 60%. In our numbers, Boyd dropped from 305 DYAR in 2018 (12th) to 13 DYAR in 2019 (65th).


Best Tight Ends by Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Rec
Darren Waller OAK 236 -1 235
Travis Kelce KC 207 23 230
Jared Cook NO 208 0 208
George Kittle SF 191 1 192
Hunter Henry LAC 138 0 138

Analysis: By far the best thing in the Raiders' last season in Oakland was the development of Darren Waller into one of the game's best tight ends. A sixth-round pick by the Ravens in 2015, Waller's career in Baltimore was ruined by a trio suspensions of substance abuse. His struggles became a storyline when Hard Knocks covered the Raiders. After catching all of 18 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons, Waller broke out with a 90-1,145-3 statline in 2019. It remains to be seen whether Waller can be more than a one-year wonder, but he'll still be 27 years old when the 2020 NFL season kicks off, and he could be one of the franchise's cornerstones as they begin anew in Las Vegas.

Speaking of cornerstones, George Kittle and Travis Kelce finished one-two in this category a year ago, and came back strong again in 2019. Jared Cook, played ahead of Waller in Oakland in 2018; we'll get back to him in a minute. The Chargers' Hunter Henry continues the AFC West focus of this section. Though he has struggled to remain healthy -- even in 2019, he missed four games -- he is among the most dangerous tight ends in football when he can get on the field.

Worst Tight Ends by Total DYAR, 2019
Name Team Rec
Vance McDonald PIT -82 0 -82
Trey Burton CHI -72 0 -72
Luke Stocker ATL -62 0 -62
Rhett Ellison NYG -56 0 -56
Kaden Smith NYG -50 0 -50

Analysis: For the first six years of his career, Vance McDonald was a perfectly serviceable multi-purpose tight end. In 2019, like everything else for Pittsburgh's offense, the wheels fell off. He came into the year with a 13.0-yard average reception, but that was cut nearly in half to 7.2 in 2019 as the Steelers offense dissolved into a series of checkdowns from Hell. It was a similar story for Trey Burton, who averaged a piddling 6.0 yards per reception before injuries ended his season in November. Luke Stocker and Rhett Ellison are both blocking tight ends who got just enough targets this year to show that they will never be anything more than blocking tight ends. And then there's Kaden Smith, who's got an odd profile. He was drafted by the 49ers in 2018, never played for them, waived in September of 2018, and got picked up by the Giants … who stuck him into the lineup and began to force the ball his way. He had one target in his first three games, but 41 in his last six. That's more targets than Amari Cooper, Kenny Golladay, or Cooper Kupp had in the same timeframe, and they all played six games too. Anyway, Smith only averaged 8.6 yards per catch and fumbled twice, and he probably won't see 41 targets again if Evan Engram is healthy next year.

Better Than His Standard Stats Made Him Look: Jared Cook, NO

Cook flourished in a smaller role in New Orleans. He was 14th among tight ends this year with 43 catches in his first year with the Saints, down from 68 in his last year with the Raiders, but he was third in DYAR -- second if you ignore rushing data. He set career highs with 16.4 yards per catch and nine touchdowns.

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

Second year in a row Ertz has been named in this space. He finished third at the position with 88 catches, but 21st in DYAR. He averaged a career-worst 10.4 yards per catch, and his catch rate fell from 74% to 65%.

Most Improved: Ricky Seals-Jones, CLE

One year ago, Seals-Jones had just finished one of the worst tight end seasons we have ever analyzed. He was reborn in Cleveland. Even though he fell from 34 catches in 15 games to 14 in 14, his catch rate zoomed from 49% to 63%, his yards per catch blossomed from 10.1 to 16.4, and his touchdowns quadrupled from one to four.

Biggest Decline: O.J. Howard, TB

Bruce Arians simply doesn't like to throw to tight ends. In five years with the Arizona Cardinals, none of his tight ends gained 500 yards or scored more than three touchdowns in a season. Howard played four more games in 2019 than he had the year before, but his catches held steady at 34, his yardage fell from 565 to 459, and his touchdowns plummeted from five to one.


7 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2020, 12:07am

#1 by techvet // Dec 31, 2019 - 1:47pm

For fumbles listed, is that only lost fumbles or all fumbles, lost *and* recovered?

Points: 0

#2 by af16 // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:01pm

I would assume so, since fumble recovery mostly comes down to luck.

Points: 0

#3 by Vincent Verhei // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:53pm

All fumbles, no matter who recovered them.

Points: 0

#4 by Steve in WI // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:56pm

Impressive that Trey Burton managed to be the 2nd worst TE by DYAR, since it's a counting stat and he was barely even on the field.

Points: 0

#6 by Chip // Jan 04, 2020 - 5:20pm

Will help you win that dubious award!   

seriously, the overall John Shoopian-vertical nature of the Offense is a prime culprit, along with a regressing Mr Biscuit.  

Points: 0

#5 by cstoos // Dec 31, 2019 - 4:51pm

At this rate, he'll barely even be a top 5 QB in a few years from now.

Sarcasm aside, the guy had a high ankle sprain on his plant foot the first half of the season, was missing his RB1, WR1, and WR2 for most of that stretch, missed 3 games with a dislocated knee cap....and still ended up 3rd in DYAR.

Points: 0

#7 by Happy Fun Paul // Jan 07, 2020 - 12:07am

While Mahomes did decline by 709 DYAR, which I assume is the largest year-to-year absolute difference (except for Roethlisberger), I don't think that's the proper way to measure "biggest decline". 

Even leaving ASIDE injuries, missed games, and changing teammates/circumstances... Mahomes dropped from 2031 to 1322 DYAR, and 39.9% to 30.0% DVOA.  That doesn't look to me like a big decline.  Contrast with, say, Tom Brady, who dropped from 1034 to 558 DYAR, and 15.4% to 2.6% DVOA.  Even though it's a drop of "only" 476 DYAR, Brady strikes me as having had a much worse decline than Mahomes' -709.  Compared to the year before, Brady had only about HALF the value-over-replacement and SIX times closer to "average".  It's even worse comparing to Brady 2017 (1595 DYAR, 27.8% DVOA).

(And I write this as a diehard Patriots fan.  I realize that "Brady" in the paragraph above actually means "the N.E. passing offense as a whole", but even so, I'm trying to come to terms with reality.)

I'm not sure what the proper metric for "decline" (or "improvement") SHOULD be, but simple "absolute change in DYAR" doesn't seem right, and I think Mahomes' case illustrates that.

Points: 0

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