Offensive Drop Rate 2009

Offensive Drop Rate 2009
Offensive Drop Rate 2009
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

Last week, I took a look at Defensive Drops and their relatively transient nature; today, it's time for a look at drops from the other side of the ball.

For the 2009 season, our charters marked that a pass was dropped on 5.7 percent of all targets to a specific player (e.g. not considering passes listed with no intended target). That drop rate was at 5.9 percent in 2008. Over the course of a full season of targets, that amounts to a difference of about 30 drops.

Who had the worst hands in the league? Well, looking at the list of players with the highest drop rates (minimum: 30 targets), there are a lot of names you might expect.

Player Targets Drops Drop Rate
Daniel Coats 31 7 22.6%
Darrius Heyward-Bey 41 7 17.1%
Ahmad Bradshaw 30 5 16.7%
Brandon Jacobs 31 5 16.1%
Lance Long 40 6 15%
Donald Lee 54 8 14.8%
Daniel Fells 34 5 14.7%
Mark Bradley 56 8 14.3%
Dwayne Bowe 88 11 12.5%
DeAngelo Williams 41 5 12.2%

Although Coats doesn't have the reputation of a Robert Royal or a L.J. Smith, he should; I won't spoil his Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 comment, but it involves about as much scorn as you can fit into a single paragraph. Darrius Heyward-Bey's drop rate contributed to his ridiculous -10.2 +/- last year; I believe he is one of a very small group of receivers with an absolute +/- higher than his actual catch total, and he's certainly the only one in that group with more than, say, 10 targets. (More on that in FOA 2010, too.)

I'm not sure what to say about the Bradshaw/Jacobs tandem being so high on the list. On one hand, it's easy to see that and reflectively suggest that there are some issues with Eli Manning on throws to his halfbacks; on the other hand, well, I've watched those guys play enough to know that they just don't have good fundamentals as receivers. There are also three different Chiefs wideouts on the list; I've seen enough of the Chiefs this year to suggest that Matt Cassel is the primary instigator there. Fortunately, the Chiefs locked Cassel up for six more years.

If we switch to raw totals, the league lead goes to two tight ends: Brent Celek of the Eagles and Vernon Davis of the 49ers each had 12 drops. The tie would go to Celek, as he dropped his 12 passes in 113 targets; Davis required 129 targets for his 12 drops. The only other receiver in the league in double-digits was Bowe.

As for year-to-year consistency? Last year's leaders aren't really near the top of the table this time around. Celek had five drops in 38 targets last year (a 13.2 Drop Rate), but no one else from last year's top ten made it to the 2009 leaderboard. Marshawn Lynch came close; he led the league last year with a Drop Rate of 17.9 percent, but he was only at 10.8 percent this year. The leader amongst tight ends was Marcedes Lewis, who dropped 13.7 percent of his targets in 2008, but was at only 5.0 percent in 2009 (3-of-60). The leading wideout in 2008 didn't drop a single pass in 2009! Unfortunately for Harry Douglas, though, a torn ACL meant that he didn't catch a single ball in anger, either. Behind him was Braylon Edwards, who dropped a league-leading 15 passes on 138 targets, for a 10.9 percent Drop Rate. Perhaps buoyed by his move to New York, Edwards only dropped six of the 97 passes thrown to him this year, for a respectable Drop Rate of 6.2 percent.

Another stat that's interesting (to me, at least) is Unforced Errors -- those drops that came when a receiver was listed as Uncovered or up against the vaunted Hole In Zone. Last year, the league leader in Unforced Errors was the Cardinals' Tim Hightower; he dropped four passes while marked as Uncovered (likely screen passes), and one against HiZ, for a total of five. Four players had four Unforced Errors; the only wideout in the group was the Eagles' DeSean Jackson, whose drops all came against Hole In Zone.

As for the receivers with the best hands? Five players were not registered with a single drop, including Greg Camarillo (73 targets), Robert Meachem (66), Pierre Thomas (45), Brian Westbrook (34), and Delanie Walker (33). T.J. Houshmandzadeh only dropped two passes on 140 targets, which seems like a function of his usage pattern, but it's hard to reconcile that logic when Lee Evans only dropped one of the 95 targets thrown to him.

Finally, the two-year totals (minimum: 30 targets in each season). The "best hands" group would have made for a hell of an offense in their respective peaks, with Brian Westbrook (0.9 percent Drop Rate) at halfback, Sidney Rice (1.3 percent) and Lee Evans (1.5 percent) at wideout, and Tony Gonzalez (1.7 percent) catching whatever's left at tight end.

The offense on the other side of things would not be as effective; in fact, most of the players involved are available for pretty cheap these days. Marshawn Lynch (15.4 percent Drop Rate) is the halfback, James Jones (9.8 percent) and Mark Bradley (9.3 percent) are the wideouts, and Donald Lee (12.5 percent) is the tight end.


29 comments, Last at 19 Jun 2010, 11:36pm

1 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

I find it interesting that there isn't really much talk in Philadelphia about Celek's hands one way or another.

3 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Yeah, isn't that because McNabb is so inaccurate? I feel like criticizing Celek or JAckson for drops doesn't make much sense because McNabb's passes are some of the most difficult in the league to catch because of his propensity for throwing off target, with a ton of velocity (absolutely no touch even on the short stuff) and erring on the side of aiming at a receiver's feet to minimize the chance of an interception...

It's just hard to tell who is at fault with a lot of the drops - in the final two Dallas games everything was bouncing off Jackson's heels, it was a miracle he was able to get his hand on the ball at all...

Doesn't explain Westbrook, though, other than to confirm he's a once-in-a-generation passing catching talent at RB...

4 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

In reply to by chemical burn

Westbrook you might explain simply because of small sample size. He got hurt early in the season, and was barely targeted when he did come back at the end. He's obviously an amazing player, and did well as usual early on before his concussions. But he didn't have to maintain that level all year long since he was on the sidelines most of the year.

6 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

So what does it say if, hypothetically, the Redskins and Eagles receivers have roughly the same drop rates next season?

11 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Haven't seen enough of Kolb to say what it would mean (assuming McNabb and Kolb both start 16 games - which is always a crapshoot with McNabb)... but is it any secret that the Eagles have always had a lot of drops since McNabb has been their QB? For a long time the explanation was Thrash, Mitchell and Pinkston are terrible, then it was LJ Smith and TO don't have good hands and now we see even Jackson and Celek have a problem with drops... Lots of different receivers, lots of different TYPES of receivers, McNabb is the common element...

14 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Thrash, Mitchell and Pinkston are terrible, then it was LJ Smith and TO don't have good hands

All that is true though.

18 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

I guess I should throw in Kevin Curtis who was known as a "hands" guy until McNabb started rocketing slants off of his back shoulder. And I'm curious if Thrash went on to have the same drop rate in Washington and if LJ dropped as many balls last year in Baltimore. Anyway, I guess we'll see if how much McNabb was the source of drops with Celek and Jackson over the next few years.

20 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

I would believe that McNabb makes his receiver's drop worse than it would be with another QB, but at the same time, he has played with some terrible receivers.

2 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

What if you calculate drop rate as drops/(drops+catches) instead of drops/targets? Heyward-Bey, for instance, never had a chance to catch a lot of the passes that were JaMarcussed in his general direction. He had only 9 receptions to go with his 7 drops, which means that he dropped 44% of the passes that he got his hands on. Second place on that metric (out of the players who made your top 10 list) is Daniel Coats at 30%, followed by Mark Bradley at 25%. So DHB actually had worse hands than his 2nd place ranking would suggest.

8 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

The worst part about Coats? We resigned him after the season ended. But that was before we drafted Gresham, so, hopefully, he'll get cut.

10 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Of course with Coats the problems don't end once he has actually managed to catch the ball - he fumbled twice on just 16 catches last year (12.5% fumble rate).

13 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

If we blame McNabb for Celek's drops, don't we also have to credit him with a chunk of Celek's success? Be interesting to see how he does with Kolb this coming season.

And DeSean Jackson, too. The Eagles' management believes Kolb is the superior WCO passer -- we'll get to see that tested out on the field.

17 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Actually, no - Celek actually accumulated a vastly disproportionate amount of his DYAR in the 2 games where Kolb was throwing him the ball.

But, anyway, none of this is meant to take anything away from McNabb who has proven to be, at very least, one of the 5 or so most productive (I'd go so far as to say elite) QB's of the last decade. Of course, McNabb deserves credit for his receivers success, especially Jackson who had an ungodly YPC catching balls from a guy with one of the best deep balls in the business. But McNabb has weaknesses that everyone is aware of: accuracy issues, too much velocity, erring on the side of at a receiver's feet to avoid INT's. I think all that adds up to a lot of drops no matter who is catching the ball...

15 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

I would've lost a lot of money taking the over in +/- 0.5 mentions of "Roy Williams" in this column. Good thing there was no one to bet with I guess.

16 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Its okay Key - I'll take the mony for the bet anyways :P

Actually I too am somewhat surprised not to see him. I guess dropping the ball requires that you get open occasionally.

19 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

I'm curious if FO has looked at if any QB's are consistently the source of drops. This evidence seems pretty damning for Cassel, but I don't remember it at all being a problem in his time in NE...

21 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

drop % of targets is pretty misleading. You get into the iffy territory of whether a ball is catchable or not. To be "fair", you should just do drops/(drops+receptions). This paints a better picture of when a player is dropping catchable balls.

23 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Does the would-be TD bomb that bounced off Braylon's head in the Bills game at Toronto count as a "drop"?

24 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Williams is something of a surprise. He hardly ever fumbles. In fact, he had ZERO fumbles the entire '08 season. To see a player who never fumbles dropping passes doesn't fit the pattern.
I'd like to see a comparison for his drops between Delhomme and Moore to see if there is a difference. Might be interesting.

25 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

catching passes out of the backfield and securing the rock after taking a snap are two different skillsets

26 Cassel

Your comment on Cassel is the reason why stats websites like FO are so necessary - because the scouting eye is completely unreliable.

I saw enough of the Chiefs last year to believe the WRs were the instigator there. They dropped pass after pass set down softly right in their hands.

Or perhaps the counter-example of Chris Chambers who dropped 4 passes on 26 targets for San Diego and then had 1 drop in 59 targets after being picked up by K.C. (according to Pro Football Focus). Maybe Cassel was the instigator there too.

Also, what is the point of charting drops if you're going to still blame it on the QB? The idea of a drop is that the WR is completely at fault, right? If the game charters were including difficult non-catches, the total number of drops would almost certainly be higher.

27 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

Given that there does not appear to be any year-to-year consistency, does this stat mean anything with respect to WRs?

Is there any year-to-year consistency with QB drop rates?

I suppose this could be interesting as predictor in regression equations or as a DV in regression equations.

28 Re: Offensive Drop Rate

With QB's seems more likely - with WR's the sample sizes seem too darn small for 80% of the WR's in the league for the stats to mean too much.

29 Re: Offensive Drop Rate 2009

"Although Coats doesn't have the reputation of a Robert Royal or a L.J. Smith, he should; I won't spoil his Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 comment, but it involves about as much scorn as you can fit into a single paragraph."

If I wasn't going to buy FOA 2010 already (and I probably was), this sold me. Having to watch Coats play regularly was almost as painful as watching Ryan Fitzpatrick's escapades for most of a season, and even approached the insanity-inducing madness of Jon Kitna's performance in the Wild Card game after the '05 season. (nb. These are all from recent Bengals history because there are about 15 years that have been stricken from the record)The guy is terrible, and all my roommates knew who "Stone Hands" was by week 5, just because of the amount of irate cursing sprang from my room on Sundays because of him.

He is quite literally one of the worst TEs of all time, considering just those who have gotten significant playing time. He can't block anyone, can't catch even the easiest passes, and fumbles when he gets lucky enough to hang on to the ball. Fitzpatrick and Kitna drove me nuts because they're QBs. But only Ifeanyi Ohalete (Redskins and Cardinals fans should know the name) could threaten Coats for worst Bengal who ever saw the field. Don't even get me started on that guy...