by Scott Kacsmar
Last week we looked at receiving plus-minus, which estimates how many passes a receiver caught above average adjusted for where the pass was thrown. Since that stat is based on the point of the catch, we found that the quality of the quarterback was significant in the results. It's no surprise that the leading wide receivers in 2014 were receiving passes from the likes of Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers while the bottom were stuck with Blake Bortles, Josh McCown, and Zach Mettenberger.
Today we are looking at a similar stat in YAC+, which adjusts a receiver's yards after the catch based on where he catches the ball. If you catch a pass at the line of scrimmage in the right flat on third-and-15, you're expected to get some YAC because the defense usually plays with a cushion in those situations to prevent big gains. But receivers who pick up considerable YAC after catching a pass near the first-down marker are likely to get a much better YAC+ credit.
Here is the description of YAC+ from Football Outsiders Almanac 2015:
YAC+ is similar to plus-minus; it estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations. This is imperfect—we don't specifically mark what route a player runs, and obviously a go route will have more YAC than a comeback—but it does a fairly good job of telling you if this receiver gets more or less YAC than other receivers with similar usage patterns.
Every player with his own table in FOA 2015 has his plus-minus and YAC+ listed for the past three seasons.
As you are about to see, this stat is based more on a receiver's skill and less on the ability of his quarterback. ESPN recently released an updated version of Total QBR. One of the changes they made (frankly, I thought this was already included since the beginning of QBR) is to credit a quarterback with expected YAC based on the type of throw instead of what the receiver actually did. Whether a bubble screen goes for 3 yards or 60, on average the execution on that pass is going to be very similar for all quarterbacks. If the goal of the metric is to measure a quarterback's performance, then it's certainly worthwhile to limit the statistical impact of what happens after the ball releases his hand. YAC should be predominantly viewed as a receiver-driven stat.
YAC+ Leaders (2006-2014)
In the following tables, the "Passes" totals for each receiver will look different from the usual numbers in our data. That's because we have removed plays out of the receiver's control like passes thrown away or tipped at the line.
Here are the top and bottom 10 in YAC+ since 2006 among the three positions. Included are the average air yards (measured as yards beyond the line of scrimmage) on their targets and average YAC gained on catches. Players needed at least 100 receptions to qualify.
|Top 10 YAC+ for Wide Receivers, 2006-2014||Bottom 10 YAC+ for Wide Receivers, 2006-2014|
|1||Josh Gordon||161||57.5%||-4.9||13.2||6.7||2.2||150||Torry Holt||301||58.6%||-3.9||12.8||2.3||-1.4|
|2||Patrick Crayton||213||66.6%||12.4||10.2||5.8||1.8||151||Mike Thomas||177||63.4%||-9.0||8.7||4.1||-1.4|
|3||Demaryius Thomas||351||63.7%||9.1||10.8||6.1||1.5||152||Shaun McDonald||127||65.5%||4.9||10.7||2.6||-1.4|
|4||Donte' Stallworth||126||56.8%||-7.2||12.4||5.6||1.4||153||Andre Caldwell||146||60.8%||-11.3||9.1||3.2||-1.4|
|5||Miles Austin||348||62.9%||-0.1||10.6||5.7||1.3||154||Chaz Schilens||100||62.1%||3.1||12.3||2.4||-1.5|
|6||Randall Cobb||227||76.2%||28.5||8.5||6.2||1.2||155||Malcom Floyd||288||62.1%||35.5||16.5||2.5||-1.5|
|7||Andrew Hawkins||150||65.5%||-6.7||7.4||6.9||1.1||156||Steve Smith (NYG)||245||69.8%||23.7||11.0||2.4||-1.5|
|8||Golden Tate||272||69.6%||17.8||9.9||6.5||1.0||157||Robert Woods||105||59.0%||-6.3||11.3||3.0||-1.6|
|9||Julio Jones||278||66.0%||18.9||12.3||5.9||1.0||158||Brandon Lloyd||295||52.4%||-15.3||15.5||2.4||-1.7|
|10||Devery Henderson||223||59.6%||14.4||16.0||5.4||1.0||159||Derek Hagan||149||60.1%||-0.5||12.0||1.9||-1.9|
|Top 10 YAC+ for Tight Ends, 2006-2014||Bottom 10 YAC+ for Tight Ends, 2006-2014|
|1||Rob Gronkowski||309||70.1%||26.2||9.8||5.8||1.7||51||Leonard Pope||105||70.9%||2.3||6.4||4.0||-0.6|
|2||Aaron Hernandez||175||70.0%||4.3||6.8||5.8||1.4||52||Tony Scheffler||259||64.6%||6.2||10.6||3.8||-0.6|
|3||Julius Thomas||109||73.2%||8.9||7.3||5.2||1.1||53||Jordan Cameron||130||66.0%||4.1||9.4||4.1||-0.6|
|4||Kevin Boss||150||64.4%||-2.9||8.7||5.4||1.0||54||Jeremy Shockey||299||67.3%||5.8||8.5||3.5||-0.7|
|5||Fred Davis||162||68.9%||4.8||8.0||5.8||1.0||55||Alex Smith||122||68.5%||-1.4||6.3||4.1||-0.7|
|6||Alge Crumpler||155||64.0%||-7.2||8.0||4.9||1.0||56||Jacob Tamme||178||68.2%||1.4||7.5||3.9||-0.7|
|7||Brent Celek||344||68.0%||1.7||7.7||6.0||0.9||57||Tony Gonzalez||677||69.7%||42.9||8.6||2.9||-0.8|
|8||Daniel Fells||107||69.9%||4.0||7.6||5.7||0.9||58||Dennis Pitta||138||68.7%||4.1||7.8||3.9||-0.9|
|9||Coby Fleener||129||60.0%||-9.4||9.5||5.1||0.8||59||Jeff King||156||68.4%||-3.7||6.1||3.2||-1.2|
|10||Jermichael Finley||223||70.6%||18.9||9.3||5.1||0.6||60||Brandon Myers||180||73.2%||10.8||6.8||3.5||-1.3|
|Top 10 YAC+ for Running Backs, 2006-2014||Bottom 10 YAC+ for Running Backs, 2006-2014|
|1||Le'Veon Bell||127||79.4%||0.2||1.2||9.9||2.6||55||Cedric Benson||119||80.4%||-2.0||-0.1||7.3||-0.2|
|2||Joique Bell||139||79.4%||-1.4||0.7||9.4||2.4||56||Jacquizz Rodgers||156||88.1%||14.4||0.3||7.2||-0.2|
|3||DeAngelo Williams||179||78.2%||-6.7||-0.3||9.8||2.0||57||Cadillac Williams||129||77.7%||-1.7||1.2||6.6||-0.2|
|4||Correll Buckhalter||121||79.6%||-1.0||0.4||9.1||1.8||58||Chris Johnson||297||80.3%||-0.6||0.4||7.3||-0.3|
|5||Mike Tolbert||175||81.0%||4.1||0.5||8.9||1.8||59||Tim Hightower||128||75.7%||-7.0||0.3||7.0||-0.3|
|6||Michael Bush||105||82.0%||3.6||1.1||9.1||1.8||60||Willis McGahee||161||83.0%||4.4||-0.8||7.5||-0.5|
|7||Darren Sproles||416||81.7%||13.6||0.7||9.0||1.7||61||Earnest Graham||129||78.2%||0.4||1.9||5.7||-0.5|
|8||Clinton Portis||106||81.5%||0.1||-0.8||9.6||1.6||62||Brian Leonard||143||81.3%||6.7||1.6||6.1||-0.5|
|9||Kevin Smith||123||76.4%||-4.5||0.7||8.4||1.5||63||Warrick Dunn||106||76.8%||-4.2||0.7||6.4||-0.6|
|10||Donald Brown||114||80.9%||1.2||0.3||9.1||1.4||64||Thomas Jones||129||85.4%||6.1||-0.7||7.2||-0.6|
|Minimum 100 receptions.
14 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2016, 1:21pm
#1 by justanothersteve // Jul 30, 2015 - 7:18pm
Two observations. 1) Kelce was #1 with Alex Smith throwing the ball. Just how good would he be with a better QB? 2) Brees had a top 5 WR, and two WRs and two RBs in the bottom ten. I have no idea what this means. I guess it's that Colston is still really good.
#4 by Scott Kacsmar // Jul 31, 2015 - 7:48am
Remember, need 50 catches to qualify for a WR season.
DeSean Jackson YAC+
2008: -0.4 (26th)
2009: 1.9 (3rd)
2010: 2.6 (N/A)
2011: -1.3 (44th)
2012: 0.5 (N/A)
2013: 0.7 (10th)
2014: 2.3 (1st)
His overall WR rank in YAC+ is 12th (0.9), but he'd be 3rd to only Demaryius Thomas and Miles Austin among players with 300+ receptions.
#3 by Lebo // Jul 31, 2015 - 7:14am
"It's another sign that Andrew Luck could stand to improve his accuracy, and that the Colts run their tight ends on deeper routes than most teams."
As a Colts fan, I agree with this conclusion based on what I saw last year: Luck could improve his accuracy and the TEs (Fleener in particular) ran deep routes.
Also, Trent Richardson being in the Top 10 for running backs YAC+ is not a surprise. When Richardson had the ball in space, he was always tough to bring down (although, he was never going to break off a long run). Unless Richardson finds some speed, I really think his only future is as a fullback.
#5 by Bobman // Jul 31, 2015 - 1:41pm
A fair amount of this (25-30%?) is scheme and QB, right? I mean if you are led in stride, you can run for more than if the pass hits you on the back hip. Also, the Colts always seemed to run Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne in one of two modes--fly downfield or make the safe catch and fall down. So you get a handful of 25 YAC plays and a lot of zeroes. That pretty much kills YAC but keeps the chains moving.
Plus there's the memorable playoff game vs the Broncos when Harrison hit the deck among four defenders, none of whom touched him, so he popped up and scored a TD while they were arguing. Fleener and Allen do not surprise me on this list. Hoping that if Luck gets a little better pass pro he'll improve accuracy.
#10 by dryheat // Aug 03, 2015 - 8:53am
Plus Hawkins, and, if I'm not mistaken Tate...but maybe I only think so because he seems to run an inordinate amount of short routes. But you're right...with that list, and the 2014 list, which I'd expect to see more slot receivers, it seems to be about 50/50.
Of course, there are usually twice as many outside receivers and slot receivers in the offense.
#9 by Red // Jul 31, 2015 - 11:00pm
Scott, it would be awesome to see YAC+ for QB's. Any plans to do that? Seeing Gronk and Hernandez dominate the TE list brings up the entanglement question. Did they make Brady look better than he really is, or vice versa?
#12 by nickbradley // Aug 03, 2015 - 2:14pm
Totally agree; I've suggested a regression analysis for career QB YAC+ vs WR YAC+. WR YAC+ is going to go up with CarQBYAC+, but there will be some variance there, and its worth measuring.
Drew Brees is a pretty good YAC+ QB from what I understand, and that should make Brandin Cooks even worse looking.
#13 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 03, 2015 - 7:19pm
We can add the QB numbers. I was messing around with them last week. The file's so massive though that it's hard to add new columns and fill. That's why I had like five different Ryan Fitzpatrick results since he's always changing his number and PBP ID.