Stat Analysis
Advanced analytics on player and team performance

2014 YAC+

2014 YAC+
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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
Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+ Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+
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
Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+ Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+
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
Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+ Rk Player Catches C% +/- Air YAC YAC+
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.

Comments

14 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2016, 1:21pm

1 Re: 2014 YAC+

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.

2 Re: 2014 YAC+

Surprised DeSean Jackson wasn't in the top 10 for 06-14.

Would we be able to get his rank? Any specific year drag him down?

4 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by lightsout85

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 Re: 2014 YAC+

"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 Re: 2014 YAC+

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.

6 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by Bobman

It also greatly favors slot receivers over the boundary guys, as they often have a linebacker or safety in coverage, and tend to get the ball with more empty space surrounding them.

7 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by dryheat

I think I only see 3 primarily slot guys in the top 10 list 06-14. Crayton, Cobb, and Henderson.

8 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by tuluse

This and the fact that Scott makes a comment about "in the right flat" in the opening of the piece suggest that any kind of slot receiver effect might be at least somewhat accounted for in the numbers.

10 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by tuluse

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.

11 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by dryheat

I am not sure if Tate lined up in the slot or more often wide but his routes are certainly more slot-like than someone aligned wide. Lots of bubble screens and quick hitters.

9 Re: 2014 YAC+

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 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by Red

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 Re: 2014 YAC+

In reply to by nickbradley

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.

14 Re: 2014 YAC+

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