Stat Analysis
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2018 YAC+

2018 YAC+
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bryan Knowles

Our offseason look at the passing game continues!

Last week, we adjusted performance for depth of passes with passing plus-minus and receiving plus-minus. Today, we want to take a look at what happens when receivers actually managed to catch a pass, and for that, we turn to YAC+. You can see last year's results here.

What is YAC+? This description is from the upcoming Football Outsiders Almanac 2019 (available in July!), where every player with his own table will have both his plus-minus and YAC+ listed for the past three seasons:

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 due to variations in YAC stemming from the routes the receivers run, 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.

This was a historic year for YAC+. We've been tracking the stat since 2006, and the all-time leading team was, up until last year, the 2011 New England Patriots. That team was loaded with players who could turn upfield and run -- Deion Branch and Wes Welker at wideout, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at tight end, Danny Woodhead at running back. As a unit, the Patriots had a +1.7 YAC+, a fitting ranking for a very effective offense, one of the best of all time.

They were finally dethroned last year. YAC+ went west in 2018, with the top three offenses all coming out of those two divisions. And when you think of record-setting offensive performances from the west in 2018, you obviously think of none other than the…

... San Francisco 49ers, who nearly lapped the league with a +1.8 YAC+.

Alright, that needs to be explained. Let's dive into the numbers, shall we?

To qualify for rankings in the tables below, wide receivers must have at least 50 targets, while running backs and tight ends need a minimum of 25 targets. The number of passes shown below may not match official totals due to our removal of certain incompletions, such as passes intentionally thrown away or batted down at the line. YAC+ numbers are to be expressed with a plus (+) for above average or minus (-) for below average. For context, the aDOT and ALEX of each player's targets are also included. ALEX is for all downs, as opposed to the third-down version listed on
quarterback stats page.

2018 Wide Receivers

A total of 82 wide receivers qualified this season, but we'll just show 20 from the top and bottom of the rankings to save space here.

2018 Wide Receivers: Top 20 in YAC+ 2018 Wide Receivers: Bottom 20 in YAC+
Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+ Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+
1 Josh Gordon 2TM 68 5.1 14.0 +2.3 63 Mike Williams LAC 64 5.9 14.6 -1.1
2 D.J. Moore CAR 77 -1.2 8.2 +2.2 64 Chester Rogers IND 71 -2.4 6.5 -1.1
3 Cooper Kupp LAR 52 -0.8 7.4 +2.2 65 David Moore SEA 51 5.8 15.8 -1.2
4 Quincy Enunwa NYJ 63 -0.7 7.7 +1.8 66 Doug Baldwin SEA 73 2.8 11.4 -1.3
5 Amari Cooper 2TM 104 1.7 9.9 +1.2 67 Josh Doctson WAS 74 5.7 14.8 -1.3
6 Sammy Watkins KC 52 -0.6 8.7 +1.2 68 Danny Amendola MIA 76 -1.9 7.4 -1.3
7 Chris Hogan NE 51 3.4 12.2 +1.1 69 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 95 0.6 9.7 -1.3
8 T.Y. Hilton IND 119 2.8 11.1 +1.0 70 Laquon Treadwell MIN 50 -3.0 6.1 -1.4
9 Mohamed Sanu ATL 93 -1.1 8.0 +0.8 71 Taywan Taylor TEN 55 4.4 13.5 -1.4
10 JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 160 1.0 9.0 +0.7 72 John Ross CIN 57 4.9 14.2 -1.5
11 Kenny Golladay DET 114 3.9 12.4 +0.7 73 Tyler Lockett SEA 65 5.2 14.2 -1.5
12 Calvin Ridley ATL 91 1.4 10.2 +0.7 74 Jarvis Landry CLE 140 2.7 11.6 -1.6
13 Tyler Boyd CIN 102 0.5 9.5 +0.6 75 Ryan Grant IND 50 -0.1 8.3 -1.7
14 Golden Tate 2TM 108 -2.2 6.7 +0.6 76 Curtis Samuel CAR 65 2.9 11.9 -1.7
15 Tyreek Hill KC 131 6.3 15.3 +0.5 77 Larry Fitzgerald ARI 104 0.5 9.6 -1.7
16 Adam Humphries TB 103 -3.2 6.4 +0.5 78 Michael Crabtree BAL 99 2.7 11.0 -1.8
17 Dede Westbrook JAX 96 0.5 8.7 +0.4 79 Devin Funchess CAR 76 4.9 13.0 -1.9
18 Anthony Miller CHI 54 2.1 11.2 +0.4 80 Kelvin Benjamin 2TM 64 5.4 15.6 -1.9
19 Donte Moncrief JAX 87 4.3 13.1 +0.4 81 Zay Jones BUF 99 2.6 12.1 -1.9
20 Antonio Callaway CLE 78 4.8 13.8 +0.2 82 Taylor Gabriel CHI 93 1.8 11.2 -2.3

Tyrell Williams' two-year run atop the YAC+ tables is over. It's not like he just missed, either; he fell all the way to a flat +0.0 in a disappointing performance in his last year with the Chargers. Williams fell under 200 YAC for the first time as a qualifying receiver, and only had seven catches with 10 YAC or more, about half of what he averaged from 2017 to 2018. It's not like Philip Rivers dropped off, nor did Williams' mix of routes change dramatically from year to year. It was just a down season, one the Raiders will be hoping turns around with his new big contract.

Instead, it was Josh Gordon (+2.3) returning to the top of the table. It's his first time qualifying for the table since 2013, and wouldn't you know it, he also led the league that year. When he's playing, there are few receivers more explosive than Gordon; he could have had an all-time great career had he just been able to stay on the field. Gordon's toughest competition has never been opposing cornerbacks; it has been his ongoing substance abuse issues. He is currently indefinitely suspended, but has been seen working out with Tom Brady this offseason. If he is able to stay clean and get reinstated again, he will likely appear near the top of this table once again in 2019.

It was a strong year for rookies, too. Both D.J. Moore (+2.2) and Calvin Ridley (+0.7) had strong rookie seasons as first-round picks, with Anthony Miller (+0.4) and Antonio Callaway (+0.2) sneaking onto the bottom of the table as well. It's a fairly deep draft -- if you dropped the targets number to 40, you'd have Keke Coutee (+1.1) and Dante Pettis (+3.0) also ranking quite highly; both players will likely be given larger roles in 2019.

In fact, the 49ers had a pair of wide receivers with at least a +1.0 YAC+ -- Pettis and fellow rookie Richie James (+5.6, albeit on just 13 targets), with Marquise Goodwin finishing right behind them (+0.9 on 42 targets). There were 80 players who had at least a +1.0 YAC+ with at least 10 targets; the 49ers had six of them. That tied the significantly more prolific Chiefs' total; they're the only two teams with more than four. I'm sure Kyle Shanahan would be happy if he had fewer names on that list with more targets going forward.

There's a lot of repeat names on here from last year -- Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, Amari Cooper, Chris Hogan, T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate, and JuJu Smith-Schuster make return appearances in the top 20. The fact that Watkins, Cooper, and Tate appear on the list despite changing teams last season implies that this isn't just an artifact of scheme; it's a real skill that some receivers have, albeit one at least partially dependent on route selection. The top 20 YAC+ players average nearly 2 less air yards per target than the bottom 20 do, which makes the high results by deep threats like Josh Gordon, Chris Hogan, and Kenny Golladay all the more impressive. It's one thing to catch a short slant or drag and burn past the opposition; it's another entirely to get behind the entire defense on a go route.

Then again, it's not that offensive quality doesn't matter at all. Amari Cooper was at -0.2 in Oakland; that shot up to a +1.8 in Dallas. Golden Tate was sitting high at +1.3 in Detroit, crashing down to a -0.5 in Philadelphia. It should be noted that Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford had higher YAC+ numbers than Derek Carr and Carson Wentz, so it does help to be paired with a quarterback with whom you have good chemistry, and to be allowed to run routes which maximize your chances for yards after the catch. Then again, offenses really do appreciate having one of these YAC+ stars in the lineup; the Rams dropped from a +1.1 YAC+ with Cooper Kupp in the lineup to +0.0 without him; you could see how the Rams' offense lost a bit of its explosiveness with Kupp on the sidelines. With that in mind, watch the Chiefs this next season; they finished second in the league in YAC+ in 2018, but will likely have to get by without Tyreek Hill for at least part of 2019.

The first thing that jumps out of the bottom part of the table is Taylor Gabriel (-2.3) and Ryan Grant (-1.7). Both finished in the top 20 two years ago, both changed teams last offseason, and both tanked hard in 2018. Gabriel is a fairly unique receiver; you don't see many 5-foot-8, 165-pound guys in the NFL. Gabriel had 11.6 yards per target back in Atlanta's Super Bowl season but hasn't come close to sniffing that since; Matt Nagy has to get more creative with how he uses the diminutive speedster. Grant is on the move again, joining Tyrell Williams as receivers with huge YAC+ dropoffs to join Oakland this offseason. Grant's good season was with Jay Gruden in Washington and he did have health issues throughout 2018; perhaps a healthy year in a familiar scheme will get him off this list next season.

The rest of the names in the bottom 20 aren't too surprising. Stop throwing to John Ross (-1.5), Zay Jones (-1.9), and Kelvin Benjamin (-1.9); they can't catch (or, apparently, break tackles). Stop throwing screens to Jarvis Landry (-1.6); his skill set is best used elsewhere. In fact, stop throwing receiver screens entirely; Laquon Treadwell's negative YAC+ (-1.4) with an aDOT of just 6.1 yards is embarrassing. Age is finally beginning to catch up with Larry Fitzgerald (-1.7), though I'd take any poor Arizona stats with a grain of salt considering how horrible the offense as a whole was a year ago. D.J. Moore's stats are even more impressive when you see both Curtis Samuel (-1.7) and Devin Funchess (-1.9) locked in the bottom 20; Carolina's offense was very much split between a couple of players who only caught the deep ball and a couple of players who only caught short passes with plenty of YAC. Doug Baldwin's (-1.4) final season ended up in the bottom 20, showing that it's not terrible to have a bad YAC+ as long as you're making plenty of catches deep.

But speaking of Baldwin; Seattle, we need to have a talk. Last year, you had three receivers in the bottom 23 of YAC+: Baldwin, Paul Richardson, and Tyler Lockett. This year, all three of your qualified receivers hit the bottom 18: Baldwin, Lockett (-1.5), and David Moore (-1.2). Every wide receiver on Seattle with more than two targets had a negative YAC+.

Seattle remains effective when throwing the ball, finishing sixth in passing DVOA last season. The fact that they're doing it while gaining essentially no yards after the catch is impressive, in a weird, counterproductive way. It's a bizarre choice of philosophy. You might think that it's an issue of the lack of short passing, and you're not entirely wrong. Seattle did throw fewer short passes than any other team in the league, by a wide margin. But it's not only that. Their problems go beyond the short/deep dichotomy. When targeting wide receivers on passes between 0 and 15 air yards, Seattle had a -1.2 YAC+; only Buffalo, Arizona and Tennessee were worse. On deep shots that traveled more than 16 yards in the air, they improved to a -0.7 YAC+.

Maximizing YAC+ is not the same as maximizing passing efficiency (obviously, or else Seattle wouldn't rank so high in DVOA!), but it is a really, really strange decision made by Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer. They simply don't call many plays where their receivers are able to catch the ball in stride and run. They were dead last in drag routes thrown to wideouts last season with just two, and were near the bottom in slants and other traditional YAC-heavy routes. The sooner Seattle's coaches realize that running after you catch the ball is both legal and encouraged, the better for Seahawks fans' sanity.

This was the play with the most YAC+ for a receiver in 2018; a dump-off to Jamison Crowder in a December game against a Giants team that simply was not interested in playing any more.

2018 Tight Ends

A total of 46 tight ends qualified, but we are only listing the top and bottom 15 for space reasons.

2018 Tight Ends: Top 15 in YAC+ 2018 Tight Ends: Bottom 15 in YAC+
Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+ Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+
1 George Kittle SF 130 -1.3 7.4 +4.7 32 Eric Ebron IND 106 0.9 9.6 -0.4
2 Jonnu Smith TEN 29 -4.2 5.4 +3.7 33 Ian Thomas CAR 48 -2.3 6.3 -0.4
3 Evan Engram NYG 63 -4.0 5.3 +2.8 34 James O'Shaughnessy JAX 36 -3.3 6.6 -0.4
4 Vance McDonald PIT 68 -3.3 5.2 +2.3 35 Blake Jarwin DAL 36 -1.3 8.3 -0.6
5 Vernon Davis WAS 35 3.2 11.9 +1.8 36 Mike Gesicki MIA 31 0.4 8.5 -0.7
6 O.J. Howard TB 47 3.1 11.7 +1.8 37 Jordan Reed WAS 81 -2.4 6.8 -0.7
7 Ryan Griffin HOU 42 -0.5 7.8 +1.8 38 Kyle Rudolph MIN 80 -1.7 6.5 -0.7
8 Jesse James PIT 39 -0.7 7.7 +1.5 39 Greg Olsen CAR 36 0.3 8.7 -1.0
9 Mark Andrews BAL 47 2.9 11.1 +1.5 40 Trey Burton CHI 73 -0.1 8.4 -1.0
10 Tyler Higbee LAR 32 -1.0 7.0 +1.4 41 Charles Clay BUF 33 -0.9 7.7 -1.2
11 Jason Croom BUF 33 -2.1 7.7 +1.3 42 Austin Hooper ATL 88 -2.1 6.8 -1.3
12 Lance Kendricks GB 25 -2.8 5.6 +1.3 43 Zach Ertz PHI 152 -1.3 7.4 -1.4
13 Virgil Green LAC 27 -2.9 5.4 +1.2 44 Cameron Brate TB 48 -0.2 8.4 -1.9
14 Geoff Swaim DAL 30 -5.4 3.3 +1.2 45 Ben Watson NO 46 1.9 10.2 -2.0
15 Travis Kelce KC 144 0.6 9.0 +1.1 46 Ricky Seals-Jones ARI 68 0.6 10.0 -2.3

Last week, we noted that it was odd that George Kittle ranked so low in receiving plus-minus, considering the scale of his breakout season last year. Well, here's a much more expected ranking for Kittle, sitting miles ahead of everyone on top of the YAC+ leaderboards. His +4.7 YAC+ doesn't just lead tight ends; it leads the league among any receiver with at least 50 targets. It is the third-highest mark we've ever recorded for a tight end, behind only 2013 Ladarius Green (+5.2) and 2016 Rob Gronkowski (+5.0). Gronkowski and Green each had less than 40 targets while playing for the second-best offense in the league in their respective seasons, so they were helped by a wide range of other options. Kittle put up his number as the focal point of a 49ers offense which ranked 27th. Imagine what Kittle can do if the 49ers actually have professional receivers and a franchise quarterback in 2019. Some of that is Shanahan's system, of course; Garrett Celek led the league last year with a +4.2 YAC. Again, though, that was on 28 targets, not 130.

49ers fans will actually find the names on this leaderboard quite familiar, with Vance McDonald (+2.3) and Vernon Davis (+1.8) each showing up in the top five. Davis is a returnee from last year, along with the 2017 rookies, Evan Engram (+2.8) and O.J. Howard (+1.8). Engram and McDonald join Kittle as tight ends with enough targets to get on the wide receivers' leaderboard, and would be in the running for most impressive tight end with the ball in their hands in a Kittle-less world.

Jonnu Smith (+3.7) had to step up in a big way after Delanie Walker went down, and he ended up doing a decent job. Smith and Walker are entirely different types of receiving threats; Walker was near the bottom of the YAC+ leaderboards in 2017, as he's more of a possession receiver rather than a catch-and-run sort of guy. Having two tight ends with contrasting skill sets isn't a bad thing, and it will be interesting to see how the Titans use the two going forward, assuming both are healthy to start the season.

Perhaps the most interesting names atop the leaderboards are Jesse James (+1.5) and Tyler Higbee (+1.4), both of whom finished in the bottom 15 two years ago. It should be noted that both saw a significant dropoff in targets from 2017 to 2018, as Vance McDonald and Gerald Everett took over the leading tight end roles for the Steelers and Rams last year. This may indicate that being a primary target is not for them; something the Lions might learn the hard way with James coming into camp as their presumed top tight end.

Rob Gronkowski's final season was his first ever to finish with negative YAC+, at -0.3. Gronk's body finally gave out, though not after one last farewell performance in the Super Bowl to remind us all how great he was. Gronk retires with a career YAC+ of +1.8, best among all tight ends with at least 250 targets since 2006. The only other two tight ends even above +1.0 are Travis Kelce (+1.5) and Brent Celek (+1.0), so Gronk might hold this record for a long, long time. Both Kittle (+3.6) and McDonald (+2.4) have better career totals than Gronk does, but holding that kind of rate year in and year out over 700-plus targets? No, that's Gronk's territory alone.

Yet another tight end stat, yet another last-place finish for Ricky Seals-Jones (-2.3). He was actually third best as a rookie in 2017, so maybe he'll rebound in Kliff Kingsbury's offense. I wouldn't hold my breath.

Most of the rest of the bottom list are returnees from 2017 -- Cameron Brate (-1.9), Ben Watson (-2.0), Zach Ertz (-1.4), Trey Burton (-1.0), Greg Olsen (-1.0), and Jordan Reed (-0.7) all were in the bottom 15 a year ago. Some of these players are just paid for things other than moving with the ball in their hands; Ertz, Watson, and Burton were all in the top 10 in plus-minus, as were fellow terrible YAC+ers Austin Hooper (-1.3) and Kyle Rudolph (-0.7). There's value in making tough catches, even if you don't do anything with the ball afterwards. Olsen and Reed can at least point to two years of injuries to explain their low scores. Brate played through 2018 with a torn labrum, but doesn't have the same excuse for 2017, so he's probably the most disappointing name on this list.

Kittle had the play with the most YAC+ for a tight end in 2018. Denver would like to remind the rest of the NFL that covering him with someone, anyone, is probably a good idea.

2018 Running Backs

There were 50 qualified running backs, but we are just going to list 20 from the top and bottom here.

2018 Running Backs: Top 20 in YAC+ 2018 Running Backs: Bottom 20 in YAC+
Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+ Rk Player Team Passes ALEX aDOT YAC+
1 Kareem Hunt KC 35 -6.1 1.9 +6.3 31 David Johnson ARI 71 -8.6 1 +0.2
2 Melvin Gordon LAC 62 -9.5 -0.1 +3.3 32 Jordan Howard CHI 27 -8.1 0.8 +0.1
3 Adrian Peterson WAS 26 -9.3 0.3 +3.3 33 LeSean McCoy BUF 41 -10.8 -1.2 +0.1
4 Austin Ekeler LAC 49 -8.3 0.8 +2.8 34 Dion Lewis TEN 67 -10.7 -1.1 +0.1
5 Eljah McGuire NYJ 30 -5.3 4.4 +2.7 35 Joe Mixon CIN 54 -8.5 -0.1 +0.1
6 Todd Gurley LAR 75 -8.7 0.5 +2.4 36 Kerryon Johnson DET 37 -9.8 -0.6 +0.1
7 James Connor PIT 66 -10.5 -0.3 +2.3 37 Devontae Booker DEN 47 -8.0 1.6 +0.1
8 Leonard Fournette JAX 25 -10.3 -1 +2.0 38 Ezekiel Elliott DAL 92 -10.0 0.2 +0.0
9 Matt Breida SF 31 -7.0 2.2 +1.8 39 Trenton Cannon NYJ 25 -3.4 6.3 -0.1
10 Tevin Coleman Atl 41 -8.8 0.7 +1.8 40 Alfred Blue HOU 26 -6.3 2.8 -0.3
11 T.J. Yeldon JAX 70 -8.3 0.7 +1.4 41 Mike Davis SEA 41 -9.2 0.1 -0.5
12 James White NE 117 -6.1 2.5 +1.3 42 Lamar Miller HOU 33 -11.1 0.6 -0.6
13 Duke Johnson CLE 61 -5.1 2.6 +1.3 43 Latavius Murray Min 25 -8.7 1.4 -0.8
14 Alvin Kamara NO 95 -7.1 1.9 +1.3 44 Theo Riddick DET 74 -9.6 0.7 -0.8
15 Dalvin Cook MIN 48 -11.0 -1.8 +1.1 45 Giovanni Bernard CIN 42 -10.2 0 -1.0
16 Ty Montgomery GB/BAL 37 -8.3 2 +1.1 46 Ito Smith ATL 30 -8.1 -0.2 -1.1
17 Christian McCaffrey CAR 122 -8.6 0.7 +1.0 47 Chris Thompson WAS 53 -9.1 1.3 -1.2
18 Saquon Barkley NYG 117 -9.5 0.1 +1.0 48 Nyheim Hines IND 78 -7.4 2.2 -1.3
19 Nick Chubb CLE 29 -9.2 1.4 +1.0 49 Javorius Allen BAL 40 -8.1 1.4 -1.3
20 Jamaal Williams GB 36 -9.6 -0.1 +0.9 50 Peyton Barber TB 28 -9.1 1.4 -2.6

Kareem Hunt's talent is undeniable, and the Chiefs' passing offense took a hit when they released him. His +6.3 YAC+ is the highest we've ever recorded for a running back, as the combination of his skills and Kansas City's YAC-friendly offense was just far too much for opposing defenses to handle. Hunt is, of course, suspended for the first half of 2019, so he wouldn't be doing Kansas City much good even if they had kept him, but that talent with the ball in his hands is why a team like Cleveland is willing to give him another shot.

Compared to receivers and tight ends, there's very little year-to-year correlation for running backs in this stat. Fifteen of last year's top 20 do show up in the table above, but six of them are now in the bottom 20. Far fewer players come back from the bottom 20 a year ago, because if you're that bad, teams stop throwing you the ball unless your name is Javorius Allen (-1.3). That lack of general correlation make the players who do tend to show up near the top year after year all the more valuable; Tevin Coleman (+1.8) is the only running back to appear in the top 10 in each of the past three seasons, with Elijah McGuire (+2.7), Austin Ekeler (+2.8), and Leonard Fournette (+2.0) joining him in back-to-back years.

Speaking of Coleman, he's headed to San Francisco. They already have Matt Breida (+1.8). They have Jerrick McKinnon, who missed 2018 with a torn ACL but had a +1.4 YAC+ in 2017. They still have Kyle Juszczyk (+0.4) and Jeff Wilson (+1.4 on 15 targets). Kyle Shanahan has a type. If you can figure out what the 49ers are planning to do with their backfield in 2019, please let us know.

Tarik Cohen had the YAC+-leading play among running backs, as the Jets demonstrate the perfect way to cover a screen.

2018 Quarterbacks

YAC+ for quarterbacks is really more of an indicator of the type of offense the quarterback runs and the talent in it rather than his individual performance level. Here are the 2018 results for our 33 qualified quarterbacks.

2018 Quarterbacks: YAC+
Player Team Passes PASS +/- ALEX aDOT YAC YAC+ Rk
Nick Mullens SF 242 3.3 -1.5 7.2 7.0 +1.8 1
Patrick Mahomes KC 541 10.2 0.2 9.1 6.8 +1.4 2
Philip Rivers LAC 481 9.8 -1.1 8.0 6.1 +0.7 3
Ben Roethlisberger PIT 643 2.3 -0.7 7.9 6.1 +0.7 4
Blake Bortles JAX 373 -21.3 -1.3 7.3 6.1 +0.6 5
Jared Goff LAR 508 14.5 0.1 8.9 5.8 +0.6 6
Tom Brady NE 532 0.0 -0.7 8.1 5.7 +0.5 7
Ryan Fitzpatrick TB 236 7.9 1.5 10.5 5.3 +0.4 8
Aaron Rodgers GB 541 -0.7 -0.3 8.7 5.7 +0.3 9
Sam Darnold NYJ 381 -17.9 0.1 9.4 5.4 +0.2 10
Ryan Tannehill MIA 253 -1.9 -0.9 8.5 5.8 +0.2 11
Baker Mayfield CLE 459 1.9 0.5 9.5 5.5 +0.1 12
Cam Newton CAR 442 8.2 -1.5 7.3 5.4 +0.1 13
Eli Manning NYG 549 -5.5 -1.7 7.5 5.7 +0.0 14
Andy Dalton CIN 341 -10.7 -0.6 8.3 5.1 +0.0 15
Drew Brees NO 464 39.6 -1.3 7.4 5.0 +0.0 16
Dak Prescott DAL 499 4.7 -1.5 7.5 5.3 +0.0 17
Deshaun Watson HOU 475 17.5 -0.4 8.7 5.1 +0.0 18
Matt Ryan ATL 582 20.2 -0.3 8.8 5.1 -0.1 19
Matthew Stafford DET 524 -8.1 -2.1 6.9 5.5 -0.1 20
Derek Carr OAK 510 17.3 -1.7 7.0 5.2 -0.1 21
Josh Allen BUF 291 -24.3 1.0 10.7 5.6 -0.2 22
Russell Wilson SEA 385 19.6 0.1 9.4 4.9 -0.2 23
Marcus Mariota TEN 312 7.7 -1.1 7.7 5.6 -0.3 24
Carson Wentz PHI 386 10.5 -1.0 8.0 5.0 -0.3 25
Alex Smith WAS 301 -4.1 -0.6 8.5 4.8 -0.4 26
Mitchell Trubisky CHI 417 3.1 0.3 9.0 4.9 -0.4 27
Andrew Luck IND 610 0.9 -1.2 7.6 4.6 -0.5 28
Kirk Cousins MIN 555 30.0 -1.3 7.3 4.6 -0.6 29
Case Keenum DEN 540 -14.8 -1.3 7.7 4.9 -0.6 30
Joe Flacco BAL 348 -6.3 0.3 9.1 4.4 -0.6 31
Jameis Winston TB 363 2.6 1.4 10.8 3.7 -0.9 32
Josh Rosen ARI 351 -25.4 -0.8 8.6 4.5 -1.3 33

Just like we all said last year, Patrick Mahomes would have been the best quarterback in the league if it wasn't for that pesky Nick Mullens.

Mullen's +1.8 YAC+ is the second-highest on record since 2006, finishing behind Donovan McNabb's +2.2 from that year. It wasn't just Mullens, either; Jimmy Garoppolo's +1.8 on 84 attempts would have been third behind McNabb and Mullen if he had qualified, and C.J. Beathard's +1.6 on 155 attempts would have been fifth behind them and 2010 Tom Brady's +1.7 if he had qualified. All for a passing offense that ranked 23rd in the league. Yowza.

This should come as no surprise from a Shanahan/Sean McVay offense. Last year, Jared Goff led the league in YAC+, and Garoppolo would have finished second if he had qualified. The year before, it was Matt Ryan for Shanahan's Falcons leading the league. That's what this offense is designed to do, and while 2018 clearly took that philosophy to an extreme, it should come as no surprise when Rams and 49ers receivers are schemed into wide-open spaces. It's not automatic (Brian Hoyer had a -0.6 YAC+ in his one year with Shanahan), but it's pretty darn close.

I'd take the 49ers to repeat in 2019 as well. Kittle will still be there, even if matching his 2018 mark seems unlikely. Goodwin and Pettis were just 10 targets short of cracking the receiver YAC+ leaderboards; they're penciled in as the 49ers' starting receivers alongside rookie Deebo Samuel, a YAC machine from South Carolina. And then they have half a dozen running backs who all produce value with the ball in their hands. I'm not sure maximizing YAC is necessarily the path to a great offense, but the 49ers are certainly going to try to prove me wrong.

There are two names who do not appear in the above table who are still of interest. Nick Foles falls a few targets short of appearing on the leaderboards; he finished with a -0.5 YAC+. Lamar Jackson ran too much and started too late to hit the qualifying mark, he finished dead even at +0.0.

Perhaps the most interesting split on the board belongs to the Buccaneers. Ryan Fitzpatrick (+0.4) appears near the top, while Jameis Winston (-0.9) finishes in last place, non-Arizona disaster division. Both were working out of the same offense; both threw the ball deep early and often. It is not a good look, then, that Winston compared so badly to a career journeyman.

And there, at the very bottom, we see Josh Rosen. Rosen's rookie season was nothing short of a disaster, and there are very few stats where you won't find him at the very bottom. Considering Rosen's struggles and the state of the Cardinals' offensive line, I'd be very, very hesitant before judging the negative YAC+ put up by Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. Kliff Kingsbury's offense is going to be an entirely new thing, and Kyler Murray is an entirely different sort of beast. I still think there's hope for Rosen with a competent offensive line and a quality offensive coordinator. Maybe we'll find out if he ever gets out of Miami.

Comments

10 comments, Last at 25 Jun 2019, 6:59pm

2 Re: 2018 YAC+

"Hunt is, of course, suspended for the first half of 2018,..."

Should that say "Hunt is, of course, suspended for the first half of 2019,..."?

Thank you for a very good piece. As a Packers fan, I'm surprised Jamaal Williams made the list and not Aaron Jones.

5 Re: 2018 YAC+

In reply to by techvet

The Hunt situation is so unfortunate for the Chiefs & football in general; I have a hard time believing that KC doesn't win the superbowl if Hunt is on the field through the playoffs.

6 Re: 2018 YAC+

In reply to by techvet

I did chuckle a bit at the RB chart. If there's 50 qualified backs, why would you list all except the 10 in the middle?

8 Re: 2018 YAC+

In reply to by Bryan Knowles

Still, you gotta admit that top 20 and bottom 20 in a sample of 50 basically means above/below average.

Anyhow, what I'm curious about is why you say Jarvis Landry needs to be targeted less on WR screens since his ALEX was pretty high. Did he actually run many WR screens or was it just an assumption? Because I know he used to run millions of those in Miami, but I didn't watch much of the Browns last year.

9 Re: 2018 YAC+

In reply to by Noah Arkadia

Landry is a fair question, and it's a tale of two offensive coordinators for him.

Todd Haley ran plenty of screens for Landry; a little over seven percent of his routes. That's less than in Miami, but he was still on pace to be in the top 10 in receiver screens when Haley was fired. Freddie Kitchens ran almost no screens to Landry.

Landry's ALEX went from 1.7 to 4.4 after Kitchens replaced Landry, and his average depth of target went from 10.5 to 13.5. It was a bigger deal for his receiving plus-minus than his YAC+; that went from -8.6 to +0.7. So perhaps, that comment would have been more apropos in last weeks' article rather than this one, but the point stands -- stop throwing screens, or any short passes really, to Jarvis Landry.

10 Re: 2018 YAC+

In reply to by Bryan Knowles

Wow, that's a big difference. I'm happy that the guy's finally found an OC who deosn't see him as a glorified RB.