Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jeremy’s Spoken: Catch Me If You Can

The last two weeks we looked at targets to try and find some hidden gems among wide receivers and tight ends. Today, we’ll look at the target’s cousin—catch rate. Simply, a receiver’s catch rate (or CR) is the number of catches as a percentage of targets. Combined with targets data, we can get a good idea of how productive a receiver is.

According to Pro Football Prospectus, a study of catch rate shows that receivers have a definite impact on incomplete passes. This logic differs from conventional wisdom whereby the quarterback shoulders most of the blame for an incomplete pass. In general, receivers that run longer routes will have a lower catch rate. The league average is approximately 60%

Now on to the data. The number following the player’s name is their current catch rate for 2007. The numbers in parentheses represent the player’s catch rate from the past two years.

Catching On – Wide Receivers with a High Catch Rate

  • Randy Moss - 81% (43%, 48%): This guy is simply incredible. Look at the difference in CR between the last two years and 2007. Apparently having an accurate quarterback can make a world of difference. The 81% catch rate is 2nd best in the league among those with 20 or more targets. To catch 81% of passes thrown his way and average more than 16 yards a catch is amazing. If he doesn’t continue his dominance and finish 2007 as the best fantasy wide receiver, I will be shocked.
  • Wes Welker - 75% (67%, 56%): Hmm, I wonder what he has in common with Moss that results in his #4 ranking in catch rate. The 67% CR from 2006 means that he should keep up his current pace as long as Brady keeps looking his way (7 targets per game to date). His 9.7 YPC average is more in line with what one would expect from a player with such a high CR.
  • Antwaan Randle El - 72% (51%, 50%): Although his 2007 CR looks like an aberration, he cought 68% of the passes thrown his way in 2004. Jason Campbell’s accuracy has only been average in his brief career. Combined with an 18.8 YPC average and the likely return of Santana Moss to the lineup, it’s likely that Randle El’s production will drop-off in the coming weeks.
  • Bobby Engram – 68% (67%, 69%): Talk about Mr. Consistency. He’s already being targeted more than 5 times per game and now he becomes a starter with Deion Branch on the sidelines. Expect his next few weeks to be very productive.
  • Michael Jenkins – 67% and Roddy White – 66% (47%, 51% and 47%, 43%, respectively): Both of these receivers have been criticized early in their careers for having a severe case of the dropsies. The early results this year, however, show that they both may have turned the corner. Joey Harrington has completed 67% of his passes (a big jump from his past seasons) which may mean Bobby Petrino’s offense deserves a large part of the credit. White in particular may finally be realizing his potential after glowing off-season and training camp reports of his improved concentration and confidence. The fact that he is averaging 17 YPC along with his CR is astounding. The only thing holding these guys back is their offensive line and quarterback.

Catch My Disease – Wide Receivers with a Low Catch Rate

  • Drew Bennett – 33% (47%, 53%): Ugh. He has caught just 8 of 24 balls thrown his way. Stepping in as a starter last week (for the injured Isaac Bruce) didn’t help as he caught just 2 passes (although 1 was a TD). With injuries to his QB and the offensive line and a history of low CR, one would be wise to stay away.
  • Reggie Brown – 36% (50%, 51%): So much for the anticipated 3rd year breakout. Brown has caught only 8 of 22 passes targeted for him. Donovan McNabb has never been an accurate passer so temper your expectations.
  • Terrell Owens – 45% (56%, 51%): It’s no surprise that T.O. is on this list, given his history of drops. He makes up for his stone hands with a whopping 18.5 YPC average and loads of touchdowns. However, the fact that he is on the bottom of this list while Randy Moss is at the top should end any discussion of the two of them being in the same class of receiver.
  • Chris Chambers – 52% (39%, 49%): His 52% CR is the highest of his career which says quite a bit about how overrated Chambers has been throughout his career. With Trent Green out for the year, expect Chambers’ already low catch rate to decline even further. Yes, he is targeted often (48 times through 5 games) and can make the ESPN highlight reel on occasion, but it’s time to dump Chambers once and for all.
  • Lee Evans – 39% (60%, 53%): So far, Evans has been one of the biggest disappointments of 2007. Yet he managed to catch 60% of the passes thrown his way last year with J.P. Losman at the helm. With an improving running game and Losman due back soon, expect Evans to pick up his game. Stick with him if you own him or target him in a trade if you can acquire him at a discount. Likely to rebound.
Jeremy Mittler, M.B.A., is a Strategy and Statistical Expert at His column, Jeremy's Spoken, appears on Thursdays at SportsJudge Blog.

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