Monday, June 23, 2008

How good is your team's top receiver?

When I wrote my post last week about Bernard Berrian's expectations, I found that the Vikings haven't had a single receiver top the 700-yard mark (much less the 1,000-yard mark) for three straight seasons. Clearly, lack of production from the team's #1 wideout contributed to the Berrian signing, but it got me to thinking: Were the Vikings the team most in need of a true #1 receiver this offseason? Or was there another team that needed that deep threat more?

My method of figuring this out was simple. I took each team's top receiver and divided his yardage total by his team's total passing yards, discounting sacks to determine the percentage of his team's yards each "top" receiver accumulated. The smaller that percentage, the "worse" that team's #1 receiver. Thus, a receiver who caught 1,200 yards worth team that threw for 3,600 yards would have accounted for 33.3% of his team's passing yards. That would have made him a "better" #1 receiver than a player who caught 1,400 yards for a team that threw for 4,500 (31.1%) but "worse" than a 1,000-yard receiver on a team that threw for 2,500 (40%). After all, it should be harder to have a 1,000-yard season on a crappy team than it is to get 1,500 yards on a good passing team, right?

Here are the results for 2007:

NY Jets3330Cotchery113033.9%
St. Louis3561Holt118933.4%
Kansas City3525Gonzalez117233.2%
San Diego3175Gates98431.0%
New England4859Moss149330.7%
NY Giants3376Burress102530.4%
Tampa Bay3579Galloway101428.3%
New Orleans4423Colston120227.2%
Green Bay4461Driver104823.5%
San Francisco2685Battle60022.3%

Looks like Minnesota wasn't the worst at getting top production from its top receiver. Houston, Jacksonville, and Miami did worse, though two of those teams have excuses. Houston can at least point to the injury to Andre Johnson that kept him out for nearly half the season. His 94.6 average yards per game actually led the league last year, though he only suited up for nine games. Miami, meanwhile, traded Chris Chambers after six games; he had accumulated 415 yards up until that game and added 555 in San Diego, finishing with 970. If he'd gained all that yardage with Miami, he would have accounted for 29.2% of the team's production in the passing game, and even with lesser success, it's likely he would have kept the team out of the bottom spot. Meanwhile, espite David Garrard's breakthrough year, Jacksonville is probably the only team in the league consistently referred to as having worse wide receivers than Minnesota. Hey, good luck with Troy Williamson and 30-year-old Jerry Porter, guys!

It's both a little surprising and unsurprising to see Indianapolis at the top of this list. On the one hand, as much as the team is known for passing, you'd think there'd be enough yards to go around. Then again, Peyton Manning has been known to throw a lot (to the tune of 143 catches for Marvin Harrison in 2002) to his favorite receiver Reggie Wayne led the team this year, but from 1999 to 2006, Manning threw for 33,847 yards while Harrison caught 11,219, the vast majority of them coming from the arm of Manning. That would make for a 33.1% rate for virtually their entire career together, which would put them at #11 on this list. Wow.

In reality, this chart is just a fun way of looking at how much each team got out of its "top" receiver. For Berrian to manage 1,160 yards, as WhatIfSports thinks, though, Vikings passers would have to manage just over 3,200 yards in the air to get to Indy's 36.1% rate from last year -- possible, but unlikely. With the running game as good as it is and the potential emergence of Sidney Rice, Berrian probably won't put up those kind of numbers, but he should be good enough to get us out of the bottom five.

No comments: