NFL Top Wide Receivers 2018 – Part 2 NFC

Today I continue the second part of the top wide receivers heading into the 2018 preseason and the teams they are on. We now cover the NFC as the AFC was covered in the prior post. From the 274 veteran wide receivers currently on rosters I selected 16% as the cutoff line for the top wide receivers. That comes to 44 receivers. I have slightly modified my selections since the AFC post and will go back and update that. Currently I have 20 receivers selected as top receivers in the NFC.

With the tables below I highlight the top receivers in yellow and the rookies in green.  Rookies were not considered in this exercise.  Although I do note some rookies that I find as interesting prospects but they are not considered in the top receivers. You can click on the table to open it into a larger display for better visibility. At the bottom of each team table I have a count of the number of non-rookie players and an average of the age column.

For my selections I looked at performance metrics for over the last three seasons combined. I felt on one year is not a good enough sample size but three should give a good sample of relatively recent performance. For first and second year players I used what was there. Those players were not penalized for being new and their data was compared to the three year average for the older players.

Here are the performance metrics used and a baseline for each that was considered the line between average and good performance.

  • yards after catch (YAC) per reception (4.6 yards)
  • 100+ games per total games (16%)
  • 1st downs per receptions (63%)
  • receptions per targets (63%)
  • yards per targets (8.32 yards)
  • games per touchdowns (3.1 games per 1 touchdown or less)
  • yards per receptions (13.3 yards)
  • drops and fumbles per targets (4% or less)
  • yards per game (60 yards)
  • big plays(25+ yards) per receptions (12%)

The baseline was used to calculate how close each player’s three year average was to the baseline. I used a per game or reception/target qualifier on most to better compare players without rewarding players that had more opportunities. I did penalize players that did not meet some minimum receptions numbers and also others that were heavily weighted to a good 2015 performance but did poorly since.  The latter caused me to remove Brandon Marshall from consideration. Though his numbers were good for the three year average he had done poorly in the last two.

Here are the results for the NFC.

NFC East

NFC East Wide Receivers
NFC East Wide Receivers

Allen Hurns, now with the Cowboys, was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the fourth most efficient receiver in 2017 in getting first downs with 50% of his targets getting a first down.  Over the last three seasons his 1st down to receptions ratio was above 65% each season with two seasons being above 70%. Hurn’s 2015 season was outstanding excelling in 9 of 11 receiving metrics including a 1.5 game to touchdown ratio. Over 3 seasons and 274 veterans currently on rosters only a total of 21 player seasons accomplished a 1.5 ratio or better.

While Odell Beckham, of the Giants, does not have the most receiving touchdowns over the last three seasons, he does have the top games to touchdowns ratio among players currently on NFL rosters. Beckham has scored a touchdown on average every 1.35 games.

Alshon Jeffery, of the Eagles, is adept at picking up first downs. His 1st down to reception ratio over the last three seasons is 78.5%. Among wide receivers currently on rosters that is the third best. He was above 77% each of those three seasons.

Jamison Crowder, of the Redskins, had the 14th best catch percentage (68.6%) over the last three seasons. Crowder is one of only 13 wide receivers currently on NFL rosters that over the last three seasons have a yards after the catch of 5.68 or more with a minimum of 50 receptions.

The Cowboys selected Michael Gallup in the 2018 NFL draft. Gallup posted a 39% market share of his team’s receiving yards to passing yards in one of his college seasons. Gallup ranked fifth in receiving yards in his college senior year with 1,413. He was a combine top performer among wide receivers in the vertical jump (9th), broad jump (11th) and 60 yard shuttle (12th).

The Redskins selected Mr Irrelevant with the last pick of the draft – Trey Quinn. Quinn was ranked  11th in receiving yards in his 2017 college season. He had posted a 32% market share of his team’s receiving yards one of his college seasons. Quinn was ranked fourth in receiving touchdowns in 2017 in college with 13. Trey posted a 74% catch rate and a 56% success rate in a season in college.

NFC North

NFC North Wide Receivers
NFC North Wide Receivers

Allen Robinson, now of da Bears, is looking to bounce back from injury in 2018. Robinson had a monster year in 2015 in which over 23% of his receptions went for big plays (25+ yards), he scored a touchdown every 1.14 games, and he had six 100+ yard receiving games. Over the past three seasons for players currently on rosters only seven had a season with a big play to receptions ratio of better than 23% for minimum 32 receptions. None had more receptions on those big play seasons than Robinson’s 80. The next closest was Brandin Cooks with 65 receptions for his season.

Technically, over the past three seasons no other receiver has had more targets and a higher catch rate than Golden Tate of the Lions. I say technically because Larry Fitzgerald has had significantly more targets but his catch rate is a fraction lower. Doug Baldwin is also in that group with less targets than Tate but a tenths of a better catch rate. Of the forty-four receivers I selected as the top receivers, Tate has the fourth best YAC/Reception ratio at 6.67 yards.

Marvin Jones, of the Lions, excels in getting the big play. Of wide receivers currently on rosters only two had more big plays (25+ yards) than Jones in 2017. Jones was tied with three other receivers at 15 big plays. Over the past three seasons his combined big play total of 33 is topped by only seven wide receivers currently on rosters.

Kenny Golladay, of the Lions, was off to a good start his rookie season.  Golladay’s big plays (25+ yards) per reception of 25% is ranked third among wide receivers currently on rosters with minimum 10 receptions in 2017.  He is sure handed having zero drops and zero fumbles. His 17 yards per reception ranked 7th in the NFL for wide receivers with minimum 10 receptions. His 9.94 yards per target ranked 13th among wide receivers with minimum 10 targets. Among the 274 veteran wide receivers currently on rosters of those with minimum 10 receptions in 2017, only 12 had a better YAC per reception than Golladay’s 6.39 yards. Golladay needs to improve his catch rate (58%) and get more targets (48) in 2018. (YAC is yards after the catch.)

Davante Adams, of the Packers, has the seventh best games to touchdown ratio at 1.84 of all wide receivers currently on rosters for the last three seasons. Combined touchdowns for only the last two seasons Adams led the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 22.  Adams had a YAC per reception over 4.6 yards for each of the last three seasons. He was one of only 15 receivers currently on rosters to accomplish that.

Adam Thielen, of the Vikings ,had the 15th best catch percentage (68.3%) over the last three seasons. Thielen was one of only five wide receivers currently on NFL rosters that had 3 or more 100+ yard games in each of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Adam was one of only 20 wide receivers currently on NFL rosters that had at least 12% of their receptions go for big plays (25+ yards) for each of the last two seasons. Over the last two season Thielen’s yards per target of 9.59 was ranked sixth among wide receivers with a minimum 50 targets. Thielen is one of thirty wide receivers currently on NFL rosters that had 63% or more of their receptions go for a first down for each of the last two seasons for receivers with a minimum 11 receptions per year.

Stefon Diggs, of the Vikings, is a sure handed receiver. He is one of four wide receivers currently on rosters that had a 1% or better fumble rate, a drop rate of 1.73% or better and a catch rate of 65% or better over the last three seasons for receivers with a minimum of 20 receptions. The Vikings had the highest team contested catch rate in 2017 and it was led by Diggs with his 64% contested catch rate.

The Vikings picked up Korey Robertson as an undrafted free agent following the 2018 NFL draft. Robertson posted a 36% team market share in receiving yards one of his college seasons. In his last college season Robertson was ranked 17th in receiving yards (1,106 yards), 8th in receiving touchdowns (12), and posted a very respectable 9.5 yards per target , a 65% catch rate and and a 52.5% success rate.

NFC South

NFC South Wide Receivers
NFC South Wide Receivers

Julio Jones, of the Falcons, is one of three players in my top forty-four that have averaged in the 40 percentile for 100+ yard games over the last three seasons. Two of those three seasons he broke 100+ in half or more of his games. The other two are Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham (discounting his injured 2017  season). Over the past three seasons Julio’s yards per target average of 9.84 is ranked third among wide receivers with a minimum 30 targets. He was topped only by two rookies that did it only for one year -JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kenny Golladay. over the past three seasons Jones has the second highest receiving yards per game among wide receivers with 102.7.

For each of Ted Ginn‘s last three seasons both his ratios of big plays to receptions and his yards to receptions were above the average baseline in each season. Of the veterans on rosters only 15 players accomplished that feat. Ginn’s yards/receptions average of 15.09 yards was 16th in the league over that time-frame. Ginn is a fast receiver and clocked a 4.38 forty at his pro-day.

Over the last two seasons no wide receiver has a better combined catch percentage (72.6%) with more targets (270) than Michael Thomas, of the Saints. For combined rookie and second year since 2000 Michael Thomas is ranked 1st in receptions (196), 4th in receiving yards (2,382) and 7th in yards per game (76.8).

Over the last three seasons combined no wide receiver currently on an NFL roster with a minimum of 10 receptions had a better first down percentage (82.6%) than Mike Evans of the Buccaneers. Over the last three seasons Evan’s 76.7 receiving yards per game ranked seventh.

Over the past three seasons DeSean Jackson, of the Buccaneers, has had 136 receptions with a 1.26% drop percentage and 0% fumbles. Of the wide receivers currently on NFL rosters only Pierre Garcon had better numbers related to receptions and drops/fumbles. Over the past three seasons Jackson’s 16.2 yards per reception ranked seventh among wide receivers with a minimum of 50 receptions.

Over the last three seasons of wide receivers currently on an NFL roster, Chris Godwin’s 1st down conversion percentage of 79.4% ranks second for receivers with a minimum 10 receptions. In 2017 Godwin’s 9.55 yards per target ranked 10th among wide receivers with a minimum 25 targets. In 2017 among wide receivers currently on NFL rosters only three receivers had zero drops and zero fumbles like Godwin but with more receptions than Godwin’s 34 receptions. Godwin’s 15.44 yards per reception ranked 12th in the NFL last season for wide receivers with a minimum 30 receptions.

The Saints picked Tre’Quan Smith in the 2018 NFL draft. Smith posted a 31% team market share of receiving yards one of his college seasons. In his last year in college Smith ranked 4th in receiving touchdowns(13), 12th in receiving yards (1,171 yards) and 15th in yards per reception (19.85). He had good numbers in yards per target (13.6 yards), catch rate (68.6%) and success rate (60.5%).

NFC West

NFC West Wide Receivers
NFC West Wide Receivers

Over the past three seasons no wide receiver has had more targets (456) with a higher catch percentage (71.3%) than Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals. For wide receivers currently on NFL rosters with over 120 targets in that time-frame only Pierre Garcon had a better drop percentage than Fitzgerald ‘s 1.1%.

In 2017 Brandin Cooks, of the Rams, was tied for third among wide receivers currently on rosters for number of big plays (25+ yards) with 15. He is one of only four wide receivers on rosters that have over 40 big plays over the past three seasons. The others being Antonio Brown, T.Y. Hilton and Julio Jones. Over the past three seasons Brandin’s 70.7 yards per game ranks eleventh among all active receivers.

Over the past three seasons, Cooper Kupp, of the Rams, has the tenth best YAC per reception ratio (5.92) among wide receivers on rosters with minimum 50 receptions. Cooper Kupp’s catch percentage of 66% ranks 15th for active wide receiver rookies over the last five seasons (minimum 25 targets), his 9.24 yards per target at 14th and his 5 touchdowns as 16th.

Doug Baldwin, of the Seahawks, over the past three seasons has the highest catch percentage (71.8%) for wide receivers with over 300 targets. Over that time-frame Baldwin scored a touchdown on average once every 1.66 games. This is the fifth best Touchdown ratio for players currently on NFL rosters. Of the eleven categories evaluated, Baldwin’s average excelled in nine. In six of those nine he excelled for each of the last three seasons.

Following the 2018 NFL draft the 49ers signed undrafted free agent Steven Dunbar. Dunbar posted a 30.7% team receiving yards market share one of his college seasons. His senior year in college he broke 1,000 yards receiving and posted respectable numbers for yards/catch (14.1), yards/target (9.6) and catch rate (67.9%).

Data Backup

I have included the data sheet I used in evaluation for those that may be interested. One sheet has the player’s score summaries. The top 44 players are highlighted by yellow in column A. The other sheet has three seasons of data on the players followed by columns of calculations for evaluation criteria (See part II of the post for list of criteria).  Cells exceeding the criteria baseline are highlighted in yellow. Each player has a line for the season denoted by year. This is followed by a line for the three season average. The average line is followed by a line denoted by an S in column A. That “S” line is a score summary line computing how far the player’s average is from the baseline by a percentage calculation. The S line is summed and those are the totals on the summary sheet.

The calculation was tweaked to combine data on fumbles and drops into one category. This was because using them separate distorting the results to overly favor “sure-handedness”.

Using the data I avoid putting to much emphasis on the results. Specifically the scores. The exercise was to help systematically come up with a top 16% of current receivers. It is more for a verification with data of what is generally reported on the player’s skills. I would not use the scores as a “ranking” of those top receivers. Although it was useful to tweak the calculation to arrive at a list that looks reasonably accurate.

Three year receiver performance data

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