- We begin with each player’s number of receiving yards. Then, we add 20 yards for every touchdown catch, and 9 yards (here’s why) for every first down gained (other than first downs that resulted in touchdowns). For Brown, this gives him exactly 1,900 Adjusted Catch Yards, as he has totaled 1,310 receiving yards, 57 first downs (including touchdowns), and 7 touchdowns this season.
- Next, we divide that number by the number of team pass attempts, excluding sacks,1 by that player’s offense in the games he played. Now Brown hasn’t missed a game this season, so it’s pretty simple: Pittsburgh has thrown 426 passes so far in 2015, which means Brown is averaging 4.46 ACY/TmAtt. By comparison, Julio Jones — who leads all players in Adjusted Catch Yards with 2,016 (1,338 receiving yards, 68 (!) first downs, 6 touchdowns) — is averaging “only” 4.21 ACY/TmAtt, because the Falcons have thrown 479 passes. Think of it this way: Jones has essentially played in one more, super high-volume passing game than Brown, yet has “only” 116 more Adjusted Catch Yards than him (and Brown is averaging 158 ACY/G). As a result, after adjusting for pass attempts, Brown is number one in this metric.
- One player who really stands out by looking at Adjusted Catch Yards per Attempt but excluding games that player missed is Alshon Jeffery. The Bears wide receiver has had a somewhat quiet season: after all, he’s scored just two touchdowns and has missed five games. But the Bears have been pretty run-heavy this year, and Jeffery has been a first down machine. He has 47 catches for 690 yards and 37 first downs, good enough for 1,045 Adjusted Catch Yards in seven games. Chicago has thrown only 236 pass attempts in those games, giving Jeffery a remarkable 4.43 ACY/TmAtt average this year. Thought of another (perhaps simpler) way, Jeffery ranks 3rd in the NFL in receiving yards per game. In fact, the Bears have totaled just 49% of the pass attempts in Jeffery games as the Falcons have in Jones games, while Jeffery has 52% as many ACY. As a result, he slides past Jones into the number two slot.
The table below shows the leaders in ACY/TmAtt, among the 60 players with the most Adjusted Catch Yards this year. Note that this was created prior to the Monday Night Football game in week 13 between Washington and Dallas, but otherwise includes all week 13 results.
- What a difference a year makes! Last year, the Houston Texans had the 3rd fewest pass attempts in the NFL, which depressed the raw stats of receivers like DeAndre Hopkins. This year, the Texans have the third most attempts, which has helped Hopkins have a “breakout” year. I put that term in quotes, because Hopkins ranked 7th in this metric last year, and 6th this season. Score one for using ACY/TmAtt to measure receivers, as it helps isolate wild swings in team tendencies.
- Who is the best wide receiver in New York? Well, the eye test certainly says Odell Beckham, but the stats say this one is a toss up. Brandon Marshall has the same number of touchdowns and four more first downs than Beckham, although the Giants star has about 100 more yards. Of course, the Jets are slightly less pass-happy: as a result, Marshall inches just ahead of Beckham in ACY/TmAtt.
- Among tight ends, Greg Olsen is first with an impressive 3.7 ACY/TmAtt average. And Delanie Walker is actually ahead of Rob Gronkowski, too. While Gronk’s touchdown numbers are always impressive, he has “only” 40 first downs this year, and that’s despite being on the pass-happy Patriots. Olsen has produced 43 first downs on a team that passes significantly less often. Gronk is still the best tight end in the league, of course, but Olsen may be the most valuable, at least in 2015.
- Doug Baldwin ranks 24th in receiving yards, but that drops to 33rd on a per-game basis. But he’s playing on the Seahawks, the least pass-happy team in the NFL (again). He ranks a very respectable 17th in ACY/TmAtt: he’s not a star, but he’s proven to be more than capable as a top wide receiver on a run-happy team.
- The same goes for Jeremy Maclin, who has some “unimpressive” raw numbers this year. But after adjusting for attempts (and his one missed game), Maclin ranks 12th in ACY/TmAtt.
- On the other side, T.Y. Hilton had good numbers last year that looked great because the Colts were so pass-happy. Indianapolis has been less pass-happy (and less- a lot of things this year, to be fair), and Hilton’s numbers have dropped significantly.
What stands out to you?
- Why am I excluding sacks? Just to save time. In the offseason, I will re-run these numbers and include sack data. [↩]