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Analyzing the leaders in targets in 2013

Comparing wide receivers across teams is tricky. Pierre Garcon led the NFL in targets,1 but that’s partially because Washington didn’t have much help at wide receiver.2 Vincent Jackson was 2nd in percentage of team targets (we’ll get to who was first in a few minutes) for a similar reason: Jackson is a very good receiver, but Tampa Bay had limited weapons in 2014.3 At least in theory, the high target numbers for Garcon and Jackson should be considered in light of the fact that both teams had below-average passing offenses.

The flip side of that coin is a player like Demaryius Thomas. In 2012, while “competing” with another very good receiver in Eric Decker, Thomas saw 24.2% of Denver targets.  Last year, with the addition of Wes Welker and a breakout season from Julius Thomas, Thomas saw just 21.2% of Broncos targets. But the team’s passing game was better, so arguably Thomas should receive a “bump” in his target percentage because he played for a great offense.

That’s just in theory. The unspoken elephant in the analysis is the quarterback. It’s not just a player’s supporting cast of weapons that determines whether his team has a good or bad passing attack: Thomas obviously benefited greatly from playing with Peyton Manning, too. Regular readers may recall that last year, for each team’s leader in targets, I compared their target percentage (defined as targets divided by all team targets) to their team’s passing efficiency (defined by Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt). I thought it would be fun to perform the analysis again, even if it may make more sense in theory than in practice. Take a look: the Y-axis shows percentage of team targets, and the X-axis respects Team ANY/A. In theory, the best WR1s should be up and to the right, with the worst WR1s (or tight ends masquerading as WR1s) in the bottom left corner of the chart.

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  1. All target data comes courtesy of Footballguys.com. []
  2. And in the offseason, Washington signed DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts []
  3. And in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Bucs added Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans and Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. []

With Anquan Boldin being traded to San Francisco, he’ll have the rare opportunity to win the Super Bowl in consecutive years with different teams. Here’s another bit of trivia: if Boldin makes it back to the Super Bowl, he’ll become just the 11th player to ever make Super Bowls with three different teams. (man, the Anquan Boldin tag at Football Perspective has gotten way more use than I ever expected).

Rod Woodson1995-pit2000-rav2002-rai
Bill Romanowskisfo-1988; 1989den-1997; 19982002-rai
Matt Millenrai-1980; 19831989-sfo1991-was
Ricky Proehlram-1999; 20012003-car2006-clt
Preston Pearson1968-clt1974-pitdal-1975; 1977; 1978
Harry Swayne1994-sdgden-1997; 19982000-rav
Clark Haggans2005-pit2008-crd2012-sfo
John Parrella1993-buf1994-sdg2002-rai
Joe Jurevicius2000-nyg2002-tam2005-sea
Jeff Rutledge1979-ram1986-nyg1991-was

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Even the mighty Lions couldn't stop Quan.

Yes, that's a picture of the Lions in a Super Bowl post.

Anquan Boldin is back in the Super Bowl. Four years ago, Boldin and the Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. That season, Boldin was one of the game’s best wide receivers, catching 89 passes for 1,038 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in just 12 games. His production was slightly less impressive in 2012 — 65/921/4 in 15 games — but he was still a valuable member of the Ravens offense.

He signed with Baltimore in the 2010 offseason, and after a few heartbreaking post-seasons, Boldin and the Ravens are back in the Super Bowl. Since he was one of the team’s starting receivers this year, that makes him the 7th wide receiver to start for two different teams that reached a Super Bowl.

How many of the first six can you name (either with or without any hints)? For each receiver, the one hint shows the two Super Bowl franchises. Let us know how you did in the comments: as always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.

Trivia hint for WR1 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR1 Show

Trivia hint for WR2 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR2 Show

Trivia hint for WR3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR3 Show

Trivia hint for WR4 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR4 Show

Trivia hint for WR5 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR5 Show

Trivia hint for WR6 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer for WR6 Show


Nine years ago today, Anquan Boldin dominated Week 1

Even the mighty Lions couldn't stop Quan.

Nine years ago today, Anquan Boldin became a household name in his very first game. Boldin gained 217 receiving yards, the most in week 1 of an NFL season since Frank Clarke in 1962 and the most by any player in his first game.

It was as amazing was it was unexpected. Boldin was a second-round pick who had an solid college career but one tarnished by an ACL tear that caused him to miss his junior season and struggle at the Combine. He wasn’t even the highest wide receiver drafted by the Cardinals, who selected Bryant Johnson in round 1 despite the fact that he never won a college football game. No one had high expectations for the Arizona offense, with Jeff Blake at quarterback and Dave McGinnis as head coach; the Cardinals would ultimately end up last in the NFL in points scored. As an unheralded rookie on a bad team, Boldin wasn’t one of the top sixty wide receivers drafted in fantasy leagues, and probably wasn’t even among the top 100. That makes his production even more incredible.

The table below lists the best fantasy performances by wide receivers in week 1 of the NFL since 2000, with 1 point per reception, 0.1 points per receiving yards, and 6 points per touchdown. The “Exp” column shows the experience level of the receiver; the last column shows the player’s Average Draft Position among wide receivers, if in the top sixty.
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