During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West and the NFC West. Today, the AFC South, beginning with a straightforward case in Tennessee.
Can Kenny Britt become the next great wide receiver?, July 9, 2013
Britt smoked the Eagles secondary.
Spoiler alert: Kenny Britt did not become the next great wide receiver, at least in 2013 (apparently, I still can’t quit him). Britt is an easy player to fall in love with, if you ignored the warning signs. He was just 20 years old when he played in his first NFL game in 2009. In 2010, he led all players in yards per route run according to Pro Football Focus, but his raw numbers underhwlemed because the Titans were a run-heavy team and Britt missed 30% of the season with a hamstring injury. In 2011, he matched his elite YPRR production, but a torn ACL/MCL tear ended his season after 94 pass routes.
He struggled in 2012, but I was willing to write that off due to recovering from the ugly knee injury, additional hamstring and ankle injuries, and a first-year starter in Jake Locker. That set up 2013 as a season where I thought Britt had great breakout potential. I interviewed Thomas Gower, of Total Titans and Football Outsiders, and asked him his thoughts. Gower was more pessimistic than I was about Britt, and for good reason.
As it turned out, Britt never seemed quite right mentally (in more ways than one); he struggled with drops and was eventually dropped behind Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright on the depth chart. He finished the year with 11 catches for only 96 yards and no touchdowns. In late December, Britt said he would definitely be a #1 wide receiver somewhere in 2014, which means I’m susceptible to falling into the Britt trap again. [click to continue…]
Last week, I wrote about how the 2012 Redskins were powered by a pair of rookies in Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. The only team whose rookies had more passing/rushing/receiving yards in NFL history was the 2012 Colts, while the only non-expansion team with a higher percentage of yards from rookies was the ’55 Colts.
In the comments, Shattenjager pointed out that the list I presented was pretty quarterback-heavy. So I thought a fun thing to do would be to use PFR’s Approximate Value (AV) system instead of yards, and re-run the numbers.
The table below shows all non-expansion teams since 1950 that had at least 25% of their AV come from rookies. For each team, I’ve listed their record and winning percentage, total team AV, their rookie AV, and the percentage compiled by rookies. Then I listed their top four rookies in terms of AV.
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Five years ago, Doug wrote an interesting post about game-winning touchdowns. Let’s be clear: tracking things like game-winning touchdowns is only interesting in a trivial sort way, but hey, it’s April.
Football doesn’t have a statistic like “game-winning RBIs” the way baseball does, although my friend Scott Kacsmar has been doing a great job tracking 4th quarter comebacks and game-winning drives for quarterbacks. I was wondering which players have scored the most game-winning touchdowns in the 4th quarter or overtime, and fortunately I have the data to answer that pretty easily. I looked at all games, regular and postseason, in all leagues, from 1940 to 2012, and counted all touchdowns scored that put the player’s team ahead for good (with one exception: I did not count touchdowns scored when down by 7 and the team successfully went for two afterwards).
The table below lists all players with at least five such touchdowns and the teams for which they scored those touchdowns.
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I’ve noted a few times this year that Calvin Johnson, in his pursuit of Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record, has quite an advantage on his side. The Lions have attempted more passes through 13 games of any team ever, and seem likely to break the pass attempts record.
Obviously it’s easier to gain more receiving yards when your team is throwing the ball nearly every play. That’s why when I came up with my Greatest WR Ever series, I looked at receiver performance per pass attempt.
I don’t have time for a nuanced analysis of wide receiver, but let’s just look at a simple statistic: receiving yards per team pass attempt. That’s what the table below shows, along with each player’s rank in receiving yards (the far left column). Brandon Marshall has 1,342 receiving yards while the Bears have only attempted 444 passes this year (including sacks). That means he’s averaging more than three yards per team pass attempt, which is incredible. Of course, it also speaks to the lack of other weapons in Chicago.
Let’s start with some trivia before moving to today’s post:
- Only two quarterback-receiver pairs have ever topped the 10,000 yard mark. Can you name them?
- Only two receivers (minimum: 7,000 yards) gained at least 93% of their career receiving yards from one quarterback. Do you know who they are?
- Two of the men in the top ten in career receiving yards can credit the same quarterback account for more of their yards than any other passer. Can you name that quarterback?
- Can you name the receiver who gained over 10,000 yards in his career, but the quarterback from whom he gained the most yards was… Quincy Carter?
- Among the top twenty-five leaders in career receiving yards, can you guess which player was the only one to fail to catch at least 20% of his yards from a single quarterback?
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On Tuesday, I looked at running back records and argued that Steven Jackson had taken the mantle from Ollie Matson as the most prominent elite running back to have toiled for losing teams for the majority of his career. It’s easy to feel bad for a player like Jackson, relegated to consistent attack as the focal point of opposing defenses for a decade, continuously grinding out yardage while playing for bad teams.
Things are a little different for wide receivers. In fact, it’s often easier for wide receivers to produce better stats while playing for bad teams, since trailing teams are forced to throw later in games. Further, wide receivers don’t face the constant pounding that running backs encounter, making them slightly less sympathetic figures. Still, it’s an interesting question, and one that’s easy enough to answer. Which wide receivers have played for the best and worst teams? Any guesses? The results, after the jump.
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