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Some quick but interesting data dumps today. First, let’s take a look at receiving yards by wide receivers as a percentage of league-wide receiving yards in each year since 2002. In the early part of that era, wide receivers had about 2/3 of all receiving yards, but that number dipped to just 62% this year, the lowest during this period.

wr 2002 2015

Running Backs

Running backs did take up a larger slice of the pie this year — for the third consecutive year — but in general, running backs are *also* taking up a smaller percentage of the receiving pie than they were back in ’02.
rb 2002 2015

Tight Ends

That, of course, leaves only one position left to make up the difference.  And while 2015 was not necessarily a banner year for tight ends, you can see the pretty clear general trend:

te 2002 2015

To the naked eye, these changes may not be huge, but even small percentage shifts in league-wide data are usually pretty significant given the sample sizes.  And while it may not jump out at you at first glance, even looking at a stacked graph of all three positions does make it clear that tight ends are taking on bigger pieces of the pie:

rb wr te

What do you think is causing this?  And what direction do you think things are headed?

  • Izach

    Probably nothing more than scheme shifts towards TEs would be interesting in seeing multiple teams over time or even just one teams chart by year

  • sacramento gold miners

    I would guess a combination of defensive schemes with more emphasis on pressure up the middle, along with the quick passes, tend to favor the tight end position. The proximity to the QB also plays a role.

  • AgronomyBrad

    Also, TEs lining up in the slot, or out wide, or even in the backfield (a la Jimmy Graham when he was in New Orleans)

  • Deacon Drake

    More teams employing athletic tight ends or Sproles/Riddick/Vereen/Dunbar types whose primary purpose is to impact the passing game and create mismatches with linebackers.