Yesterday, I looked at which receivers produced the most Adjusted Catch Yards over the baseline of the worst starter. Today, I want to use that data to help identify which receivers put up their numbers in the most pass-happy offenses.
Let’s use Calvin Johnson as an example. He’s been with the Lions for each season of his career, and Detroit has been very pass-happy throughout his career. Last year, Detroit averaged averaged 40.56 dropbacks (pass attempts plus sacks) per game, while the league average was 37.29 dropbacks per game. So Detroit passed 108.8% as often as the average team.
In 2013, Detroit’s ratio to the league average was 108.2%, but it was 129.8% in 2012. To measure pass-happiness as it pertains to Johnson, we can’t just take Detroit’s average grade from ’07 to ’14; instead, we need to assign more weight to Johnson’s best years. Johnson gained 1,358 ACY over the baseline in 2012, which represents 29% of his career value of 4,721 ACY over the baseline. As a result, Detroit’s 129.8% ratio in 2012 needs to count for 29% of Johnson’s career pass-happy grade.
If we do this for each of the players in yesterday’s top 100, here are the results.
|Rk||Player||First Yr||Last Year||HOF?||ACY Rk||ACY||Pass-Happy|
|4||Calvin Johnson||2007||2014||Not El.||15||4721||117.4%|
|8||Marques Colston||2006||2014||Not El.||72||2374||114.7%|
|16||Larry Fitzgerald||2004||2014||Not El.||18||4412||113.4%|
|17||Donald Driver||1999||2012||Not El.||68||2539||112.6%|
|31||Wes Welker||2004||2014||Not El.||29||3703||108.5%|
|32||Anquan Boldin||2003||2014||Not El.||35||3356||108.4%|
|38||Reggie Wayne||2001||2014||Not El.||11||5092||107.3%|
|40||Demaryius Thomas||2010||2014||Not El.||66||2584||107.1%|
|44||Tony Gonzalez||1997||2013||Not El.||45||3138||106.3%|
|45||Antonio Brown||2010||2014||Not El.||82||2189||105.8%|
|56||Andre Johnson||2003||2014||Not El.||9||5239||103.2%|
|57||Randy Moss||1998||2012||Not El.||4||7021||103%|
|65||Dez Bryant||2010||2014||Not El.||88||2111||102.1%|
|66||Chad Johnson||2001||2011||Not El.||20||4344||102.1%|
|67||Roddy White||2005||2014||Not El.||28||3775||102.1%|
|69||Terrell Owens||1996||2010||Not El.||5||6226||101.7%|
|75||Derrick Mason||1997||2011||Not El.||49||3040||100.5%|
|82||Santana Moss||2001||2014||Not El.||95||1989||99.1%|
|84||Joey Galloway||1995||2010||Not El.||91||2071||99.1%|
|85||Brandon Marshall||2006||2014||Not El.||26||4075||98.8%|
|87||Jordy Nelson||2008||2014||Not El.||100||1955||98.6%|
|88||Hines Ward||1998||2011||Not El.||43||3163||97.4%|
|98||Steve Smith||2001||2014||Not El.||24||4105||90.1%|
Let’s also graph the results, with the X-Axis showing the value provided yesterday, and the Y-Axis showing the career pass-happiness rating for each receiver:
- Jerry Rice and Don Hutson are basically off the charts. But Hutson’s teams were crazy pass-happy for his era. Now that’s different than being super pass-happy in modern times: Green Bay wasn’t throwing a ton because the Packers were trailing or a poor team, but because they had the greatest wide receiver anyone had ever seen and were taking advantage of that. In Hutson’s 11 years, the Packers made it to the championship game four times (going 2-2), and had a fifth year where the team finished 10-1. Green Bay had a winning record every year of Hutson’s career. Still, if you’re looking for reasons to pick Rice over Hutson in your personal GWROAT rankings, well, this would be one of them.
- I like the outer hull formed at the top by Paul Warfield, Steve Smith, Michael Irvin, and Lance Alworth. They’re sort of in line with the Owens/Harrison/Moss trio, and that makes some sense even if their raw numbers don’t quite compare. Let’s look at them individually.
- I wrote quite a bit about Warfield here, and the degree to which he played in conservative offenses is mind-blowing. Warfield tops the above table by a significant amount, courtesy of playing for great teams. He had a career AV-adjusted winning percentage of 0.745, second only to Fred Biletnikoff, but the Raiders never relied on their running game and defense the way Warfield’s teams did. Remember, Warfield played with Jim Brown and/or Leroy Kelly in each of his six years during his first stint in Cleveland, then Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, and Jim Kiick in each of his five years with Miami. In each of Warfield’s first 11 seasons, his team’s running back made the Pro Bowl, and they were a first-team All-Pro in 7 of those years! Then, in his 12th season, he went back to Cleveland, where Greg Pruitt was the team’s top back, and he made the Pro Bowl! And Pruitt also made the Pro Bowl in ’77, Warfield’s final year in the league! If you consider that Morris and Csonka both made the Pro Bowl as running backs in ’72 and ’73, that means Warfield’s running backs made 15 Pro Bowls during his 13-year career. That’s a long way of saying I don’t blame Warfield for not putting up bigger counting numbers, and he fared very well on a per-attempt basis.
- I’ve said all there needs to be said about Steve Smith in the regular season, and Adam Harstad said the rest about Smith in the postseason. He stands out here for producing strong numbers despite playing in run-heavy offenses, and I think he’s still undervalued by this analysis. Smith had some years, particularly ’08, where he missed a couple of games, and his per-game numbers do a better job of showing how dominant he was. His 2005 and 2008 seasons were legendary. And unlike say, Warfield, Smith wasn’t just playing in a run-heavy offense: he was playing in a run-heavy offense and with an average quarterback.
- Like Warfield, Irvin played on a team that was loaded, and like Warfield, Irvin’s counting numbers suffered as a result. But over his best six seasons, Irvin accounted for 35.7% of all Dallas receiving yards. That’s the most of any wide receiver in any six-year period since the merger (although Steve Smith also matched that feat). Irvin was the Dallas passing game, and led the NFL in ACY/team pass attempt in ’91 and ’95. The best way to put it: over his best six seasons, Irvin, Rice, Hutson, and Alworth as the only players to average 2.8 receiving yards per team pass attempt.
- Bryan Frye once said that Don Maynard is the second best wide receiver in AFL history and the second best wide receiver named Don. Well, Bryan’s right: Lance Alworth’s production in the AFL was just unbelievable. When you think AFL, you think pass-happy, wide-open offenses, but Alworth played on run-heavy teams. Yes, he played with the incomparable John Hadl, so he doesn’t get a Delhomme-like bump, but those Chargers were run-heavy teams powered by Keith Lincoln and Paul Lowe. Alworth has the 2nd, 7th, 15th, and 29th best seasons from 1960 to 2013 in ACY/Team Attempt, highlighted by his monster 1965 performance. Alworth’s counting stats stand on their own — from ages 23 to 29, he’s the career leader in receiving yards per game, and only Calvin Johnson is within five yards of him — but the fact that he produced at a high level on run-oriented teams makes it even more impressive.
- At the bottom of the chart, we see Tom Fears, Kellen Winslow, Sr., Megatron, and Torry Holt. All four were great players, but no doubt have inflated numbers by playing on crazy pass-happy teams. It’s simply easier to put up monster numbers when your team leads the league in pass attempts, and that has to be a part of the analysis.
- One last note. Jimmy Smith, another FP favorite, shows up with a pass-happiness rating of 99.6%. But that doesn’t rank near the middle, but rather, at 80th on the list of the pass-happiness ratings. That’s because most great (or even very good) seasons tend to occur when a player’s team passes a lot. It’s not coincidence that most of these receivers have pass-happiness ratings over 100%.
What do you think of today’s results? Who stands out to you?