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Gordon smoked the defensive back on this play

Gordon smoked the defensive back on this play.

Josh Gordon led the league with 1,646 receiving yards last year. That’s impressive: perhaps even more impressive is that he did it on “only” 159 targets, meaning he averaged 10.35 yards per target.1 But the most impressive part, of course, was that he did it for the Browns. You know, the Browns, quarterbacked by a three-headed monster of Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden, and Brian Hoyer, each of whom managed to average a around the same mediocre 6.4 yards per attempt.

Here’s another way to think of it. While Jordan Cameron was somewhat efficient (7.7 yards per target), the other three Browns to finish in the top five in Cleveland targets were Greg Little (4.7 yards per target), Chris Ogbonnaya (4.6), and Davone Bess (4.2!). And here’s yet another way to think of it: the Browns threw 681 passes last year and gained 4,372 passing yards. But 1,646 of those yards came on the 159 passes intended for Gordon. Remove those plays, and Cleveland averaged just 5.22 yards per pass attempt on passes to all other Browns last year.

That means Cleveland averaged 5.13 more yards per target on passes to Gordon in 2013 than on passes to everyone else. That’s insane, particularly over 159 targets. How insane? If we multiply those two numbers, we get a “value relative to teammates” metric: Gordon gained 816 more yards on his targets than the other Browns averaged per target. Now, in the abstract, maybe 816 doesn’t mean much to you. But it’s the most of any player since at least 1999. The table below shows the top 75 wide receivers in value relative to teammates: the columns should be self-explanatory, and the “ROT Y/A” shows the yards per attempt on passes to the rest of the team. As always, it’s fully sortable and searchable; by default, it displays only the top 25 receivers, but you can switch that by clicking on the dropdown box to the left.

RkWide ReceiverTeamYearTargetedYds/TargetYardsROT Y/AValueMain QB
1Josh GordonCLE201315910.3516465.22816Jason Campbell
2Santana MossWAS200513411.0714835.37764Mark Brunell
3Calvin JohnsonDET20122049.6319645.92756Matthew Stafford
4Calvin JohnsonDET201115810.6416816.67627Matthew Stafford
5Jimmy SmithJAX19991779.2416365.81608Mark Brunell
6Steve SmithCAR200515010.4215636.43599Jake Delhomme
7Mike WallacePIT20109812.8312576.91580Ben Roethlisberger
8Marcus RobinsonCHI19991499.414005.52578Shane Matthews
9Andre JohnsonHOU20121639.815986.26577Matt Schaub
10Steve SmithCAR200812911.0214216.55576Jake Delhomme
11David BostonARI20011759.1315985.85573Jake Plummer
12Victor CruzNYG201113111.7315367.42564Eli Manning
13Torry HoltSTL20031839.2716966.21559Marc Bulger
14Randy MossMIN200012811.2314377.04536Daunte Culpepper
15Anquan BoldinARI20031658.3513775.12533Jeff Blake
16Calvin JohnsonDET20081508.8713315.48509Dan Orlovsky
17Steve SmithCAR201112910.8113946.91503Cam Newton
18Lee EvansBUF20061379.4312925.98472J.P. Losman
19Terrell OwensSFO20001469.9414516.75466Jeff Garcia
20Terrell OwensSFO20011559.1114126.12464Jeff Garcia
21Reggie WayneIND20071569.6815106.74459Peyton Manning
22Calvin JohnsonDET20131579.514926.62453Matthew Stafford
23Amani ToomerNYG200213410.0213436.65452Kerry Collins
24Joe HornNOR20041539.1413996.2451Aaron Brooks
25Sidney RiceMIN200912110.8413127.16446Brett Favre
26Jordy NelsonGNB20119613.1612638.55442Aaron Rodgers
27Torry HoltSTL200013911.7616358.61438Kurt Warner
28Joey GallowayTAM20051528.4712875.62432Chris Simms
29Roddy WhiteATL20071378.7712025.67425Joey Harrington
30Dez BryantDAL201213810.0113826.94424Tony Romo
31Brandon LloydDEN20101539.4614486.7424Kyle Orton
32David BostonARI20001338.6911565.52422Jake Plummer
33Larry FitzgeraldARI20111549.1614116.42422Kevin Kolb
34Terrell OwensSFO20021598.1813005.52422Jeff Garcia
35Antonio BryantTAM20081389.0412485.99421Jeff Garcia
36Chad JohnsonCIN20051559.2414326.54419Carson Palmer
37Lee EvansBUF20047511.248435.67418Drew Bledsoe
38Vincent JacksonTAM20121479.4113846.59416Josh Freeman
39Chad JohnsonCIN20031548.813556.11414Jon Kitna
40Demaryius ThomasDEN201214110.1714347.24413Peyton Manning
41Marvin HarrisonIND20022058.417226.42406Peyton Manning
42Rod SmithDEN20011717.8513435.49405Brian Griese
43Jerricho CotcheryNYJ20071278.911305.71404Chad Pennington
44DeSean JacksonPHI2010961110566.79404Michael Vick
45Michael WestbrookWAS199911410.4511916.91404Brad Johnson
46Joe HornNOR20021498.8113126.1403Aaron Brooks
47Randy MossMIN199913710.3114137.39400Jeff George
48Miles AustinDAL200912410.6513207.42399Tony Romo
49Derrick AlexanderKAN20001449.6613916.89399Elvis Grbac
50Lee EvansBUF20081029.9710176.06399Trent Edwards
51Donald DriverGNB20021139.4210645.91396Brett Favre
52Marvin HarrisonIND20011649.2915246.88396Peyton Manning
53Chad JohnsonCIN20071618.9414406.5394Carson Palmer
54Chad JohnsonCIN20021378.5111665.65392Jon Kitna
55Jimmy SmithJAX20041378.5511725.7391Byron Leftwich
56Jordy NelsonGNB201312710.3513147.28390Aaron Rodgers
57Antonio BrownPIT20131669.0314996.68390Ben Roethlisberger
58Quincy MorganCLE2002979.949645.94388Tim Couch
59Donald DriverGNB20051468.3612215.71387Brett Favre
60A.J. GreenCIN20111159.1910575.83386Andy Dalton
61Michael ClaytonTAM20041229.7811936.62386Brian Griese
62Terry GlennNWE19991159.9711476.68379Drew Bledsoe
63Torry HoltSTL200413610.0913727.3379Marc Bulger
64Randy MossMIN20031729.4916327.29378Daunte Culpepper
65Drew BennettTEN20041448.6612476.04378Billy Volek
66Javon WalkerGNB20041449.613826.98377Brett Favre
67Rocket IsmailDAL2001938.978344.92377Quincy Carter
68Tim BrownOAK19991459.2713446.68375Rich Gannon
69Cecil ShortsJAX20121059.329795.75375Chad Henne
70Dwayne BoweKAN20101338.7411625.93374Matt Cassel
71Joey GallowayTAM20079810.3510146.54373Jeff Garcia
72Tony MartinMIA19991178.8610375.72368Dan Marino
73Plaxico BurressPIT20021449.213256.66366Tommy Maddox
74Joe HornNOR20001518.8713406.45365Jeff Blake
75Patrick JeffersCAR199910110.7110827.1365Steve Beuerlein

I’m short on time today, so I’ll leave the rest of the commenting to you guys.

  1. That’s the most of any receiver with over 130 targets. It’s the second most among players with 100 targets, behind DeSean Jackson‘s 10.6 average on 126 targets. It’s the third most among players with more than 60 targets, behind Jackson and Doug Baldwin (10.7, 73). And it’s the fourth most among players with at least 40 targets, behind Jackson, Baldwin, and Kenny Stills (12.8, 50). []
  • Neat stuff. My favorite entry on this list is Rocket Ismail (#67). Quincy Carter under 5 YPA to everyone else. Kind of amazing he was a 2nd round pick (just under 50% as a senior at Georgia).

  • Chase Stuart

    No wide receivers of Tom Brady appear. How did I miss the opportunity to turn this into a Manning/Brady debate?!

  • Ty

    This list is great. While it might not be in the order of best seasons for a WR (who knows), the players and their seasons that show on this list coincide with the great WR seasons that we usually think about (2005 Steve Smith, 1999 Jimmy Smith, Calvin Johnson the last few years, etc).

    There is a moderator on a football site that I go to (and he seems to be quite smart, and uses analytics in his arguments) that said that WR production doesn’t matter too much, that it mainly falls on the QB. While I partially agree with his statement, this article proves that WR production definitely matters; maybe not in the grand scheme (Andre Johnson 2013, Larry Fitzgerald-post Warner, up until this year), but when you take away an elite WR, there is a clear drop off in QB production. The problem is trying to isolate that drop off, but it looks like you may have began to figure something out.

  • Richie

    I am surprised that only 3 of Steve Smith’s seasons appear in the top 75.

  • I read the title and immediately said, “Steve Smith must be the king of that metric,” so I wasn’t surprised to see him do well, either. Like Richie, I would have expected him to be even better here than he is.

    Something I find rather interesting: Donald Driver has two seasons on this list–2002 and 2005. In between, his teammate Javon Walker has one in 2004, with Driver still on the team and even having a pretty nice season himself.

    Looking further at those Packers teams is an interesting look at how this metric works. In 2004, Ahman Green, Tony Fisher, and William Henderson had a combined 791 yards on 112 catches (7.1 ypc), which helped both Driver (14.4 ypc on 82 catches) and Walker (15.5 ypc on 89 catches) stand out. It’s a similar story in ’02 (Green, Henderson, and Bubba Franks had a combined 7.3 ypc on 137 catches–and incidentally does anyone on earth remember that Terry Glenn spent a year in Green Bay??!!). The low ypc from all of the non-WR weapons and the amount of receptions they got made the situation conducive to a wideout ranking high on this list.