Hi everyone. Finals are over, the grading is (mostly) done, and I’m ready to dive back into blogging.
If you’ve been reading this thing the last few months, you might notice something weird. My tagline says that I use analysis and statistics to evaluate quarterbacks and wide receivers. But I’ve never breathed a word about any wide receivers. There are good reasons for this. First, I can calculate a Completions Away from Average for a wide receiver, just like a can for a quarterback. This number indicates the difference between this receiver’s completions and the number of completions we would expect an average receiver to have given the same offensive system, defensive competition, and quarterback. Positive numbers indicate this receiver is catching more than an average receiver and negative numbers indicate this receiver is catching less.
There are problems though. First off, I ran the calculations on NFL receivers and the data came out all wonky. What do you do with an analysis that says Calvin Johnson has a CAA of -3.92, indicating that he has 3.92 fewer completions than an average NFL wide receiver would have? Especially in a year when Calvin Johnson could break the receiving yards record. What I suspect is happening with Calvin Johnson something similar to the Yay Points thesis over at Wages of Wins. If you’re unfamiliar, basically thesis says that when basketball evaluators judge talent, they weight points scored too highly and don’t put enough weight on things like shooting percentage or other positive things like rebounds. I suspect wide receivers might be subject to the same bias. Call it Yay Yards or Yay Touchdowns or whatever you like. Calvin Johnson might be racking up the yards, but only because the Lions are constantly throwing the ball in his direction. Another player might be able to accomplish the same thing more efficiently if they were given the same number of opportunities. However, without a fully functioning model predicting team wins, we can only speculate.
So, take these recommendations with a whole load of salt. I believe in them, but more evidence is needed before you should accept these numbers without skepticism.
And now, I give you my top 5 wide receivers of the 2013 draft class.
#1) Tavon Austin – West Virginia
2012 CAA – 9.35
Career CAA – 18.95
This one should be no surprise. Many say that Tavon Austin is a great wide receiver, and my analysis is no exception.
#2) Cody Wilson – Central Michigan
2012 CAA – 10.43
Career CAA – 17.03
This is a surprise. This guy is almost an exact carbon copy of Tavon Austin in physical size. My analysis says he’s also a carbon copy in talent. Value conscious GM’s may want to take this guy in the 6th-7th round over Austin in the 1st.
#3) Keenan Allen – California
2012 CAA – 11.21
Career CAA – 16.63
Another one that should be no surprise. Many people have this guy as a top round talent, and I would agree.
#4) Ryan Swope – Texas A&M
2012 CAA – 4.29
Career CAA – 16.10
Ryan has been the most consistent performer on our list, rising to the number 4 spot using a tortoise strategy rather than the hare strategy of Tavon Austin and Keenan Allen. 2012 was actually his worst season catching the ball. 2011 was his best when he tallied 6.44 CAA. This guy is a consistent performer across his career.
#5) Brent Leonard – Louisiana-Monroe
2012 CAA – 8.03
Career CAA – 12.32
Another player that no one is talking about, but that has talent for catching a football. I don’t even see this guy on draft boards. Look for this player to be one of the few surprise undrafted free agents to make an impact next year.
Honorable Mention – Eric Page – Toledo
Senior CAA (2011) – 6.72
Career CAA – 10.11
I really, really hope someone gives this guy a chance. He is the University of Toledo’s all-time leading receiver. Last year, he went undrafted. My analysis puts him as the 4th best wide receiver in the class (#1 and #3 are current NFL players Ryan Broyles & Cole Beasley). He was signed by the Denver Broncos as a free agent. I was looking at him with hopeful eyes. Here is a talented player that made the roster with Peyton Manning throwing him the football. The pieces were aligning for him to have a great season. And then…torn ACL. Denver released him and now we might never know how good he could have been. But…here’s hoping.