Monday, March 1, 2010

Position Analysis: Receivers

Okay, here’s a longer, more serious positional analysis. Let’s talk receivers, both wide and slot. While some guys argue that another site told them that Player A’s PVR is higher that Player B’s PDA, I look at a variety of stats and use my own eyes and experience to come up with an opinion.

Here’s a little sample of how I rate wide receivers:

The first category is about getting open or, at least, how much the quarterback trusts him. Either way, it’s a good thing. It’s not very scientific, but I came at the number by how many dividing the number of pass routes run by how many times the quarterback threw at him.

Wayne 732/146 19.95
Collie 634/85 13.41
Baskett 75/10 13.33
Garçon 672/88 13.10
Giguere 20/2 10.00
Gonzalez 8/0 0.00

Conclusion: Peyton Manning, of course, relies a great deal on Wayne, and he is very good at getting open. I wasn’t really surprised to see Collie edge Garçon on this because of his time in the slot, but it was a shock to see Baskett so high. At least it was until I realized that the majority of Baskett’s routes (and virtually) all of his targets came when he was playing with Curtis Painter, often as his best or second-best receiver. Gonzo only ran eight routes, so he can be forgiven. You know what, you can pretty well ignore any of his stats this season.

This is kind of going in a different direction, but the most traditional way of see how well a guy catches, you divide the number of catches by the number of times he was thrown to.

Collie 85/60 70.59
Wayne 146/100 68.49
Garçon 88/47 53.41
Baskett 10/4 40.00
Giguere 2/0 0.00
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: Both Collie and Wayne had extraordinary years in this category. Collie’s was inflated some by his running shorter routes and, conversely, Garçon’s was brought down by his running longer routes (which we’ll get to later). Still, Garçon’s is low even for his type of routes and the old eyeball test tells me his concentration varies from play to play and that he makes circus catches and also whiffs on a few easy ones. He should improve. Baskett and Giguere are hard to judge because they weren’t getting Manning’s tight spirals, but Painter’s wobbly lobs. Over his career, Baskett’s generally been okay in this category.

Another way to look at hand quality is to see how often he drops the ball when he could have caught it. So I added drops to catches to determine the number of catchable passes and divided by drops. The bigger the number, the less often the guy drops.

Wayne 103/3 34.33
Collie 53/3 17.67
Garçon 51/4 12.75
Baskett 5/1 5.00
Giguere 0/0 –
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: Wow. Wayne has long had a rep as a guy who won’t break your heart, and he was great last season. Collie and Garçon were about average in this category, and, well, Baskett can always blame Painter.

Here’s an oldie but a goodie, average yards per reception. Just divide yards gained by receptions and you can see ... well ... lots of things.

Garçon 765/47 16.28
Wayne 1264/100 12.64
Collie 676/60 11.27
Baskett 28/4 7.00
Giguere 0/0 0.00
Gonzalez 0/0 0.00

Conclusion: Garçon’s a deep threat. Yep, he sure is.

Here’s one I find more interesting. Instead of looking at how many yards a receiver gained for every catch he made, I like looking at how many yards the guy gained for every time he’s thrown at. So I took total yards and divided them by how many times the receiver was targeted.

Garçon 765/88 8.69
Wayne 1264/146 8.66
Collie 676/84 8.05
Baskett 28/10 2.80
Giguere 0/2 0.00
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: Although the top three were all close, I was surprised to see Garçon’s longer receptions outdo Wayne’s better hands in this category.

And, of course, there’s always YAC – yards after the catch. This is a valuable stat that shows how elusive the receiver is after he catches the ball. I simply divided total YAC by receptions.

Garçon 290/47 6.17
Wayne 440/100 4.40
Collie 251/60 4.18
Baskett 3/4 0.75
Giguere 0/0 0.00
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: Garçon’s incredible football speed – he ran a 4.42 at the combine, but plays a lot faster – combined with the fact that he usually caught in less traffic contribute to his great numbers in this category.

And, although it probably should have shown up higher on this list, here’s an indicator of what kind of routes these guys are running. If you take yards per reception and subtract average yards after the catch, you can see where these guys, on average, caught their passes.

Garçon 16.28-6.17 10.11
Wayne 12.64-4.40 8.24
Collie 11.27-4.18 7.09
Baskett 7.00-0.75 6.25
Giguere 0.00-0.00 0.00
Gonzalez -- - -- --

Conclusion: Once again, we see that Garçon is a deep threat, Collie gets the short stuff in traffic and Wayne does both. Garçon’s average route is more than 10 yards downfield, while Collie’s are just a little more than two-thirds as long.

This is another YAC-related one. By dividing receptions by missed tackles caused, you can see how often each guy makes defenders miss. I know it’s contrived, but it’s also interesting.

Garçon 47/4 11.75
Wayne 100/7 14.28
Collie 60/3 20.00
Baskett 4/0 --
Giguere 0/0 --
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: Again the superfast Garçon comes out on top.

And here’s one lots of people like, but I’ve never been all that crazy about – percentage of catches that go for first downs.

Wayne 73/100 73.00
Garçon 33/47 70.21
Collie 37/60 61.67
Baskett 1/4 25.00
Giguere 0/0 --
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: The top three guys are pretty good at moving chains.

The next stat looks at how well they sniff the end zone. It’s found by determining the percentage of receptions that went for touchdowns.

Collie 7/60 11.67
Wayne 10/100 10.00
Garçon 4/47 8.51
Baskett 0/4 0.00
Giguere 0/0 --
Gonzalez 0/0 –

Conclusion: I did notice that Manning was looking for Collie in the red zone, especially as the year went on. Garçon’s TDs came from 48, 53, 29 and 9 yards out – further indication that he’s a deep threat, not a red-zone guy.

And here's one used to measure toughness, how productive was he in the middle where safeties love to lay the wood.

Collie 15-184-4
Wayne 5-65-1
Garçon 1-14-0
Baskett 0-0-0
Giguere 0-0-0
Gonzalez 0-0-0

Conclusion: Collie does not fear the middle. Garçon just might.

I always like to look at penalties no matter what the position, just to get an indication of the player’s discipline and concentration. The first number is total penalties, the second is how many were declined or offset.

Garçon 9-2
Wayne 4-1
Collie 3-1
Baskett 0-0
Giguere 0-0
Gonzalez 0-0

Conclusion: Garçon’s youth and small-school background worked against him here, I think. He also had a penalty on special teams.

When it comes to blocking, I just have to use the old eyeball test. Here they are from best to worst.


Conclusion: All of these guys make an effort, but Collie’s superior upper-body strength helps him. Giguere’s rating could change with more exposure, but he was whiffing against the Bills.

And I always include a few statistical odds and ends.

Garçon fumbled once, Garçon ran twice for 10 yards, Collie ran twice for 1 yard, Collie returned a kick 8 yards, Baskett had on special-teams assisted tackle

Conclusion: These guys don’t do a lot on special teams.

So let’s move onto the players on hand.

Reggie Wayne
(6000/198/4.45c in 2001)
While Wayne may have been edged out in a few of those stats, he is a far better player than any of them. Keep in mind that he’s the guy that sees the Darrelle Revises of the world and nets double and even triple coverage at times. Despite not having any measurable superlatives, Wayne is one of the NFL’s best and most productive receivers. Although he didn’t become a full-time starter until midway through his third season and he played in Marvin Harrison’s shadow for years after that, Wayne has averaged 75.1 catches, 1,043.7 yards and 7.0 touchdowns a season throughout his nine-year career. Signed through the 2011 season, there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to be immensely productive.

Pierre Garçon
(5117/210/4.42c in 2008)
A sixth-round pick out of DIII powerhouse Mount Union, Garçon showed promise as a rookie catching four passes for 23 yards and returning 22 kicks for 475 yards. He entered 2009 camp competing with Collie and the since-departed Roy Hall for the third receiver spot. He lost to Collie, who seemed better suited to inside work, and became the top backup at all three spots. When Gonzalez was injured in the first regular season game, Garçon took over and put up numbers similar to what the Colts expected of Gonzalez in the regular season and he looked great in the playoffs. With Gonzalez back at full-speed, it looks like the pair will battle for the No.2 outside spot. Garçon’s advantage is that he’s much more explosive.

Austin Collie
(6007/200/4.56c/4.53pd in 2009)
A fourth-round pick few expected much from right away, he showed a great deal of maturity (because of a Mormon mission, he came out at 23) and won the slot receiver outright. His ascent demonstrates the inherent differences between wide receivers and slot receivers. Garçon is faster, a better leaper and more likely to make the circus catch, while Collie has more consistent hands, short-area quickness and a stronger upper body to fight for the ball. If the competition were held again today, Collie would again win, even though we have all seen how productive Garçon can be. But, if the same competition were held outside, Garçon would come out on top. One runs flies and posts, the other makes his money running hooks and slants. So Collie has a good hold on the slot spot, unless Gonzalez loses his bid for an outside position, Unlike either Collie and Garçon, Gonzalez is comfortable in either spot, so he could edge Collie out.

Anthony Gonzalez
(6000/193/4.44c in 2007)
A former first-round pick, Gonzalez was an undisputed starter heading into 2009, but suffered a season-ending right knee injury in the first game. It’s not a huge statistical survey, but it’s important to note that of 13 offensive snaps Gonzalez was healthy in 2009, Wayne played 13, Gonzalez 12, Collie two and Garçon none. Based on his previous production, the Colts can look for a cross between Garçon and Collie. Comfortable either inside or out, Gonzalez has recorded high catch rates (67-73 percent) and decent per-catch averages (11.65-15.57) and shown speed, hands, good cuts, but an annoying tendency to drop some easy ones. He will definitely expect a starting role when he’s healthy enough to reassume one, but he’ll have to beat out Garçon or Collie to get one.

Hank Baskett
(6027/224/4.50c in 2006)
The book on Baskett when he arrived in Coltland as a veteran injury replacement after Gonzalez went down was that he was competent, but not special. He was fast, but didn’t play fast. He was big, but didn’t play big. He was hampered to some extent by playing with Curtis Painter at QB, but didn’t look great at any time. In truth Baskett looked like he ended his tenure with the Colts when he muffed the Saints onside-kick attempt in the Super Bowl. In the unlikely event they do ask him back, he’d have a hard time getting any PT after the emergence of Garçon and Collie and the return of Gonzalez.

Samuel Giguere
(5110, 220, 4.41pd in 2008)
There’s raw, then there’s really raw, then there was Giguere when he came out. He played his home games in an 8,000-seat stadium for Le Vert & Or (The Green and Gold) at the Université de Sherbrooke, about a two-hour drive from Montreal in a part of Quebec called the Eastern Townships. There are different rules, a different ball and a different-sized field. But it’s not impossible to make the jump. Former Colts second rounder Jerome Pathon (a South African by birth) played in the CIS before jumping to the NCAA. Lots of Colts fans like Giguere because of his interesting story and his bod-builder physique, but he’s still a long shot. He’s been on the Practice Squad for most of two years now, and has played one regular season game. Interestingly, that game was in deep snow, something Giguere should be used to. He didn’t catch either of the passes Painter shot-put his way, but he was the team’s primary kick returner, and did a decent job. He recorded 5-122-0 on returns of 11, 31, 36, 18 and 26 yards. He also made a nice attempt to down a punt at the Bills’ 8-yard line, but it bounced away from him. And it looks very much like special teams will be Giguere’s ticket to playing in the NFL. He has the look of a gunner, but may have to earn his spot by winning the kick return job outright. He has some of the attributes you look for in a returner, but did not excel at the position in college ... sorry, université.

Taj Smith
(6003/187/4.59c4.43pd in 2008)
Colts fans underestimate Smith because they don’t know much about him other than his Combine forty and his arrest. But Colts players and coaches talk about how athletic he is and what a great guy he is. Smith was productive in a bad offense at Syracuse, and could well emerge after spending most of the last two seasons on the Colts Practice Squad. But the reality of the situation is that the Colts already have four starting-quality receivers and almost never play four wide; and when they do, that fourth is usually tight end Dallas Clark. So to make the team, Smith (et al) would have to look outstanding as a receiver or at least very, very good on specials.

John Matthews
(5113/200/4.52pd in 2009)
The Colts signed Matthews as an undrafted free agent and he spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. He’s a similar player to Collie in that he’s neither fast nor big, but shifty with good hands and very, very productive in college (195-3,615-50). The difference would appear to be that Collie’s strength and determination put him on a somewhat higher level. Although Matthews doesn’t look like he’ll offer much on specials, he could win a spot on receiving ability alone. Look at the preseason, Smith caught 5 of 11 passes thrown his way for 59 yards and one touchdown and Giguere was not thrown at once, while Matthews caught 7 of 9 for 85 and no scores. His best shot would be to convince the Colts they need a backup slot guy even though they have Collie and Gonzalez on hand.

Dudley Guice Jr.
(6024/209/4.40pd in 2009)
What can I say about Guice that hasn’t already been written? He actually has a good shot to earn the No. 5 position because he has a very high ceiling as a receiver and has a special-teams mentality. He’s worth developing, and his special-teams ability could keep him on the roster, rather than the Practice Squad.

Conclusion: There is a lot of premium talent here, but also a ton of impending competition. Wayne is safe at No. 1. Gonzalez will have to fight Garçon and Collie for playing time, and it could well be quite a scrap in either case. The fifth receiver spot is open, and the Colts have collected a number of well qualified candidates (did you know that Smith, Giguere, Matthews and Guice all graduated before they signed with the Colts?) to take over. It’s unlikely the Colts will draft another receiver – but you never know with Bill Polian at the helm – but they will bring in some UDFAs.

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