"You can't make me," Hoke said. "You're not my father."
Hello and welcome to the second iteration of our new feature, where we ask the MGoStaff a question regarding whatever Michigan fans happen to be obsessing about. As before we appreciate any suggestions for future questions. Participation is at will since people occasionally have more important missions to attend to. The team:
Agent Brian Johnson: Team leader. Specialty: hair styling.
Agent Ace Johnson: Demolition expert
Agent Seth Johnson: Specialist in disguise
Agent Heiko Johnson: Deadliest man in the world with a knife. Also knows a zillion old jokes his grandfather, a vaudevillian, taught him.
Agent Mathlete Johnson: Master of Kung Fu
Agent Blue in South Johnson: Token redhead.
And this week's question:
How do you see the receiver group playing out this year? Where does Gallon fall among Big Ten/National guys, how much do you see the young guys contributing in '13, and what can we get out of seniors Dileo and Jackson?
BiSB: Before you answer this, Brian, check to make sure that Jehu Chesson isn't in the room.
Heiko: Don't worry I told him not to come this time.
Brian: There is no room, there is only Zuul. This is the internet, man, so we know that both Chesson and the NSA are all up in here. anthrax pants This useless discursion is over. terrorism sandwich
Gallon is going to be the best dang tiny receiver Michigan's ever had. He's shifty enough to attract screens, jumpy enough to bring in fades, and quick enough to get over the top of guys trying to rein in his YAC. It's a conundrum if Michigan puts him to the boundary side of the field consistently since most boundary guys aren't going to be able to keep up with him. I keep saying this, but extrapolate 5 games with Gardner against 4 pretty good pass efficiency defenses (and Iowa) and you get about 80 catches for about 1300 yards; he was already the #4 receiver in the league last year. That's probably a little optimistic, but he should crack 1000 yards and be All Big Ten in some capacity.
Past Gallon, it's about the redshirt freshmen. Darboh is the key. I like Chesson a lot but he needs one more year to pack on the muscle before he emerges. Darboh is ready now, and showed off his skill on the first play of spring practice. He should be a slant merchant, more of a possession threat. Ideally you'd like to wait another year on him, too, but it is what it is. Dileo will also be a useful piece; I want him to double his catches, because I don't think he dropped a pass last year and he has both a knack for crazy twisting catches and staying on his feet afterwards.
There is a slight lack of depth that I hope Funchess covers up for; other than that it should be a solid B+ unit. jihad bacon
Mathlete: If Gallon can put together a full season like he did in the Gardner starts at the end of last year. He should easily have a first team Big Ten caliber season and have an outside shot at some level of All American recognition. His five game averages would have been the second best receiving season at Michigan in the last decade (behind Braylon's Biletnikoff season). Whether that can continue remains to be seen, but at this point I think there is a high likelihood that Jeremy Gallon will slip into the Top 5 Career Receivers in Michigan history in both receptions and yards.
Beyond Gallon, Dileo is what he is. A dependable secondary receiver. The key question is whether anyone can step into a strong second spot. After 11 catches in three years, the evidence is against it being Jeremy Jackson. That leaves Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh as the most likely candidates. Assuming Gallons production holds up at all, solid production from either of those two would be enough to make Michigan's wide receivers a great group in 2013.
BiSB: We probably all agree that based on the last half of last year, the leading receiver will be OMG Rocket Boots Cloaking Device Don Criqui Soul Eating McShortguy. Thing is, he's going to make 95% of his catches either within 8 yards of the line of scrimmage or 30+ yards downfield; I believe Brian termed this "hitch, hitch, hitch, see ya." The key is going to be finding an intermediate guy other than Funchess, and I think Darboh is that guy, but that's based on almost nothing other than specs. He looks more physically ready than Chesson to take over the role, and I see Chesson as more of a deep threat.
Dileo will probably do the same thing as last year; he'll vanish for a while, and then he'll come up big with a billion catches in some gritty game where no one can find open space unless they're my height. He'll also probably have a good amount of success getting lost in the secondary when Gardner goes on one of his crazy adventures in the backfield. Jeremy Jackson seems destined to battle Joe Reynolds for the Carl Tabb Memorial Totally Unsurprising Running Play After Personnel Change Award winner. Either Dukes or York will probably burn a redshirt for no apparent reason, because that is protocol. And as a wild guess, I'm gonna predict that whether we see DaMario Jones will depend on what happens with Justice Hayes. If he wins the third-down back role, we may see the frosh, but if there aren't gonna be enough snaps for Hayes (given the embarrassment of running back riches), we may see him back up Dileo in the slot.
Ace: I'm on break from writing words so here's a GIF that fits the general tenor of this discussion:
Heiko: All I know is Borges is really excited about Darboh. Apparently Darboh got injured vs. Purdue last year (incidentally he was blocking on a bubble screen), so he wasn't able to show off his skillz the rest of the season.
BiSB: Bubble screens: weak-ass pansy Bieber-ball. Also WAY TOO DANGEROUS.
Brian: For what it's worth, I've heard that (former?) walk-on Joe Reynolds is a real option as an outside receiver. Last year he graduated from Designated Guy Who Tips Run plays to pick up a few targets on long handoffs and the like; this year I bet he is the third option as an outside receiver (ie, slot Dileo is the #3 overall). I know the coaches like his blocking, and he showed some quicks on those screens. He's not likely to get any first-option snaps with Gallon/Dileo/Darboh/Funchess filling hypothetical four-wide formations, but between him and a developing Chesson there's some depth. dirty cat bomb
Seth: The NSA agents want to know why everybody's overlooking Jeremy Jackson. As you've probably guessed, the NSA works for Fred. I guess we are a bit optimistic that the other guys have finally distanced themselves from him that we won't see that one pass a game going his way.
Last year Marty Couvillan from cfbstats posted a megaload of receiver data based on how often they were thrown at. Football Outsiders' Bill Connellly made it into an end stat called RYPR (Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate). In this measure Gallon in 2012 was 14th in the country and tops in the conference:
|Player||Targets||Catch Rate||RYPR||B1G Rank|
I've already made my bid for Gallon to wear the #1 jersey.
Since the middle of the offensive line is going to be really young this year it's unlikely Michigan will be able to get by mostly on its running game. There will be a lot more passes and three-or four-wide sets, and we're replacing not just Roundtree's underrated production but Gardner's. All told there's something between 150 and 200 targets to be given out after the returning starters repeat theirs, and while a chunk of them will go to Gallon, Darboh should get something like 75 passes thrown his way, and Chesson stands to get something like 50.
If those guys aren't bringing them in at a 50% clip or higher you'll start seeing Gallon's usage climb into Marquise Walker territory, and more frustrating balls going toward to too-covered Jackson. My prediction is Darboh becomes that Junior Hemingway we've been missing, and Funchess is split out to the slot and doubles his production from last year. Gallon will draw a lot of attention and a lot of balls, which will put him on top of the conference in the old stats but drop him back to 4th-ish in RYPR. I expect at least one of the incoming receivers to burn his redshirt but I'd really rather they not—Jones is the most ready but the least needed, and Dukes and York both are skinny leaping dudes who need to put on muscle. Whichever of those two can block better right now, I guess. Darboh eats up the passes that went to Roundtree and Gardner last year, with similar results. Chesson does some stuff that makes us get really excited for next year. And we head into 2014 predicting the group will look like Indiana's (that's a good thing). Anarchy echelon nuclear roswell Glock 26 Spetznaz hamburger
assasssi- asassinn- assassinna- kill a guy.
During a wee hours period break of a wee hours Wings game last weekend, I ended up in a conversation about the #1 jersey and who might be the next player to wear it. The guy was really high on Chesson or Drake Harris or some future giant; I was like thatsracist.gif because the best receiver since Braylon is on the roster RIGHT NOW
Unless you’re just categorically against changing numbers for seniors (which I totally understand in all circumstances but this), if we’re truly honoring elite receivers with the 1 jersey it could be time we give it to Jeremy Gallon. The case against: is 5’8, has always been just mediocre at returning punts and kicks, is 5’8, took some time to work his way up the depth chart, would ideally be a slot receiver because he’s 5’8. The case for: is secretly 8 feet tall, among his various Inspector Gadget peripherals is a cloaking device that saved Under the Lights I, and the WAR stat for receivers says he’s the best in the conference by a wide margin.
When I was doing the receivers pages of HTTV last week I went looking for some more advanced stats to put in tables aside from the usual Bentley things like receptions, yards, TDs, games played, and what you can get by dividing those things together. I remembered cfbstats’s Marty Couvillan last year made all of those targeting data available to the public, with an assist from Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.*
What Marty did is took that play by play ticker information that the NCAA makes available, and through some ninja text-to-columns work, managed to pull out data for when each receiver was targeted. This is groundbreaking work in receiver stats, knowing what happens whenever a ball is thrown in the direction of a player. It still doesn’t say how well it was thrown, how deep if it wasn’t caught, or how many defenders had to be shooed off, but until we have official scorers UFR-ing every game this is about the best we can get. Guys like Bill began building their own stats out of the new data and came up with YRPR, which formula is:
The % of your team’s targets you receive
Times how many yards you average per pass thrown in your direction
Times an adjustment for the rest of your team’s passing game so we don’t just get the guys with great QBs and lines
Times an adjustment for how often your team passes, so that we don’t just award wide open receivers on run-heavy teams, e.g. Roundtree 2010.
And what it said was…
2012 Big Ten Receivers by YRPR:
|Rk||Name||Targets||Catch Rate||School||Rk (FBS)||YRPR|
|6||Corey Brown||85||70.6%||Ohio State||52||118.22|
|7||Devin Smith||58||51.7%||Ohio State||73||109.21|
I know what you’re thinking: that top five includes three of the receivers I drafted in last year’s Draft o’ Snark, and my fourth is in the Top 10. That and our tiny receiver who looks like Snoop was best in the conference and 14th in the nation. Not “one of the best after Allen Robinson and Kenny Bell and Jared Abbrederis and those Ohio State and Indiana guys,” but best-best.
Nationally Gallon was one spot behind West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, also a 5’8 mite, also the first receiver taken in this year’s NFL Draft. In fact most of the guys above Gallon were drafted this year—only USC’s Marqise Lee, SJ State’s Noel Grigsby, Bama’s Amari Cooper, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Mathews, and Fresno State’s Davante Adams return among those who finished above Jeremy Gallon in this metric.
When Brian gets to the receiver previews later this offseason he will undoubtedly point out that Gallon blew up after Gardner stepped in, projecting to Braylon-like numbers if you extrapolate the Gardner starts across an entire season. Well, the advanced stats guys took his entire year and said he’s Tavon Austin.
* [Where’s LSAClassof2000? Follow those links and stop writing personal diaries.]
[After the jump, how Gallon’s 2012 compared with those of past M receivers, and how the Big Ten has fared against the others]
this would have been far less awful to behold if it was officially an exhibition
i seem to remember that rodriguez had some idea about doing spring game scrimmage with d2 or d3 schools. after this year's boring spring game, is doing something like that becoming more appealing to either fans or dave brandon types? bring on slippery rock!
RR's idea was actually to have a preseason game a la the NFL against a I-AA team to kick off the year a week early. It was his third-best idea ever, just behind inventing the zone read and recruiting Denard. I liked that idea for a lot of reasons:
- More football.
- …but of the sort that doesn't significantly increase injury risk since most starters will exit after a couple series.
- Fewer bodybag games, nationwide.
- An opportunity to have an interesting nonconference game along with ten conference games and still have seven home dates.
Excepting that one year the Mott Scrimmage was all punting drills I've happily paid near-game prices to watch Michigan practice. Maybe this makes me a freak. Even if it does, an annual exhibition game is more interesting stuff to watch because it gives teams an extra slot with which to schedule an actual opponent. If your objection is "you're adding more games and not paying these guys," I am with you on that.
That doesn't fix spring. Hoke has expressed a desire to have an actual game a la MSU, OSU, and ND, but he hasn't had the roster to do so—and neither did Rodriguez. Next year, you'd hope.
I'd like to hear your opinion as to what time you think students will need to show in order to get great sideline seats (sections 26-27, rows 30-50) for premium games like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio in 2013. I'm a rising senior and I've shown up 45 minutes to an hour early for every game over the past three years, and up until this year's basketball season, I would have thought an hour would probably be enough time to secure a pretty good spot in GA football seating. But after showing up to the Ohio basketball game this year at 4:20 pm (9pm start time) and seeing that there were already 1500-2000 students ahead of me, I'm less optimistic about the situation. Ditto for the NCG viewing (by the time they started letting people in there were at least 4000 people in a line that stretched from Crisler all the way through the parking lot, around Keech, and up to Main).
For basketball, it seems like all of a sudden it has become "cool" to show up to premium games outrageously early even for fans who couldn't name a single player on the basketball team (seriously). It's about to become "cool" to show up to football games outrageously early too. I only see two semi-plausible arguments as to why the lines won't be as bad.
1. There's no clear border between good seats and bad seats for football. In basketball, there's a pretty big drop-off if you don't get in the Maize Rage, so there's a lot of pressure to get those first 500 spots.
I'm not so confident with this one. It's not as if we don't know where the good seats are in the football student section. People are going to want to be in the first 5 rows all around, as well as sections 26 and 27. Those will fill up fast. Show up less than three hours early for UTL or the Ohio game and you will be in the corner or the end zone.
2. There's pretty much no pre-gaming tradition for basketball games.
For this one, it seems to me like a pretty big assumption that all the people who were pre-gaming up until halfway through the first quarter will continue to do so now that there is a competition for seats. The game has been changed. People will go to great lengths to make sure they get better seats than everyone else at a marquee event. It confers a feeling of superiority, whether or not the person actually cares more about the event than everyone else.
I guess it depends on what your definition of "good seats" is. Personally, I think you have to be nuts to want to sit in the first ten rows, especially in the endzone. The worst seats I ever had were on a trip to Iowa: temporary bleachers actually on the field. I had no idea what was going on most plays until I saw it on the replay boards.
Others disagree; those will go quickly. From my experiences at other stadiums with GA student seating, if you're in the stadium 45 minutes before gametime you'll have your pick of seats outside the might-hug-Devin zone. I've been to plenty of Michigan State-Michigan games at Spartan Stadium where the student section is half-full 15 minutes before kickoff. When I went to the UGA-Tennessee game last year, Georgia students filed in at a desultory pace. The number of seats that are at least okay is an order of magnitude higher, so I do think that cliff you reference is a major control on fan insanity.
Another you don't mention is the average level of commitment of a football ticket holder versus a basketball or hockey one. Football has 10x the number of students that either of those sports do, and many of them get tickets not because they're hardcore sports fans but because it's part of the college experience to show up in the second quarter with HOTTT on your ass barely able to walk. (I was even more curmudgeonly about these people when I was in college, thank you very much.) A lot of people aren't going to care much about where they sit.
I'm confident that anyone who gets to the stadium when I do will be able to pick damn near any seat they want outside of the first ten rows. If Michigan's taking on OSU to go 12-0… I still think you're good, actually. If 50% of students aren't showing up on time, do they really care enough to secure better seats for themselves? By definition they don't really care about what they're watching. They're going to feel superior anyway. Their ass is HOTTT.
I heard Hecklinski quoted as saying the speed in a WR is over-rated. Michigan's prototype now seems seems to be 6-3 strong WR with fair speed while OSU prototype is 5-11 inch burner. To me, I would rather have the burner. I do understand it is a different offense with need for blocking more important with pro style offense, but I cannot believe speed in a WR that you are hoping to stretch the field is unimportant in any offense.
It's not necessarily the case that big receivers have to be slow. The fastest guys in the world seem about evenly split between outside receivers (Usain Bolt, for one) and slots. Michigan's brought in a couple of guys—Jehu Chesson and Drake Harris—that are both large and very fast. Most of the top receivers in any given year will be both large and fast, and Michigan will take those guys when they can get 'em.
When they can't, like most people most of the time, Michigan will take large over quick. Those guys stretch the defense in a different way: by being just too damn big for cornerbacks to consistently cover one-on-one. As long as they're quick enough to get on the right side of a cornerback, those midgets can have all the recovery speed they want, it's not going to help. Despite being just 6'1", Junior Hemingway was an excellent example of this style of deep threat. Notre Dame's been running them out for years: Michael Floyd—yeesh, that guy—Jeff Samardzija, hell, Tyler Eifert. None of those guys were close to burners, but they certainly stretched the field anyway.
Michigan does give something up in the quicks department by going this route. They're not going to be a great WR screen team. Al Borges is fine with this. He hates throwing behind the line of scrimmage. He also loves the deep ball. I mean, come on, this is Al Borges we're talking about, the offensive coordinator who wants to call a 30 yard pass every down.
Title: Dave Brandon run for Senate?
Me: Go away!
DB: "Go away?"
[DB laughs as I begin crying]
Me: I hate you, I hate you.
DB: Where would you be without me, dollar, dollar? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of me!
Me: [stops crying] Not anymore.
DB: What did you say?
Me: Hoke looks after us now. We don't need you anymore.
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
Me: Leave now, and never come back!
[DB screams in frustration]
Me: LEAVE! NOW! AND NEVER COME BACK!
[DB is silent]
Me: [looks around] We told him to go away... and away he goes, Precious! Gone, gone, gone! Michigan is free!
It's been three and a half years since you posted a pic of my son as a 7 WEEK old in a post.
I made a "vine" of him Tuesday. He's keeping up with this "Mgoblog's biggest fan" moniker at the ripe old age of almost four.
Your head might explode if you turn the sound on here.
So you saw Michigan's backup plan in case Denard gets knocked out early in a competitive game. The plan was Bellomy. And you saw Bellomy. With regard to the skills, talent, and preparation required to be a competitive Big Ten quarterback, Bellomy was terrible. The offense immediately imploded, Michigan's Rose Bowl chances dropped to "not likely" and we were left facing the bleakness of a Robinson-less future.
So long as nards were left to nard we were perfectly content to ignore things like an apparent lack of receiver talent, or whether the redshirt freshman backup QB we snake oiled away from Purdue could perform well enough in an important game scenario that nobody would think to ask about Jack Kennedy. We could even be blasé about what appears to be persistent offensive coaching mistakes. It was all masked by Wheeeeee!! Saturday the whee was taken away and we got our first real glimpse of the structure they're building underneath it. We've got questions.
1. When your freshman QB is 4 of 21 with 4 interceptions on the year, why not try the junior 5-star quarterback you've got playing receiver?
Everyone can pick a moment. For me it was Russell's first completion of the game, a 12-yard pass to Kerridge:
Alright open man! Get there! … It's still not there. Okay coverage isn't there yet either. But what's taking so long? Did it just sail? No it's on target. Okay here it comes. Catch! First down on the Utah thirty-eigh…oh dear god.
We already knew how bad it could get, but this suddenly looked like we had an outer bound for how good it could get. The feet weren't set, and a guy was coming toward his face, and he got rid of it to the open receiver for 12 yards. Except Kerridge had been open over there for several seconds. And then with that entire windup the ball delivered is a full Sheridan.
With the opponent blitzing their brains out there's going to be open receivers, and Bellomy can learn to find them quicker. But the guys can't stay open so long that defenders won't arrive sometime during the three seconds the ball's in the air. The weird dropsies when Bellomy is throwing the ball could be related to this as well. Accustomed to catching zippy Denard passes, the receivers I imagine are getting thrown off by the the extra half-second of waiting for the ball to arrive. They're losing focus, putting their minds downfield or setting off internal alarms that the coverage is arriving. You'll note in this game more than a few of Russell's open targets were lit up upon reception—the personal foul on Jackson is a good example. Simply the anticipation of such a hit is a known cause of drops.
The scary lack of arm strength raised a few questions, like why he was recruited in the first place if a cannon is a pre-req for Borgesian offense, but a more pressing and more dire query is how bad can Gardner be if they've got this dude under center instead of him?
He's playing receiver. In fact, for all his faults at receiver, he's better at that than our other options. It falls a little flat to say if he's not out there Jeremy Jackson would be, since Jeremy Jackson is out there all the damn time. More to the point, Gardner practiced all week at receiver, and sending him in unprepared would have been unfair, would undermine his confidence, and probably resulted in yackety crap like that which ended the 2011 Michigan State game.
Your brain as it watched Bellomy could not compute this because fan brains tend to hit the panic button and authorize the flinging of excrement in the hopes of finding anything that sticks. This is why it nodded sagely at things like "throw Cullen Christian in there" when the 2010 secondary was staggeringly bad. It cannot compute that things could possibly get worse. The thing is, things can possibly get worse. Obviously the coaches felt that putting an unprepared Gardner in to run "Gardner and stuff" wasn't an option.
Hoke made sure to stress the "if you don't practice during the week at quarterback you don't play" thing in his postgame presser, getting it in as a response to questions about Denard's readiness for Minnesota. I take that as a not-so-subtle reminder that this staff has more patience than the last one, and more patience than the fan-brain. Their plan seems to be if Denard goes down in-game it's Bellomy, but if we lose Robinson for a week or more, Gardner will be preparing for that game.
[More things I don't want to ask after THE JUMP]
Site notice: "Museday" (at times also known as "Musenesday" and other things), is now and hereafter "Hokepoints." Because football is about having more points. Get it?
So we noticed something when doing that pre-season draft-o-snark thing: The receivers in our conference kind of suck. More accurately I should say that there are precious few proven wideouts coming back this year. Here's what the receiver draft board looked like, not counting RBs, TEs, or moonlighting defensive backs and whatnot:
|Jared Abbrederis||WIS||6'2||188||JR*||66.6||17.0||8||20 (Brian)|
|Keenan Davis||IOWA||6'3||215||SR||59.4||14.3||4||26 (Ace)|
|Kofi Hughes||IND||6'2||210||JR||44.7||15.3||3||41 (Seth)|
|Kenny Bell||NEB||6'1||185||SO||35.5||14.4||3||57 (Seth)|
|Kain Colter||NW||6'0||190||JR||35.2||10.7||3||74 (Ace)|
|Jeremy Gallon||MICH||5'8||187||JR*||34.9||14.6||3||65 (Seth)|
|Roy Roundtree||MICH||6'0||180||SR*||27.3||18.7||2||97 (Seth)|
|Kevonte Martin-Manley||IOWA||6'0||205||SO||24.9||10.8||3||84 (Brian)|
|Devin Smith||OSU||6'1||196||SO||22.6||21.0||4||103 (Ace)|
|DeAnthony Arnett||MSU||5'11||170||SO||20.2||10.1||2||22 (Heiko)|
|Kyle Prater||NW||6'5||215||SO||0.6||6.0||0||11 (Heiko)|
|Devin Gardner||MICH||6'4||203||JR||-||-||-||19 (Heiko)|
|MarQueis Gray||MIN||6'4||250||SR||-||-||-||60 (Brian)|
They're listed here by yards per game, which Mathlete says is a better gauge for receivers than hype. But however you rank them, we took many transfers and QBs before even considering the myriad Keenan Davisii who played Avant to the Braylons of departed McNutts. And by the end of the draft most of the available options were assorted Boilermakers dudes with about 30 ypg.
Whence all the receivers in our once receiver-rich league? A few theories to test:
- Higher than normal attrition: Graduations being a relative constant, were there more juniors departing of the NFL, transfers, etc. than usual?
- Comedown from riches of 2011: Maybe the best receivers last year were inordinately productive, leaving little opportunity for the rest. Test by % of production not returning vs. previous years.
- Cascade effect from recruiting shortfalls: Perhaps there was a league-wide lull in receiver recruiting in '09-'10 that we're not feeling the effects from.
- Quarterbacks: the more they run the less they pass: This one's obvious but the conference has gone more spread-to-run, even at the top programs, meaning there's a lot fewer opportunities for WRs to show what they've got.
We dig in after THE JUMP.
Recently, Football Study Hall provided a spreadsheet of epic length to anyone who wanted it detailing not only catches and yards for the 2005-2011 seasons, but "targets"—ie, the number of times a guy had the ball tossed in his direction. FSH did this for all of D-I. I sliced out the other 119 teams to focus on Michigan.
This data spans a fascinating period in Michigan history:
- 2005-2007 are the last three years of the Henne era, except 2007 is a third Henne, a third Mallett, and a third injured Henne who shouldn't be playing but Mallett is insane.
- 2008 is the Threet-Sheridan disaster.
- 2009 is mostly Forcier.
- 2010 and 2011 are mostly Denard, with 2010 RR's best shot at a great offense and 2011 the first year of Borges.
Here's the interesting stuff that came out.
YARDS PER TARGET
The top 20 (min 10 targets). Bet yourself a dollar you can guess #1:
|11||2007||Carson Butler Jr.||25||20||9.8||12.3|
You win a dollar from yourself. Junior Hemingway is the king of yards per target. Not only does he share the #1 spot with Martavious Odoms, he also finishes #6 and #8. It's too bad this data doesn't go a couple seasons further back, allowing us to have a YPT battle royale between Hemingway and Braylon Edwards.
The other thing that jumps off the page is the impact of the spread. The only pro-style WR to crack the top ten was Mario Manningham's 2006 season. Tyler Ecker also made the top ten but on just 15 targets; he made his hay by catching 80% of his limited opportunities. Also, Roundtree does very well to show up at #18 despite being the target of dozens of screens. That target number is off the charts.
This is expected, since the spread came with a huge shift towards running the ball. Passes are naturally more likely to go far when you run 70% of the time.
The bottom 20:
|48||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||5.4||9.1|
This is mostly sparsely-used tight ends and tailbacks with the notable exception of the top three receivers in 2008 and their 200 targets between them. Also I would like to note the presence of Tim Massaquoi towards the bottom of the list. This is not his fault. Massaquoi broke his hand in 2005. Michigan kept throwing the ball at him.
Note that two of the worst yards-per-target guys—the 2008 versions of Odoms and Mathews—show up in the top 10 here. Guys, I'm beginning to think that Michigan's 2008 offense wasn't very good.
Manningham's 2007 year is a clear winner here, with Jason Avant's 2005 a distant second yet distant from the #3. In context, Avant's stats scream "guy who will be a possession receiver for 20 years in the NFL": Michigan went to him all the time, never threw him screens, and he still checks in with a terrific catch rate.
Also catch Roundtree's 2011: bad. His production fell off not only because he was targeted less frequently but because his catch percentage plummeted from 67% to 39%. No screens, no easy TDs, a lot of doubt about whether he can take over Hemingway's downfield duties.
[NOTE: The spreadsheet erroneously listed Sam McGuffie as the #1 player here with 39 catches on 39 attempts… in 2010. The spreadsheet is right, in a way: those are McGuffie's numbers from his 2010 season at Rice. McGuffie still finishes #1 for his 2008 season, a 19 of 22 campaign.]
Unfiltered, these are of debatable utility since all of the guys at the top are small-sample size guys. Tailbacks, tight ends, and slots dominate. Let's limit it to players with at least 30 targets in a season and see what we get. The "rank" is rank amongst everyone. There are 59 seasons in the DB.
|33||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||32||19||59.4%||9.1|
I highlighted it this time. Roundtree's regression from 2010 to 2011 was enormous. He went from the #5 player in this sample to second-worst.
In other news, Adrian Arrington's 2006 was secretly great. And when you combine the catch rates with the yards you have a dead heat between Mario Manningham '06 and Junior Hemingway '11 as the best season in this time frame, with Avant's '05 drawing an honorable mention for moving the chains.
MOVING THE CHAINS
There are two subsets provided in the data, with attempts split into "standard downs" and "passing downs." Passing downs can come on second and long but using them as a proxy for third and let's-not-run isn't going to introduce too many distortions. The top 20 security blankets:
|19||2006||Carson Butler Jr.||19||12||63.2%||12.4%||19.6|
You get a dollar for betting that you should throw it to Jason Avant on third and medium, too. Only low-usage versions of Arrington and Roundtree bested him on catch percentage and they were far less-frequently targeted; Arrington's 7.4 YPC further implies that some of those completions were well short of the first down.
Avant has a combination of catching the ball and maintaining a great YPC that makes it totally unsurprising that he's a solid NFL player and a little wistfully sad whenever I compare yet another incoming WR to him when I know deep in the soul of my heart that there's no way Freshman X will be half as good.
BONUS: Steve Breaston would like you to take your criticisms about his hands and shove them up where Bill Hancock's head is.