don't we all
Once again one of the things that became most apparent while doing Draftageddon was the receiver pool was again pretty crappy. I had a thought to try to use some of the targeting data to see if that was atypical, and found…well I found little but I figured you'd like to see it anyway. See if you can spot anything of interest in here or suggestions for further study.
That link goes back to when this same thing happened in 2012. Our post-draft consensus has usually been fairly accurate for most positions, but we were all over the place with the WRs. Jeremy Gallon was the 9th WR taken and led the conference in Bill Connelly's imperfect RYPR stat, with Abbrederis (3rd), Kenny Bell (7th), Allen Robinson (not drafted) and Roy Roundtree (12th) rounding out the top five. Last year's RYPR leaders were Lippett (our 9th receiver taken), Carroo (not drafted), Devin Smith (6th), Michael Thomas (not drafted) and Mike Dudek (not drafted). Things, e.g. injuries, happened. But we were correct that neither year was very good:
Click to big it make.
I chose yards per target to show this because it removes sacks, throwaways, and interceptions—you know, more quarterback-y things—to get a sense of overall conference receiver play. When you line up former Michigan WRs by YPT it passes a sanity check, e.g. the only listed WR in the NFL draft from the Big Ten was Denard. Last year—and yes a particularly awful year for quarterbacks was part of the story—was back to a low for receivers, and seven guys from that went in the NFL Draft (though the Dolphins are making Lippett a corner and I have no idea what the Texans saw in Mumphery).
The noise increases dramatically when you make these into team stats. Here's the Big Ten from 2005-2014
Quarterback is important, but as national trend data suggested in the first chart, the spread made a big difference, allowing teams with less talent to occupy safeties as well as Wisconsin's running game always has. Note for example that Lloyd Carr's not particularly well-thought-out offense peaked at 8.11 in 2006 with Breaston, Manningham, Arrington, and a healthy junior Chad Henne, a mark that was destroyed by four teams of the Roundtree/Hemingway/Gallon/Funchess era. (Yes the Threetsheridammit year was the worst of all).
Interestingly not all of these years corresponded to the amount of NFL drafted talent. Observe:
|Santonio Holmes (1st)||Ted Ginn (1st)||James Hardy (2nd)||Brian Robiskie (2nd)|
|Brandon Williams (3rd)||Anthony Gonzalez (1st)||Devin Thomas (2nd)||Deon Butler (3rd)|
|Jason Avant (4th)||Roy Hall (5th)||Mario Manningham (3rd)||Derrick Williams (3rd)|
|Michael Robinson (4th)||Steve Breaston (5th)||Paul Hubbard (6th)||Brian Hartline (4th)|
|Jonathan Orr (6th)||Adrian Arrington (7th)|
|Ethan Kilmer (7th)|
|Arrelious Benn (2nd)||Tandon Doss (4th)||A.J. Jenkins (1st)||Denard Robinson (5th)|
|Eric Decker (3rd)||DeVier Posey (3rd)|
|Keshawn Martin (4th)|
|Nick Toon (4th)|
|B.J. Cunningham (6th)|
|Marvin McNutt (6th)|
|Jeremy Ebert (7th)|
|Junior Hemingway (7th)|
|Allen Robinson (2nd)||Devin Smith (2nd)|
|Cody Latimer (2nd)||Devin Funchess (2nd)|
|Jared Abbrederis (5th)||Keith Mumphery (5th)|
|Quincy Enunwa (6th)||Kenny Bell (5th)|
|Jeremy Gallon (7th)||Stefon Diggs (5th)|
|Tony Lippett (5th)|
|Evan Spencer (6th)|
Obviously it's not just the NFL draft picks moving the needle, but you do see things above, like how the 2011 shot the Big Ten way up in YPT until it graduated, leaving a far less productive generation.
I'm still trying to see if any of these stats can predict individual leaps, which is the real meat.
UPDATE ON THAT:
So far I've taken the top five WRs in the conference by RYPR for each year since 2006 and looked at whether someone like Darboh (69.8 RYPR) or Chesson (22.7 RYPR) ever broke into that group. Some Big Ten players who made a leap from Darboh to pretty good were 2012 Roy Roundtree, 2006 Anthony Gonzalez (OSU), 2008 Jordan Norwood (PSU), and 2014 Tony Lippett (68.4 for MSU in 2013). There were a bunch of younger guys who made a larger freshman-to-sophomore jump, but those are the comps for a guy at Darboh's stage. That Lippett was in there is encouraging since he too emerged from a cratered passing game to the #1 guy.
visor pace Spurrier
Per many, many people, Michigan's hired former Jacksonville Jaguars OC Jedd Fisch as a WR coach and "passing game coordinator."
Fisch's coaching trajectory is an odd one. He played high school tennis, showed up at Florida hoping to sign up as a manager, and got rebuffed. He got a break a bit later:
An assistant coach for the Gators was recruiting one of the players on Fisch’s high school team, and before long, he had invited Fisch to do odd jobs around the football office. He spent a year quietly laboring before another assistant started giving Fisch higher-profile tasks.
His break had come. Finally.
“After a year of hiding around the office to do random projects, Coach Spurrier started noticing the work I was doing and liked what I was doing,” Fisch said. “Our relationship grew tremendously.”
After a couple of years as a GA under Spurrier at Florida, Fisch latched on to a defensive quality control spot with the Texans for a few years, then got an assistant (to the) QB/WR coach job with the Ravens, a spot he held for four years.
At this point his career blew up. First he got an honest-to-God position coach slot coaching WRs with the Broncos. That didn't last. The next year he was Minnesota's offensive coordinator and QB coach. That didn't last. He bounced back to the NFL the next year as the Seahawks' QB coach. That didn't last; the next year he was OC/QB with Miami (college edition); after two years of that he bounced to Jacksonville, where he was just unceremoniously terminated.
Fisch hasn't been anywhere for more than two years since his stint as an assistant to an assistant with the Ravens and has held three different offensive coordinator slots since 2009.
|2011||Miami||3||23||26||18||Jacory Harris, SR|
|2012||Miami||47||41||16||25||Stephen Morris, JR|
|2013||Miami||14||5||11||10||Stephen Morris, SR|
Fisch's first year with the Hurricanes (which was also Al Golden's first year) saw a drastic improvement at QB. The year before an interception-flinging Jacory Harris struggled to the point where he was platooned with true freshman Stephen Morris. Harris completed 55% of his passes for 6.6 YPA and had a TD:INT of 14:15.
Fisch enters; Harris holds the job for the entirety of his senior season, completes 65% at 8.3 a pop and has a 20:9 TD:INT. Miami leaps from the middle of the pack in YPA to the top 20 and maintains that performance the next two years as Morris becomes a solid option.
The 2011 Miami season stands out as one of the weirdest in advanced stats. It was thoroughly discussed at the time around here since I like using FEI and having a Miami team that pooped out a 6-3 win over South Florida that far up the chart was credibility-sapping. As best I can figure, a 35-point performance against a rampant Virginia Tech defense was fuel for that ranking. S&P was not so impressed with the Fisch impact.
In any case, Fisch had a clear positive impact on the Hurricanes offense, especially in the passing game.
Things weren't nearly as successful with Minnesota. Fisch's single year there saw Adam Weber regress in most statistical categories, throwing a bunch of picks. It's hard to pick what was going wrong there, deep into the Tim Brewster era. Not much was going right with the Gophers and a single year there is no more indicative of coaching talent than Doug Nussmeier's lost 2014.
There's not much to like about Fisch's tenure with the Jaguars.
|2014||Jacksonville||31||31||32||Blake Bortles (rookie)|
But there wasn't much to work with, either. Fisch had a rookie QB last year; three of the top four Jags WRs were also rookies. Denard Robinson had just established himself a pretty good running back when he was lost for the year, leaving a meh offensive line trying to get Toby Gerhart yards. No offense to Chad Henne, but he doesn't seem like an NFL QB.
Fisch was hurled overboard as Gus Bradley tries to salvage his job. On the one hand, you've got a short stint with an already moribund franchise that features a ton of injuries and rookies; on the other you've got a guy who is 38 and has already impressed enough people to be an offensive coordinator at three different places. The one situation he found himself in that could plausibly result in success—Miami under the competent Al Golden—resulted in that. He's a bit of a swing for the fences, but… I mean… he's basically a position coach with a cool title..
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
I'd be leery of Fisch as a coordinator since his track record is a little short and uneven. As the kind of sort of third OC behind Harbaugh and Drevno and a WR coach, it's a good get. Fisch doesn't have much college experience but the guys around him all do, and if this is his goal…
What’s down the road for Fisch? Ultimately, he wants to be a head coach, and he’s working fervently to get there. He takes detailed notes in every meeting, saving the dozens of notebooks he’s amassed over the years so he can always look back along the way.
“You try to take what you can use today and use it today and then you try to store the rest of it,” Fisch said. “There’s so much from each one of these guys. I’m trying to soak it in and then make it my own — I’ve got to make sure I’m not trying to be somebody else but that I’m learning from all of these guys.”
…you know he's going to get after it as a recruiter despite having little track record in that department so far.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE COACHING STAFF
We're just about complete here, with one spot on each side of the ball yet to be determined. The leaders for those spots are Roy Manning and Jimmie Dougherty, but Manning might get pushed out if Michigan needs a bonafide second DBs coach. Chart:
|OC||Tim Drevno||lock||DC||DJ Durkin||lock|
|QB||Jim Harbaugh||lock||DL||Greg Mattison||lock|
|RB||Ty Wheatley||very likely||LB||Durkin||lock|
|WR||Jedd Fisch||lock||DB||Greg Jackson||lock|
|TE||Jimmie Dougherty||probable||ST||John Baxter||lock|
S&C: Kevin Tolbert.
[NOTE! This section uses the UFR catch chart. Passes are rated on a three point scale for catchability. 3: routine. 2: moderate. 1: difficult. There's also a zero for times when the player was thrown to without any chance of a reception.]
|Devin Funchess||Jr.||Amara Darboh||So.*||Dennis Norfleet||Jr.||Jake Butt||So.|
|Jehu Chesson||So.*||Freddy Canteen||Fr.||Bo Dever||So.*#||Khalid Hill||Fr.*|
|Da'Mario Jones||So.*||Moe Ways||Fr.||Ross Douglas||Fr.*||--||--|
[NOTE: though flex tight ends are listed above since they will fill some of the WR snaps they are addressed in the TE & Friends post, not here.]
It's not often you lose a guy who broke the single-season receiving record and think that things could get better, but it's not often you come across a guy like Devin Funchess, either. Behind Funchess there's not a whole lot that's proven but there are sufficient numbers and hype to believe that Michigan goes five or six deep in quality options, especially after Jake Butt gets back.
If things break right, this unit could hearken back to the Breaston/Edwards/Avant days where you had the NFL-level ludicrous deep threat, the possession ninja, and the screen merchant all in one receiving corps, getting all mother/maiden/crone in your face. It'll take some luck… but not that much luck.
everybody get up [Fuller]
The charade is over. Devin Funchess is a wide receiver, 100%. Not that you had to be told that after he spent 87% of last year split wide, faking bubble screens and occasionally catching them and oh right running downfield and leaping over dudes. Funchess put his hand in the dirt in passing situations only, and no one has tried to suggest he might do even that much this year.
This is pretty terrific. Michigan had a guy break Braylon Edwards's single-season receiving record and there was still enough left over for Funchess to rake in 49 catches for almost 750 yards. By the Big Ten opener he was just, like, running right by cornerbacks.
At the end of the year Michigan was handing him the ball on end-arounds and watching him nearly break them for touchdowns, if only Devin Gardner could ID the safety he needs to block. Oh, and this!
A man that large should not be able to move that fast. Take it from someone who played against him:
"I can't believe he's that big and that fast. He made us look silly. You can't get around him. He's just such a big body that he's going to block you from making a play on the football. …
"He could be like Calvin Johnson in the red zone. Just throw it up and let him go get it. I bet we see a lot more of that this year."
I didn't say it! I may have thought it, but I didn't say it. I did call him Minitron a few times, and I may have wondered privately about whether Funchess could be, like… him. But naw. I mean, Calvin Johnson ran a 4.35 at his NFL draft combine.
Funchess proved last season he's capable of being an elite-level receiver. There were some dropped passes here and there, but his combination of size and speed (he clocked a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash in the spring) remains unmatched on the U-M roster.
FAKE! FAKE, I say! That is not a real thing, because physics. Only… you know, it's only almost impossible. Because Calvin Johnson. And when you watch him go up against top corners like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a second round pick last year…
…or Trae Waynes, a projected first rounder this year…
…it's just like… maybe I should make this comparison I should not make. Because he is smoking those dudes. Not every time, because it never happens every time, but enough. A lot. At 6'5".
BUT WHAT ABOUT HANDS, the bits of the internet with short attention spans ask. Okay, yes. The one catch was a late-season spate of dropped balls. He derfed three in the Iowa game alone, greatly contributing to Michigan's inability to move the ball. One of those was a very conspicuous one on a screen, and that is currently playing an outsized role in people's brains. Because the last thing that's happened is the thing that is always going to happen, Funchess now has a rep for having shaky hands. Once you see the first derf it is a natural inclination to start judging harshly, like when he gets hit in the back by Gardner because of a bad blitz pickup.
This is why we track the numbers, and the numbers say Funchess is anything but a problem:
But once you get a reputation in this area people start looking at anything you don't catch as a drop. This is probably one of the plays that stick in skeptics' minds:
That's crazy tough! That's low and behind him and it's only his freaky long arms and Brad Nessler that even give that pass the semblance of a drop.
Until the Iowa game, Funchess's catching ability was unquestioned. Don't let one bad game in the bitter cold overwhelm a large sample size that indicates Funchess's hands are in fact an asset, especially when you consider that the chart above doesn't take the fact that he's 6'5" and can leap over defensive backs into account.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT CALVIN JOHNSON IS A UNIQUE UNREPLICABLE HUMAN WHO IS PROBABLY PART ALIEN AND BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE SPIDER, says the tiny bit of the internet with common sense. And… okay, well, yeah. You should never project anything at the extremes of possibility because probability is going to make you pay for that, son.
So Devin Funchess probably isn't Calvin Johnson. Michigan should try to prove that assertion wrong. Expect something between first team All Big Ten and an All-American followed by an early entry into the NFL draft. He may even win the Mackey award, because people don't pay attention.
[After THE JUMP: refugees, JUNGLE BEATS, and tiny dancer.]
[UPDATED 12:25p.m. Now with 100% more Ace]
The Q: Michigan graduated much of its 2013 receiver depth chart and did away with the fancy Borges stacks and routes. In this new world, after Funchess, who's going to be Gardner's favorite target this year? Who are we going to see more or less of among the receivers/tight ends?
Brian: 1. Amara Darboh. Darboh was going to start last year and the buzz there was palpable. He brings physicality against what I promise you will be the grabbiest set of Big Ten pass defenses you've ever seen—the MSU effect—and he's even got mutant muscles in his arms, which I assume will be the entirety of Ace's response. He should ease past Canteen for the starting job, at least to start, and Canteen will have a tough time catching up since he's not going to drop off the face of the earth.
2. Dennis Norfleet. This is an artifact of some assumptions about the rest of the offense. Namely, that they won't be able to run that well and the tight end situation is going to be suboptimal. With reports that Norfleet looks great in space and an offensive coordinator who's not afraid to throw to his WRs on the perimeter, Norfleet's catch volume should spike as Michigan looks to him for easy yards that get defenders out of the box.
3. Freddy Canteen. Yeah, he's probably Manningham again, but even Manningham had a bit of a slow start. It'll be close with Norfleet.
4. Jehu Chesson/Jake Butt. Your guess is as good as mine about relative frequency here. I have a hunch we're going to see tight ends stay in to block frequently this year what with the lack of NFL OTs, and Butt is going to miss at least a game or two after his ACL tear. But he's got a much clearer path to playing time than Chesson and already had more catches than Chesson did a year ago.
Everyone else gets scraps, maybe a dozen catches spread between AJ Williams, Keith Heitzman, Da'Mario Jones, and Jaron Dukes and another dozen to the tailbacks. I hope we don't see any of the true freshmen other than Canteen, because there's not much need either this year or next and all could use work.
[Jump for the rest of us twisting ourselves to not have the same responses]
Bill Connelly a few years back created a new uberstat for receivers called RYPR (receiving yards/total team plays *Passing S&P+). His description:
Below, you will find a measure that attempts to answer the following questions about a given pass-catcher:
- 1) How much do you produce?
- 2) How important are you to your team's passing game?
- 3) How good is the passing game to which you are important?
- 4) And how much is the forward pass featured in your team's offense?
The idea was to simply multiply the following four factors together: a player's Yards Per Target, his Target Rate, his team's Passing S&P+, and his team's pass rate. Target Rate x Yards Per Target x Passing S&P+ x Pass Rate = RYPR.
Let's skip right to Michigan
I went through several iterations trying to match exactly what Connelly had done, so this may not match the results I reported beforehand. Here's the breakdown of Michigan's targets with NCAA averages in parentheses:
|Target #||Receiver||RYPR (NCAA avg)||Yards/Tgt||Target Rate|
|1||Jeremy Gallon||178.0 (102.6)||10 (8.6)||32% (23%)|
|2||Devin Funchess||97.0 (68.8)||8.1 (8.1)||21% (17%)|
|3||Drew Dileo||22.6 (49.5)||5.8 (7.8)||7% (12%)|
|4||Jake Butt||30.5 (36.6)||8.7 (7.7)||6% (9%)|
|5||Jehu Chesson||28.7 (27.0)||9.2 (7.2)||6% (7%)|
|6||Fitz Toussaint||26.3 (20.9)||10.2 (6.7)||5% (6%)|
|7||Jeremy Jackson||9.2 (17.1)||7.1 (7.0)||2% (5%)|
Funchess's 97.0 was 22nd among teams' second targets though his yards per target were average for No. 2 guys. The max protect stuff in the season's third quarter (Indiana through Nebraska) bore out in the numbers, with that third receiver (Dileo) far under the typical third receiver's usage.
Best Receivers in a Bad B1G
Gallon wasn't the only long term top receiver to graduate last year, and the conference wasn't very deep on receiving talent to begin with. The result is not many wideouts left in-conference to have cracked that 100 (average for a team's best receiver) mark. In 2013 the Big Ten average RYPR for its teams' top three receivers was 69.5, last among major conferences and just ahead of the Sun Belt and Conf USA. When I removed all seniors the Big Ten was behind the MAC (Conference USA was still very worse). Here's the best among those that remain.
|Receivers||Team||Tgt||Rec||Yds||YPT||Tgt Rt||1st Dn%||RYPR|
|Devin Smith||Ohio State||#2||44||660||9.0||20.9%||34%||88.7|
Maryland has lots of receivers. Northwestern's Joneses were pretty productive, and could be more so in a Trevor Siemian offense. The tight ends:
|Tight Ends||Team||Tgt||Rec||Yds||YPT||Tgt Rt||1st Dn%||RYPR|
|Jeff Heuerman||Ohio State||#4||26||466||12.9||10.3%||44%||62.6|
|Jesse James||Penn State||#3||25||333||8.3||10.2%||33%||39.0|
Remind me to draft Heuerman in the draft-o-snark.
The youtube search I have that usually turns up Michigan State fans in gorilla costumes and ads for illegal streams has hit upon something actually interesting for a change: cut-ups from the Michigan coaches' clinic.
This one is on Michigan's perimeter blocking:
Hit up 25 minutes for always-entertaining editions of the Michigan drill
The good blocks are widely distributed between Roundtree, Gallon, and Dileo with some cameos by Gardner(!) and Darboh. Darboh just buries a couple guys; Dileo and Gallon bring that Martavious Odoms mountain-goat-style blocking to the party. These clips are just the good bits, for the most part, but it seems like Michigan likes what they have in that department this year. Gallon in particular is ruthless in his desire to put guys on their ass 40 yards from the play.
Darboh should be an asset, as he's got a lot more size than anyone they played last year save Gardner and seems to have the same desire the mighty mites do.
The second item is about 5 minutes of individual WR drills featuring everyone's favorite training landmark:
The big takeaway there is the huge agility gap between Jackson and Darboh/Chesson, let alone the slot-type guys at the top of the depth chart.