Using the app I posted yesterday which allows you to compare the college careers of receivers, I decided I would take a look at a group of receivers that sort of fit into a group insofar as they have some similarities, but where we can look at their college careers as a way to set expectations for the future.
Dez Bryant, Hakeem Nicks, Jon Baldwin and Michael Floyd are all sort of similar insofar as they are bigger receivers (Nicks is the smallest) who didn’t make it into the first 10 picks of their drafts, but were all selected in the first round. They all ran about a 4.5 40 yard dash either at their pro day, or at the Combine, so they are all about the same speed.
Bryant and Nicks have been in the NFL for long enough that the relevant thing to look at in terms of setting future expectations is what they’ve actually done in the league. Bryant has always been efficient and then broke out in terms of compiling volume yards and touchdowns this year. Nicks has been very good since his 2nd year, with an asterisk for the fact that he’s had a difficult time staying on the field.
But Jon Baldwin and Michael Floyd have a really small number of observations that we can look at if we’re looking for NFL plays. Baldwin has generally been an inefficient WR, but he’s also been playing with a dumpster fire(s) at the QB position. Floyd is kind of in the same boat. I think if we’re trying to think about their prospects going forward then some part of the equation is what their teams do at the QB position, and some part of the equation is their own personal ceilings as players. The problem in each case is that while both are big receivers, and they’re fast enough to be good, their resumes to date don’t really lead us to project them as stud receivers. Primarily I’m relying on their college careers to say that.
Let’s start by first looking at two variables which tend to have some predictive ability over what to expect from receivers transitioning from college to the NFL. Lots of variables have almost no predictive ability, but two that do are the receiver’s share of their college team’s yards, and also the receivers ability to catch touchdowns. Here’s a graph which shows how the four receivers in our comparison group stack up in terms of percentage of college team yards.
You can see that both Bryant and Nicks were up over 40% of college team yards in the year before they left for the NFL. Baldwin had one year of about 40% market share, while Michael Floyd didn’t approach 40% in any of his seasons at Notre Dame.
If we look at market share for touchdowns, we see again that Nicks and Bryant excelled in the season before they left for the NFL, and Floyd was decent, but Baldwin lagged by a decent margin.
The interesting thing here is that Michael Floyd was by far the most utilized of the receivers. Here’s a graph which shows each of their targets by season:
Maybe the last thing that’s worth pointing out is that both Bryant and Nicks flashed their red zone efficiency when they were still in college. Here’s a graph which shows each receiver’s red zone TD rate.
It’s worth stepping back for a minute and being realistic about how much any of these college stats impact what we should expect from receivers. The college numbers tend to be the best indicator we have of whether a receiver will be good, and yet they are an extremely imperfect indicator at the same time. My outlook on both Floyd and Baldwin will be that I sort of don’t expect that they’ll be really good receivers, so unless I see something to move me off that position, I’ll just kind of look around for other higher potential receivers. But I’m also not planning on digging my heels in on either guy. My default position is that I expect them not to light the world on fire. But if the information changes, then I’ll have to update my position.