The Most Efficient Receivers in the NFL
jordan matthews 2017

One thing that comes up any time a player changes teams is trying to figure out whether the player was being held back by their previous team, or whether they might have been propped up by their previous team.

There probably isn’t a really good way to know for sure the relative talent level of all of the inter-connected players on a field, but Kevin Cole had a cool post last year  detailing a metric that he called Relative AYA. I wanted to look at some receivers using a similar approach, but looking at a few years in the hopes of getting a larger sample. So I created a metric piggybacking off Kevin’s work that I’ll call “Fake Relative AYA” since it’s not the same as the one Kevin calculated.

My steps for calculating the numbers below were:

  1. Calculate AYA for every quarterback to receiver combination for each of the 2014 and 2015 seasons
  2. Calculate the QBs overall AYA, on a per season basis
  3. Net out the receiver’s AYA from the QBs average AYA
  4. Calculate weighted AYA by targets for the receivers
  5. Delete players who weren’t in the top 40 percent of targets over the two year period

If the two year cutoff seems arbitrary I actually plan to look at this same thing based on various years for cutoffs. I can easily re-run the numbers for all seasons back to 2000.

Some comments:

  • I wonder how many additional points the Vikings would have scored if they’d thrown all of Cordarrelle Patterson‘s targets to Jarius Wright. This metric hasn’t been tested for its predictive ability, so I really don’t know the answer to that question. But I would venture as a guess that they couldn’t have done any worse than they ended up doing by throwing the ball to Patterson.
  • Davante Adams has been horrible on a relative basis. But to be fair to Adams, Pierre Garcon has been almost as bad and he’s seen as the key part of an offense.
  • Jordan Matthews really probably doesn’t get his due. It’s even easy for me to buy into the narrative that he isn’t good. But when you consider that the QBs he’s caught the ball from (Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, and Sam Bradford) would be the source of constant excuse making for any other receiver, and he’s produced decently even in spite of those QBs, he really does seem more impressive.
  • Among offseason tight end acquisitions, the order of relative efficiency would go Ladarius Green, Coby Fleener, then Martellus Bennett. Green of course has the smallest number of targets, so his lead on that metric could be meaningless.
  • The Titans may have gotten a steal in Rishard Matthews because they don’t have to pay him very much, and among the free agent wide receivers he had the most relative efficiency. I don’t even look at that as if Matthews is definitely better than Marvin Jones or Mohamed Sanu. But the fact that he’ll be making less while there are also reasons to think he could boost the team’s efficiency makes him a win for the Titans. In the case of Marvin Jones his efficiency on this measure looks horrible although there are perhaps some mitigating circumstances. For Jones’ career he’s been slightly more efficient per target than Cincinnati’s other primary receivers, AJ Green and Sanu. Although the fact that Green likely takes most of the defensive attention could probably explain why Green isn’t significantly more efficient than Jones. So in Jones’ case even though he doesn’t look great on this measure, it might not be telling the entire story in terms of the relative efficiency he brought to his offense for his career.
  • The drawback of this metric is that it penalizes players for playing with other good players and rewards them for playing with bad players. DeSean Jackson is probably good on his own, and then also probably gets a bump for playing with Pierre Garcon.
NAME POS Targets  Fake Relative AYA
DeSean Jackson WR 144 4.13
Stedman Bailey WR 71 3.04
Willie Snead WR 102 2.39
Rishard Matthews WR 83 2.33
Odell Beckham Jr. WR 288 2.30
Jarius Wright WR 112 2.10
Julio Jones WR 366 2.04
Emmanuel Sanders WR 278 1.93
Travis Kelce TE 190 1.81
Ty Hilton WR 265 1.71
Eric Decker WR 246 1.60
Brice Butler WR 61 1.59
Rob Gronkowski TE 251 1.55
Kenny Stills WR 146 1.51
Jordy Nelson WR 151 1.38
Alshon Jeffery WR 239 1.37
Jordan Matthews WR 231 1.35
Nate Washington WR 166 1.33
Sammy Watkins WR 224 1.33
Corey Brown WR 90 1.32
Terrance Williams WR 158 1.30
Greg Olsen TE 247 1.23
Allen Hurns WR 202 1.18
Will Tye TE 62 1.12
Martavis Bryant WR 140 1.08
Donte Moncrief WR 154 1.06
Ladarius Green TE 88 1.04
Kenny Britt WR 156 1.03
Allen Robinson WR 232 0.99
Randall Cobb WR 256 0.98
Louis Murphy WR 74 0.93
Michael Floyd WR 188 0.93
Steve Smith WR 207 0.93
Cole Beasley WR 124 0.92
DeAndre Hopkins WR 319 0.88
Gary Barnidge TE 150 0.88
Torrey Smith WR 154 0.88
Kamar Aiken WR 160 0.83
A.J. Green WR 248 0.80
Amari Cooper WR 130 0.77
Jeremy Maclin WR 267 0.77
Jordan Reed TE 179 0.73
Tyler Eifert TE 77 0.73
Anquan Boldin WR 242 0.72
Jerricho Cotchery WR 132 0.72
Brian Quick WR 71 0.71
James Jones WR 210 0.69
Antonio Brown WR 374 0.68
Mike Evans WR 271 0.67
Stefon Diggs WR 84 0.62
Calvin Johnson WR 277 0.58
Jermaine Kearse WR 137 0.56
Golden Tate WR 272 0.52
Doug Baldwin WR 201 0.51
Dontrelle Inman WR 80 0.51
Delanie Walker TE 238 0.47
Brent Celek TE 87 0.43
Lance Moore WR 69 0.43
Andre Holmes WR 132 0.42
Antonio Gates TE 183 0.40
Marqise Lee WR 100 0.38
Mohamed Sanu WR 148 0.36
Tyler Lockett WR 69 0.30
Eddie Royal WR 141 0.28
Larry Fitzgerald WR 249 0.27
Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE 77 0.22
Brandin Cooks WR 198 0.22
Jamison Crowder WR 78 0.22
Mike Wallace WR 187 0.22
Brandon Marshall WR 279 0.21
Malcom Floyd WR 161 0.21
Vincent Jackson WR 204 0.20
Julian Edelman WR 222 0.19
Travis Benjamin WR 171 0.19
Steve Johnson WR 115 0.18
Luke Willson TE 66 0.16
Miles Austin WR 103 0.03
Demaryius Thomas WR 361 0.02
Brian Hartline WR 140 0.01
Zach Ertz TE 200 0.00
Justin Hunter WR 98 -0.02
Taylor Gabriel WR 122 -0.13
Charles Johnson WR 72 -0.15
Charles Clay TE 162 -0.16
Dion Sims TE 61 -0.17
Quinton Patton WR 65 -0.21
Greg Jennings WR 127 -0.23
Andrew Hawkins WR 155 -0.25
Kelvin Benjamin WR 145 -0.26
Michael Crabtree WR 254 -0.26
Crockett Gillmore TE 62 -0.27
Eric Ebron TE 118 -0.29
Marlon Brown WR 61 -0.31
Dwayne Bowe WR 108 -0.35
John Brown WR 204 -0.37
Devin Funchess WR 63 -0.38
Dwayne Allen TE 79 -0.40
Rueben Randle WR 217 -0.44
Dez Bryant WR 208 -0.46
Jarvis Landry WR 279 -0.47
Kendall Wright WR 153 -0.47
Dwayne Harris WR 69 -0.50
Dorial Green-Beckham WR 67 -0.51
Robert Woods WR 184 -0.55
Andre Johnson WR 223 -0.56
Heath Miller TE 172 -0.56
Marquess Wilson WR 82 -0.58
Kyle Rudolph TE 107 -0.61
Richard Rodgers TE 115 -0.62
Chris Hogan WR 120 -0.65
Jared Cook TE 173 -0.65
Markus Wheaton WR 165 -0.67
Marques Colston WR 166 -0.68
Brandon LaFell WR 193 -0.70
Coby Fleener TE 176 -0.71
Lance Kendricks TE 78 -0.72
Jordan Cameron TE 118 -0.80
Jason Witten TE 194 -0.82
Scott Chandler TE 113 -0.83
Martellus Bennett TE 208 -0.85
Cecil Shorts WR 185 -0.90
Jeremy Kerley WR 101 -0.90
Albert Wilson WR 85 -0.91
Ben Watson TE 141 -0.99
Mychal Rivera TE 146 -0.99
Tavon Austin WR 132 -0.99
Jimmy Graham TE 199 -1.01
Chris Givens WR 75 -1.02
Percy Harvin WR 108 -1.08
Keenan Allen WR 210 -1.19
Danny Amendola WR 129 -1.21
Ted Ginn WR 123 -1.23
Marvin Jones WR 103 -1.28
Preston Parker WR 68 -1.29
Roddy White WR 194 -1.29
Owen Daniels TE 155 -1.32
Harry Douglas WR 146 -1.34
Jermaine Gresham TE 112 -1.38
Pierre Garcon WR 216 -1.38
Anthony Fasano TE 79 -1.46
Julius Thomas TE 142 -1.50
Davante Adams WR 160 -1.54
Jason Avant WR 85 -1.58
Larry Donnell TE 133 -1.61
Kenbrell Thompkins WR 81 -1.62
Jeff Cumberland TE 61 -1.75
Jacob Tamme TE 109 -1.84
Vernon Davis TE 108 -1.88
Marcedes Lewis TE 68 -2.01
Reggie Wayne WR 116 -2.17
Wes Welker WR 86 -2.19
Riley Cooper WR 135 -2.73
Andre Roberts WR 94 -2.98
Levine Toilolo TE 65 -3.14
Hakeem Nicks WR 83 -3.38
Cordarrelle Patterson WR 69 -3.64
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