|06-02-2006, 01:51 PM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Eugene, Oregon
Big Play Shay
Dropped passes anyone?
`ESPN says that even the surrest handed receivers "drop the ball."
Lelie? Not on there...
Harrison, Smith sure-handed
By KC Joyner
One of the things I most enjoy in researching football scientifically is debunking traditional football wisdom. How many times have you seen a sure-handed receiver drop a pass, only to have the announcer say something like, "That almost never happens. He'll catch that pass 99 times out of 100."
I always wondered if that was true. Do the best receivers catch 99 percent of the passes thrown their way?
As a result, I tracked the number of drops every qualifying receiver had during the 2005 season (minimum of 40 catches to qualify). I also divided the number of drops by the number of catchable passes to come up with a dropped pass percentage.
Here are the top 20 receivers in dropped pass percentage from the 2005 season:
If last season is any indication, the best receivers don't drop only one pass for every 99 they catch. The best ratio is more like one drop for every 40 catches.
It was no surprise to see Marvin Harrison near the top of this list, but I was somewhat surprised to see T.J. Houshmandzadeh rank No. 1 in this category. Houshmandzadeh is known as a very good possession receiver, but this chart shows he may be one of the best.
Steve Smith's reputation as a home run threat is well earned, but having dropped only seven passes in 150 catchable attempts shows his hands are certainly underrated.
I also found it interesting to see two Seattle receivers -- Joe Jurevicius and Bobby Engram -- in the top 20. Having two of the most sure-handed receivers in the NFL certainly was a big reason Seattle was finally able to become a championship contender in 2005.
Let's also examine how the worst receivers in the league did (also a minimum of 40 catches to qualify).
This chart shows that Ernest Wilford dropped nearly one out of every five passes thrown to him last year. Despite this abysmal drop percentage, Wilford still ranked fourth in the league in total yards per catch attempt. Most of Wilford's drops came on accurate passes, so he has a ton of upside for the upcoming season.
Two highly touted rookie receivers -- Reggie Brown and Mark Clayton -- also found their way on this list. While their drop percentages were fairly close, Clayton was actually much more sure-handed when considering the accuracy of the passes each receiver dropped.
The accuracy of a pass is a subjective measurement, but I use a set of rules to hopefully limit its subjective nature. The rule of thumb I use to grade the accuracy of a pass is whether the receiver is forced to reach behind or dive to make the catch.
I segment dropped passes into three categories. The first is an accurate dropped pass. The blame for dropping an accurate pass falls completely on the wide receiver. The second is an inaccurate dropped pass. These are passes that are thrown outside of the receiver's catching frame, but are still catchable. A receiver may not catch all of these passes but the best ones still catch most of them.
The third type of dropped pass is what I call stripped/drop passes. These are passes a receiver gets his hands on, but has the ball stripped away by the defender for an incompletion. Most scoring systems list these as passes defensed. However, since the receiver got his hands on the ball and had it stripped away, I figure it should be segmented away from the standard pass defensed (i.e., when a DB knocks the pass down before it gets to the receiver).
So how did Clayton and Brown fare in these categories? Four of Clayton's nine total drops came on accurate passes, while only three came on inaccurate passes and two on stripped passes. Meanwhile, nine of Brown's 13 drops came on accurate passes, while only four were due to inaccurate passes and none were due to stripped passes. The nine accurate pass drops tied Brown for fifth-worst in the league in that category last year.
Having a pair of good pass-catching hands is a natural talent, but as Raymond Berry proved years ago, it is also something that can be improved upon with practice. If these numbers are any indication, Reggie Brown has the most room for improvement of any second-year wide receiver.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. His latest book, Scientific Football 2006, is now available for preorder at his Web site, http://thefootballscientist.com.