There are many statistics available to evaluate wide receivers. Some basic stats like catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Some more advanced stats like catch percentage, yards after the catch, and target share. And even more advanced ones still like those captured by the NFL’s Next Gen Stats team, air yards per target, and expected yards after the catch. All of these give a good insight into what type of receiver a player is.
Using StatsBomb data from the 2021 NFL season, I would like to introduce a new metric for evaluation of receiver play called “Randy”.
Yes, a new metric after Randy Moss, who IS the best deep threat in the history of the NFL. I tried for an embarrassing amount of time to get an acronym to fit Randy or Moss, because come on, this NEEDS to be named after him. But alas, the metric needs to see the light of day, with or without a catchy acronym.
In short, Randy is how much a receiver moved from when the ball was thrown, to when the ball arrives at the receiver. For example, a receiver who is stationary when the ball is thrown and then the ball arrives without that player moving (after a hitch, or stop route) would have a Randy of 0. A player running a deep post, or fade would have a much larger Randy because they will be running as the ball is in the air.
Some insights this metric can give us are:
- How receivers are utilized in offensive schemes
- How well do receivers catch on the run vs standing still
- Quarterback arm strength
- Wide receiver distribution of route types
And opens up some exciting new analysis possibilities:
- Expanding on expected yards after the catch
- Additional depth to expected completion models
Randy Rankings (Naming it Randy has already paid off)
Let’s start with looking at how 2021 receivers ranked in Randy. Looking at only wide receivers and tight ends (Sorry running backs, catch a few more middle seams and we can talk) here are the top 10 and bottom 10 qualifying receivers from 2021.
Perhaps few will be surprised to see Rondale Moore as the bottom player in Randy. His Avg Depth of Target was last in the NFL last season at just over 1 yard downfield. Cole Beasley was 3rd from the bottom on the same list. He has a predictably low Randy as well. This DOES NOT mean they are bad receivers, just that their distance between pass and target is not very high.
On the other side, MVS and Courtland Sutton were the top two receivers in Avg Depth of Target last season and had predictably high Randy’s as well. No tight ends made the top 10, but just missing out on the top 10 was seam king Rob Gronkowski. The next two tight ends ranked by Randy were matchup nightmares Darren Waller and Kyle Pitts.
Randy And Avg Depth of Target
Randy predictably correlates strongly with air yards. This makes sense intuitively. The ball is not in the air very long for short passes, and it is in the air longer for deep passes. But, Randy can give us deeper insights into passes that are in the range between short and long. It can help us identify how a player is used schematically. A 12-yard curl would have a Randy of around 0 (hopefully the receiver keeps moving back toward the QB like he’s taught so it wouldn’t be all the way to 0), while a 12-yard over route would have a much higher Randy as the QB will lead the receiver as he’s running.
Randy And Yards After Catch (YAC)
It’s easy to picture the namesake of this metric Randy Moss running deep, torching a defensive back, catching a big pass and easily running in for a touchdown. I can’t wait until we collect data back to when he played (Are you reading this Ted? I’ll even take just the 2007 New England Patriots season…) to see his dot in the top right of the graph below. High Randy and high YAC.
For the rest of the league, there is a slight downward trend. As Randy increases, YAC decreases. Two players with around league average RANDY (7.3 yards) are Deebo Samuel and Mike Gesicki.
As I read too many times in textbooks studying math, “the proof is left as an exercise to the reader”. Hint: Deebo has really high YAC, Mike Gesicki has really low YAC.
Using Randy to evaluate Quarterbacks
Let’s start with a pet peeve of mine. Not all air yards are created equal. A 10-yard middle curl right in front of the QB is MUCH different than a 10-yard out to the opposite sideline. (Especially in college where the hashes are farther apart!) For this analysis, let’s look at how Randy correlates to the real pass distance, not air yards. With actual pass distance, you get extra credit if you’re Josh Allen and can rocket the ball out to Stefon Diggs on deep outs.
It should come as no surprise that the Arizona Cardinals have a low Randy seeing as Rondale Moore had the lowest Randy in the NFL. But they are right in line with what is expected based on real pass distance. Russell Wilson led the NFL last season in actual pass distance and ended up number two in Randy.
A few other quick thoughts:
- Strong arm quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a very low Randy, despite playing with deep threat Tyreek Hill
- Josh Allen and Dak both threw darts down the field
- Aaron Rodgers might miss MVS and Davante Adams this season as he had the highest Randy, by far, in the NFL
Looking at the distribution of Randy for a specific team gives a good sense of how receivers are utilized schematically as well. For the Rams, Cooper Kupp is obviously the do-it-all receiver. Low Randy, high Randy, doesn’t matter. He did it all, winning the fictional triple crown last season, But this also allows you to see how the Rams utilized Robert Woods and Van Jefferson, as well as Odell Beckham after he joined the Rams midseason.
Randy gives us deeper insight into both receivers and quarterbacks. It can also tell us a lot about offensive schemes, and how individual players are utilized from team to team. Will Marquez Valdes Scantling stay number 1 in Randy this season, or will Allen Lazard fill the void in Green Bay and jump to the top? Will Mecole Hardman step into more of the Tyreek Hill mold and be targeted on some deeper routes? I’m excited to use Randy this season to further analyze receivers this season!
Head of American Football Analysis