Stacking up the Chargers' Wide Receivers

So it's been 2 years since the Chargers have won the division (and made the playoffs). The team no longer needs to build to win in the playoffs, the team needs to get back to basics and build to win the division and just make the playoffs. So where to start?

The point of this column is going to be analyzing the Chargers roster using the assistance from the good people over at Football Outsiders to see how the Chargers roster stacks up to the other rosters in the division. I'll also take a look at the last two seasons to see if the Chargers are trending upward or downward in each category.

For today's edition, I'm going to start with the Wide Receivers...after the jump.

First, if you are unfamiliar with Football Outsiders and their ranking system with crazy terms like DYAR and DVOA, visit this page to get your learn on. If you are too lazy to click that link that I included to make it super easy for you, here's a short, severely oversimplified summary:

  • DVOA and DYAR are adjusted numbers according to the defense that your team is going up against. A 100-yard receiving game against the #32 pass defense will not count as much as a 100-yard game against the #1 pass defense. It is also adjusted for plays that contribute to your team winning.
  • Positive is good, negative is bad.
  • DYAR is essentially a value telling you how much better (in yards) a player is than their replacement. Here's a quote that explains DYAR in a nutshell:
  • When a player is removed from an offense, he is usually not replaced by a player of similar ability. Nearly every starting player in the NFL is a starter because he is better than the alternative...A player’s true value can then be measured by the level of performance he provides above that replacement level baseline, totaled over all of his run or pass attempts.
  • Now that we have that stuff out of the way...here's what my research uncovered.

    DYAR DVOA TD Catch Rate Fum
    SD 230 23.17% 17 55.92% 1
    KC 84.2 -6.56% 9 55.07% 1
    OAK 87.7 2.13% 13 53.29% 3
    DEN 6.2 -13.06% 19 41.33% 2

    There should be no surprise that the Chargers have the best receiving corps in the AFC West. The Chargers do not have a single receiver with a negative DVOA on the season. That is something that no other AFC West team can claim.

    In fact, if you believe in DYAR, you would be able to see that the Chargers WR corps is better than all of the other WR’s in the AFC West COMBINED!

    Taking at look at each team’s number one WR, the numbers fall out as below:

    Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Yards TD Catch Rate Fumbles
    V.Jackson SD 268 16.70% 115 1106 9 52% 0
    D.Bowe KC 149 0.50% 142 1159 5 57% 1
    D.Heyward-Bey OAK 145 3.60% 115 975 4 56% 1
    D.Thomas DEN 42 -4.90% 70 551 4 46% 0

    Clearly Vincent Jackson is the best number one receiver in the AFC West according to Football Outsiders. However, Football Outsiders doesn’t even believe Jackson is the best WR on the team, that distinction goes to someone else:

    Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Yards TD Catch Rate Fumbles
    M.Floyd SD 353 51.90% 70 856 5 61% 0

    Not only is Malcom Floyd the best WR on the team as far as DYAR and DVOA, he ranks towards the top of the league in both categories as well:

    Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Yards TD Catch Rate Fumbles
    C.Johnson DET 586 33.20% 158 1680 16 61% 1
    J.Nelson GB 530 54.10% 96 1263 15 71% 0
    W.Welker NE 475 22.20% 173 1569 9 71% 0
    V.Cruz NYG 468 33.30% 129 1536 9 64% 1
    M.Wallace PIT 410 32.20% 114 1193 8 63% 1
    M.Colston NO 403 35.40% 107 1143 8 75% 1
    M.Floyd SD 353 51.90% 70 856 5 61% 0

    Floyd ranks second in the league in DVOA and seventh in the league in DYAR. Now if only we could get a full season out of him...

    Here are the numbers for the Chargers roster (only the top 4 WR qualified for DVOA ratings):

    Player Team DYAR DVOA Passes Yards TD Catch Rate Fumbles
    M.Floyd SD 353 51.90% 70 856 5 61% 0
    V.Jackson SD 268 16.70% 115 1106 9 52% 0
    P.Crayton SD 60 9.30% 34 248 1 68% 1
    V.Brown SD 50 3.30% 40 329 2 48% 0

    There is no doubt that Floyd and Jackson both benefit from the existence of the other, as well as both players benefiting from the presence of Antonio Gates as well as the guy throwing them the ball, even if he had an off year. Additionally, Norv offense and his preference to throw the ball deep helps boost the numbers for these guys with the explosive plays that they make for this offense. I would have liked to see what these numbers would have looked like if both guys had been healthy all season.

    I was surprised to see that Crayton has better numbers for both DVOA and DYAR than Vincent Brown despite having less yards, touchdowns, and more fumbles. I was also surprised to see Brown’s catch rate below 50%. Clearly catch rate is a large factor in a receivers’ value with Football Outsiders, as it should be. After all, a receiver can’t gain you any yardage if he can’t catch the ball reliably.

    It’s not a reach to say that the Chargers have the best WR’s in the AFC West, and that is when Rivers looked quite mediocre at times this past season. The Wide Receiver position is undoubtedly a strength on this team, and Jackson needs to be locked up long term to keep it that way.

    What do you think? Feel free to comment below.

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