NFL Offseason – It’s Kyle Shanahan’s world, and the remainder of us are simply making an attempt to catch up.
Each July, we begin the annual means of airing out our statistical databases, beginning with our have a look at the passing recreation. The objective of those upcoming articles is to place customary passing and receiving stats in context. How possible was a given cross to be accomplished? How possible was a given play to earn massive yards after the catch? And which gamers routinely outperformed what the averages would predict? This yr, we’re beginning by taking a look at one of the best receivers with the ball of their arms in our annual have a look at YAC+.
What’s YAC+? This description is from Soccer Outsiders Almanac 2022, the place each participant together with his personal desk may have each his plus-minus and YAC+ listed for the previous three seasons:
YAC+ estimates how a lot YAC a receiver gained in comparison with what we’d have anticipated from a median receiver catching passes of comparable size in related down-and-distance conditions. That is imperfect—we don’t base YAC+ on what route a participant runs, and clearly a go route may have extra YAC than a comeback—however it does a reasonably good job of telling you if this receiver will get roughly YAC than different receivers with related utilization patterns.
One of many greatest questions on the subject of breaking down stats like that is what precisely we’re measuring. Is scoring excessive in YAC+ associated to a participant’s particular person ability, the flexibility to show the ball upfield and discover holes to run in? Or is it a matter of scheme and play design, with routes and ideas designed to get the ball into the arms of playmakers early and infrequently? And, after all, these components are under no circumstances impartial; if you wish to run an offense counting on yards after the catch, you’re going to scout, draft and signal gamers who’re good with the ball of their arms. Untangling the consequences is awfully tough, and the reply right here is a few of column A and a few of column B.
The overall consensus we’ve come to after years of wanting over the information is that it’s YAC+ is extra a person stat for receivers and extra a workforce stat for quarterbacks, however we now have to loop again round to Kyle Shanahan. For the fifth time within the final six seasons, Shanahan’s workforce has led the league in YAC+, and it wasn’t notably shut. The 49ers had +1.5 YAC+ final season; the Bengals have been in second place at +1.1 and have been the one different workforce within the league to hit at the least +1. A +1.5 mark is the third-best whole we’ve seen since our knowledge began in 2006, trailing solely Shanahan’s 2018 49ers (+1.8) and the 2011 Patriots (+1.7). Since Shanahan took over the 49ers in 2017, they’ve a +1.1 YAC+, clear leaps forward of the Chiefs and Rams at +0.7 every. The one yr Shanahan’s workforce hasn’t led the league since 2016 was his first in San Francisco the place he was caught with Brian Hoyer and a roster constructed by Chip Kelly – and even then, the 49ers have been first within the league over the again half of the season.
The whole Shanahan/McVay tree does very nicely on this stat yearly, and 2021 was no exception. Six of the highest ten groups final season had somebody from that tree at both head coach or offensive coordinator: the 49ers, Bengals, Packers, Chargers, Rams and Jets. However Shanahan is a full leap and past all of his disciples and collaborators as they proceed their gradual takeover of the league. His offense is extra dynamic after the catch than some other in soccer right this moment.
All that being mentioned, Shanahan had by no means had a large receiver truly lead the league in YAC+. He’s had some shut calls, with gamers simply failing to qualify for the leaderboards or ending only a hair beneath an all-time nice efficiency. He’s had George Kittle lead the tight finish leaderboards, however by no means a receiver. Till 2021.
2021 Extensive Receivers
A complete of 91 broad receivers certified this season, however we’ll simply present the 20 from the highest and backside of the rankings to avoid wasting area right here.
Word: For the needs of this stat, targets don’t embrace cross interference, the place no YAC might be gained.
Deebo Samuel is presently in a contract dispute with the 49ers. San Francisco ought to transfer heaven and earth to maintain him on the town, as a result of he simply had arguably the best YAC season in fashionable NFL historical past.
A +4.2 YAC+ is loopy by itself deserves. Since data start in 2006, solely three receivers have topped +3.5 over a full season. Samuel’s +4.2 suits between 2019 A.J. Brown (+4.4) and 2008 Devery Henderson (+4.0), head and shoulders forward of some other receiver yr in NFL historical past. And you then have a look at the utilization stats – Henderson barely scraped onto the leaderboards with 50 targets, whereas even Brown’s phenomenal rookie yr solely noticed him focused 83 occasions. Samuel put up this common on over 100 targets. The document for a receiver with 100 targets coming into 2021 was Josh Gordon in 2013 with a +2.8. Samuel destroyed it. Demariyus Thomas had been the all-time chief amongst with broad receivers, gaining 253 YAC above expectation in 2013. Samuel was at +330; he lapped the sector. He could not have caught Brown for highest YAC+ in historical past, however contemplating that he saved his stage of play that prime on 40% extra targets that Brown had, I’m comfy calling Samuel primary.
Right here’s the place you may say maintain on; Samuel performed an odd wideback position final season, lining up within the backfield regularly. He’s YAC+ is predicated on receiver baselines, however he has a justifiable share of working again routes; it will not be truthful to match him to a receiver working an ordinary route tree. There’s a little bit of an argument there, however I’m undecided it actually holds up. Samuel does fall to +3.6 when you take out the 25 targets he had behind the road of scrimmage final season, however that also leads all receivers. And it’s not like it is a one-year blip for Samuel, both. He had a YAC+ of +4.7 in 2020; he simply didn’t make the leaderboards as a result of he solely had 43 targets in an injury-plagued season. He was second within the league as a rookie in 2019 with a +2.4 YAC+, trailing solely that tremendous yr from A.J. Brown. Samuel has been wonderful with the ball in his arms since he entered the league, which is how he led the league in yards per reception final season regardless of ending 108th in aDOT. Even when he refuses to ever take a handoff once more, Samuel is an exceptionally useful weapon in Shanahan’s scheme, and the 49ers ought to do something wanted to maintain him on the town.
And if it wasn’t for Samuel, we’d have spent the final couple paragraphs singing the praises of Ja’Marr Chase. We saved saying that Samuel broke data and supplying you with the numbers as they stood earlier than 2021. However Chase additionally broke all these data; it’s simply that Samuel broke them more durable. Chase’s +3.2 YAC+ is now the second-highest for a large receiver with 100 targets, behind Samuel. His +259 YAC above expectation is now the second-highest for a large receiver, behind Samuel. Chase simply had an exceptional season in his personal proper; he simply had the misfortune of doing it in the identical yr Samuel put up his excellent numbers.
It’s not fairly so simple as Samuel producing his YAC+ behind the road of scrimmage with Chase pulling in numbers on deep balls, nevertheless. Whereas Chase has an enormous +4.0 to +1.7 benefit on passes 0-14 yards downfield, Samuel truly retakes the lead on deep pictures, +7.3 to +2.2. A few of that comes from Chase’s deep pictures being even deeper than Samuel’s – whereas each are within the mid-20s on targets 15-29 yards downfield, Chase had 21 targets of 30+ yards to Samuel’s two. Joe Burrow has a stronger arm than Jimmy Garoppolo; movie at 11. When Samuel finally ends up getting these deep targets, it’s continuously a dig or a deep cross, normally popping out of the slot, the place he has an opportunity to make use of his velocity to get off a slot nook and get broad open. With Chase will get these deep targets, it’s normally a go or a fade lined up broad towards the protection’s prime nook; it’s not stunning he has totally different YAC outcomes from a really totally different scenario. Each guys win in numerous methods, however win they do. They’d make a heck of a complimentary pair.
And talking of pairs, this yr had an inordinate variety of teammates within the prime 20. Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk each completed within the prime 5 for San Francisco; Chase was joined by Tyler Boyd within the prime 10 in Cincinnati; CeeDee Lamb and Cedrick Wilson each present up for Dallas. After which there’s Inexperienced Bay, with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Davante Adams and Allen Lazard proper subsequent to one another. All three shall be in other places in 2022, in order that shall be attention-grabbing to look at going ahead; it’s additionally attention-grabbing that MVS and Adams have been the 2 holdovers from final yr’s prime 20, and people are the 2 the Packers let go.
Adams and Valdes-Scantling have been joined by Kendrick Bourne, Mecole Hardman and Cooper Kupp, getting back from 2020’s record of prime YAC+ gamers. Kupp’s been within the prime 20 all 5 years he’s been within the league, making him the king of consistency right here. His +1.5 profession YAC+ is third within the league since 2017 amongst gamers with at the least 200 targets, behind solely Samuel (+3.7) and Brown (+1.9).
Being dangerous at YAC+ doesn’t essentially imply you’re a nasty receiver, after all. Christian Kirk and Tyler Lockett each completed within the prime 10 of DVOA and DYAR regardless of doing little or no after the catch. It isn’t a coincidence, nevertheless, that 5 of the underside six in DYAR and 5 of the underside seven in DVOA are all represented right here; when you’re not going to get something completed after the catch, you’d higher be phenomenal elsewhere if you wish to justify your presence on a roster – gamers equivalent to Tyler Johnson, Cole Beasley, Darius Slayton, Zach Pascal, Robby Anderson or Ray-Ray McCloud have been not phenomenal in most features of the sport, and so it’s no shock they’re close to the underside of this record, too.
Repeating on the underside of the record, nevertheless, shouldn’t be essentially a nasty factor. Emmanuel Sanders is again right here for the second straight yr, and he’s had constructive DVOA annually since 2018. Ultimately, although, you wish to get off this record. Sterling Shepard, Calvin Ridley, Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones have all been within the backside 20 since 2019; none of them topped a -6.1% DVOA final season.
Probably the most attention-grabbing identify on the backside of the record is Nelson Agholor. Agholor noticed a profession revival in 2020 with the Raiders, rating fifteenth with a +0.6 YAC+. That was the one yr of his profession he had put up constructive YAC+, and he parlayed that profession resurrection into a brand new deal in New England. It seems, fluky long-touchdown efficiency is not predictive going forwards, and he fell again into a way more comfy 79th place final season at -1.3. Don’t pay for the outliers, youngsters.
This was the play with essentially the most YAC+ for a receiver in 2021: Deebo Samuel turning a give-up pop display screen right into a season-altering 83-yard landing. You’ll be able to see the great blocking that helps the Shanahan offense generate a lot YAC at work right here.
DEEBO SAMUEL. 83 YARDS. #FTTB
— NFL (@NFL) October 31, 2021
2021 Tight Ends
A complete of 55 tight ends certified, however we’re solely itemizing the highest and backside 15 for area causes.
Will Dissly was second final yr; he climbs one spot within the rankings by barely holding off Josiah Deguara by +0.02. It is smart that the Seahawks would need to proceed to seek out methods to make use of Dissly of their offence, even with Noah Fant coming over within the Russell Wilson commerce. I’m undecided it is smart to pay him $8 million a yr to be a second tight finish, as he’s by no means had greater than 30 targets in a season, however he has completed nicely within the restricted appears he has gotten. As for Deguara, he was higher than most observers would have anticipated in his rookie season. His success final yr will assist soften the blow for the Packers if Robert Tonyan isn’t prepared to start out the season.
Dissly and Deguara solely simply certified for the leaderboards, and actually many of the very prime are gamers who didn’t see a ton of utilization within the passing recreation. Travis Kelce’s +1.8 on 128 targets is essentially the most spectacular whole for a decent finish final season; he holds his personal towards the highest broad receivers. Kelce is getting up there in age, however his manufacturing hasn’t come near falling off of a cliff. And possibly it received’t -there’s Rob Gronkowski, persevering with to place up massive numbers even in his ultimate season (we predict).
Kelce, Gronk and Dissly be a part of Jonnu Smith, Mo Alie-Cox and George Kittle as return names within the prime 15. Kittle has the longest lively streak, having appeared on the leaderboards in all 5 seasons he’s been within the league. His +2.3 YAC+ over the past 5 years is finest for any tight finish with at the least 50 targets, simply forward of Darren Fells (+2.1). You could be shocked to see Smith’s identify right here in any respect, contemplating he ranked 54th out of 55 in DVOA. Keep tuned for the receiving plus-minus record for extra on Smith, as his issues weren’t when he caught the ball.
One slot beneath Smith on the DVOA tables was Pharaoh Brown, and he’s in a way more cheap spot on the backside of the YAC+ tables, too. He simply squeaks out a victory over Hayden Hurst, however Hurst at the least introduced a league-leading 84% catch charge to the desk; Brown was simply form of there. He has mentioned his objective is to be an All-Professional in 2022, and, nicely, it’s good to have objectives.
The identify price watching essentially the most going ahead is Mike Gesicki, an excellent receiving tight finish who doesn’t get a number of YAC+. His -1.3 mark final yr was the worst of his profession, however his profession whole is -1.0, so it’s not like this was out of character. However now, he will get Mike McDaniel coming over from San Francisco and bringing that Shanahan system with him. A change in coach shouldn’t be all of a sudden going to show Gesicki into George Kittle, however a brand new scheme may assist pry him off of the underside of those tables – and irrespective of how good a receiver you might be, a -1.3 YAC+ over 110 targets is lower than ultimate.
Gesicki joins Ian Thomas, James O’Shaughnessy, Cameron Brate and Evan Engram as repeat offenders on the underside of the desk. Brate’s truly been within the backside 15 yearly since 2015; he’s a strong possession receiver however nowhere near a Gronk substitute for Tampa Bay.
This was the play with essentially the most YAC+ for a decent finish in 2021: Josiah Deguara’s 62-yard landing on a display screen late within the Week 18 recreation towards the Lions. The NFL was good sufficient to screw up the capitalization on his final identify.
62-yard Josiah DeGuara TD provides the @packers the lead!
Inexperienced Bay seeking to end 14-3. #GoPackGo
— NFL (@NFL) January 9, 2022
2021 Working Backs
There have been 57 certified working backs, however we’re simply going to record 15 from the highest and backside right here.
Ty Johnson goes to attain very low once we get to receiving plus/minus, however when he truly obtained the ball in his arms, he did fairly nicely. The Jets, as a workforce, led the league with +2.3 YAC+ for his or her working backs, with Johnson and rookie Michael Carter each ending within the prime 15. The Jets wouldn’t prefer to see Johnson repeat in 2022, buried on the depth chart behind Carter and Breece Corridor and Tevin Coleman. Any worth he gained by working after the catch was offset by his position-leading eight drops; they’ll take their possibilities with the remainder of the working again secure.
Working again YAC+ is far much less secure than YAC+ is for broad receivers or tight ends. Modifications in system or quarterback can have a huge effect on a working again’s ultimate totals, simply based mostly on how typically these quarterbacks go to their checkdowns. James Conner had the ninth-lowest YAC+ in 2020; he rises all the best way to second after transferring from Pittsburgh to Arizona. Kenyan Drake goes from forty first to eleventh transferring from Arizona to Las Vegas. J.D. McKissic goes from thirty fourth to tenth not with a workforce transfer, however with a quarterback change from Alex Smith and Dwayne Haskins to Taylor Heinicke. It makes you admire the backs who can keep close to the highest yr over yr. Jonathan Taylor stayed close to the highest regardless of the change from Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz. Alvin Kamara had troubles linking up with the Saints’ late-season quarterbacks, however nonetheless was a risk when passes have been truly on the right track. Austin Ekeler stays a weapon even with the change in coordinators in Los Angeles.
The largest shock, nevertheless, is Myles Gaskin. Gaskin was distinctive … in 2020. He led the league in receiving DVOA, was fourth in DYAR, and was second in YAC+ at 2.4. All of that fell aside in 2021 as Gaskin simply stopped being any form of a risk in any respect with the ball in his arms. He had 250 YAC final season on 49 receptions. He had 388 YAC in 2020 on 41 receptions. Dropping 4.4 yards per catch shouldn’t be good, and whilst you can blame a few of it on the dearth of a vertical passing recreation in Miami final season, Gaskin went from a +2.2 YAC+ with Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 to a -2.2 with him final season; it’s not like Tua solely began throwing quick final September. Gaskin could be helped by McDaniel coming in as the brand new Miami coach, if it weren’t for the opposite additions of Chase Edwards, Sony Michel and Raheem Mostert. Your guess as to why Gaskin regressed is nearly as good as mine, however I feel it’s protected to say he received’t get an opportunity to redeem himself in 2022.
David Johnson is the opposite identify that jumped from the highest to the underside of the desk in YAC+ final season; a mix of there being no fuel left in his tank and the less-than-ideal state of the Texans’ offense final season forcing him to be their third-biggest goal; I wouldn’t count on Johnson to get an opportunity to redeem himself in 2022, both. As for returnees, each Ezekiel Elliott and Mike Davis seem within the backside 15 for the second yr in a row, as cross catching hasn’t precisely been excessive on both participant’s record of priorities.
This was the play with essentially the most YAC+ for a decent finish in 2021: Jonathan Taylor going 76 yards on a give-up display screen towards the Ravens on Monday Evening Soccer.
JONATHAN TAYLOR 76 YARDS TO THE HOUSE pic.twitter.com/cQLUNyDDfS
— PFF Fantasy Soccer (@PFF_Fantasy) October 12, 2021
YAC+ for quarterbacks is actually an indicator extra of the kind of offense the quarterback runs and the expertise in it fairly than his particular person efficiency stage. Listed here are the 2021 outcomes for our 34 certified quarterbacks.
So, sure, any passing stat that has Jimmy Garoppolo at primary clearly has extra to do with system than with participant, however that doesn’t imply there’s nothing that we will be taught concerning the gamers themselves from the quarterback outcomes.
Justin Fields ending method behind Andy Dalton in the identical offense is attention-grabbing. The truth that Fields averaged an additional 2.7 yards in aDOT explains a big chunk of it; there are important model variations between Fields and Dalton, and it’s simpler to get loads of YAC on checkdowns than it’s on deep pictures. However that’s at the least considerably accounted for by the YAC+ system; that’s how Deebo Samuel and Ja’Mar Chase can end one-two regardless of working very totally different depths of route. There have been 5 Bears with greater than 10 targets from each Fields and Dalton; Dalton had the upper YAC+ to every one. So whereas that does embrace gamers like Allen Robinson or Darnell Mooney, the place there are important utilization variations – 12.5% of Dalton’s passes to them have been screens, in comparison with 1.8% from Fields – it additionally consists of gamers like David Montgomery or Cole Kmet, who have been utilized in very related style. For the time being, Dalton throws a extra catchable ball than Fields does – SIS charted 75.1% of Dalton’s throws as catchable, in comparison with 67.2% for Fields. That’s getting the ball into receivers arms on time and in rhythm, letting them do extra with the ball after the catch. Now, the truth that Dalton was dinking and dunking and required his receivers to make performs to get any worth out of the vast majority of his completions within the first place was a big drawback, and Fields doesn’t want to succeed in Dalton’s catchable ball proportion if he’s hitting with deeper pictures regularly. Nevertheless it’s one thing to control going into 12 months 2; it’s an space the place Fields actually must progress.
And that development is feasible. Joe Burrow shot up a -0.5 YAC+ to +1.0 this final season; that’s the most important year-over-year enchancment we noticed in 2021. A few of that’s “hey, Ja’Mar Chase is fairly good,” however Burrow additionally appeared extra assured and in charge of the offense as he continued to achieve expertise. The largest dropoff got here from Jared Goff, because it seems leaving Sean McVay’s offense isn’t nice; he fell from +0.7 in his final yr within the Rams to +0.0 in his first yr in Detroit.
And speaking about techniques brings us again to Garoppolo. It seems now that Garoppolo won’t have a beginning job in 2022, barring one other late shock, so he possible won’t defend his YAC+ crown subsequent season. He has completely benefitted from Shanahan’s system and the plethora of YAC machines surrounding him, as that is primarily a system stat. The highest 10 quarterbacks on this metric with at the least 400 cross makes an attempt since 2006 are Garoppolo (+1.3), Nick Mullens (+1.0), Patrick Mahomes (+0.9), Jared Goff (+0.6), C.J. Beathard (+0.6), Aaron Rodgers (+0.5), Donovan McNabb (+0.5), Tom Brady (+0.5), Brett Favre (+0.4), and Kevin Kolb (+0.4). Or, to place it one other method, you’re both a Corridor of Famer, an Andy Reid disciple, or a beneficiary of the Shanahan/McVay tree.
However I need to go away you with one ultimate thought. Sure, Garoppolo has benefitted from an excellent offensive scheme, with nice weapons round him. However he’s not the one quarterback who has been in a constructive scenario over the previous 16 years. He’s not even the one quarterback who has labored with these 49ers groups, or with the Shanahan/McVay system normally. And but, Garoppolo nonetheless stands in first place in YAC+ since 2006, and by a considerable margin. That takes ability – possibly not the ability wanted to keep in mind that linebackers exist on a down-to-down foundation, however important ability however. He’s a big outlier, and runs Shanahan’s system higher than anybody else has up to now.
In all of the years in working variations of this scheme in cities across the league, Garoppolo’s YAC+ with Shanahan (+1.4) is best than Matt Ryan’s (+0.4), or Aaron Rodgers’ with Mike LaFleur (+0.6), or Jared Goff (+0.8) or Matthew Stafford (+0.3) with Sean McVay or Kirk Cousins with the lot (+0.7). In actual fact, there’s just one passer who has labored with the Shanahan tree who does have a better YAC+ than Garoppolo…
Trey Lance (+1.5).
The king is useless. Lengthy reside the king.