One of my favorite "advanced" stats is wide receiver drop rate.
It's really fairly simple, taking the number of drops and dividing them by the number of targets a wide receiver receives. Unfortunately, most NFL stat places don't keep track of how many of those targets are catchable, and which are not, which is critical when looking at drop rate.
Fortunately, Pro Football Focus has kept track of that since 2008, making a drop rate that is extremely useful when comparing wide receivers.
After an extremely frustrating year for Colts wide receivers in terms of drops, I started playing with PFF's wide receiver numbers and decided to take a look back into the past five years and look at the Colts' numbers. The final product was fascinating, at least to me.
Team Drop Rate: 8.18% (8th)
League Average: 10.14%
Reggie Wayne: 88 catchable, 7 drops, 7.95% dropped (26th among 81 qualifying individuals)
Anthony Gonzalez: 61 catchable, 5 drops, 8.2% dropped (28th)
Marvin Harrison: 66 catchable, 6 drops, 9.09% dropped (36th)
With all of the top three receives doing a very good job in drops that year, the Colts finished in the top ten in the league. Pierre Garcon and Roy Hall each had a couple of passes thrown their way without dropping any as well.
It'd be fascinating to have more of this data to compare with Marvin Harrison from earlier in his career. Every Colts fan will swear by the man's hands, and this being his send off doesn't give a very accurate picture.
Team drop rate: 4.95% (5th)
League Average: 8.32%
Reggie Wayne: 103 catchable, 3 drops, 2.91% dropped (12th of 101)
Austin Collie: 63 catchable, 3 drops, 4.76% dropped (25th)
Pierre Garcon: 51 catchable, 4 drops, 7.84% dropped (51st)
With each wide receiver again above average in drop rate, the Colts managed to have the 5th best hands in the league. With Harrison gone, Wayne's targets skyrocketed in 2009, and he stepped up to the challenge and was a huge reason why the 2009 offense continued to be so efficient.
Of course the rookie, Collie, coming in with sure hands didn't hurt either. Then there's Pierre Garcon, who everybody will remember for his huge drop in the Super Bowl. Despite revisionist history however, Garcon wasn't exactly Mr. Dropsies in '09. But, With everyone else on the team looking so good (Dallas Clark had a pretty good year as well, 19th among TEs), Colts fans expected more out of Garcon, perhaps a little unfair for the second-year pro.
Team drop rate: 9.29% (17th)
League Average: 9.35%
Blair White: 37 catchable, one drop, 2.7% dropped (6th among 89)
Austin Collie: 62 catchable, 4 drops, 6.45% dropped (19th)
Reggie Wayne: 120 catchable, 9 dropped, 7.5% dropped (33rd)
Pierre Garcon: 80 catchable, 13 dropped, 16.25% dropped (83rd)
One of the reasons why the Colts' offensive efficiency suffered in 2010 (injury reasons aside) was the increase in drops, specifically by Garcon. For this year, Garcon deserved the ridicule, dropping 13 passes in just 80 catchable balls. Garcon was 7th worst in the league in 2010 among starters.
On the other end of the spectrum, Blair White may not have had the speed and quickness of Austin Collie, but he sure could catch. Meanwhile Wayne and Collie continued where they left off in 2009, with hands of Stick-Um. Oh what could have been...
Team Drop Rate: 5.26% (2nd)
League Average: 9.69%
Reggie Wayne: 77 catchable, 2 drops, 2.6% dropped (5th among 95)
Austin Collie: 57 catchable, 3 drops, 5.26% dropped (11th)
Pierre Garcon: 74 catchable, 5 drops, 6.76% dropped (28th)
Once again, a stellar year for the Colts receivers, as Garcon bounced back with a huge year for the Manning-less Colts, and Wayne and Collie improved on their numbers from the previous year. While Dallas Clark's hands fell dramatically (2nd to last at over 19%), the wide receivers were on the top of their game.
Oh what could have been...
P.S. This is why I was on the "re-sign Garcon train" after 2011. 2010 looked like more of a fluke for Garcon's hands than a trend. Overall in his career he's been an average receiver in terms of consistently catching the ball.
Team Drop Rate: 12.83% (30th)
League Average: 9.70%
Reggie Wayne: 116 catchable, 10 drops, 8.62% dropped (39th among 82)
LaVon Brazill: 13 catchable, 2 drops, 15.38% dropped (Didn't qualify)
Donnie Avery: 72 catchable, 12 drops, 16.67% dropped (79th)
T.Y. Hilton: 60 catchable, 10 drops, 16.67% dropped (79th)
After years of very good seasons by Colts wide receivers in terms of consistent hands, the 2012 crew dropped the ball. (PUNS ARE FUN, GUYS)
Wayne, although still above average, had his worst year of the last five. Donnie Avery and T.Y. Hilton both had awful seasons, tying for the third worst drop rate among starting wide receivers. With Hilton, it's not as big of a deal, he can improve and offsets it with his explosiveness. But with Avery, it's a trend. It's his fourth year in the league now, and he's never had a drop rate lower than 11%.
One interesting thing to keep an eye on and/or ponder: Does Andrew Luck throw a ball that's harder to catch than that of Manning (or even Painter/Orlovsky for that matter)? Drop rates were high across the board for the Colts this year, and even Wayne had a bad year by his standards. I have my own thoughts on the issue, but I'm curious to hear what you think.
Team Drop Rate: 8.39% (7th)
League Average: 9.45%
As they go into 2013, the Colts' wide receiver crew needs to work on their hands. One of the biggest reasons why the Manning-era Colts were so efficient was their consistent hands. One of the biggest reasons why the 2012 Colts were so inefficient was their penchant for drops in key moments (see the 4th quarter of the Ravens playoff game).
For their #2 wide receiver next season, the Colts will need to add someone who's hands will be dependable. They don't have to be great, but they can't afford to have another Donnie Avery in the #2 spot.
I have made some of these points before. Callers including myself have asked the Colts media, the Endzone show with Barry Krauss and Marcus Pollard) about the development of the mostly rookie WRs and TEs. Specially, about the difficulty in getting open or achieving separation, the high drop percentage and the remaining future potential upside to be anticipated for next year.
Pollard empathized that Hilton and Brazil for much of the season were still learning the system., So with Collie out, Wayne and Avery were carrying the load. Pollard stressed that until a receiver is comfortable with the system, a higher than desired drop percentage is to be expected. Pollard also said that not having the off season work out time given Luck's graduation commitments was a factor. With so many rookie WRs and TEs, Avery all but being out the game for two years, Wayne learning a new receiving role, and two rookie QBs, much of training camp was just installing the new offensive system. Pollard emphasized that next year with more polish, better results should follow.
With Avery what Krauss and Pollard said Colts liked that when the offensive line broke down and Luck was scrambling from pass rushers, Avery was making 2nd and 3rd efforts to get open and keep plays alive. I remember seeing the NFL Network highlight a play where Avery dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone. Yes, I know it seems like that happened a dozen times with Avery last year. Worse, in this case the ball actually bounced off Avery's face mask. Yet, Deon Sanders pointed out that Avery made a nice second effort to get open after adjusting back to the post from a covered corner route. However, Avery still should have had his hands up higher anticipating the ball. But it is also possible that with better pass protection and a more practice developing timing and touch between Luck and his receivers, Avery would have had a touchdown.
Avery is right now nobody's idea of a #1 or even #2 outside receiver, #3 maybe. But it is not a priority to replace him given there are other much higher priority roster needs and reasonable hopes for improvement with the current the receiving corp.
I know you may not have the stats available Kyle, but it would still be interesting to compare Luck's rookie receivers' drop percentages with Peyton's.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle U on the Garcon payroll? Okay to have bad numbers one year? SB drop was huge. Oh wl only 1 "bad" drop in that game, no bgs
Except for the Ravens game it seems like Reggie never dropped a clutch pass. New QB, new system for him. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I hold my breath whenever it goes to Avery, especially when it's a perfect throw. Interesting article but I'm not sure if it tells us who can or can't catch. As far as if Luck throws a ball that's hard to catch - that's kind of ridiculous. As Madden once said to one of his QBs, you just get the ball to the receiver, if they can't catch it we'll find someone who can.
I don't know if Peyton's ball is more "catchable", but that it is almost exactly where it should be and right on time.
My response is based on impression and not fact, but would BA's 'chunk play approach have impacted on this? I'm aware this is accounted for by PFF's 'catchable balls', but I would imagine things like focus and footwork have an impact when attempting to reel in a 30+ yard throws. Or does PFF account for this too?
I'm not advocating resigning Avery by the way, far from it!!
Which stats are you looking for? Drops for rookie receivers throughout Peyton's career or just for his rookie year?
@DaveRalla Look at the big picture. Do you define Manning based on one interception? Freeney by one game w/o a sack?
@smonroe Oh I agree on the ball thing, it's not an excuse. But many wide receivers have iterated that some QB's throw more "catchable" balls than others. I'd still but all of the blame on the individual receivers, but it's still interesting, IMO.
@ikcl I thought the same thing, but it doesn't necessarily bear out. Wayne and Hilton each only had one drop on deep passes (10% of drops), when they were targeted about 20% of the time on those same throws. Avery, however, did have a large number deep (4). Don't think there's enough data to support it.
@Kyle RodriguezKyle, What I think would be interesting would be Peyton's WR's and TE 's drop rates for the first two or three seasons. The would be interesting to see if there was improvement in the drop rate that could be attributed to additional workout time spent between Peyton and his receivers and Peyton's own development.
The question is do the Colts have any historical basis to expect a significant improvement in receiver drop rates attributable to more practice time spent with Luck.
The Colts organization and including their media primarily Pollard, Krauss and Rakestraw , have been saying that they expect to see significant improvement with the current TEs and WRs . They have consistently defended Avery. That tells me that the Colts spending big money on a big name FA WR is unlikely. Any FA WR would be a lesser name out of left field to compete with Avery and Brazil
@ColtsAuth_Kyle what's was Garçons biggest knock going n2 free agency and if he was worth the big money? Consistency and drops. Wash overpd
@ColtsAuth_Kyle not at all Kyle. Look at Garcons big picture. He is known 2 drop very catchable balls and some at big times, all I'm saying
@Kyle Rodriguez Interesting, either way, as you said Wayne's not an issue and Hilton gets a pass, but Avery... Its a concern and as free agency closes in, solutions seem less apparent.
On Garcon, am I correct in saying his drop rate was 7.69% this year? If so, backs up your thoughts on him, though he did see limited action this year. Really wish the Redskins hadn't come in with crazy money for him. I know it wasn't on the cards, but in hindsight, if we could have somehow held onto him and Wayne, WR would be set!
@ColtsAuth_Kyle when I am trying to make a point I define "overpay" if you try and debate it I still define "overpay" so I can be right :)
@DaveRalla I'm saying that if hands is his biggest weakness, and in that category he's average in... he's probably pretty good.
@DaveRalla No. I'm saying that Garcon is way above average in other things. Consistent hands he's average at. Plenty of other factors in WRs
@ColtsAuth_Kyle so we'll overpay for a WR who is fast as hell but just average at catching the ball. Doesn't make sense to me.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle so you're saying you would overpay a player because he is average? My opinion but being an average WR isn't worth that $$
@ColtsAuth_Kyle hey man that's why we chat. Everyone has an opinion. Mine could be wrong but I doubt it :) thanks for the tweets Kyle
@ColtsAuth_Kyle I agree, huge standards to live up to.but I'm just saying n my opinion 2 many drops and not worth that big of a contract
@DaveRalla Look at the big picture: Garcon's drop rate is average. People are used to Wayne/Harrison/Collie who are all fantastic.
@ikcl @Kyle Rodriguez His drop rate (remember, catchable balls) was 10.2%. 5 drops on 49 balls (basically one drop more than 2009). Slightly below average for the year, but not by much, especially considering his missing time.
My thoughts on him simply are that he's pretty average in terms of consistent catching, and that bears out from what we've seen. He really would have been a great fit with this offense right now. Him, Wayne, and Hilton would be a fantastic set going into 2013.