Every pre-season while pro football players are in training camp, working on their skills, analysts like myself stare at seemingly endless amounts of data, hoping to find some pattern, some insight, that’ll be of use to our readers. We start down one promising path after another, too often ending up just running into a brick wall. And just when it seems like it’s too hard to continue, a creative spark inspired by some divine muse takes hold of you… and then you start from the beginning.
Just kidding, y’all… none of us want to spend any more than the bare minimum effort required to get paid for our work. The only problem is that guys like Tony Holm are close-minded and refuse to see the benefit in my wanting to get paid without doing much work… he insists that I try to come up with something to help all “his Sharks”. Can you believe that? He actually cares about you people! So, if I want to get paid this season, it seems like I’ll have to actually come up with something valuable for you people. Damned slave-driver, our Mr. Holm.
I’m sure all you have already read this season’s Curse of 325, which has gained a bit of a reputation for being a leading indicator of RB busts. The other day I was thinking if I could think of a similar leading indicator for wide receivers… and it occurred to me that while I’ve read the seemingly useless “Third Year WR” columns, I really haven’t seen anything that accurately predicted which receivers were in for a down season.
Getting To Work
I’ve always tried to approach the WR question from the production perspective; were there any patterns of receivers’ receptions, yards or TDs over the years that served as a predictor of the following season’s success? After many hours of looking at the data, the answer was a resounding… “NO”!
It occurred to me, however, that I might be looking at the wrong end of the equation; why not take a look at the opportunity side of the equation? After some data sifting, I think I might have found something for you.
Since 2007, I looked at wide receivers who had amassed at least 170 targets in a season—then I examined how they fared the following season. Here’s the results:
Very interesting. In each of the past 10 seasons, there have been at least two WRs with at least 170 targets. The summarized results:
Now this is a pretty good leading indicator! Roughly 80% of wide receivers who logged 170+ targets the previous year ended up posting an average 25% decline the following season.