Last night, NFL Network presented the No. 60 to No. 51 of their list of the best players in the NFL voted on by the players. Of the 10 players presented, there were three who I thought deserved to be higher: Matt Ryan and Carl Nicks – who we have written individual pieces on in the past few weeks – and Brandon Lloyd.
In his eight years in the NFL, Lloyd has played for four different teams. Prior to the 2010 season, his best year was a 733-yard 2005 campaign. The Twitter outrage that followed his name being called wasn’t surprising because, prior to this year, Lloyd was a relative unknown and it was hard to improve standing with the year Denver had in 2010.
His season was one of the best we’ve seen out of a receiver in our three years of rating players, and he was by far the best in 2010, a somewhat down year for wideouts. He had a PFF pass rating of +23.4 and the next highest was +15.2. While it’s fairly clear that the NFL Network’s list is not just about the 2010 season, there should be no denying how good Lloyd’s 2010 was.
His base statistics looked like this: He was thrown at 147 times, caught 77 balls for 1448 yards, had 11 touchdowns, and dropped four passes. A few things stand out from that. He only brought in 52.4% of the passes thrown his way which isn’t very high, but his 18.8 yards per catch led the league for all receivers with over 100 targets.
When a team has a receiver that is clearly better than the rest, his quarterback will tend to send the ball his direction more often. That partly explains the number of targets Lloyd saw (fifth most in the league) and goes into explaining his relatively low catch rate as there were a number of passes that were thrown his way that were more difficult than the average throw. Another factor was that he rarely played in the slot, with over 91% of his pass routes coming from him lining up out wide.
In order to help account for this, we’ve previously designed a metric we call Yards Per Route Run. This metric takes the above problem into account, and aids in putting receivers on a level playing field. The league leader in this for 2010 was Kenny Britt of the Titans with a 2.81 YPRR figure, although Britt was injured for a few games and ran fewer routes. He was followed by Lloyd with 2.40 YPRR and Andre Johnson finished third with 2.31.
Another statistic that was in Lloyd’s favor was his Drop Percentage. This past week we’ve taken a look at drop percentage at various positions, and for wide receivers Lloyd’s number was the 8th best. He also performed very well on deep throws and you’ll be able to read more about his success in that department in our deep threat article that will be posted tomorrow.
While each of these numbers makes Lloyd look like one of the best receivers in the league in 2010, it takes a look into the PFF grades to show why we believe he was indeed at the top this past season.
The PFF Ratings
Lloyd was able to make positive plays at a higher frequency then his peers, and he was also able to make big plays more often. The majority of Lloyd’s big plays came when he simply went deep and caught the ball, though he also did well on a number of comeback routes.
Here are the top five receivers in terms of PFF pass ratings including the playoffs, and their outstanding +1.0 or better graded plays, total positively-graded plays, and negatively-graded plays:
Top Wide Receivers, Graded Plays
Big Plays (+1.0 grade or better)
It’s also important to realize that a receiver’s raw statistics are very dependent on the quarterback throwing to them where their PFF rating isn’t as much. Players like Andre Johnson and Roddy White had top quarterbacks getting them the ball. While you could say that Calvin Johnson was stuck with Shaun Hill for most of the season, even Hill had a better rating than Kyle Orton or Tim Tebow had in 2010. Larry Fitzgerald went without a strong quarterback in 2010 and his numbers also took a hit. With a better quarterback in place, Lloyd could have stood out even more to the general audience.
To be honest, I was surprised Lloyd made the list at all because I thought one year wouldn’t be enough for him to reach that point. There’s no telling for sure what the players had in mind when voting, is it about the player’s full career? the last few years? or just this past year? While we believe he was the best last year, it would take another few years of top level performance for Lloyd to cement himself among the elite.
Players like Larry Fitzgerald, Greg Jennings, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Roddy White have each produced for a number of years and that’s how they’ve earned their respect. When the next season begins, Lloyd will be 30. With questions at the quarterback position in Denver, he may never reach the point where he is widely considered an elite NFL wide receiver.
Lloyd has, however, defied the odds and seemingly burst from nowhere to dominate the position for a year. Now the question is: is it tougher to break out at the age of 29 or to follow up that first stellar season at 30? It is possible for Lloyd to defy the odds again.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke