Deep Threats

| May 31, 2011

When you talk about some of the most explosive receivers in the league, your attention turns to the speedsters that go long and get behind defenses. Those guys you have to doubly account for on every play because, if you don’t, they’ll punish you. Not just by moving the chains, but by putting points on the board.
 
In our continuing look at wide receivers, we set our focus on what they are doing with their deep ball opportunities. For the purpose of this study, we’re looking at the 50 receivers who were targeted on at least 15 deep passes (balls thrown at least 20 yards downfield) and the numbers do include the playoffs. The findings throw up some names you’d expect, and some you wouldn’t.
 
 

Targets

Where better to start than by looking at which receivers were targeted downfield the most. Much like you probably did, I went into this thinking the names Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson would be at the top. Instead, it’s a list headed by Brandon Lloyd and Calvin Johnson, both targeted over 20 yards 41 times. Remarkably, “Fraction Jackson” didn’t even make the Top 10 in terms of targets, as can be seen from the table below:
 

Wide Receivers, Targets on Deep Passes, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Targets
1tBrandon LloydDEN41
1tCalvin JohnsonDET41
3tLarry FitzgeraldARZ37
3tMike WallacePIT37
5tGreg JenningsGB36
5tReggie WayneIND36
7tBraylon EdwardsNYJ33
7tDwayne BoweKC33
9tMike A. WilliamsTB32
9tNate WashingtonTEN32

 

Receptions

More importantly, Jackson did make the Top 5 when it came to receptions on deep throws. It’s another list headed by Lloyd (Johnson dropped to sixth in this rating), but Jackson’s leap and, to a lesser degree, Mike Wallace, are the most noteworthy inclusions. It’s also the first time we see Kenny Britt appear, but not the last.
 

Wide Receivers, Receptions on Deep Passes, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Receptions
1Brandon LloydDEN17
2tMike WallacePIT15
2tGreg JenningsGB15
4tDeSean JacksonPHI13
4tKenny BrittTEN13
6tCalvin JohnsonDET12
6tReggie WayneIND12
6tMario ManninghamNYG12
9tDwayne BoweKC11
9tJohnny KnoxCHI11

 

Catch Percentage

The Titans’ receiver bested all others when it came to bringing in the highest percentage of deep balls thrown his way. A big reason why Vince Young had the highest completion percentage of deep balls was Britt acting as an imposing downfield target. Up at the top, there are also spots for Robert Meachem and Roddy White, though neither man saw more than 20 balls over the required distance. It’s more impressive to look at what Mario Manningham did in securing over half of his 23 long targets.
 

Wide Receivers, Catch Percentage on Deep Passes, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Catch %
1Kenny BrittTEN56.52%
2Robert MeachemNO55.00%
3Roddy WhiteATL53.33%
4Steve BreastonARZ52.63%
5Mario ManninghamNYG52.17%
6DeSean JacksonPHI44.83%
7Andre JohnsonHST43.48%
8Johnny KnoxCHI42.31%
9Jabar GaffneyDEN42.11%
10tGreg JenningsGB41.67%
10tAnthony ArmstrongWAS41.67%
10tMalcom FloydSD41.67%

 

Yardage

Next, we’re looking at who picked up the most yards in the long range game. To the surprise of very few (especially those who have read the opening couple of paragraphs) Brandon Lloyd once again leads the way, with Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson completing the top three. Just behind them is Greg Jennings, though it should be remembered these numbers do include the post season. We can also wonder how much stronger his yardage total might have been if he didn’t lead all receivers with four drops on deep chances.
 

Wide Receivers, Yards on Deep Passes, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Yards
1Brandon LloydDEN614
2Mike WallacePIT591
3DeSean JacksonPHI551
4Greg JenningsGB545
5Mario ManninghamNYG484
6Anthony ArmstrongWAS477
7Kenny BrittTEN460
8Johnny KnoxCHI418
9Robert MeachemNO406
10Braylon EdwardsNYJ401

 

Touchdowns

The last point is touchdowns … who is turning these big plays into scores? Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace is joined by Calvin Johnson at the top with seven catches that went all the way. Behind them we have that man again, Brandon Lloyd, as part of a gaggle of receivers with six.
 

Wide Receivers, Touchdowns on Deep Passes, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
TD
1tMike WallacePIT7
1tCalvin JohnsonDET7
3tBrandon LloydDEN6
3tMario ManninghamNYG6
3tKenny BrittTEN6
3tDwayne BoweKC6
7tGreg JenningsGB5
7tPierre GarconIND5
9tRobert MeachemNO4
9tBraylon EdwardsNYJ4
9tJeremy MaclinPHI4
9tTerrell OwensCIN4
9tHakeem NicksNYG4
9tMike A. WilliamsTB4

 

Ultimately, these numbers aren’t going to give you a hard answer as to who the best deep threat in the league is. Arguments could be made for a variety of players who offer something different, whether it be catching more balls or finding the end zone more often.
 
What all of this does give you is an idea of which players you really need to worry about. I’m not talking about the Mike Wallace’s and DeSean Jacksons’ – you already know about them – but about just how devastating a player Kenny Britt can be if he doesn’t let off field issues consume him, or how Redskin Anthony Armstrong is able to pick up so much yardage on deep routes.
 
If and when we get football, watch out for these guys. They can turn a game just like that.
 
 
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled
 
 

  • bears0492

    Was not expecting Anthony Armstrong to be up that high. Also really surprised at Knox’s catch percentage on deep throws, that’s not too shabby.

    I’m curious though, who else was up there on the list of dropped deep throws along with Jennings?

  • Misfit74

    Yet, Calvin was only 18th in “Deep Pass Percentage – The proportion of pass targets in which a receiver is greater than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (AdvancedNFLStats.com).

    M.Floyd, L.Evans, B.Lloyd, and Armstrong round out the top 4 at: 51.9%, 45.8%, 44.4%, 44.2%. Calvin Johnson had 34.3%.

    While valid and interesting, I think the data in this article is somewhat misleading. I’m not in any way affiliated with the site I referenced, fwiw.

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Sam Monson

    How is it misleading? We’re using a different benchmark to the other site – 15 yards vs 20 yards, so it’s hard to cross compare.

  • hounddog

    QB makes a lot of difference.

  • tenotnamedmiller

    I would very much like to see INT per target for WRs/TEs.