Determining Play-Making Ability using ‘oTD’

Mike Clay continues his series on opportunity-adjusted touchdowns by examining the endzone distance of receptions.

| 3 years ago
darren-sproles

Determining Play-Making Ability using ‘oTD’


Before I kick this off, if you haven’t read my introduction to opportunity-adjusted receiving touchdowns, I highly recommend you do that first.

In that initial ‘oTD’ article, I used the location of each pass-catcher’s targets as a basis for an adjusted touchdown number. This adjusted touchdown figure worked as an excellent replacement for flawed redzone data, but we weren’t able to generate any theories as to its relationship to player talent. It was an opportunity stat and didn’t take a player’s catch rate or the ability of the passer into account.

In my second piece on the subject, I looked at ‘oTD’ as related to rushing attempts. In this article, we discovered that players generally considered elite at the position scored more touchdowns than expected. On the other hand, we saw a long list of underwhelming rushers putting up a lower actual number of touchdowns than they did expected (oTD).

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Today, I’m going to bounce back to the passing game, this time focusing on receptions instead of targets. In this study, ‘oTD’ is going to be influenced by a receiver’s ability to catch the ball (in the sense that targets add zero, while any reception adds a chance of a score) and the ability of the quarterback. You’ll notice that several of the players with high ‘oTD’ numbers enjoy the benefit of catching balls thrown by elite quarterbacks. Why is that? Receivers are going to catch a higher percentage of their targets and will be targeted near the endzone more often when they’re working with a skilled quarterback.

My main focus today will be on the difference between actual and expected touchdowns, but I’ll kick off the same way I did the first two articles with sortable charts showing (1) the touchdown rates when the ball is caught at each yard line and (2) each player who caught at least one pass during the 2012 season.

The first chart shows four columns: ‘DEZ’ (Distance from endzone when the pass reaches the target), receptions in sample, touchdowns, and touchdown rate.

DEZRecTDTD%
020162015100%
124317271%
226217768%
324912349%
424810342%
53119832%
62807226%
72946823%
83427121%
93375516%
104667516%
113713610%
124164912%
134024010%
14364257%
15476296%
16432297%
17420205%
18428379%
19433174%
20525306%
21409256%
22463174%
23495194%
24448123%
25624142%
26455153%
27516122%
28517143%
2948071%
30702254%
3152761%
32534122%
33592112%
3455981%
35723203%
3655920%
37619102%
3865081%
3954481%
40708132%
4163871%
4265381%
43747132%
4463451%
45737101%
4666371%
4772171%
48708112%
4965181%
5083561%
5172451%
5276930%
5386161%
5472451%
5587530%
5679151%
5779691%
5876720%
5973451%
6096961%
6178310%
6282930%
6384540%
6482340%
6595820%
6678151%
6787340%
6881381%
6977651%
7095130%
7182240%
7276610%
7374441%
7467220%
7586900%
7666620%
7763220%
7857800%
7956520%
8056700%
8141400%
8245431%
8346820%
8433900%
8536500%
8626700%
8724400%
8822000%
8919011%
9017100%
9114700%
9214511%
939700%
947100%
958400%
965100%
974200%
983100%
991200%
100700%
101300%
102500%
105200%

Out next chart has five columns. They are the player’s 2012 receptions, his cADEZ (average DEZ on completions), actual touchdowns, oTD, and the difference between actual TD and oTD.

PlayerReccADEZTDoTDDiff
Brandon Marshall11829.11111.90.9
Marques Colston8327.11011.31.3
James Jones6425.81411.1-2.9
Rob Gronkowski5526.91110.7-0.3
Tony Gonzalez9334.1810.52.5
Eric Decker8527.71310.4-2.6
A.J. Green9726.91110.4-0.6
Demaryius Thomas9429.9109.9-0.1
Roddy White9229.079.02.0
Kyle Rudolph5325.599.00.0
Victor Cruz8627.0108.8-1.2
Torrey Smith4918.088.40.4
Calvin Johnson12227.258.33.3
Mike Wallace6423.788.20.2
Mike A. Williams6323.998.1-0.9
Dez Bryant9231.1127.8-4.2
Julio Jones7927.8107.8-2.2
Heath Miller7134.787.7-0.3
Jeremy Maclin6826.177.60.6
Sidney Rice5026.577.50.5
Randall Cobb8035.687.4-0.6
Reggie Wayne10629.757.42.4
Lance Moore6528.267.31.3
Jimmy Graham8531.496.9-2.1
Vincent Jackson7221.386.6-1.4
Antonio Gates4925.976.5-0.5
Scott Chandler4326.466.40.4
Denarius Moore5121.276.2-0.8
Wes Welker11833.066.10.1
Martellus Bennett5524.956.11.1
Dallas Clark4728.945.81.8
Joel Dreessen4133.455.70.7
Anthony Fasano4129.655.70.7
Dennis Pitta6132.675.6-1.4
Jordy Nelson4929.375.6-1.4
Brandon Gibson5130.055.50.5
Brandon Lloyd7425.245.51.5
Michael Crabtree8536.895.3-3.7
Golden Tate4528.675.3-1.7
Steve L. Smith7328.645.31.3
Vernon Davis4129.855.30.3
Santana Moss4129.885.2-2.8
Malcom Floyd5628.355.20.2
Brandon Myers7939.445.11.1
Jason Witten11039.235.02.0
Anquan Boldin6527.144.90.9
Greg Jennings3625.444.80.8
Marcedes Lewis5235.244.80.8
Steve Johnson7925.364.8-1.2
Jermaine Gresham6434.054.7-0.3
Andre Roberts6427.454.6-0.4
Darren Sproles7541.574.6-2.4
Austin Pettis3029.144.60.6
T.Y. Hilton5028.074.4-2.6
Aaron Hernandez5130.054.4-0.6
Titus Young3326.344.30.3
Kenny Britt4524.144.30.3
Justin Blackmon6424.054.3-0.7
Brandon Stokley4535.054.2-0.8
Greg Olsen6931.954.2-0.8
Miles Austin6626.464.1-1.9
Cecil Shorts5524.474.1-2.9
Danny Amendola6232.424.02.0
Antonio Brown6631.953.9-1.1
Donald Jones4130.843.9-0.1
Brandon Pettigrew5932.733.90.9
Larry Fitzgerald7122.543.9-0.1
Danario Alexander3731.273.8-3.2
Ben Watson4934.833.80.8
Doug Baldwin2923.433.80.8
Andre Johnson11237.643.7-0.3
Kevin Ogletree3226.043.6-0.4
Greg Little5332.743.5-0.5
Darrius Heyward-Bey4127.053.5-1.5
Garrett Graham2835.533.40.4
Domenik Hixon3927.123.41.4
Jared Cook4434.643.4-0.6
Owen Daniels6233.463.3-2.7
Mohamed Sanu1626.543.3-0.7
Zach J. Miller3835.933.30.3
Riley Cooper2327.333.30.3
Dante Rosario1017.833.20.2
Nate Burleson2729.123.21.2
Anthony McCoy1835.733.20.2
Rod Streater3922.633.10.1
Clay Harbor2530.823.11.1
Pierre Garcon4430.543.1-0.9
Delanie Walker2118.933.00.0
Lance Kendricks4137.442.9-1.1
Alshon Jeffery2424.132.9-0.1
Dwayne Allen4536.932.8-0.2
Hakeem Nicks5323.432.8-0.2
Rueben Randle1919.832.8-0.2
Dwayne Bowe5926.932.8-0.2
Randy Moss2823.832.8-0.2
Kendall Wright6434.342.7-1.3
Kellen Davis1916.822.70.7
Nate Washington4625.442.7-1.3
Chris Givens4227.832.7-0.3
Percy Harvin6237.932.7-0.3
Josh Gordon5027.352.7-2.3
Aldrick Robinson1121.732.6-0.4
Dustin Keller2836.422.60.6
Jeff Cumberland2927.632.6-0.4
Mario Manningham4239.712.51.5
Tony Scheffler4222.712.51.5
Coby Fleener2626.522.50.5
Dave Thomas1122.142.5-1.5
Julian Edelman2135.732.5-0.5
Jeremy Kerley5632.622.50.5
Stephen Hill2120.432.4-0.6
Brent Celek5734.412.41.4
Donnie Avery6026.032.4-0.6
DeSean Jackson4630.122.40.4
Brandon LaFell4433.742.3-1.7
Ryan Broyles2234.422.30.3
Ronnie Brown4945.202.32.3
Jarius Wright2229.222.30.3
Micheal Spurlock2335.012.31.3
Emmanuel Sanders4430.012.31.3
Chaz Schilens2833.722.30.3
Marcel Reece5238.512.21.2
Adrian L. Peterson4045.312.21.2
Travis Benjamin1819.222.20.2
Pierre Thomas3946.212.21.2
Michael Jenkins4028.222.10.1
James Casey3437.832.1-0.9
Brian Quick1112.922.10.1
Josh Morgan4838.222.10.1
Michael Floyd4528.822.10.1
Jacob Tamme5232.122.00.0
Jermichael Finley6137.422.00.0
Lee Smith439.022.00.0
Louis Murphy2518.712.01.0
Leonard Pope326.722.00.0
Davone Bess6133.112.01.0
Arian Foster4041.322.00.0
Tony Moeaki3330.812.01.0
Brian Hartline7429.912.01.0
Harry Douglas3830.911.90.9
Henry Hynoski1128.111.80.8
Jordan Cameron2030.911.80.8
Donald Driver818.621.8-0.2
Erik Lorig1237.811.80.8
Jonathan Baldwin2017.011.70.7
Kevin Walter4132.321.7-0.3
Leonard Hankerson3832.931.6-1.4
Jason Avant5333.901.61.6
Reggie Bush3542.121.5-0.5
Tiquan Underwood2822.121.5-0.5
T.J. Graham3128.711.50.5
Andrew Hawkins5134.041.5-2.5
Jacquizz Rodgers5344.611.50.5
Mike Thomas1824.411.40.4
Dwayne Harris1729.911.30.3
Stephen Burton512.011.30.3
Keshawn Martin1013.711.30.3
Matt Forte4444.711.30.3
Jacoby Jones3029.111.30.3
Robert Meachem1418.821.3-0.7
Danny Woodhead4038.631.3-1.7
LeSean McCoy5450.331.3-1.7
Will Heller1740.411.30.3
Kris Durham817.311.30.3
Joique Bell5243.501.31.3
Braylon Edwards1824.311.20.2
Luke Stocker1641.011.20.2
Juron Criner1628.911.20.2
Toby Gerhart2034.801.21.2
Jorvorskie Lane1151.111.20.2
Jackie Battle1554.511.20.2
Jerricho Cotchery1727.101.21.2
LaVon Brazill1119.611.20.2
Eddie Royal2331.011.20.2
Devin Hester2333.811.20.2
Will Johnson1535.011.20.2
Vick Ballard1730.911.10.1
Jed Collins1442.621.1-0.9
John Phillips840.111.10.1
Brian Robiskie421.711.10.1
Marlon Moore621.511.10.1
Kevin Boss322.311.10.1
Matthew Mulligan834.111.10.1
Jordan Shipley2331.111.00.0
Matt Spaeth635.111.00.0
Charles Clay1829.121.0-1.0
David Wilson417.611.00.0
Jason Snelling3140.011.00.0
Nate Byham331.811.00.0
Drew Davis435.811.00.0
Guy Whimper217.011.00.0
Jason Hill220.011.00.0
Plaxico Burress318.011.00.0
Richard Gordon215.611.00.0
Mitch Unrein10.011.00.0
Chris Pressley10.011.00.0
Mike Johnson10.011.00.0
Darrel Young846.021.0-1.0
Stefan Logan629.601.01.0
Fred Davis2438.500.90.9
Brad Smith1429.920.9-1.1
Lance Ball725.410.9-0.1
Damian Williams3030.600.90.9
Rob Housler4540.200.90.9
Ray Rice6143.710.9-0.1
Michael Hoomanawanui545.800.90.9
Willis McGahee2649.600.90.9
Mark Ingram622.500.90.9
Michael Palmer632.810.9-0.1
Michael Robinson1340.920.8-1.2
Earl Bennett2928.420.8-1.2
Santonio Holmes2023.710.8-0.2
Andre Brown1247.900.80.8
Dexter McCluster5239.210.8-0.2
Fred Jackson3447.610.8-0.2
Logan Paulsen2536.310.8-0.2
Steve Smith1429.800.80.8
Darren McFadden4240.310.8-0.2
Laurent Robinson2431.800.70.7
Mewelde Moore633.910.7-0.3
Marvin Jones1826.310.7-0.3
Doug Martin4946.210.7-0.3
Bear Pascoe433.510.7-0.3
Maurice Jones-Drew1445.410.7-0.3
Gary Barnidge653.510.7-0.3
Kevin Smith1031.310.7-0.3
Robert Turbin1941.500.60.6
Marshawn Lynch2344.010.6-0.4
Frank Gore2847.910.6-0.4
Steven Jackson3846.100.60.6
Clyde Gates1618.600.60.6
DeMarco Murray3550.500.60.6
Joe Morgan1017.830.6-2.4
Isaac Redman1956.500.60.6
Jamaal Charles3548.610.5-0.5
Travaris Cadet528.400.50.5
Deion Branch1623.500.50.5
Ryan Mathews3947.000.50.5
Kevin Elliott1016.300.50.5
Craig Stevens2343.210.5-0.5
Mikel Leshoure3444.700.50.5
Felix Jones2542.620.5-1.5
Knowshon Moreno2151.300.50.5
Mohamed Massaquoi1725.800.50.5
Todd Heap832.700.50.5
Trent Richardson5154.910.5-0.5
Early Doucet2828.200.50.5
Derek Hagan2022.800.50.5
Ed Dickson2130.000.40.4
Niles Paul827.310.4-0.6
Terrance Copper835.800.40.4
Alfred Morris1144.000.40.4
LaRod Stephens-Howling1732.500.40.4
Roy Helu740.400.40.4
Daryl Richardson2442.900.40.4
C.J. Spiller4349.420.4-1.6
Cole Beasley1534.700.40.4
Kyle Williams1428.910.4-0.6
Jerome Simpson2624.600.40.4
Chris Ogbonnaya2447.900.40.4
Alex Green1833.400.40.4
Vonta Leach2155.900.40.4
Armon Binns2429.910.3-0.7
Devery Henderson2230.010.3-0.7
Daniel Thomas1536.400.30.3
Ruvell Martin425.000.30.3
Ahmad Bradshaw2356.200.30.3
Le'Ron McClain840.000.30.3
Shaun Draughn2451.400.30.3
Cedric Benson1444.500.30.3
William Powell1945.900.30.3
Curtis Brinkley1254.800.30.3
Anthony Armstrong316.000.30.3
Bruce Miller1243.900.30.3
John Kuhn1543.900.30.3
Devin Aromashodu1118.400.30.3
Matt Asiata16.000.30.3
Jacob Hester16.000.30.3
Joshua Cribbs741.300.20.2
Damaris Johnson1937.300.20.2
Danny Ware1443.800.20.2
Anthony Sherman516.000.20.2
Michael Turner1936.310.2-0.8
Alex Smith1344.200.20.2
Lance Dunbar626.500.20.2
(blank)60.100.20.2
Robert Hughes18.000.20.2
Allen Reisner18.000.20.2
Chris D. Johnson3656.600.20.2
Mike Goodson1660.210.2-0.8
Rashad Jennings1963.100.20.2
Brandon Banks856.300.20.2
Brandon Tate1325.710.2-0.8
Mike Tolbert2749.700.20.2
Shane Vereen850.610.2-0.8
Tandon Doss719.110.2-0.8
Greg Jones II1149.600.20.2
Jeff King1736.400.20.2
LaMichael James313.400.20.2
Ramses Barden1435.300.20.2
Ryan Williams739.500.20.2
Lance Louis110.000.20.2
Bilal Powell1733.900.20.2
Lavelle Hawkins519.900.20.2
Ronnie Hillman1041.400.20.2
Tom Crabtree737.720.2-1.8
Evan Royster1446.400.10.1
Chris Rainey1440.100.10.1
Kendall Hunter937.700.10.1
DeAngelo Williams1337.520.1-1.9
BenJarvus Green-Ellis2256.200.10.1
DeVier Posey618.700.10.1
Randy McMichael948.900.10.1
Jonathan Stewart1751.510.1-0.9
John Carlson827.600.10.1
Montell Owens843.300.10.1
Jordan Norwood1343.000.10.1
Cedric Peerman955.200.10.1
Brian Leonard1139.100.10.1
Peyton Hillis1044.300.10.1
Bryce Brown1338.900.10.1
Michael Bush944.300.10.1
Armanti Edwards524.000.10.1
Matt Willis1025.400.10.1
Josh Cooper826.800.10.1
David Paulson754.900.10.1
Donald Brown939.900.10.1
Andre Holmes238.000.10.1
Bernard Pierce735.500.10.1
Kealoha Pilares218.310.1-0.9
Jamar Newsome516.100.10.1
Garrett Celek428.300.10.1
Jonathan Dwyer1849.000.10.1
Rishard Matthews1134.300.10.1
Konrad Reuland1144.700.10.1
Shonn Greene1947.800.10.1
Lawrence Vickers1354.100.10.1
David Ausberry732.100.10.1
Rashard Mendenhall968.410.1-0.9
Cyrus Gray216.300.10.1
Taylor Thompson626.100.10.1
Ben Tate1160.500.10.1
Rhett Ellison740.000.10.1
Jim Dray230.500.10.1
Jabar Gaffney417.000.10.1
Lestar Jean622.810.1-0.9
Justin Forsett339.000.10.1
Stanley Havili735.200.10.1
Lamar Miller655.400.10.1
James Hanna846.000.10.1
Stevan Ridley629.200.10.1
David Reed545.200.10.1
Kris Adams211.000.10.1
Jarrett Boykin545.500.10.1
Brad Smelley115.000.10.1
Steve Breaston730.400.10.1
Jeremy Stewart859.800.10.1
Kyle Adams423.000.00.0
Jonathan Grimes232.500.00.0
Daniel Fells424.600.00.0
D.J. Williams Jr.734.100.00.0
Jermaine Kearse325.000.00.0
Darius Reynaud531.900.00.0
Toney Clemons311.700.00.0
Mike Preston539.300.00.0
Weslye Saunders222.800.00.0
Jerome Felton333.000.00.0
Deonte Thompson550.300.00.0
Ryan Taylor130.000.00.0
Chase Coffman130.000.00.0
Eric Weems223.000.00.0
Jalen Parmele755.900.00.0
Steve Maneri529.200.00.0
Dorin Dickerson941.200.00.0
Chris Ivory237.300.00.0
Virgil Green561.200.00.0
Seyi Ajirotutu354.000.00.0
Tashard Choice428.100.00.0
Devon Wylie631.500.00.0
Lex Hilliard322.400.00.0
Phillip Tanner447.000.00.0
Dezmon Briscoe216.800.00.0
Evan Rodriguez433.900.00.0
Orson Charles853.700.00.0
Jeromey Clary128.000.00.0
Montario Hardesty228.800.00.0
Mike Cox364.300.00.0
Ladarius Green464.800.00.0
Isaiah Pead349.800.00.0
Chris Owusu19.000.00.0
Baron Batch441.200.00.0
Leon Washington434.600.00.0
Joe Adams132.000.00.0
Donte' Stallworth116.010.0-1.0
Evan Moore14.000.00.0
DuJuan Harris258.500.00.0
Quinn Johnson540.900.00.0
Arrelious Benn440.700.00.0
Trindon Holliday244.500.00.0
Charly Martin443.000.00.0
Greg Camarillo450.200.00.0
Zach Potter217.700.00.0
Ryan Whalen738.800.00.0
Dion Lewis262.500.00.0
Legedu Naanee18.000.00.0
Courtney Roby120.000.00.0
Jake O'Connell368.700.00.0
Will Ta'ufo'ou143.000.00.0
James Starks445.200.00.0
Mike McNeill437.600.00.0
Jerrel Jernigan335.000.00.0
Dominique Jones148.000.00.0
Jordan Todman148.000.00.0
David Nelson226.600.00.0
Keith Toston352.500.00.0
Cory Harkey121.000.00.0
Javon Ringer342.500.00.0
Corey McIntyre131.000.00.0
Patrick Peterson (Off.)380.300.00.0
Nate Eachus119.000.00.0
Shaun Chapas128.500.00.0
Anthony Allen231.300.00.0
Reagan Mauia141.000.00.0
Ted Ginn268.500.00.0
Joe McKnight123.500.00.0
Armando Allen278.000.00.0
Mardy Gilyard231.200.00.0
Ben Obomanu436.600.00.0
Chris Gronkowski150.000.00.0
LaRon Byrd126.500.00.0
Dedrick Epps153.000.00.0
Ben Hartsock242.000.00.0
Dane Sanzenbacher125.500.00.0
Sammie Stroughter129.500.00.0
Kahlil Bell272.500.00.0
Andre Caldwell114.000.00.0
Tommy Gallarda120.000.00.0
Alfonso Smith245.000.00.0
Brandon Jackson240.000.00.0
Antonio Cromartie (Off.)144.500.00.0
Jordan White121.300.00.0
Austin Collie164.000.00.0
Beanie Wells167.000.00.0
Brandon Bolden279.000.00.0
Ryan Grant118.000.00.0
Keiland Williams281.500.00.0
Senio Kelemete177.000.00.0
Taiwan Jones170.000.00.0
Kellen Winslow135.000.00.0
Marcus Thigpen138.000.00.0
Chris Cooley121.700.00.0
Nathan Palmer118.000.00.0
LeGarrette Blount161.000.00.0
Terrelle Pryor185.000.00.0
Delone Carter139.000.00.0
Lousaka Polite128.000.00.0
Mike Higgins175.000.00.0
Jamie Harper181.000.00.0
Hayden Smith180.000.00.0
Isaiah Stanback184.000.00.0

Next, I’m going to take a look at the players who most outperformed their expected touchdown total during the 2012 season.

Remember: any reference to a yard line is not the line of scrimmage; it’s the distance, in yardage, between the player and the endzone when the catch was made.

2012 Overachievers

Rk

Player

Rec

cADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

1

Dez Bryant

92

31.1

12

7.8

-4.2

2

Michael Crabtree

85

36.8

9

5.3

-3.7

3

Danario Alexander

37

31.2

7

3.8

-3.2

4

James Jones

64

25.8

14

11.1

-2.9

5

Cecil Shorts

55

24.4

7

4.1

-2.9

6

Santana Moss

41

29.8

8

5.2

-2.8

7

Owen Daniels

62

33.4

6

3.3

-2.7

8

T.Y. Hilton

50

28.0

7

4.4

-2.6

9

Eric Decker

85

27.7

13

10.4

-2.6

10

Andrew Hawkins

51

34.0

4

1.5

-2.5

When you think about receivers who can make big plays in the open field, Dez Bryant and Michael Crabtree certainly come to mind. Bryant scored 12 times last season, but based on the location of his receptions, the average player would’ve scored nearly eight times. Crabtree found paydirt nine times during the 2012 regular season, which is was 3.7 scores below his oTD. We discussed these guys in the first oTD article, so I’ll leave it at that and focus on some new names.

A breakout sensation in 2012, Cecil Shorts caught seven touchdowns despite the Jaguars’ quarterback struggles. He was in the endzone on only one of the scores, but did take three in from one yard out. The other three scores included long runs to the endzone (39, 62, and 64 yards). Interestingly, Shorts caught only four passes inside the 13 yard line all season, scoring on all four.

Aside of a handful of drops, T.Y. Hilton had a strong rookie season. He shows up as an overachiever because four of his seven scores came from distances of at least 13 yards. He was in the endzone on three of his touchdowns, but had to travel 13, 14, 22, and 33 yards on the others. He caught only five balls while inside the 10 yard line on the year.

2012 Underachievers

Rk

Player

Rec

cADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

1

Calvin Johnson

122

27.2

5

8.3

3.3

2

Tony Gonzalez

93

34.1

8

10.5

2.5

3

Reggie Wayne

106

29.7

5

7.4

2.4

4

Ronnie Brown

49

45.2

0

2.3

2.3

5

Jason Witten

110

39.2

3

5.0

2.0

6

Roddy White

92

29.0

7

9.0

2.0

7

Danny Amendola

62

32.4

2

4.0

2.0

8

Dallas Clark

47

28.9

4

5.8

1.8

9

Jason Avant

53

33.9

0

1.6

1.6

10

Mario Manningham

42

39.7

1

2.5

1.5

Okay, I can’t really beat the drum on Calvin Johnson any harder than I already have. At this point, I think everyone and their great aunt Bertha knows that Johnson was tackled at the one yard line five times last year. He struggled inside the endzone, too, but he’s going to regress for the better in 2013. Count on it.

Ronnie Brown is the first running back to pop up today. It’s saying a lot that he’s fourth on this list despite seeing only 49 carries (and out of the backfield). So, what happened? Well, most importantly, he failed to score. He caught five balls inside the eight yard line and a total of 13 inside the 22.

We see a lot of slot receivers/tight ends on this list. One of them is Danny Amendola, who is fairly intriguing when you consider his move to New England. You wouldn’t consider Amendola much of an endzone target, but he did have the opportunity to double his scores in 2012. Both of his touchdowns came while he was in the endzone last season. Other than those two, he had no receptions inside the five, but did catch five passes in the five-to-eight yard range.

Five-Year Overachievers

Rk

Player

Rec

cADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

1

Darren Sproles

294

40.5

25

12.8

-12.2

2

Miles Austin

272

26.9

34

22.9

-11.1

3

Calvin Johnson

440

26.1

50

41.0

-9.0

4

Julio Jones

133

27.7

18

10.8

-7.2

5

James Jones

204

24.4

32

24.9

-7.1

6

DeSean Jackson

276

25.2

23

16.2

-6.8

7

Eric Decker

135

25.7

22

15.4

-6.6

8

Vernon Davis

273

30.7

33

26.8

-6.2

9

Terrell Owens

195

23.0

24

18.2

-5.8

10

Dez Bryant

200

28.6

27

21.6

-5.4

11

Jordy Nelson

217

29.5

28

22.6

-5.4

12

Michael Crabtree

259

33.3

20

14.6

-5.4

13

Mike Wallace

235

25.1

32

26.7

-5.3

14

Victor Cruz

168

29.6

19

13.9

-5.1

15

Randy Moss

208

22.6

32

27.0

-5.0

Shown in the above chart are the 15 players who scored the highest number of touchdowns above their expected (or ‘oTD’) during the last five regular seasons.

Needless to say, this is an extremely impressive list of players. Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, Terrell Owens, Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree, and Randy Moss are/were unquestionably among the most gifted wide receivers in the league.

The name that should really jump off the page here is Darren Sproles. If you think about it though, it makes perfect sense that he’d rate well here. He’s targeted a ton, but almost never while in the endzone, and is one of the game’s top playmakers. Nonetheless, let’s take a deeper look. Sproles has caught only two balls while in the endzone over the last five years. He’s taken two in from one yard out and a total of 10 from inside the 10 yard line. Of Sproles’ 25 receiving touchdowns, a whopping 11 have come after runs of 20-plus yards, including four over 45 yards. Of 16 receptions between one and nine yards away from the endzone, Sproles converted eight into scores.

Miles Austin has caught 13 touchdowns while already in the endzone. Of his 34 scores over the last five years, seven have come from distances of 24-plus yards out. Austin has touchdown runs of 43, 45, 51, and 54 yards to his name. He’s caught 18 balls between one and nine yards out of the endzone, scoring on exactly half.

Of DeSean Jackson’s 23 scores, only eight have come while in the endzone. He took only three others into the endzone from inside the 14 yard line (three, three, and four yards). He has eight scores of 33-plus yards, including two over 58 yards.

Five-Year Underachievers

Rk

Player

Rec

cADEZ

TD

oTD

Diff

1

Tony Gonzalez

422

29.7

37

45.0

8.0

2

Steve Breaston

247

30.3

9

15.8

6.8

3

Danny Amendola

195

34.3

6

12.7

6.7

4

Steve Smith (not CAR)

237

30.1

12

18.6

6.6

5

Jason Avant

229

29.4

7

13.3

6.3

6

Tony Scheffler

184

26.9

13

17.9

4.9

7

Brandon Lloyd

255

22.9

22

26.7

4.7

8

Brian Hartline

183

27.3

6

10.2

4.2

9

Marques Colston

364

27.3

39

43.1

4.1

10

Jermichael Finley

198

29.9

17

21.1

4.1

11

Jabar Gaffney

229

27.8

11

15.1

4.1

12

Mike Williams (SEA)

83

26.9

3

7.0

4.0

13

Dustin Keller

241

27.9

17

20.9

3.9

14

Reggie Wayne

474

30.1

31

34.9

3.9

15

Ronnie Brown

129

45.3

0

3.7

3.7

On the other hand, we have the players who failed to convert their share of opportunities into touchdowns. We see a handful of talented players on this list, but it’s relatively underwhelming overall.

Tony Gonzalez should jump off the page. Arguably the worst player in the league after the catch (not an exaggeration), Gonzalez was already inside the boundaries of the endzone on an incredible 29 (or 78 percent) of his 37 touchdowns over the last five years. Six of the other eight scores were scampers of no more than five yards. He ran 16 and 28 yards on the other two, converting only two of 378 receptions outside the opponent’s five yard line into touchdowns. Of 22 receptions between one and nine yards away from the endzone, Gonzalez converted only six.

Marques Colston has an impressive 39 touchdowns since 2008 (highest mark in our top 15), but the math says he should’ve had four more. Consider that Colston was already in the endzone when he caught 24 (or 62 percent) of those touchdowns. He was inside the five on 10 others and only one of the 43 included a run of a distance longer than 13 yards (43 yards). Colston has converted only 12-of-35 catches between one and nine yards from the endzone into a score.

Considering his stature, it’s hard to believe Jermichael Finley is on this last. Of his 17 scores, Finley was in the endzone on 13 of them. The other four were from distances of one, four, 16, and 37 yards. Of five receptions within two yards of the endzone, Finley has somehow converted only one into a score.

Wrap

That’s that on opportunity-adjusted touchdowns for now. Five years of data provides us plenty of reason to believe that ‘oTD’ is a significantly better indicator of scoring potential than plain old redzone data. Additionally, by comparing actual touchdowns to opportunity-adjusted scores we can quantifiably determine superior and inferior playmakers. The next big step will be determining the predictably of historical ‘oTD’, a subject I’ll be focusing on for years to come.

For in-season ‘oTD’ coverage, be sure to sign up for PFF Fantasy Gold.

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter at @MikeClayNFL

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