How A.J. Green outperformed Odell Beckham Jr. in 2015
Debating whether one wide receiver is “better” at the core than another is often a futile exercise. Performance fluctuates so much season-to-season and players’ roles in their respective offenses are so different that it can easily get too convoluted. When comparing past production, though, there’s hard data. And after calling upon that data to see whether Odell Beckham Jr. or A.J. Green had the better 2015 season for our Top 101 rankings, the results were clear: Green reigned supreme.
The main reason why? Efficiency. Outside of Green having a higher receiving grade (+23.6 to Beckham’s +22.3; 0.0 is considered average) on fewer pass routes (585 for Green, 598 for Beckham) and fewer targets (123 for Green, 153 for Bechkham), the Cincinnati Bengals wideout also had the second-highest passer rating when targeted in the entire NFL (121.9 for Green, versus 114.1 for Beckham). Only seven receivers with at least 100 targets caught a higher percentage of their targets than Green’s 69.9; Beckham was at 62.7, 16th on that list.
Those stats are made all the more impressive by the fact that Green wasn’t utilized much in the underneath game at all. About 66 percent of the average quarterback’s throws are targeted within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Last season, Beckham sat below that threshold for the New York Giants, at 56.3 percent, but Green was all the way down at 48.9. In 2015, 67.1 percent of Green’s targets were past the first-down markers, and he converted a first down on 51.1 percent of his targets. Those same numbers for Beckham were 68.3 percent and 41.8 percent, respectively.
The data all lead to one conclusion: Green was the more efficient receiver when the ball was thrown his way last season, even when the deeper route tree (ergo, more difficult) that Green was running would suggest the opposite would be more likely to be true.
If one simply wants to use yards and touchdowns to evaluate receivers, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that Beckham outperformed Green last season. But a deeper dive tells a different story. Given the utilization and production of both wide receivers a season ago, we’re confident with ranking Green above Beckham in the 2015 Top 101.