How A.J. Green outperformed Odell Beckham Jr. in 2015

At first glance, the Giants' receiver had a bigger 2015, but Mike Renner notes that a deeper look favors the Bengals' pass-catcher.

| 5 months ago
(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

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.

To be fair, it was close; Green came in 34th in our rankings, while Beckham was No. 37. But the data points showed that Green was the superior choice—at least in the 2015 season.

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.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • rock

    Stats don’l always paint a clear picture in my opinion. While it’s nice to have a baseline statistically, you can’t put values on a lot of the variables that affected that performance. Like AJG had a run game to lean on, and other capable WR’s opposite him. Odell did his work as one of the only real offensive weapons in that offense.

    • anonCamb

      Eli Manning and Odell were the entire offense. That’s it. There was nothing else. Those two carried the team. Stats without context is a complete waste of time.

  • Adrian Edwards

    The passer rating is more dependent on the QB than the receiver.

    • Henrique Oliveira

      So are you saying Dalton is better than Manning?

      • MikeC4

        God I hope not.

      • eYeDEF

        Last season only he certainly played better.

      • Adrian Edwards

        He was last year, but no that wasn’t really my point. It doesn’t really matter who was better overall, it matters who was better when throwing to the receiver in question.

      • matt

        Are you saying that Manning was better than Dalton?
        Bengals went 12-4 and made the playoffs. Giants went 6-10.
        Dalton completion percentage = 66.1%

        Yards per attempt = 8.4

        Fumbles = 5
        Manning completion percentage = 62.6%

        Yards per attempt = 7.2

        Fumbles = 11

        • Tgg

          11 fumbles? When and why not interceptions touchdowns yards I mean anybody can throw short passes and get a high completion percentage

          • Matt

            Does not work for you? Scroll down to the bottom of that page and you can see the 11 fumbles for 2015. Are you dumb?? If Dalton throws for 1.2 more yards per attempt than Manning, how is Dalton the one that’s throwing the “shorter high completion percentage throws”? I didn’t include Yards, TD or INT because Dalton only played 13 games to Manning’s 16 games played.

    • anonCamb

      OBJs numbers are better thanks to Manning. And PFF is becoming useless.

      • rock has plenty of good content, so they are not becoming useless at all….

  • Peter Imhoff

    OK? Maybe you ought to consider the other WRs and TEs that AJ Green played with versus the Giants stable. I would swap the Giants group for the Bengal group in a heartbeat. It certainly makes a difference in terms of the coverages that the top WR faced. Its still a team game.

  • MikeC4

    The Bengals were a playoff team. The Giants were not. They had exactly two weapons on offense. Eli Manning and Beckham. It’s amazing how much production those two achieved. You saw what happened when Odell was suspended for the Vikings game. Eli was out there by himself. The tight ends, RBs, number 2/3 receivers, complete garbage. These stat comparisons for receivers and other players are a real waste without context.

  • Chris Alexander

    You failed to account for surrounding talent. Giants were forced to go to Beckham in less than ideal matchups. That’s impacts your “efficiency” stats. While CIN had an elite TE and 2 other quality WRs (Jones and Sanu got huge deals this offseason) to prevent teams from taking away Green. Green is fantastic but teams werent able to send the same coverages his way.

    Beckham? He had Randle ( an unrestricted FA that couldn’t get more than a 1 year minimum deal this year), nothing as a number 3 WR, and an Undrafted and undersized rookie TE with Tye.

    Beckham is the better player. Nobody in the league would choose Green over him.

    • Gary

      You must have not watched any Bengals games. Green was doubled constantly, the same as beckham. The linebacker on the TE wouldnt of covered green. Jones and Sanu always had single coverage. So your points don’t make much sense.

      You could state their running game was far better than the Giants which made safeties sit lower or come into the box. That I could buy. Or you could mention on how bad the Giants defense was which lead to them throwing more prayers to odell. I could buy that too.

      Green numbers would have surpassed Odells if Dalton didn’t miss 4 games.

      • Herby Norelis

        There was 3 guys on Odell half the time… they didn’t even bother covering Patterson because he always dropped the ball… plus we all know where the safety would cheat towards… Any where Odell lined up… He was all the Giants had and they ranked top 10 on offense… Green is an amazing top 4 WR… Odel is almost in a league of his own…. He is the Curry of WRs.

      • Chris Locke

        Just having a TE who can threaten the seam (and do a hell of a lot more) in Eifert makes things much easier for the WRs. Beckham did not have that. That kind of weapon in Eifert forces teams to adjust to it. When it’s not there the safeties can play a different game. Giants had an undersized and slow TE. And very slow WRs across from Beckham.

        Beckham was a one man show for the Giants. Teams knew it and focusing on stopping him was easier because of the lack of speed and weapons at the other NYG skill positions.

        This year will be different. The rookie TE and WR for Giants should help improve Beckham’s “efficiency stats”.

        One thing that wont change? WHo is the better player? That’s Beckham over Green and every NFL guy would tell you that. Green is outstanding. Beckham is better.

  • Gary

    Everyone below me, you are forgetting one main thing… Opposing defenses and cornerbacks.

    Week 13, against revis
    Teams in top half in team pass defense: 4

    Week 5: Sherman, Week 9: Hayden, Week 10 John Joe, Week 11 Petterson, Week 16 Talib.
    Teams in top half in team pass defense: 7

    As a number one WR you always get doubled, So dont use that as an excuse for the above article.

    • Denis Collins

      You sir are an absolute joke to say that the only talent OBJ faced this season was Darelle Revis. I guess you don’t remember the matchup of the year between him and the best corner in football last year in Josh Norman? Or what about Desmond Trufant, Delvin Breaux, Malcolm Butler? If you did not know OBJ faced Josh Norman this season I plead with you to no longer comment on football related websites.

    • Bruce Wayne

      Revis was out that week.

  • Herby Norelis

    ODB had Pattrson (cut) and Rubin Randel (trash) on his team while Green is on a stacked team with a great OL… I think its amazing What OBJ did while being doubled and tripled teamed and down right assaulted half the time to boot…

    • “Julie1141

      like Samuel implied I am taken by surprise that a single mom can profit $6819 in 4 weeks on the internet . blog link

  • matt

    Almost everyone here is claiming that OBJ carried New York and played without any talent surrounding him and that Green was on a far better team with a lot more talent to take pressure off of him so that’s why Green played better.
    Receiving yards total NYG = 4504
    Rushing yards total NYG = 1609
    Receiving yards total CIN = 4104
    Rushing yards total CIN = 1805
    NYG receivers caught for 282 yards per game vs Cincinnati’s 257 per game.
    Cincinnati rushed for 113 yards per game vs New York’s 101 yards per game.
    So New York caught 25more yards a game and only 12 less rushing yards a game but OBJ didn’t have any help? What?? I missing something?

    • Bruce Wayne

      Your missing quite a bit actually. Stats like that without context can be misleading. Giants QB’s threw 118 more passes then the Bengals QB’s in 2015. (I don’t disagree that Green may have been better. He certainly was more efficient, and having not watched most of Greens games I couldn’t know). All the Giant WR’s stats are inflated a bit, including Beckham’s. Based on the amount of times per game the Bengal’s threw (31.5), the Giants 118 more pass attempts is almost 4 extra games worth. Its like comparing totals when one team played 20 games and the other 16. That’s the first thing you’re missing. Giants were 6th in pass attempts, Bengal’s were 26th. The cast around Beckham was a joke. They compiled some stats based on a lot of attempts and somebody else has to be targeted. But Beckham was targeted a lot when covered, especially because nobody else could beat man coverage, ever, and zones always doubled him. Might as well just throw it to Beckham, (if your are morally against throwing it away). The total team stats you compared however simply show that one team threw it a lot more, and nothing about the individual abilities on each team. Even PFF’s stats without context tell only a part of the story. I don’t know who was a better receiver last year, but basing it simply on stats is a fun exorcise, and nothing more. One stat I can give, Beckham has played a total of 27 games now in the NFL. And has played at a level that’s at least comparable to the best WR’s in the game, form the 3rd or 4th game of his career, with ZERO pre-season. He pretty much suited up in week 5, had one week of practice, and dominated the league by week 8. Amazing.

  • Joao Leite

    Andy Dalton is a better QB than Eli Manning, and also Eli had no one to throw to besides Beckham. Sure, they both faced double teams, but if you consider a DC planning for both teams, when it comes to the Giants you only have to account for Beckham and that’s it. If you’re facing Cincy, you get to face an OK running back in Jeremy Hill and a good back in Gio Bernard, two slightly above-average WRs in Sanu and Jones and a very good TE in Eifert. It changes the way you can defend the top weapon for your opponent

    • Matt

      False facts man, read my other post.

      • Joao Leite

        What you said makes sense, but consider that the Giants offense was on the field a lot more. Their defense sucked, and also they played other not so good defenses like the Cowboys, the Falcons and the Saints. Odell got a lot more chances and targets, and obviously you won’t be as efficient if you have more chances to do something wrong. The one game they didn’t have him, they got destroyed

        • Matt

          “What you said makes sense, but consider that the Giants offense was on the field a lot more.”
          – Your not wrong but I would argue that more offensive snaps means more chances at inflating stats.
          “Their defense sucked, and also they played other not so good defenses like the Cowboys, the Falcons and the Saints.”
          – Again, your not wrong, their defense did suck but defense’s dont play eachother. One could make the case that the Giants offenses should have better stats then because they played some bad teams and had more chances to pad their stats.
          “Odell got a lot more chances and targets, and obviously you won’t be as efficient if you have more chances to do something wrong.”
          – He did get more targets but I disagree that more chances leads to being less efficient. This is the NFL and hes Odell so more chances for something to go wrong is true but If anything more chances helps him become more efficient. Ask any good gambler if he would rather have more hands or less to increase his chances of success.
          “The one game they didn’t have him, they got destroyed.”
          -True but dont forget they still turned over the ball 3 times on offense setting up Min for more chances at more points.