Sig Stat Snapshot: TE Receiving Production

With tight ends becoming more valuable in a passing league, Michael Renner breaks down the most reliable and productive at the position.

| 4 years ago

Sig Stat Snapshot: TE Receiving Production

Today I’ll take a look at tight ends and their receiving production. To do that we will mainly be looking at two of our Signature Stats for receivers, Yards per Route Run (YPRR) and Drop Rate. Both are very straight forward in terms of how they are calculated and the equations are the following:

YPRR = Yards divided by Snaps in Route

Drop Rate = Drops divided by Catchable Passes

Both are very simple, but also very meaningful and you will only find them here at PFF. YPRR is a great evaluator among receivers because it only looks at production when players had a chance to produce. These takes away discrepancies created by injuries, pass-heavy offenses, or just limited playing time. Drop Rate does the same thing. It is only calculated per catchable pass so it is more indicative than total drops. For instance, Tony Gonzalez has dropped four passes this season and Ed Dickson has only dropped one, but Gonzalez is still ahead in Drop Rate. The Falcons’ tight end has seen over four times as many catchable balls this year, so who really has the surer hands? Drop Rate says Gonzalez.

Comparing Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The tight end position has evolved over time and in today’s game they are asked to possess a unique skillset. The optimal tight end would block like Duane Brown and play the ball like Calvin Johnson, but both zeniths are unrealistic. It, then, is up to each team on which end of the spectrum they want their tight end to fall. In recent years this decision has again and again been made in favor of receiving skills to the point where almost every elite passing attack features their tight end. For this reason, it is fair to compare tight end statistics to wide receivers on equal ground. The following are comparisons between tight ends and wide receivers in some meaningful statistical categories so far for the season:

 Tight EndsWide Receivers
Yards per Target7.538.12
Target Percentage18.25%19.31%
Catch Rate68.55%61.00%
Drop Rate9.93%9.56%
Yards per Catch10.99%13.32%

The only number that jumps out as a surprise is Drop Rate — seeing that they have dropped passes at a higher rate isn’t what I would have expected. I am devoid of reasoning as to why this is the case other than that we’ll see in a little bit that the 9.93% Drop Rate of tight ends so far this season may be an outlier for tight end performance.

2011 vs. 2012

Even though it is only Week 14 in the NFL, there is still more than enough data to make proper comparisons between the success of tight ends in this season and last season. Here are the same stats compared over the last two years:

Yards per Target7.707.53
Target Percentage18.14%18.25%
Catch Rate66.54%68.55%
Drop Rate8.28%9.93%
Yards per Catch11.58%10.99%

Let’s now go back to that Drop Rate. That 1.65 percentage point difference is fairly major when looking at sample sizes of over 2,000 catchable passes. Again, I have no guess as to why this could be other than the fact that there have been some very poor performances this year.

Besides drop rate, target percentage has remained constant, so the decreases in YPRR and yards per target can be explained by the decrease in yards per catch and the increase in Drop Rate. This yards per catch decline isn’t too much of a surprise. Many big-play tight ends have had particularly down years (i.e. Jermichael Finley, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates). It will be interesting to see if tight ends as a whole can come closer to their production from last year through the last four weeks.

YPRR Top and Bottom 10:

RankPlayerTeamTargetsRec. YardsSnaps in RouteYPRR(2011 YPRR)
1Rob GronkowskiNE737483092.422.37
2Fred DavisWAS323251661.961.93
3Owen DanielsHST785983101.931.65
4Greg OlsenCAR716363421.861.19
5Brandon MyersOAK867213891.851.15
6Jacob TammeDEN704492441.840.96
7Aaron HernandezNE382761541.791.88
8Brent CelekPHI746013371.781.90
9Tony GonzalezATL957704321.781.75
10Jimmy GrahamNO866543711.762.41

RankPlayerTeamTargetsRec. YardsSnaps in RouteYPRR(2011 YPRR)
39Joel DreessenDEN422532191.161.70
40Jeff KingARZ151111011.101.79
41Anthony McCoySEA171311271.030.95
42Antonio GatesSD594174071.021.62
43Ed DicksonBLT221521521.001.12
44Clay HarborPHI261061070.991.43
45Lance KendricksSL372772790.991.17
46Anthony FasanoMIA422242910.771.18
47Luke StockerTB11761040.731.01
48Kellen DavisCHI331852840.650.95

Drop Rate Top and Bottom 10:

RankPlayerTeamTargetsReceptionsDropsCatchableDrop Rate(2011 Drop Rate)
1Zach J. MillerSEA34280280.010.7
2Anthony FasanoMIA42280280.03.0
3Jacob TammeDEN70471482.10.0
4Dennis PittaBLT67451462.20.0
5Dallas ClarkTB45341352.919.1
6Heath MillerPIT73562583.58.9
7Jeff CumberlandNYJ35211224.633.3
8Vernon DavisSF48372395.16.9
9Tony GonzalezATL95734775.23.6
10Dwayne AllenIND53362385.3--

RankPlayerTeamTargetsReceptionsDropsCatchableDrop Rate(2011 Drop Rate)
36Brandon PettigrewDET925796613.66.7
37Brent CelekPHI745085813.88.8
38Logan PaulsenWAS281832114.30.0
39Jimmy GrahamNO8659106914.55.8
40Lance KendricksSL372853315.224.3
41Clay HarborPHI261631915.87.1
42Jermichael FinleyGB604195018.017.9
43Charles ClayMIA241552025.027.3
44Kellen DavisCHI331472133.310.0
45Delanie WalkerSF241271936.89.5


Notable Performers

Rob Gronkowski continues to make the most out of his targets. Gronk is first in YPRR by a large margin despite being sixth in target percentage.

Vernon Davis needs to see the ball more. He has the highest yards per target on the 49ers, yet is only targeted on 14.3% of his routes. This is a much lower rate than Randy Moss (24.0%), Mario Manningham (22.3%), and Michael Crabtree (23.9%).

Dallas Clark apparently worked on his hands (along with better health) last offseason. His Drop Rate decreased from 19% last year to 2.9% this year, the largest such improvement among tight ends that qualified both seasons.

Delanie Walker did the opposite. Walker’s drop rate increased from 9.5% last season to 36.8% this season, the greatest decline among qualifying tight ends. He already has five more drops than he had last year.

Kellen Davis has had a rough year as a pass catcher. He is worst in YPRR, second-worst in yards per target, and is targeted at the second lowest rate. It doesn’t help his case that he’s dropped a third of his catchable balls either.

– Believe it or not, Clay Harbor is targeted at a higher rate than Gronk (24.3% compared to 23.6%). The problem for the Eagles has been that Harbor averages over 6 fewer yards per target than the Patriots’ All-Pro. Harbor’s 4.1 yards per target is the lowest in the league by over a yard.

– The biggest increase in YPRR belongs to Jacob Tamme (0.96 to 1.84) while the largest decrease comes from Jeff King (1.79 to 1.10).


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner


| 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.

  • Ben

    How much of an effect do you think Josh Freeman has had on Dallas Clark’s drop rate? Where was Clark in 2010 and prior when he wasn’t on the receiving end of guys like Curtis Painter?

    • Gregdachicago

      Well obviously there is a huge difference;
      Curtis Painter was just plan terrible. While on the other hand Josh Freeman now
      holds the only QB to have +4,000 passing yds. down in Tampa. Remember Dallas
      Clark was a great TE when Payton Manning was healthy so this stat should be no

  • izach

    blocking for a reciving TE is secondary but i think seeing guy that do both shows there real value, guys like verrnan davis who can muslce defenders in the run game 1 play then catch a deep pass the next are IMO much more valueable than guys like jimmy gramm. even hath miller who had just as much chance of being 1 on 1 with a DE in pass protection as he does being 1 on 1 with a LB running routes. it adds a dimension to offense more when the TE isnt a liability.

  • a1

    if slot receivers were separated out from wide receivers and yards in air averages were included i think it would paint a more interesting picture…

    • Mike Renner

      Can’t believe I didn’t think of that. That would be a great comparison and probably worthy of its own article. I’ll try to do that sometime in the future.

  • a1

    what are “snaps in route”? for example, lance kendricks shows a sir figure of 279, but when looking at the rams cumulative offense page he shows 293 pas routes ran.

    • Mike Renner

      Where I think this difference may arise is from Kendricks running some pass routes from a running back or fullback position. We don’t include those in the tight end positional signature stats. Nice catch.