Two More Factors That Affect Receiver Win Rates

Scott Spratt looks at the effects of depth of target and distance from the end zone on receiver win rates.

| 1 year ago
Randall Cobb

Two More Factors That Affect Receiver Win Rates


Randall CobbIn my last article, I looked at which receivers most frequently won their routes adjusted for the defenders that faced them. I defined a route as a win if the receiver either made the reception or dropped the reception, and I used the average win rates against specific defenders to make the adjustment on individual plays.

The goal of the research was to more fairly evaluate receivers who consistently drew better or worse coverage defenders, but it turns out that defensive attention is not the only factor that affects the likelihood that a receiver wins a route.

1. Depth of Target

When I saw the leaders in Wins Above Average (WAA) included players like Randall Cobb, Julian Edelman, and Jarvis Landry, I wondered if depth of target might play a part in win rate. The overall list was not skewed toward slot receivers, but it stands to reason that receivers are more likely to catch or drop their targets on shorter routes. That idea was confirmed by a look at win rate by depth of throw.

Win Rates by Depth of Target, 2012-2014
Depth Group Targets Recs Drops Win Rate
At/behind line 8676 7509 458 0.918
1-5 yards 14725 11077 1007 0.821
6-10 yards 10001 6581 703 0.728
11-15 yards 6632 3840 402 0.640
16-20 yards 4297 2183 287 0.575
21-25 yards 2089 830 100 0.445
26-30 yards 1276 414 60 0.371
31-35 yards 935 266 55 0.343
36+ yards 1504 420 75 0.329

 

When a receiver is targeted at or behind the line of scrimmage, he wins 91.8 percent of the time. On those plays, it’s hardly even fair to say the defender is in coverage against him. He’s simply the man with the best chance of making the tackle. Meanwhile, the farther from the line of scrimmage the depth of target becomes, the less likely the receiver is to win that route.

Most Wins Above Average per Target by Depth, 2014, Min. 50 Targets
Receiver Targets Recs Drops aDOT WAA WAA/Target
Kenny Stills 79 62 4 12.6 12.3 0.156
Brandin Cooks 63 51 2 8.9 7.1 0.113
Travis Kelce 78 64 4 6.5 8.8 0.112
Jace Amaro 52 38 6 7.1 5.1 0.099
Eddie Royal 86 62 6 10.8 7.8 0.091
Julian Edelman 124 92 11 7.6 10.7 0.086
Randall Cobb 117 84 8 9.4 9.3 0.080
Heath Miller 88 66 6 7.6 7.0 0.080
Emmanuel Sanders 140 101 2 12.9 10.8 0.077
Jarius Wright 60 42 5 11.0 4.0 0.067

 

When you calculate WAA based on depth of target instead of quality of defender in coverage, many of the same receivers make the leaderboard. However, Kenny Stills, who has a 12.6-yard average depth of target (aDOT) that is on the deeper side for receivers, jumps to the third to first. Randall Cobb and Heath Miller are the two names on this list that were not on the original.

2. Distance from End Zone

In addition to depth or target, the distance from the end zone (DEZ) impacts the likelihood that a receiver wins his route. As he approaches the end zone, the 11 defenders are spread over less and less area of the field, which puts more players near every passing lane.

Win Rates by Distance from End Zone, 2012-2014
DEZ Targets Recs Drops Win Rate
0 3345 1262 188 0.433
1 336 178 22 0.595
2 319 152 28 0.564
3 364 165 37 0.555
4 266 162 9 0.643
5 379 191 22 0.562
6 289 155 23 0.616
7 307 181 17 0.645
8 405 237 37 0.677
9 287 196 19 0.749
10+ 43838 30241 2745 0.752

 

In particular, throws within the end zone are difficult ones for the receiver to win. That is the only spot on the field where the defender is more likely to win. There is a fairly steady increase from there to the 10-yard line. Then, win rates stabilize around 75 percent for receivers over the other 90 yards of the field of play.

Most Wins Above Average per Target by DEZ, 2014, Min. 50 Targets
Receiver Targets Recs Drops EZ Targets WAA WAA/Target
Travis Kelce 78 64 4 4 10.8 0.139
Jace Amaro 52 38 6 4 6.7 0.128
Julius Thomas 57 42 4 9 6.4 0.113
Brandin Cooks 63 51 2 2 6.8 0.109
Julian Edelman 124 92 11 7 12.7 0.102
Heath Miller 88 66 6 6 8.5 0.096
Randall Cobb 117 84 8 17 10.4 0.089
Kenny Stills 79 62 4 2 7.0 0.088
Jordan Reed 61 47 2 5 5.2 0.085
Jarvis Landry 99 79 2 2 6.7 0.068

 

Adjusted for distance from the end zone rather than depth of target, the WAA leaderboard becomes a tight end party. That makes sense given that bigger tight ends tend to receive a relatively high percentage of their targets in the end zone. Randall Cobb also makes this list with 17 end zone targets, which is tied for the ninth most among all receivers.

Scott Spratt is a Sloan Analytics Conference Research Paper Competition and Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. He also writes for RotoGraphs and contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

  • Kari

    I st­arted wo­rki­ng fr­om ho­me, worki­ng si­mpl­e jo­bs that only require­s from you a compu­t­er an­d access to intern­et an­d I cou­ldn’t b­e happier… Si­x mo­nth­s ha­ve pas­sed s­in­ce i s­ta­rted t­his an­d i ma­d­e i­n to­tal $36k… Bas­icly i e­arn 80 doll­ars e­very ho­ur a­n­d wo­rk for 3 t­o 4 hour­s a d­a­y.A­nd the be­st part about the j­ob is th­a­t y­o­u ca­n ma­na­ge ti­m­e w­he­n y­ou w­o­rk a­nd fo­r h­ow l­o­ng a­s y­o­u li­k­e an­d t­he pa­ym­ents a­r­e w­eek­ly -> I­f thi­s go­t y­our att­ent­ion th­en Ex­tra cas­h op­por­tu­ni­ty! <-

  • Kevin

    Is there any way to adjust for QB play? I would suspect that players such as Larry Fitzgerald “win” a route more often than your stat has him winning right now, but wouldn’t be credited for it only because the throw would end up in the 1st row of seats. If he is open but his QB brutally overthrows him it would count as a loss according to your stat right now, right?

    As well, I wonder how much of a benefit comes from quaterbacks who can “throw a player open.” For example, if Kenny Stills was getting a lot of wins because Brees is so good, moving from Brees to Tannehill may hurt his win rate. It may not have a massive statistical effect, but I could certainly see it dropping him from the top of the list to merely “middle-high” or something.

    This second aspect may be more qualitative and therefore difficult to assess, but I feel as though there might be a way to address the negative side perhaps?
    Thanks as always for the great work!