Hot Shots: part 2

In part 1 of my mid season look at some of my top acts I looked at Quarterbacks and Kiko Alonso. This week I take a analytical view of wide receivers. So what questions am I going to be asking? Really whatever takes my eye, especially relationships in how to predict if a player will score a touchdown. Without much further ado, some late nights and copious amounts of caffeine, let us venture again into modelling and pull off a Magnum look.

Wide Receivers

Let us face it, we need to talk about Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, with a dash of Wes Welker. But first I would like to direct you to a fantastic article that discusses the drop rate by WRs and can be found at ProFootballFocus. Please please read it, it is so interesting. Mainly because the three afore mentioned players do not feature in the top 20 catchers, or safe hands if you like. Larry Fitzgerald is top, catching all of what are considered catchable balls thrown his way (as of 30th of October admittedly so does not take into account his fumble!). A few rookies also make the safe hands list (as I call it). AdvancedNFLstats.com have Torrey Smith splitting Megatron and Dez Bryant, based on the fact that he contributes more with his time with the ball (even if he doesn’t score touchdowns). Deciding on how to rate and talk about WRs is more of a challenge¬† than deciding on a pick n mix selection in the days when ¬£1 got you far. It is time to get some stats on and do some indepth looking, mainly touchdowns, no. of carries and yards ran and the like.

Obviously the main three of Megatron, Dez and Wes plus Torrey Smith and Larry Fitzgerald deserve to be put into modelling. The rest of the list is sort of arbitary and is a selection of players that either had a good week 9 or I like. Really scientific I know, so here is my list of wide receivers (with the abbreviations I will be using for them), trying to take in as broad a spectrum as possible in terms of yards received and touchdowns scored. I have not taken into account fumbles, too many zero’s give me a headache.

AJ Green (AJG), Calvin Johnson (CJ), Andre Johnson (AJ), Dez Bryant (Dez), Torrey Smith (TS), Larry Fitzgerald (LF), Eric Decker(ED), Wes Welker(WW), Keenan Allen(KA), Doug Baldwin (DB), Anquan Boldin(AB), Marlon Brown(MB), Tavon Austin(TA), Riley Cooper(RC), Jericho Cotchery(JC), Kenbrell Thompkins (KT), Kenny Stills (KS), Pierre Garcon (PG), Brandon Marshall (BM), Marvin Jones (MJ), Jeremy Kerley (JK), DeSean Jackson (DJ), Terrance Williams (TW), Josh Gordan (JG) and TY Hilton (TH) (Reggie Wayne is out of the season so Hilton takes his place),

The first thing to note when looking at touchdowns scored is that in the majority of games they do not score a touchdown. Before you sputter in disbelief, I will demonstrate with a handy graph.

WRTDnoClicking on the above image will fill your screen with the beauty of the median (plotted initials) and mean (the dots) number of touchdowns each WR has scored. I included both just to indicate the kind of discrepency using different measures of average can show but also it represents how often touchdowns are scored. The mean will indicate that there are some influential numbers potentially inflating the average (if above the median) or lowering the average (if below the median) and is a nice way of visualising the consistency of these players. Let’s take Marlon Brown (MB) and Riley Cooper (RC), before Riley had a good week 10. Marlon’s mean is below his median, because in half of the games he has played he did not score a touchdown but in the other four games he scored at least one touchdown (ok so only in one game did he score two). The zeros lowered his potential average if based on the mean, suggesting a less than 50% record or a worse performance whereas the median suggests a 50% record (if we know the number of games played) suggesting a good or reasonable scoring rate in the season so far, Marlon is one of our top rookies and certainly more consistent or more trusted than Riley Cooper (RC). Cooper’s median is 0 meaning he does not score a touchdown in most games. His mean suggests otherwise, but should more be interperated as that Riley sometimes scores bit in games. The mean being so much greater than the median indicates an overdispersion or influence of a few big scores. Looking at his record this certainly seems to be the case, going for games without a TD then scoring a few in a single game. Ok so how about our big guns? Unsurprisingly Megatron, Dez and Wes all pretty well consistantly score in each game with Wes managing to outscore Megatron more often (higher mean). The most consistent player seems to be Brandon Marshall whose mean and median are the closest of the selection. DeSean Jackson is just below M,D and W, having had a few more dud games but we do have to include Marlon Brown with this group, purely as the only other player to have a median of 1TD per game. So onto some proper statistical analysis, not just broad brush painting a picture.

The graph below, using players initials again, shows the number of touchdown scored in relation to the number of carries a player had per game.

WRTDnrecAgain clicking on the above image will give you a full picture. The fact that not many of the players are visibly discernible does indicate how much overlap between this group there is. The lines represent the relationship that the more carries a player has the more touchdowns or increased likelihood they will score a touchdown. The dashed lines represent Marlon Brown (purple), Marvin Jones (dark orange) and Anquan Boldin (gold, in there for the 49ers fans). The solid lines represent Calvin Johnson (blue), Dez Bryant (light grey) and Wes Welker (orange). Now pay attention, the only lines that are significantly different from the others are Marlon Browns, Marvin Jones and Wes Welker, with maybe Dez if I had a few more games worth of data. When I mean different, I mean that the rate of touch downs per carry is not significantly different (as in 1:20 chance that what we seeing is caused by pure coincidence) but that from the outset (the intercept, or at 0 carries) Marlon, Marvin and Wes are already more likely to get a touchdown. Who would have thought that? Megatron just falls short, though it looks like he does better than Anquan Boldin, he isn’t significantly more likely to get a touchdown per carry.

Ok so how about number of touchdowns to receiving yards? Well the picture is pretty similar. There is a significant positive relationship between the number of receiving yards and the number of touchdowns scored, with an increased number of touchdowns as the number of receiving yards increase. Again Marlon, Marvin and Wes have the significantly higher number of touchdowns scored with increasing yards but the rate of increase is the same across board. Want a graph? Yeah of course you do, though this time I will just show the relevant relationships of Marlon (dashed purple) and Marvin (dashed orange), Anquan (dashed gold), along with Riley Cooper (green, who also came out as nearly significant, possibly will be by end of season) and our fave trio Calvin (blue), Dez (grey) and Wez (orange).

WRTDydAgain we see that Megatron in terms of efficiently scoring, falls short of Marvin and Marlon, Wes and Dez even possibly behind Riley! And I haven’t mentioned Torrey Smith. Well let us look purely at receiving yards, here all the means are the players initials, but handily the mean yardage (as of week 9) is included. The bars are the 95% Confidence Interval around the mean, a measure of how variable or consistent a player is.

WRRecyIt’s clear that Megatron gets the most yards per game but is also the most inconsistent. Wes Welker and Tavon Austin are the most consistent. If you like this supports what the touchdown to receiving yards relationship showed, Megatron does not convert his yardage to touchdowns as well as Wes Welker and possibly even Dez. What the graph does show is that Megatron is probably one of the most exciting to watch. A quick analysis does indicate that there is a significant difference between our wide receivers and delving a bit deeper we find that the differences lies between Calvin Johnson and Tavon Austin (before Tavon’s amazing game against the Colts, though with the receiving yards he posted, the model here predicted he would get at least 1TD which he did). So what does this mean in terms of where we are midseason? Well Megatron is likely to lead the way in receiving yards with Welker exciting us all with touchdowns. Dez is going to sit somewhere between them and will continue to light up the Cowboys offence with Terrence Williams as a superb supporting actor. Though Torrey Smith is rated as one of the top WRs in terms of how he helps the team, together with Marlon Brown, the Ravens do have an offence that can make a difference, if only they get the ball. We also know that possibly more important is getting those strategice carries, as more carries lead to more touchdown opportunities.

After all this and with week 10 already underway, I will save Jamaal Charles and Jimmy Graham and company for next time. Until then do keep checking our website, our Facebook page and our twitter feed, @GridironGents, for all the latest views of the NFL from a UK perspective.

Toodle pip!