Applying average depth to Patriots pass catchers

Applying average depth to Patriots pass catchers
April 4, 2012, 4:15 pm
Share This Post

Mike Clay has outdone himself.

Clay, one of the brains behind ProFootballFocus.com, introduced a new football statistic Tuesday he says should make all old pass catching stats "obsolete."

It's called Average Depth of Target.

Why is aDOT a better study than yards-per-reception, yards-per-target, and yards-after-catch? It includes a sample size larger than receptions, better compensates for outliers, and is predictive.

But the best part? There was no regular NFL stat that told us where a guy was on the field when targeted. Now there is.

So what can depth-of-target tell us about the Patriots?

Three New England players show up on Clay's list of top and bottom 10 wide receivers and tight ends: Brandon Lloyd, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker.

"For some perspective, the NFL average aDOT is 0.4 for a running back, 12.0 for a wide receiver, and 8.0 for a tight end," Clay explains.

Lloyd sits pretty in the number three spot with an aDOT of 16.6. This confirms his explosive downfield ability and points to where the Patriots can use him. The second thing to glean is how his depth is averaged over such a large number of receptions (144). Lloyd is the only guy in the top 10 who caught over 140 balls; Mike Wallace is next best with 122.

The other two Patriots pass catchers are ranked in Clay's bottom 10, at 109 (Hernandez) and 113 (Welker). Keep in mind that on this chart, being a cellar-dweller is not necessarily a bad thing.

Hernandez, a hybrid tight end-receiver, has a normalized aDOT of 7.8 on 134 catches. Makes sense, as he's a guy who works both downfield and out of the backfield.

Welker is lowest since 2008 among wide receivers with 50 targets in 2011. His number is low even for a slot guy, but that's just how the Patriots use him: underneath as a possession player.

Chad Ochocinco is an interesting one. Based on his 2,694 yards on 207 catches in the last four years, you'd assume he sits in the top half. Indeed, Ochocinco is right around 22nd highest out of 91 receiver samples.

But the truly telling thing is, in an isolation of 2011 when he had just 15 catches, Ochocinco was at 20.2. That number blows Clay's 12.0 receiver average to smithereens. It also seems to say the guy has just one, two routes in his repertoire: go or out.

Is that what the Patriots brought Ocho in for? Sure, he's got a great depth score, but it comes via a limited repertoire and he doesn't always get open.

Check out ProFootballFocus.com for more interesting number play.