Roddy White does well against top competition (article)
Interesting article from ESPN.com
I've been doing full-season tape reviews for five years now, and the one fact that stands out more than any other is that player performance does not take place in a vacuum. The level of competition a player faces seems, more times than not, to largely determine the level of production that player achieves.
I first reviewed this in an article in Scientific Football 2005 when I saw that 26 of Peyton Manning's 53 regular-season and postseason touchdown passes that year came against either subpar coverage personnel or no coverage at all.
I decided to take that concept one step further in Scientific Football 2008 by looking at wide receiver performance versus varying levels of competition. I did this by segmenting cornerbacks into three color categories -- red (the most difficult matchups), yellow (average matchups) and green (the most favorable matchups).
I used the 2007 yards per attempt average of each cornerback to determine his color rating, with red being a YPA of less than 7 yards, yellow being between 7 and 9 yards, and green being more than 9 yards. Cornerbacks who didn't have enough passes thrown in their direction to qualify were placed in a separate "non-qualifier" category. I also tracked receiver performance when facing a cornerback and when facing a non-cornerback (i.e., a safety, a linebacker, no coverage, etc.).
This study produced a large amount of very interesting numbers, but for the sake of brevity, I have culled out the top 10 nuggets of information. They are:
1. Randy Moss can be slowed by red- and yellow-rated cornerbacks. I know it sounds crazy to say anything negative about someone who scored 23 touchdowns for the Patriots this past season, but consider this: In the 95 passes Moss had thrown to him while he was being covered by a red- or yellow-rated cornerback, he gained only 541 yards. That equals 5.7 yards per attempt, a terribly low total. Because 62 of those passes came against yellow-rated corners, Moss' YPA actually was less than those cornerbacks' standard YPA in 2007.
2. The Colts' Reggie Wayne is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Moss and Terrell Owens generally are said to hold this spot, but Wayne beats those two in one of the most important indicators of quality among wide receivers: the ability to beat any cornerback. Take a look at the totals of each of these three when facing cornerbacks last season:
Player Att Yards YPA TD INT Success %
Reggie Wayne 99 1,158 11.7 9 3 74.7
Terrell Owens 95 759 8.0 9 7 54.7
Randy Moss 127 924 7.3 15 4 63.8
Wayne easily topped the others in every sub-segment in this metric except in touchdowns, and he equaled Owens in that one. Wayne has spent his entire career playing in the shadow of Marvin Harrison, even though he has put up numbers just as good as Harrison's in most years. In 2007, when Harrison was out for most of the season and Wayne finally got the Colts' spotlight to himself, he still couldn't avoid the shadow on a leaguewide level, even though he once again posted top-of-the-line totals.
3. Brandon Marshall puts up dominant numbers against subpar cornerbacks and next to nothing against good ones. One of the interesting aspects of this study was that it showed who clearly needed favorable matchups to be successful. Denver's Marshall absolutely is one of those players, if his 2007 numbers are any indication. He tallied 70 passes against red- and yellow-rated cornerbacks and gained only 364 yards against them. When facing green or non-rated cornerbacks, Marshall posted 50 attempts for 518 yards. That's a 5.2 YPA against red/yellow and a 10.4 YPA against green/non-qualifier, so he is literally twice as productive against subpar competition than he is against good competition.
4. Marty Booker can't beat anyone. Booker looks to be the only proven wide receiver on the Bears' roster right now, but his 5.3 YPA against cornerbacks last year was the second-worst in the league. His highest YPA against the color levels was 6.0 against yellow, so it wasn't a matter of having trouble against a single level of competition; he struggled against them all.
5. Keary Colbert and Darrell Jackson are all but certain not to solve Denver's wide receiver woes. Colbert placed in the bottom 10 in YPA versus cornerbacks last year with a 6.1. Jackson was even worse, as his 4.7 YPA was the lowest of any wide receiver against cornerbacks.
6. The Packers' Greg Jennings outperformed the entire league when facing cornerbacks. Jennings was the only wideout to top Wayne in this metric. His 12.2 YPA is impressive on its own, but Jennings also posted double-digit YPAs against yellow, green and non-qualifying cornerbacks. The only other receivers to do that last year were Wayne, Houston's Andre Johnson and Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes.
7. Holmes crushes all but the best matchups. Speaking of Holmes, his 11.2 YPA against cornerbacks ranked him behind only Jennings and Wayne. It gets even better if his performance against red matchups (13 attempts for 67 yards) is taken out of his total. Then, his YPA jumps to 12.8 yards. He is the kind of player whose performance commands that other teams put their best cornerbacks on him all day long or risk having him take their secondary apart.
8. Roddy White is matchup agnostic. White was the only receiver in the league to post an 8.6 or better YPA against every level of cornerback matchup. He simply wasn't slowed by anyone on a consistent basis, and that says White, entering his fourth year with the Falcons, could be the next breakout star at wide receiver.
9. The Saints' Marques Colston is a possession receiver. Colston had 80 pass attempts against non-cornerbacks, a total that was second only to Wes Welker's 90 in that category. To put that total in better perspective, consider that Bobby Engram and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, two of the best possession receivers around, were the only others to top the 60 attempt mark in this category.
10. Derrick Mason might be the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL. It isn't just that Mason is the forgotten name among the six wideouts who caught 100 or more passes last season. He also was tied for the highest success percentage against cornerbacks among wide receivers who had 100 or more passes thrown their way when facing corners. That he shared that honor with Larry Fitzgerald should say all that needs to be said about how good the veteran Ravens wideout really is.
He's the leader of the next great class of NFL players."
- John Elway on Matt Ryan