For a while now I have been grappling with the idea of measuring a player’s catch radius. I was specifically looking to solve the Red Zone TD Rate puzzle, since the metric can be flawed by usage and QB play. I wanted to see how it would correlate to WRs and touchdown production. So as I was contemplating the journey in my head, I decided to set up an experiment to see if there was any way to use a player’s Catch Radius to better predict the success of WRs. Using the Pythagorean Theorem, I devised a way to score a player’s catch radius. At RotoViz, we are always searching for better predictive metrics that will keep you a step ahead of the competition. While the math may make your head explode, the results may have you chasing that little white rabbit down the catch radius hole.
When it comes to measuring a player’s catch radius, there are two things that are important: A player’s velocity and a player’s ability to get vertical. The velocity measurement consist of the players 40 time, 20 yard short shuttle and 3-cone drill. These drills are used to measure a players agility and speed. We want to know how fast a player can get from point A to point B or how much ground a player can cover. The agility portion is especially important when it comes to route running and change of direction. The vertical score consists of a players height, arm length and vertical jump measurements. What we want to know is how high a player can get. What we have in the end (the simplified version) is (velocity score)^2 x (vertical score)^2 = Catch Radius Score^2.
I took 113 wide receivers on current NFL rosters and began gathering their data. The number 113 came about because that’s the number of receivers that I could find full data on and played significant snaps. Some players either didn’t complete certain drills or were injured during the combine and pro days. The 112 player sample was used to evaluate the correlation between a players catch radius and touchdowns per game. I then plotted each player’s data on a scatter chart with TDp/G as the Y axis and Catch Radius Score as the X axis.
From this chart I was able to place the players into 5 categories based upon the mean, standard deviation and their individual scores. A Catch Radius Score of 200 is average. Players fell into the following categories:
GROUP 1 (220+)
Only one player from this group has had significant production in his career, Sidney Rice (222.35).. This group was littered with bust such as Jon Baldwin (229.87), Stephen Hill (222.07) and Greg Little (221.62). Of the group, David Nelson (222.37) and Justin Hunter (221.62) still have chances at a good career. While this group ranks the highest in scoring, they rank towards the bottom in touchdown production per game.
GROUP 2 (207-219)
Catch Radius Score
As you can see from the table above, I have listed some of the stars of the group and their corresponding CR Scores. This group consistently out-produces the other groups in both touchdown rate and predictability. The coefficient of determination was consistently higher in this group when tested against the other groups. Past breakout players like Alshon Jeffery (209.17) and others score within this 207-219 range for catch radius. Another player, Michael Floyd (209.15) going into his third season, is definitely on the RotoViz watch list for 2014. Players in this group also busted less than 9% of the time. The two busts from this group are Darius Heyward-Bey (213.83) and Brian Quick (208.43).
Some players in this group that may be had for cheap in dynasty leagues include: Rod Streater (212.06), Andre Holmes (210.6) and Da’Rick Rogers (214.26), a player I warned everyone about here.
GROUP 3 (194-206)
Group 3 is the largest group in the study consisting of 46 of the 112 players. Dwayne Bowe (198.03) accounted for 4 of them. While this group has a few stars here and there, the overall production of the group is concerning. Two promising players by other metrics that fall into this group are Justin Blackmon (197.75) and Deandre Hopkins (202.32). Luckily for owners invested in those two, players like Hakeem Nicks (203.41) , Mike Williams (196.38) , and Pierre Garcon (195.31) give some hope of production in the future. Multiple season producers are few and far between when it comes to this group, so buyer beware.
GROUP 4 (182-193)
Steve Smith (193.58) has been the most productive member of this group over his career. Other producers from this group, Greg Jennings (189.43) and Jordy Nelson ( 192.17) have had the luxury of catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. The only other producers are DeSean Jackson (181.27) ,who is an enigma at his size, and Stevie Johnson (193.55). The majority of players in this group are just guys. Productive members of this group have two things in common: they are their team’s number 1 option and see a high volume of targets . Moving forward, Nelson and Jackson are the only players in this group I would recommend investing anything significant in.
GROUP 5 (<182)
All you need to know about this group is one name, Wes Welker (167.40). If you score this low, you’re probably not going to be winning any flag football games, much less producing on an NFL level. This group is made up of players that belong in a Willy Wonka sequel. No one else in this group is even worth mentioning, so I won’t waste my time.
The pool for this study consisted of roughly 70% of the NFL’s receivers. The players in Group 2, scoring in the range between 207-219, were not only the highest producing group, but also had the lowest bust rate among players. Players in this threshold have produced at a higher level in multiple seasons, as you would expect from a number 1 WR.
Two other observations were made when putting together the data and running the experiment for this article. When looking at total season points 86%, of players in group 2 had at least one season scoring 136pts or more. Group 2, while accounting for only 22% of the study group, accounted for more seasons hitting this mark than all other groups combined. They were also more likely to produce multiple seasons of usable fantasy production.
While its impossible to guarantee results with any one model, I think the Catch Radius Project has demonstrated it’s usefulness. Moving forward I will be targeting players within the 207-219 thresholds and cross referencing them with the Holy Grail to pinpoint my targets.
The interesting thing about this experiment is that the numbers are similar with college production as well when looking at the Combine invites.
>219 – Mike Evans was the only combine invite who scored in this range. He scored .653 TDp/G
207-219 – 11 players averaged .598 TDp/G
194-206 – 8 players averaged .345 TDp/G
182-193 - 16 players averaged .496 TDp/G
<182 - 2 Players averaged .288 TDp/G
So which rookies rate between 207-219 in Catch Radius Score? Well here’s the list:
1. Mike Evans – 222.73
2. Martavis Bryant – 218.21
3. Donte Moncrief – 213.22
4. Marcus Lucas – 212.33
5. Devin Street – 211.77
6. Davante Adams – 210.89
7. Jeff Janis – 210.63
8. Allen Robinson – 209.13
9. Brandon Coleman – 209.13
10. Kelvin Benjamin – 208.55
11. Jordan Matthews – 207.00
Notice Sammy Watkins is not on the list and Mike Evans may have run too fast a 40 time, but I’m still willing to invest. If you narrow down the rest of the list by using other RotoViz metrics like DR, then you have yourself a pretty good target list for dynasty leagues in 2014.