Green Bay Receivers

A little more than 2 years ago the Packers receivers were viewed by many as below average and a problem area on the team lacking talent, here we are today in the discussion at least for the best group in the NFL. What happened. A few years ago the offense was devoid of weaponry and struggled to capitalize on scoring opportunities, today the biggest issue is that there aren’t enough passes to go around.

Similar to quarterbacking, I don’t necessarily agree with the common readily available stats for evaluation of play, there are some effectiveness stats that can tell us much more. Relevant to WR play, I think the following stats are of primary importance:

Catch %, receptions/targets. Unfortunately targets are a difficult stat to find. This tells us much more than drops, as it is less subjective, especially if you consider QB accuracy to be fairly constant.

YPR, yards/receptions. The ability to get down the field and open, or break tackles and gain yards, is very important to the performance of a wide receiver. There are some differences between the various WR positions, but generating offense is the job description of a receiver.

TD%, touchdowns/receptions. I like attempts more than receptions for this stat, however sources for target information are limited, and I don’t know of any good source for retired players. The ability to score is a special trait in players and really separates the OK players from the great ones. Special players score at an inflated rate relative to their peers.

There are some other important stats, such as turnovers, penalties, and yac (yac is captured in YPR however), but they won’t be considered here as overall the impact is minor unless the player has major problems, relative to the other three stats.

Looking at last year, in Catch % our guys ranked (2008, Career):
1) Jones (69.0%, 61.5%)
2) Driver (64.3%, 59.7%)
3) Nelson (62.3%, 62.3%)
4) Martin (60.0%, 53.6%)
5) Jennings (57.1%, 54.1%)
One thing notable is that the “number one” receiver, the guy defenses scheme to take away, seem to have a little lower numbers than the rest of the team. Jones is the most reliable pass catcher of the receivers, even if he drops a few (his adjustment ability is elite), Greg’s hands border on unacceptable, it is definitely his weakness, though his role as a big play guy, augmented by more reliable “chain movers”, compensates for this deficiency. Nelson had an unusually good rookie year in this regard, the best of all of GB’s current WR’s.

Yards Per Reception, playmaking explosiveness (2008, Career):
1) Jennings (16.2, 16.0)
2) Jones (13.7, 14.2)
3) Driver (13.7, 13.8)
4) Nelson (11.1, 11.1)
5) Martin (9.9, 14.4)
Jennings is clearly the class of this group without peer. It is notable that though YAC was down in 2008 relative to previous years, it isn’t seen as much in the YPR numbers as you would think, leading to the conclusion that they team was on average throwing the ball further downfield than they had in the past. Driver and Jones are nearly identical by this measure. If Nelson has a weakness in his game that he must overcome right now, it is improving this number for him, either via YAC or getting deeper in his routes. Ruvell had a down year that significantly departed from his norm.

TD’s %, ability to score (2008, Career):
1) Jennings (11.3%, 13.5%)
2) Driver (6.8%, 7.5%)
3) Martin (6.7%, 11.5%)
4) Nelson (6.1%, 6.1%)
5) Jones (5.0%, 4.5%)
Again, here Jennings is the class of the group. He scores at a very inflated rate. The rest of the receivers are bunched together, though Jones lags behind. This aspect of his game could use an upgrade and will have to improve is he is to be considered elite. Consistently 10%+ is elite. TE’s tend to shine via this measure, their augmenting the WR corps is important for touchdown production. Drivers last few years have been below his career average and relatively poor for him,

One thing that can be take from this. The on the field performance of Donald Drive is replaceable with what we have right now, almost seamlessly, as performance-wise Jones and Nelson are similar to Don, and Jones brings a lot of the same tools to the table. A little bit of decline on the field by Don, chances are that Jones and Jordy will be better than him quickly.

Where do Don and Greg stack up relative to GB’s elite WR’s of the last 2 decades? (Green Bay production only)

Sharpe – 13.7 ypr, 10.9% TD%
Brooks – 13.8 ypr, 10.5% TD%
Freeman – 15.4 ypr, 13.9% TD%
Schroeder – 15.4 ypr, 8.9% TD%
Walker – 15.6 ypr, 14.0% TD%
Driver – 13.8 ypr, 7.5% TD%
Jennings – 16.0 ypr, 13.5% TD%

Unfortunately I have no target stats for most, so that stat is skipped. Greg is worthy of being counted among the best that we’ve had in this era. Don lags behind a great deal, which can somewhat explain why the offense struggled to score in the gap between when Walker was injured, to when Greg emerged as a big time playmaker.

So how good is this group, how does it compare to the Packers in the past and around the league (without going into dozens of pages of analysis for each particular case)?

This group is very good, special even. Few teams in the league can boast of having a WR the quality of Greg Jennings. It’s hard to believe that he’s only going into his 4th season. The best is still to come too. He is well above average at gaining yards and scoring, and can do so while being the defensive focus. He is every bit the player that Freeman was for us and Walker was for a short time.

While other teams have receivers as good as Greg, few have him paired with a receiver the caliber of Driver. While I do believe that some of Don’s on the field accolades are unwarranted, he is very good but not great, in his current role he is one of the leagues best. Don was miscast when asked to be the offensive focus, it is not his game and the offense suffered. Nowadays he is back to what he does best. Many consider Wes Welker the league’s best slot receiver, Driver is essentially a slot receiver as well, but overlooked because of what he was, and the fact that Don shifts to flanker in 2 WR sets. Don has reliable hands and gains yards at a decent rate, and works an area of the field friendly to a QB, getting open quick, but his low scoring rate will always hold him back from being one of the league’s truly elite.

There are a few teams that have 2 receivers that can stack up against GB’s top 2, but the Pack really separates itself with it’s backups. James Jones is an exceptional receiver for being 3rd on the depth chart. Overall his game is similar to Driver’s, though he is a little more of a sideline deep threat. Jones can make tough catches that few receivers can. Were it not for his veteran presence, a strong case could be made that James should replace Don as GB’s primary slot receiver and 2nd in line behind Greg. That isn’t a bad problem to have.

While Jones and Don are both slot receivers by ability, Jordy is more of a flanker. His size and speed and ability compliment the 3 guys above him well, and unfortunately for Jones, it will likely allow him to see the field in more 3 WR sets than Jones. While Jordy’s volume numbers don’t compare to Jennings’ and Jones’ rookie years, his effectiveness stats do. In fact in TD % and catch %, he was better than both of them. For being 4th on the depth chart Jordy is an exceptional receiver.

Martin is just a guy. He’s not really all that good at anything, though unlike most teams 5th WR, he isn’t terrible at anything either, and he is a mismatch agaisnt the caliber of defensive back he faces when on the field. For being a 5th WR he is very good, for most teams that is a rookie with no business being on the field, Martin can contribute even with the rest of the players healthy.

Comapared to Packers receiver groups in the past 20 years, the current group is perhaps even better than the groups of 1997 and 2004, and may be the best assembled in Green Bay in the free agency era.

Around the league, few teams can boast the talent of the Packers receivers. Even fewer have a mix of complimentary skill sets that the Packers have. The depth of the Packers group is remarkable and is what sets them apart from the other elite receiving units. Few teams have a 1-2 punch better than Green Bay. Even fewer have a better 1-2-3 punch. It is arguable that nobody has a better 1-2-3-4 punch.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response to “Green Bay Receivers”

  1. dullgeek Says:

    I’d be interested to know how you compare Jennings & Driver to Fitzgerald & Boldin from Arizona.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: