You may have noticed I've been cranking out the offensive identity articles lately. While working on the Panthers' identity, I noticed that they tended to throw deeper to their WRs than most teams. This is just a quick write-up of some of the things I found while looking at WR average depth of target (aDOT) and catch rate.
My data for this article came from airyards.com. Pro Football Focus developed the aDOT metric several years ago. Other sites also use the aDOT metric; airyards.com has developed some other advanced stats you might be interested in.
Average depth of target is how far past the line of scrimmage a player is on average when the ball is thrown to him. It's known that the deeper the target, the lower the catch rate. As the original PFF article points out, there are ways to strip out the effect of the QBs accuracy from the WR's ability to catch it, but I'm not going to delve into that. I'm not going to get too much into individual performance at all.
I'm looking at this from an offensive identity perspective and just want to show how each team used its WRs as a group last year.
The x-axis shows the aDOT of each team's WRs in 2016, from Minnesota's 9 yards to Buffalo's 13. The y-axis shows the catch rate for the WRs on a team, from Carolina's 51% to Minnesota's 72%. The average WR aDOT in 2016 was 11.0 yards, which is shown by the thick vertical black line. And the average WR catch rate (CR) was 60%, indicated by the thick, black horizontal line.
The diagonal blue line is the trendline (linear regression) of all the teams, showing that as aDOT gets bigger, CR gets smaller. Teams right on or near the blue line are completing about the amount of passes we'd expect, given how deep they were throwing (KC, DET, BAL, DEN, SD, ARI, TB, TEN). Those well above the blue line (MIN, NO, ATL, PIT) were completing well above what would be expected. And those far below the blue line (SF, LA, PHI, JAC, CAR, NYJ) had WR catch rates far lower than they "should" be.
The red diamonds are teams throwing to WRs a yard or more below the league aDOT. And the green ones are a yard or more above the NFL WR aDOT.
Remember that these stats are indicative of at least three things: identity, QB talent, and WR ability. It's also possible that offensive line play affects results. I think an argument can be made that to the extent that a team is far from the trendline, ...