Does Spreading the Ball Around Make a Passing Attack More Efficient?

Part of analyzing an NFL team’s passing game is measuring the distribution of passing stats among its receivers: targets, yards, touchdowns, etc. A good way to do this is looking at the percentage distribution to different receivers, i.e. the WR1 received 25 percent of receiving yards, the WR2 got 15 percent, and so on. This is useful when projecting stat lines for receivers, but doesn’t give us an easy way of comparing generally how concentrated one passing game is versus another.

A commenter at Chase Stuart’s Football Perspective gave him an idea from the finance world for calculating portfolio concentration, which Stuart used to conclude that teams are spreading it around more these days. The formula sums the squared passing yard ratios for each receiver to form a single number, or what Stuart calls the concentration index. The more spread out a passing game, the lower the concentration index, and vice versa.

I decided to dig into concentration index a bit more to see if we can learn anything about the benefits or costs of have a diversified passing game. Continue reading “Does Spreading the Ball Around Make a Passing Attack More Efficient?”

Should the Rams Increase Todd Gurley’s Role in the Passing Game?

Depending on whom you listen to, you should expect the Rams to either increase or lessen the extent to which they use Todd Gurley in the passing game. At Rams minicamp, NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal witnessed Gurley seeing a lot of targets and often appearing to be the primary read. While others see the addition of receiving back Lance Dunbar and new head coach Todd McVay’s heavy passing-game usage of Chris Thompson in Washington logically leading to Gurley seeing fewer passes.

Gurley’s role in the passing game this season will also be highly dependent on his ability, in addition to the Rams’ personnel and passing scheme. Gurley saw decent, but not spectacular passing usage in college, and has carried that forward to the NFL. Continue reading “Should the Rams Increase Todd Gurley’s Role in the Passing Game?”

Should a Receiver-Needy Team Acquire Jeremy Maclin or Eric Decker?

We’re into the summer doldrums of the NFL calendar, but got a small dose of excitement over the last week. Two top wide receivers are in limbo: Jeremy Maclin officially hit the free agent market last week, and has been making the rounds to potential suitors; and Eric Decker – initially expected to be released by the Jets – is now reportedly the subject of trade talks.

It’s fair to assume that the two receivers will cost roughly the same in terms of a new contract, as both are at, or approaching, 30 years old and have been productive – when healthy – throughout their careers. Decker isn’t a free agent, so his cost is currently higher in draft capital, although I’d put a low likelihood on the Jets gaining more than a late-round pick for his services.

The receivers share fairly similar box-score stats, both averaging around 70 yards per game over the last four years. But Decker has been a more dominate touchdown scorer. While box score stats are good at measuring the effect a receiver has when he is targeted and catches the ball, it doesn’t fully capture his influence on the entire offense. Continue reading “Should a Receiver-Needy Team Acquire Jeremy Maclin or Eric Decker?”