A Metrics Breakdown of NU's Receivers and QBs


Alright I'm definitely going to be putting the nerd in Nerdwestern right here. The strange timing of this (middle of January) is because I'm doing some of this stuff for the NFL draft and just did the NU numbers as a fun side project.

There's always a lot of talk about QBs and Receivers. We hear about deep threats, yardage, targets, and everything that goes into critiquing the offense. Due to the ridiculous amount of runs, this year is kind of boring in terms of breaking down the passing game, but there are still some fun tidbits (Kain Colter was Trevor Siemian's second favorite target!).

Let's start with Yards Per Catch and completion percentage. These two pair well together because you can get a good feel for whether a receiver is a short/deep threat and how much a QB forces the ball to the receiver, drops, and coverage. The completion percentage is just the completions divided by targets.


(I had to use images because SBNation wasn't taking kindly to my charts)

I've highlighted the top 3 and bottom 3 in each category. Some important things to take out of this:

  • Christian Jones is pretty much NU's best receiver when looking at these stats. He's got the highest yards per completion and a high completion rate. We can't separate out drops and throws into coverage, but it's fair to say that he's either not dropping a lot of balls or he's getting open when QBs want to throw it to him.
  • Dan Vitale is always open
  • Siemian was trying way too hard to get the ball to Colter or Colter was dropping the ball a lot. He's a playmaker when he's getting the ball as a receiver, but it's only being caught 55% of the time.
  • Tony Jones is also apparently a boom or bust player. Good deep threat, but for some reason not converting many targets into completions.
  • Interesting that the two new wide receivers, Dickerson and Prater both had lower YPC and completion percentages. This should tell us that it's not Prater or Dickerson's fault for low YPC but that the coaches are having them run shorter routes as they learn the offense. Prater haters take note.

Let's break the targets down by QB. Who did Siemian and Colter favor? When I was pulling the data I was confused for a second why Colter didn't have any targets in one category and then I realized I'm not very bright.

(I cut out some of the guys with lower targets like Prater, Dickerson, and Riley)

  • Interesting that they both had different 'favorite' targets. Siemian seems to have (slightly) favoted throwing to Rashad Lawrence (surprise surprise, his high school teammate) and Colter liked to throw to Demetrius Fields.
  • Colter also threw to Vitale and Mark 5% and 6% respectively, more than Siemian. This means there were either more designed screens/ short throws in the offense for Colter or he was looking to his outlet more often.
  • Tony Jones was also a favorite of both QBs, I'm going to assume he has the high percentage of targets and low completion % because there were a good amount of designed deep plays to him where both QBs tried to force the issue.
  • I found the fact that Siemian threw to Colter so often (during the few games he was being used at WR) interesting. Given the fact that his completion % was low as well, Siemian either really wanted to get it to him or there were a bunch of designed plays to Colter.

Anyway, that's all I have for now. If I posted anymore, I'd put people to sleep. This is all pulled from play by play data available from ( I'm sure I'll get bored during the summer and pull more detailed stats from the game tape. Then, if people are interested I'll post things like how well Colter and Siemian threw to different spots on the field, what kind of Yards After the Catch we're seeing from WRs, and what receiver they're both likely to go to in the clutch.
Hope y'all find it interesting.

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