5 Wide Receivers Who Drastically Outperformed Their Teammates in 2017
If you value your mental health, you will do whatever you can to avoid looking at Demaryius Thomas' numbers from 2017. They be brimming with stank.
On the season, the Denver Broncos' three-headed quarterback attack threw 10 interceptions when targeting Thomas compared to 5 touchdowns. Thomas caught 59.3% of the balls and racked up just 949 receiving yards on a whopping 140 targets. There was blood in the boxscores.
Does this mean that Thomas is suddenly a washed-up wide receiver unworthy of our attention? Maybe. It was his age-30 season, after all, and dude has been balling out for a while now. That could be the explanation.
But truthfully, we can't determine that just by looking at his numbers in a vacuum. There are so many factors at play here that will influence a wide receiver's output that even looking at these raw stats threatens to unfairly taint our view of a player. That's especially true when it comes to guys -- like Thomas -- who are dealing with sub-par play at quarterback.
That doesn't mean we should stop using analytics to evaluate players, though. We need to use something beyond the eye test to know which guys possess some true talent and could be deserving of expanded roles. Thankfully, that's not as difficult of a task as it may seem.
It's true that Thomas had some major disadvantages this year that affected his output. But who else had identical pitfalls standing in their way? His teammates. They were catching balls from the same merry band of misfits, meaning that we can look at their numbers to get some context on what Thomas did during the year.
We can't ever truly take a player's situation out of play when looking at advanced metrics. But we can at least partially account for it by comparing his numbers to those his teammates put up. That's what we're going to do here today.
We're going to take a look at five different wide receivers who easily outperformed their teammates in 2017. Even though those players were dealing with the same conditions, these five guys were able to outperform them from an analytics perspective, potentially giving us a glimpse at their true talent.
To do so, we'll be using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP), the metric we use to track the expected points added on each play throughout the year. For the wide receivers, we'll be looking at Target NEP per target. This shows us the expected points added -- or subtracted -- on each throw to that wide receiver throughout the year, including deductions for events such as interceptions and incompletions. If a quarterback struggled more mightily targeting one guy than another, these metrics will show us that.
With that said, let's get to the list, starting with someone we've been waiting to get excited about for a long time.