Should Rueben Randle Be a Concern for the Giants?

The Giants front office has noted that Rueben Randle hasn't progressed the way they'd like. Is there legitimate concern?

At the NFL combine, Giants General Manager Jerry Reese said that the “jury is still out” on Rueben Randle, a second-round selection from the 2012 NFL Draft. With Hakeem Nicks now in Indianapolis, that wasn’t an easy thing for New York Giants fans to hear.

The G-Men then selected Odell Beckham Jr. in the first round of last week’s NFL Draft, which, in a way, solidified Reese’s comments. Instead of this simple idea of Rueben Randle lacking progression through two years in the league, the Giants actually showed action – it’s a very real concern.

We’ve covered Beckham already, noting that his first-year comparables show that he may be able to make a pretty decent rookie impact given his current situation in New York. And if the red flags continue into Randle’s third year, Beckham may play an even larger role than initially anticipated.

But is there merit to this notion that Randle isn’t progressing as a wide receiver? Should the Giants legitimately be concerned? Well, according to our analytics, it looks like the Giants upper management has reason to worry.

It’s no secret that New York's offense was all over the place last year. The offensive line wasn’t cohesive, the running game was filled with geriatric plodders, and Eli Manning put together one of the worst seasons of his career. It wasn’t just one guy’s fault – it was everyone’s fault.

As a result, according to our Adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, the Giants finished with the 31st-ranked offense in 2013. Only Jacksonville – a team led by Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne – was worse. Again, it wasn’t just the passing game, and it also wasn’t simply a poor rushing attack – both aspects of the offense actually ranked 31st in the league last year.

The Giants had four primary wide receivers last season, ranging from Jerrel Jernigan’s 29 receptions all the way to number one receiver Victor Cruz’s 73. Naturally, Cruz was the best receiver in terms of Reception NEP, as this measures the number of points added by a receiver on catches only. He had the most catches, so he’s going to – more than likely – have the highest score.

Cruz’s 76.23 Reception NEP total ranked 29th in the NFL. Considering there are 32 teams and a handful of them are either run-heavy or are led by really bad quarterbacks, that ranking isn’t very inspiring. Hakeem Nicks, now on the Colts, finished 46th within the metric, while Rueben Randle wasn’t far behind, finishing 49th.

But again, we’re only looking at how a player contributed when he caught the ball. The question we should be asking – the statistic that may be more telling – is, “What happened when one of the Giants wide receivers didn’t catch the ball?”

At numberFire, we also use a metric called Target Net Expected Points, which looks at the number of expected points added, in sum, when a player is targeted. And of the four main wide receivers for the Giants last year, Rueben Randle ranked last in Target NEP. Take a look at the chart below for more detail.

NameRec. NEPTarget NEPDifference
Victor Cruz76.2325.06-51.17
Hakeem Nicks60.3311.00-49.33
Rueben Randle56.151.71-54.44
Jerrel Jernigan27.9610.52-17.44

The “difference” column on the right is simply Target NEP minus Reception NEP. Why is this important? Well, it shows you what happened when a player didn’t catch the football – it gives you an idea of the points missed out on when a particular receiver was targeted, but said player didn’t catch the pigskin.

My concern isn’t only that Rueben Randle had the worst Target NEP and difference between the two metrics, but that this happened as the number three receiver on the Giants last year. You would expect someone like Victor Cruz to be force fed the ball in desperate times, which can often lead to bad throws (interceptions) and poor Net Expected Points gains. But not for a player who was only targeted 78 times last year.

In fact, of the 41 wide receivers in 2013 with 60 to 100 targets, Rueben Randle’s difference in Target NEP and Reception NEP was third largest. Only Greg Little and Jerome Simpson were worse. Anytime a wide receiver is listed in the same group as Greg Little and Jerome Simpson, you know something’s wrong.

So, yes – I think the Giants’ concerns are very valid. If Randle doesn’t turn it up a notch this year, he could see his time limited after having so much potential coming out of the draft.