5 NFL Facts to Know for Week 5
The Texans lead the AFC South. The Cardinals and Bengals are the last two undefeated teams. Jacksonville and Oakland are vying for the worst record in the NFL. Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning had huge bounce-back weeks.
What else should you know going into Week 5? Check out this week's facts below.
Rookie Receivers Doing Work
Are we seeing one of the best rookie receiver drafts in recent years? We might be, as Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins, and Kelvin Benjamin all caught a touchdown pass in Week 4. Brandin Cooks is fortunate to play with Drew Brees and caught seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. He added another eight catches and 74 yards in Week 3.
All in all, the 2014 first-round receivers that were drafted have caught seven touchdown passes. Odell Beckham is the only first-round wideout to not play yet this season, though that could change in Week 5.
With all the great play, a lot is still left to be desired with each receiver's Net Expected Points (NEP) totals, with the exception of Benjamin. Benjamin currently ranks fourth overall in Target NEP (what indicates how well a receiver does on all targets, not just receptions), adding 24.15 points to the Panthers. His Target NEP is even ahead of Calvin Johnson and Randall Cobb. And interestingly enough, Benjamin's Target NEP is also more than Watkins' (9.49), Evans' (5.21) and Cooks' (4.22) Target NEP combined.
As the season plays out, we'll be able to see how good this rookie class is. But for now, Benjamin is clearly the top one, and is putting together a really special rookie campaign.
From 2009 to 2013, 41 quarterbacks were drafted, and 34 are still considered active today. During this same timeframe, Brock Osweiler, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Mallett (recently traded to the Texans), Mike Kafka, Landry Jones, and Matt Barkley have all appeared in games, but due to their team’s starting quarterback’s good health and/or being buried depth chart, they haven't had to make an NFL start yet, giving us 31 of 41 quarterbacks from 2009 to 2013 that have started at least one game in their career.
With E.J. Manuel benched, only 10 of those quarterbacks drafted between 2009 and 2013 are still starting for a team (9 if Jake Locker can’t make his start this week) in Week 5. Interestingly enough, of these same 10 teams, only five rank within the top 10 of our power rankings.
Young quarterbacks like Russell Wilson have stepped right in and led a team, but it hasn't been automatic in recent years.
10 Quarterback Changes
Throughout the first four weeks, we’ve already seen 10 different teams see a change at quarterback. We’ve picked on on Buffalo above, but they're only one of two teams that have gone to a backup because the team benched the starter. Jacksonville is, of course, the other, and neither Chad Henne or Manuel were contributing much to their respective teams. Other teams that are feeling the pressure of benching their season-opening starter currently appears to be the Jets and Dolphins.
Other teams that have had to go to a second quarterback just due to injuries are the Redskins, Vikings, Buccaneers, Cardinals, Rams (on their third, actually), Titans and Raiders. Not surprisingly, 6 of these 10 teams share one thing in common: being in the bottom 10 of our power rankings.
A Receiving Record to Be Broken?
Since 2000, there have been three receivers who have accumulated over 100 Target Net Expected Points. Those three happen to be Wes Welker (2011 - 104.76), Steve Smith (2005 - 102.69) and Randy Moss (2007 - 101.16) - all great receivers in their own fashion. To get over 100 Target NEP, one has to receive a lot of targets, be effective with those targets and have a good catch rate. Looking at the numbers from Welker, Smith and Moss, they had an average of 161 targets, an average efficiency of 0.93 Reception NEP per target and averaged a 66.94% catch rate.
In light of probably jinxing Kirk Cousins last week, I went to our receiving metrics and looked some of the guys that have a chance of setting a record in Target NEP, and there were three guys that popped up. I took each receivers current Target NEP, divided it but the number of games played and then extrapolated that for the rest of the season. The three candidates: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Steve Smith.
Brown is playing at a high level already this season, picking up from where he left off in 2013. His efficiency is through the roof with a 1.08 Reception NEP per target, and he's catching nearly three out of every four passes thrown to him, putting him on pace for 116.72 Target NEP.
Julio Jones' efficiency worries me, as it's only 0.88 Reception NEP per target (still high, but not elite), but he's on pace for 164 targets and could end up with 108.87 Target NEP. If Jones and Brown can truly play at that high of a level rest of season, they would both shatter Welker's record.
Smith has iced up for the Ravens and is on pace for 101.08 Target NEP. It wouldn't beat his 2005 mark, but if he could somehow sustain this level of play the rest of the season, he would be the only receiver since 2000 to post two 100-plus Target NEP seasons. His 59.52% catch rate needs to improve dramatically for him to have a shot though.
Man Among Boys
DeMarco Murray has taken the league by storm in 2014 with his rushing abilities. He's one of only a dozen running backs since 1920 to start the season with four or more games with at least 100 yards rushing. That list includes greats like Eric Dickerson, O.J. Simpson (who did it twice) and Walter Payton. Recent stars such as Emmitt Smith and Adrian Peterson have accomplished this feat as well.
Murray could continue adding history against J.J. Watt and the Texans' 23rd ranked rush defense (according to our Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP) this weekend. Only three running backs have started the season with five games of 100 or more yards rushing, and Terrell Davis holds the record of seven. However, Murray may only be able to dream of six in a row as the Cowboys travel to Seattle in Week 6.