Just How Good Was Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis?
When the Indianapolis Colts decided to part ways with receiver Reggie Wayne last Friday, it was the end of another era in Colts’ history. Like Peyton Manning, Wayne was an image of loyalty and longevity to the franchise.
But also like Manning’s situation, the Colts had to make a football decision -- they're trying to move towards the future, and a 14-year veteran who was declining couldn’t be a part of their plans anymore.
Nevertheless, Reggie Wayne has quietly been one of the best receivers in the game over the last 14 seasons despite an injury-filled 2013 season and a 2014 campaign that saw him put up some of the worst numbers of his career. Wayne was almost always a consistent producer for the Colts, being targeted at least 100 times and catching at least 64 passes in all but three years with the team.
Wayne went on to have a career with eight different 1,000-yard seasons, and currently sits at eighth on the all-time list in receiving yards with 14,355. Wayne was never one to catch a lot of touchdowns, but still had more than nine touchdown receptions on four occasions and only finished with fewer than four in a season three times.
What do our advanced metrics say about his career in Indy?
Playing with Peyton
In the conversation of receivers, we use Target Net Expected Points and Reception Net Expected Points data. You can read more about Net Expected Points in our glossary.
Target NEP tells us how a receiver did on all the targets he received and accounts for whether the pass was dropped or even intercepted, giving us the big picture of how well a receiver performs. Reception NEP is data that just focuses on how much a receiver contributes when he catches the ball. When we look at Wayne’s metrics with Peyton Manning, there were few that were better than he was.
|Year||Reception NEP||Target NEP||Reception NEP/Target||Catch Rate|
In 2001, Reggie Wayne put up paltry Reception and Target NEP numbers, but when we look at receivers who were targeted between 40 and 60 times that season, Wayne was 11th of 27 receivers in Target NEP. However, Wayne’s Reception NEP was in the bottom third of the same 27 receivers, the worst total of his career.
2002 through 2010 saw Wayne blossom into one of the top receivers in the league though, even with Marvin Harrison on the opposite side of the field. While Harrison was a top-six receiver during Wayne’s first three seasons according to our Target NEP, they both became lethal threats for Manning from 2004 to 2006, as both receivers finished in the top-11 in each season.
In fact, 2006 saw both Wayne and Harrison destroy secondaries one week at a time, finishing first and second in both Target and Reception NEP. Wayne posted a career high 89.34 Target NEP while Harrison posted the second best Target NEP of his career with 73.12 points. Wayne’s 134.46 Reception NEP in 2006 was also the highest of his career, as he and Harrison combined for over 2,600 receiving yards to help the Colts win the Super Bowl that season.
Wayne continued to be productive throughout his career, notching a career high –- and leading the league –- in receiving yards with 1,510 yards in 2007. After 2006, Wayne notched two more top-five Target NEP seasons as well as two additional seasons within the top 11, sustaining his excellent production for the Colts.
Unlucky With Luck
2011 was the year before Andrew Luck was drafted, but with Peyton Manning having neck surgery, Wayne had the displeasure of catching passes from Curtis Painter, Kerry Collins and Dan Orlovsky. 2012 saw the arrival of Luck and a better year all around for the Colts. But did Reggie Wayne perform as well as he did with Manning?
|Year||Reception NEP||Target NEP||Reception NEP/Target||Catch Rate|
2011 was mostly a year for Wayne to forget as the trio or Painter, Orlovsky and Collins threw a combined -59.67 Passing NEP, which would have been the third worst Passing NEP of 2011 -- even worse than Tim Tebow. Wayne had his first down year as he entered his 11th season, though that shouldn’t have been a surprise, as our own Joe Juan pointed out recently that years 9, 10 and 11 are usually the start of a decline for a receiver.
In 2011, Wayne finished with a sub-100 Reception NEP total for the first time since 2005, and his Target NEP was his worst since his rookie year. While the quarterback situation didn’t help, Wayne didn’t help himself either, as his catch rate was the lowest of his career. Additionally, his 0.60 Reception NEP per target showed he wasn’t nearly as efficient as season's prior.
Things did start to look better in 2012 though, as Wayne received 194 targets on the season, a career high and third-highest total since 2000. However, an extremely high volume of targets wasn’t as beneficial as it could have been.
Of the 21 receivers that have been targeted at least 175 times since 2000, Wayne’s wasn’t the best -- his 13.37 Target NEP was the lowest of the 21 receivers, while his efficiency was only 0.61 Reception NEP per target, the sixth worst of this group. Wayne contributed 117.80 Reception NEP too, but it was only the 25th best in 2012.
The injury bug finally caught up to Wayne in 2013. At the time of his injury, he was experiencing a renaissance year, as his Reception NEP per target was at 0.77, just slightly above his career average and his highest mark since 2009. In fact, if we were to extrapolate his numbers for 2013, he could have finished with another top-16 season in Reception NEP, right in line with another NFL veteran, Andre Johnson.
The 2014 season was a dud though, giving the Colts reason to part ways with Wayne. His -0.99 Target NEP was the worst of his career, as Wayne posted a career low in Reception NEP per target, and was well below his career averages in the rest of our metrics and other statistical categories.
Defining Wayne’s Career
It’s not as though Wayne had two amazing years and then just flamed out. Wayne had a long, productive career with the Colts, and happens to hold a couple numberFire records, too.
Reggie Wayne accumulated 595.59 Target NEP over the course of his career. That's the most we’ve seen since collecting our data in 2000. Wayne holds a 40.42-point margin over the second-place receiver, Randy Moss. Wayne also accumulated 1,275.06 Reception NEP over his 14 seasons -- that's also a record, though his margin over Moss, again, is larger at 69.72 Reception NEP.
Reggie Wayne enjoyed productive years with one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and was able to help one of the best up-and-coming quarterbacks as well. Forget about his down year in 2014 and remember Wayne for his unwavering loyalty and career numbers that may take a while to surpass.