Dwayne Bowe Isn't as Bad as You Think He Is
No Chiefs wide receiver scored a touchdown last year. That's even crazier when you consider Kansas City's top wideout in 2014, Dwayne Bowe, scored 15 of them in a single season back in 2010.
Since that 2010 campaign (Matt Cassel was his quarterback then, in case you forgot), Bowe has scored a total of 13 touchdowns. That's 0.22 touchdowns per contest versus the silly-good 0.94 per game he scored in 2010.
At 30 years old, many are over Dwayne Bowe as a number-one wideout, let alone a consistent contributor on a football team. But do the numbers agree?
What's great about our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric is that it's kind of touchdown agnostic. I say "kind of" because touchdowns still matter, but NEP is a metric we use that shows how well a player performs versus expectation. A player doesn't need to score a touchdown to be effective for a football team. Maybe that player, for instance, consistently picks up first downs on big third and longs. Perhaps he gains huge chunks of yards, but is just unable to find the end zone.
To further understand NEP, check out our glossary.
The reason I bring this up is because Dwayne Bowe has still been relatively effective considering his lower touchdown rate since 2010. Below is a chart showing Bowe's advanced NEP metrics versus teammates with 20 or more targets at the wide receiver position over the last four years, sorted by per-target efficiency.
|Year||Player||Receptions||Reception NEP||Targets||Reception NEP per Target|
Now, don't get me wrong -- the Chiefs have had some awful receivers since the start of 2011. But this chart tells us a couple of good things about Bowe. First, because he's been the highest-volume wide receiver in the Chiefs offense over each of these seasons, he naturally owns four of the top-five seasons in Reception Net Expected Points, or expected points added on catches only.
Per target, though, Bowe is still far better than his peers who performed in the exact same offenses he did. And interestingly enough, Bowe's 2014 season -- one where he caught as many touchdowns as you and I did -- was the most efficient year he's had since his monster 2010 campaign.
Jonathan Baldwin? I'm a Pitt alum and still can't defend Jonathan Baldwin.
The thing is, though, among pass-catchers throughout the league, Bowe isn't such a bottom-of-the-barrel wideout. As you can see above, his worst combined season in terms of targets and Reception NEP per target is 95 (targets) and 0.60 (Reception NEP per target). Just last season, we saw 54 wide receivers hit the 95 target mark, while 16 of those players failed to reach 0.60 Reception NEP per target. Keep in mind, that type of efficiency is Dwayne Bowe's absolute low over the last four years.
Among this cohort of 54 wideouts last season, Bowe ranked a respectable 25th in Reception NEP per target. With each target, he was more efficient, according to our numbers, than AJ Green (who's often force fed the ball, leading to inefficiency), Kelvin Benjamin, Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace, to name a few.
This isn't to say that he's a top-25 wide receiver in the NFL, per se, as last year was Bowe's most effective season since the 15-touchdown year in 2010. But what it does show is that age (he'll be 31 in September) isn't necessarily deteriorating his game. It also is a reminder for us to not let touchdown production stand in the way of general evaluation -- not only will the Chiefs surely progress in that department this season, but with a new team, it'd be incredibly surprising if Bowe doesn't find the end zone with a reasonable number of targets.
For now, let's kill the narrative of Dwayne Bowe being terrible at football. Though he shouldn't be a team's top wideout, he's far from being unproductive.