Trying to Solve the Michael Floyd Puzzle: Why Did He Struggle in 2014?

Expectations were high for Floyd in 2014, but he failed to meet them. Who is to blame?

Every season, breakout players emerge. Prior to every season, people -- fans, analysts, coaches -- like to put stock into certain guys who seem destined for such a campaign.

One such player heading into 2014 was Michael Floyd, the third-year receiver for the Arizona Cardinals.

If you're a fantasy football player, you don't need to be reminded of how his season went. If you're a Cardinals fan, you know the story, too. Simply put: Floyd failed to meet expectations.

Head coach Bruce Arians, though, isn't too worried.

Was that the truth? Did Floyd struggle because of his quarterback? Or was the step backward not related to his quarterback play?

Junior Slump

After a 2013 season in which he posted more-than-respectable metrics -- per our Net Expected Points (NEP) -- Floyd certainly regressed back toward his rookie season.

Here are his relevant NEP metrics and success rates in his career so far.

FloydRecRec NEPTarTar NEPRec NEP/TCatch RateRec Success%

What does this really mean, though? Well, the actual Reception NEP scores indicate how many points above or below expectation Floyd added on his receptions. Think of it like this: there's a big difference between a 10-yard grab from Floyd on 3rd-and-5 inside the red zone than there is on 3rd-and-20. NEP quantifies that, and this adds up over the course of the season. You can read more about NEP in our glossary.

So, how did Floyd fare in 2012 among 80-plus target receivers? His Reception NEP (42.53) ranked 54th among 55 qualified receivers. His Reception NEP per target (0.49) ranked just 52nd. In 2013, though, he jumped up to 18th of 55 in Reception NEP (96.41) and 10th in Reception NEP per target (0.85).

His breakout potential was warranted for sure.

However, his Reception NEP in 2014 (68.22) fell to 37th among 58 receivers with at least 80 targets. Per target, he was a little better, and his 0.69 ranked 32nd out of 58 -- still on the wrong side of the halfway point.

Both his Catch Rate (the percentage of targets he caught) and his Success Rate (the percentage of receptions that added positively to Arizona's expected point total) were career lows.

The decline was real, but was it his fault?

Blame the Quarterbacks?

As was the case for Arians -- and Floyd truthers -- it's easy to look at his quarterbacks and suggest that the struggles were inevitable.

Still, the quarterback carousel in Arizona -- sans Carson Palmer -- was quite disappointing.

Drew Stanton mustered a Passing NEP of just 7.50 on 251 drop backs (0.03 per drop back, far below the league-wide average of about 0.09). Ryan Lindley finished the year with a Passing NEP of -11.77 on 99 drop backs (or -0.12 per drop back). Logan Thomas somehow lost 2.36 points on just 11 drop backs (-0.21 per drop back).

Palmer's Passing NEP per drop back (0.18) ranked sixth among 37 quarterbacks with at least 200 drop backs (Palmer had 233). Again, Stanton ranked just 27th with a mark of 0.03. Stanton started eight games this year, Palmer started six, and Lindley started two, so Floyd was playing with some struggling quarterbacks more often than not.

Chalk it up to the passers and move on?

Not So Fast

There are a few issues with saying that Floyd could have been "elite" -- as Arians put it -- had he played a full season with Palmer. In games started by Palmer, Floyd was decent but by no means elite.

AveragesRec.TargetsRec. NEPRec. NEP/Target

Prorated for 16 games, Floyd would have posted a Reception NEP of just 62.40 -- worse than his actual 2014 tally of 68.22.

With Stanton, that number would have ended up at 53.39, which would have ranked 52nd of 58 qualified receivers. So, yes, Floyd played poorly with Stanton, but he wasn't exactly stellar with Palmer, either (his prorated Reception NEP would have ranked just 46th with his pace with Palmer).

In fact, prior to his Week 17 performance -- 8 catches, 153 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 15.39 Reception NEP -- Floyd ranked just 48th out of 56 receivers with at least 80 targets in Reception NEP (52.84) and his Reception NEP per target (0.61) was just 39th.

So, two things are true: (1) Week 17 made Floyd's pedestrian season look much better and (2) even while playing with Palmer, Floyd wasn't the receiver he was in 2013.

Moving Forward

There really isn't evidence in the numbers that Palmer was crucial to Floyd's 2014 success when he had some, but Floyd's metrics with Stanton were far from impressive. In that sense, it's fair to suggest that Floyd wouldn't have been quite as middling had he played a full season with Palmer. Then again, Floyd was targeted just 5.0 times per game when Palmer started -- a pace for just 80 targets, well below his mark of 113 in 2013.

If the question is whether the quarterback situation held him back, then the answer is both yes and no for that reason.

If the question is whether Floyd has elite potential, then the answer is unequivocally yes. Remember, Floyd was top-20 in Reception NEP and top-10 Reception NEP per target in his second year, and his size (6'3", 220 pounds) correlates well with receiver success.

By all accounts, Floyd underacheived in 2014, but he shouldn't be overlooked in 2015 -- as a playmaker for the Cardinals or as a fantasy asset -- as a result.