Malcom Floyd Deserves More Recognition

Malcom Floyd has been a steady cog in the Chargers' offensive machine. Why aren't his talents more widely recognized?

Malcom Floyd has long been an under-heralded talent. Attending The University of Wyoming (yes, the state probably least associated with football in the entire country), Floyd’s only real accolades came in his sophomore year at Wyoming where he secured a first-team all conference selection in the (cough) powerhouse Mountain West Conference, a feat which he did not replicate in his junior or senior years.

Floyd was not invited to the NFL combine in 2004, nor was he drafted. Despite being signed in 2004 by the Chargers as an undrafted rookie free agent, he drifted from either being the 53rd man on the Chargers roster, to being a practice squad participant for most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

In 2006-2008, Floyd became a more active participant in the Chargers’ game plan, but he still never received more than 37 targets in any of those seasons.

Thus, the most likely answer to the question “What do you think of that kid Malcom Floyd?” back in 2008 would probably have been, “Who?”

But even though “Who?” might’ve been the most likely response, that doesn’t mean it should’ve been. Why? Because in subsequent seasons, Floyd has put together a really impressive body of work, and the numbers bear it out.

numberFire’s primary metric for determining on-field effectiveness, Net Expected Points (NEP), helps bear Floyd’s significant contributions out. For those new to numberFire, NEP quantifies the production of players based on their performance above-or under expectation, accounting for field position, current down, and historical performance in similar situations, among other factors.

You can learn more about NEP here in our glossary.

So what do the numbers say about what Floyd brings to the Chargers aerial attack? Let’s take a look.

Deep Sea Fishin’

Floyd has, when healthy, never received the kind of volume befitting of a team’s number-one receiver. Floyd’s never had a single season in which he was targeted 100 times, even in the 2010 and 2012 seasons when he was the highest targeted receiver on the Chargers. San Diego’s offense has long employed a spread-the-wealth mentality, capping Floyd’s ultimate ceiling production-wise.

But analyzing Floyd’s productivity on a per-target basis illuminates one of the signature qualities of his game; Floyd is one of the better, most consistent deep threats in the game.

SeasonReceptionsReception NEPTargetsReception NEP per TargetRankCatch RateDrop RateDrop Rate Rank
20094568.04760.96 of 7159.21%6.25%35 of 101
20103768.92770.94 of 6948.05%5.13%13 of 89
20114385.47701.222 of 6361.43%2.27%3 of 95
20125674.38850.888 of 6265.88%3.45%7 of 82
20145280.24920.8710 of 6756.52%1.89%5 of 90

As the chart above shows, since 2009, Floyd has never had a season in which he did not finish in the top 10 among receivers with at least 70 targets in a season in per-target efficiency. These numbers include three seasons in his 30s, mind you. In fact, in 2011, Floyd recorded the second most efficient season among receivers with at least 70 targets in a given season since 2000. The best season? Jordy Nelson’s 2011 campaign. Not bad company, indeed.

Floyd’s low catch rate is less indicative of his ability to reel in the deep ball, but rather, that deep balls are generally delivered with less precision than targets distributed on short or intermediate routes.

In fact, using Pro Football Focus’s analysis of wide receiver drop rate, Floyd has consistently been one of the top performers in terms of securing catchable balls among receivers running routes on at least 25% of their teams' plays. While analyzing drops can be wrought with caveats and eliminate context in some instances, five years of steady performance indicates that Floyd has undeniably sure hands.

Floyd may never have a monstrous season in terms of fantasy production due to the Chargers commitment to spreading the ball around, but he could be in line for a fantasy-worthy season in 2015 for a few reasons. First, his wideout counterpart, Keenan Allen, sucked a whole lot of air last season. Allen accumulated 32% more targets (121) than Floyd, while generating a paltry 56.72 Reception NEP, a 29% reduction in total point contribution to the Chargers’ offense from Floyd’s efforts.

Basically, in 2014, Allen was standing in the sand trying to grab minnows while Floyd was on a charter boat in the deep sea reeling in marlin and tuna. If Allen’s 2015 production mimics that of his 2014 season, Floyd should start getting more looks on the merits.

Second, Eddie Royal’s departure to the Bears did not result in the addition of a new deep ball receiving threat. The Chargers did add Stevie Johnson in the offseason, but Johnson’s role throughout his career has largely been that of a short and intermediate route specialist.

In short, Johnson’s been more Keenan Allen than Malcom Floyd, with a more unorthodox route-running style. So while this might not necessarily result in more targets being directed Floyd’s way, his targets will likely remain unaffected with the addition of Johnson. Plus, the Chargers did not spend any draft capital on a wide receiver this year, meaning Floyd’s role as the team’s deep ball specialist remains intact.

Finally, Floyd’s 2014 production was, believe it or not, more predictable than the best slot receivers in the league. Last week I produced an article on the predictability of slot receivers and their utility in terms of daily fantasy cash games. Basically, slot receivers, with their penchant for running shorter routes, tended to produce more reliable outcomes than elite wide receivers because the passes they reeled in didn’t have to travel as far in the air, and thus were delivered more accurately.

Looking at Floyd’s numbers from last year, his week-to-week average in variation of production would’ve been lower than all 17 of the slot receivers highlighted in that article, with a very low standard deviation of 4.65 points, meaning Floyd's production was among the most predictable in the league on a week to week basis among all wide receivers in spite of the fact that Floyd consistently ran deeper routes. This, my friends, is not normal, and is a testament to Floyd being both an asset as a fantasy option, and a dependable on-field contributor.

Ol’ Reliable

Floyd’s deep threat prowess, sure-handedness, and consistent production are huge assets to the Chargers aerial attack. And even entering the 2015 season at 34 years old, his light workload in the earlier seasons of his career means he has put less miles on his wheels than the typical 34-year old receiver, so I wouldn’t bet on Floyd’s big-framed body breaking down just yet.

Thus, provided he remains healthy, Floyd’s contributions to the Chargers are likely to remain significant, and fantasy owners may consider using a late round flier on a steady veteran with home run potential.