The NFL's Most and Least Cost-Effective Wide Receivers in 2015
Entering the 2015 NFL season, big-time receivers receiving big-time contracts was one of the more intriguing financial subplots.
Nowadays, giving those big deals to receivers is easily defensible, given the rise in overall passing volume and efficiency.
Still, getting elite production at a bargain price is hard to pass up, and with Odell Beckham still playing on his rookie deal, the Giants are at a big financial advantage.
But one team got blessed with two inexpensive receivers who played fantastic football, as measured by our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which compares a player's production to expectation level. You can read more about it in our glossary, but you can read more about the best receivers in relation to their contract below.
2015's Most Cost-Effective Receivers
Getting value on the dollar isn't that hard with receivers -- relative to running backs, at least.
Rushers have a tricky time generating positive NEP because, well, a four-yard carry -- a fine play on first down -- doesn't quite have the same impact as a 10-yard catch.
Simply put, running backs don't generate expected points at a high rate, relative to receivers.
So we have to adjust for this. First though, we'll scope out the best receivers in terms of Total Net Expected Points per dollar (from their 2015 cap hit, per Spotrac.com). Players in the top 16 in Total NEP among receivers are in bold, and you can click on the table for a larger view.
Yeah, so the Jaguars did well with their young duo of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns this past season. They're the only two receivers in the top 16 in Total NEP with a cost of less than $12,000 per point above expectation. Not bad.
The other takeaway here is that there are some fairly solid Total NEP scores among bargain (mostly young) receivers. Among the 95 receivers with at least 25 receptions this year, the average Total NEP was 64.67. On this chart, 16 of the 24 receivers posted a mark of at least 60 Total NEP.
But what about the high-volume players? Here's the same deal, but we'll look at the 32 receivers with at least 100 targets this year. Guys in the top-10 in Total NEP are bolded.
Robinson really was the biggest receiver bargain, as he yielded a top-six campaign in Total NEP. Hurns ranked 16th, and Willie Snead ranked 35th.
But what surprised me most is that DeAndre Hopkins was -- slightly -- a better bargain than Beckham was this year. Hopkins finished fourth in Total NEP, and Beckham was first.
The hefty salaries of the more seasoned receivers in the top 10 in Total NEP threw them in the bottom half of per-dollar NEP among the 32 receivers with at least 100 targets, but each of the top-10 guys saw at least 100 targets this year.
With how wasteful big running back salaries were, that's a pretty nice return regardless.
Did all of the highest-paid guys perform well? No. In fact, here's the breakdown of the top 16 receivers in terms of salary cap hit from 2015, the only 16 to have a hit of at least $6 million. The bold, this time, refers to players in the top 16 in Total NEP.
Only 8 of the 16 highest paid players were in the top 16 in Total NEP, but the four highest-paid guys -- three of whom were jockeying for bigger deals last offseason -- all returned top-16 Total NEP seasons.
Sure, not all of them worked out, but missed games and age can be blamed for most of the other eight on the list.
Big money for receivers is likely where we're headed from this point forward, and based on 2015, it's hard to argue against it.