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Field-split analytics for the 2017 wide receiver draft class

These comprehensive figures tell many stories.

Scouting NFL draft prospects is a multi-layered process. A relatively new aspect of that process is the incorporation of “analytics,” which in some cases are just more in-depth statistics.

The Buffalo Bills are probably going to pick a wide receiver in one of the first three rounds in this draft. Although we’ll roll out an assortment of opinion pieces and scouting reports on those pass-catchers, this article is meant to be a convenient reference point for the comparative analysis of the wideout draft class.

Brett Whitefield of Pro Football Focus recently tweeted an array of figures, split by yardages for this year’s receiver prospects.

Let’s take a look.

Short Passes

  • The biggest discovery here is the disparity between Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer in the yards-after-the-catch per reception department. Both small and quick slot receiver prospects, Switzer is the household name and is faster (4.51 to 4.63), but they had almost identical agility-drill scores at the combine. On film, Taylor appears to be more elusive and thereby more effective after the catch. These numbers back that up.
  • Clemson’s Artavis Scott clearly outperforming rising prospect East Carolina’s Zay Jones in the total yards here is impressive. However, Scott tested poorly at the combine, and is 5’10”, 193 pounds, compared to the 6’2”, 201-pound Jones.
  • At the presumed “top” of the 2017 class, Western Michigan’s Corey Davis was much more efficient than Clemson’s Mike Williams, which doesn’t come as a shock.
  • Alabama’s Ardarius Stewart’s 10.7 yards-after-the-catch per reception on these passes will open some eyes. His film is solid and he has good size at 5’11”, 204 pounds with 4.49 speed.
  • Lastly, Dede Westbrook leading this group in YAC / grab is not surprising. He’s a slippery slot wideout who was utilized on variety of screens at Oklahoma.

Passes made within nine yards of line of scrimmage:

  • The YAC average (9.2) for Louisiana Tech’s Carlos Henderson stands out. Watching his film is mostly reminiscent of a highlight reel, so that super-high number seems about right.
  • Despite Scott boasting an solid YAC average of 9.9 on passes thrown behind the line, his 3.2 YAC average at this portion of the field is head-scratching.
  • Again, notice the clear distinction between Taylor and Switzer.
  • Jones sits atop this list in terms of receptions, which makes perfect sense. I don’t think East Carolina did him any favors by frequently utilizing him on super-short routes.
  • Both Davis and Williams fared well in this area of the field. Due to his explosive and underrated agility, Davis was more productive and efficient picking up yards and scoring touchdowns, which was helped by the offense he operated in at Western Michigan.
  • The most disappointing discovery from this chart is John Ross’ poor YAC average. While he flashed impressive elusiveness at Washington, routinely making defenders miss in small areas is definitely not his forte.

Intermediate Routes

  • Williams stands out here, especially relative to Davis. Coming from an offense at Clemson that some believe is “gadgety,” these figures indicate the big wideout wasn’t just catching screens and passes on go routes. Then again, Davis’ QB rating on these passes was the highest in the group and he caught the second-most touchdowns.
  • Another strong showing for Jones. Remember, he led NCAA in receptions last season.
  • Henderson excelled here too. Many of these grabs were easy comeback completions because he did not see much press coverage last year at Louisiana Tech.
  • California’s Chad Hansen’s showing at this level of the field is noteworthy. He’s an intriguing 6’2”, 202-pound wideout who demonstrated some impeccable high-pointing ability in 2016.


  • Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor was a deep-ball dynamo in 2016, and his figures here undoubtedly support that. To be more than 200 yards ahead of the second-place wideout is ridiculous.
  • One of my #DraftCrush wideouts, Jalen Robinette, makes his first appearance here. Playing in the Air Force’s triple-option offense, targets were hard to come by for him, but when they did, they were usually way down the field. The 6’3”, 220-pound receiver ran 4.62 at the combine, but consistently made amazing high-pointing grabs in 2016. He’s a Demaryius Thomas-esque sleeper.
  • On the other end of the size spectrum is Westbrook.. those 11 touchdowns are hard to ignore.
  • This chart — along with the others — how Jones was used with the Pirates in 2016. Only 10 grabs beyond 20 yards? Not necessarily his fault though.
  • Interesting comparison between Davis and Williams here. Though Williams is the better high-point wideout, Davis actually outpaced Williams in the yards and touchdown departments down the field.

Missed Tackles Forced

  • Do you, Carlos. Do you. Although he didn’t test as an outstanding athlete agility-wise, on the field, the 5’11” wideout was (obviously) superbly elusive.
  • Note Switzer’s low percentage here. Yikes.
  • As I wrote in his scouting report, Williams has “nice, slippery agility” that most probably wouldn’t expect for a pass-catcher at his size. Strong showing here.
  • Numbers you like to see from Davis and Ross here too.