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Statistical analysis: Explaining the Saints' addition of Dez Bryant

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Statistical analysis: Explaining the Saints' addition of Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) gestures in the end zone after scoring a 50-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 10, 2017. Andrew Mills | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Before the New Orleans Saints struck a deal with Dez Bryant on Wednesday, coach Sean Payton said the team wasn’t lacking anything from its group of wide receivers.

The stats tell a different story.

The most logical explanation for the Saints adding Bryant is they simply needed a receiver because they will have three on injured reserve as of Thursday — Ted Ginn Jr., Tommylee Lewis and Cameron Meredith, as well as Travin Dural, who went to IR before the season.

However, even before news of Meredith heading to IR broke Thursday, the lack of production from the Saints receiving corps showed the unit could use some help, whether from Bryant or someone else.

Obviously, Michael Thomas has been incredible this season, ranking second in the NFL with 70 receptions and fourth with 880 receiving yards. Behind him, though, the Saints group of receivers has struggled to produce consistently.

When eliminating the most productive receiver from each team this year, the Saints receiving corps has contributed the least to its offense in the NFL, according to a statistical analysis by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

The group of Tre’Quan Smith, Ginn, Meredith and Austin Carr have accounted for just 21.9 percent of the Saints’ passing yards, which ranks last in the league. There’s actually a significant divide between the Saints and other teams as the 31st-ranked team by this metric is the Chiefs with 26.8 percent of the passing yards coming from the receivers behind Tyreek Hill.

The Saints non-Thomas receivers last year — Ginn, Brandon Coleman, Lewis and Willie Snead —accounted for 31.4 percent of the offense, so there has been a significant drop-off this year.

In terms of volume, the Saints’ group behind Thomas has totaled just 525 yards this year, which ranks third behind the Cardinals (491 yards) and Titans (523 yards), but those teams rank 31st and 30th, respectively, in passing offense. That’s part of the reason the percentage share from the receivers in their respective offenses is a more relevant statistic.

These statistics included any receiver who has contributed receiving yards to a team this season, regardless of his current roster status. Demaryius Thomas and Terrelle Pryor, for example, have accumulated stats for two teams. The Bills had the most receivers who have contributed receiving yards with eight while the Chargers and Cardinals had the fewest with four.

For the Saints, Smith ranks second among receivers with 12 catches for 214 yards, which is the lowest yardage output for a No. 2 receiver in the NFL, according to the analysis. Meredith, with nine catches for 114 yards, and Carr, with five catches for 62, lag behind Smith.

The Saints have managed to start 7-1 and rank seventh in passing offense despite the lack of production from the receivers not named Thomas, largely because running back Alvin Kamara has been so effective, ranking second on the team with 51 catches for 427 yards.

Explaining Kamara’s expansive role with regards to the receivers is really a chicken-or-the-egg argument. The complementary receivers might have fewer opportunities because Kamara is so good, but Kamara might have more looks because those receivers have been mostly ineffective.

Tight end Benjamin Watson ranks third on the Saints with 26 catches for 292 yards, and it’s not uncommon to have a tight end or running back near the top of a team’s receiving yardage list.

The Patriots are actually led in receiving yards by running back James White, and tight end Rob Gronkowski is second. Josh Gordon leads the receivers with 396 yards, but, even with White and Gronkowski leading the team, the other receivers behind Gordon have still accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s receiving yards.

The Colts receiving by tight end Eric Ebron as are the Raiders with Jared Cook, the Eagles with Zach Ertz and the 49ers with George Kittle. Washington is also led by tight end Jordan Reed, and fellow tight end Vernon Davis ranks third.

Even when considering the teams that have tight ends or running backs atop their receiving list, their complementary wide receivers, not including the No. 1 guy, have still contributed a higher percentage of their respective team’s passing yards.

Whether the Saints needed Bryant was certainly debatable before the team moved Meredith to IR. If Bryant could contribute something significant, why wouldn’t a team with lackluster receivers like the Bills or 49ers take a chance?

Now that Bryant is in New Orleans, though, it’s clear that he’ll have an opportunity to contribute because most of the team’s receivers haven’t produced.

WR production after WR1
Team Passing yds WR2-WR8 yds %
Saints 2390 525 21.9
Chiefs 2901 729 26.8
Eagles 2254 663 29.4
Steelers 2582 769 29.8
Washington 1867 588 31.5
Bears 1949 630 32.3
Giants 2434 797 32.7
Titans 1586 523 33
Bills 1594 528 33.1
Cardinals 1472 491 33.3
49ers 2232 778 34.9
Chargers 2244 805 35.9
Browns 2241 812 36.2
Bengals 2141 785 36.7
Broncos 2428 900 37
Vikings 2685 999 37.2
Texans 2389 892 37.3
Falcons 2705 1029 38
Colts 2187 839 38.4
Seahawks 1791 692 38.6
Panthers 1906 752 39.5
Patriots 2531 1004 39.7
Packers 2597 1072 41.3
Ravens 2552 1062 41.6
Cowboys 1660 694 41.8
Jaguars 2177 930 42.7
Jets 1934 886 45.8
Bucs 2974 1389 46.7
Lions 2125 1019 48
Rams 2828 1399 49.5
Raiders 2206 1160 52.6
Dolphins 2086 1134 54.3
Bonckers likes this

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There’s zero doubt we need other WRs to be involved if we are going to sustain how potent this offense has been. The fact our 2nd WR only has 12 catches halfway through the season is pretty astounding. Yet, these stats don’t tell the whole story. If Meredith has been fully healed by Game 1, or if Ginn had been healthy throughout, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. These stats are simply a result of SP using the talent we have on deck and creating mismatches everywhere he can, including using Taysom Hill. Nonetheless, if we want to win a Championship, we are going to need a credible WR threat other than just MT. So we made a move. Let’s Geaux Baby!

bigbrod81 and Saint ATN like this

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1 hour ago, bigbrod81 said:

Steve Young compares the Dez signing to a Patriots type signing.

http://www.espn.com/video/clip/_/id/25218845

Despite the fact that he used to hand us our collective ass*s annually, Steve Young is one of the few who's viewpoint I respect. I saw this.

I said it in another thread, there's something brewing in the bayou. 

This team right now, can beat ANYBODY. As a Saints fan however, you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop... The letdown. 

I'm allergic to "kool aid", however this team sure has instilled a great deal of confidence in me.

All Dez has to do is be productive; not be all world. ANYTHING to ease the pressure off Thomas. He's a big; physical body to boot, he'll go get the football. 

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2 hours ago, Bonckers said:

Too bad he may be out for the year. I still like our roster of players, and we can still bring in a free agent. Is Joe Horn still in shape? Lol jk. 

Damn. Oh well. Next!

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On 11/10/2018 at 7:47 AM, Richard said:

Given this unfortunate turn  of events, who's available and how much cap space do we have left?

 

We did promote Keithwood from the PS. He was and still is the best option. I cannot see us being in a rush to bring anyone else in. If anything I could see us bring Ginn off IR before we bring anyone else in now. Dez was the best athlete available and the rest have major question marks wither with age, ability, and/or locker room issues. 

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