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Is Lance Moore An Even Better Third Down Wide Receiver Than Jerricho Cotchery Is?

When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery prior to the start of the 2011 season, one of the things that got me excited about him was his ability to move the chains on third downs. Now that he’s gone, the Steelers have signed former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore to assume his role and while we only have stats to go on, he might be even better on third downs than his predecessor was.

During his career, Cotchery has been targeted 263 times on third down and has caught 156 of those passes for a very respectable 59.3% completion ratio. Moore, however, has caught 86 of 158 passes thrown his way on third downs during his time with the Saints for an even better 65.8 completion ratio.

So how did those third down completions turn out for both players?

124 of Cotchery’s 156 third down receptions (79.5%) resulted in a first down. Moore, however, has converted 86 of his 104 third down receptions (82.7%) into first downs.

Now, the argument will be that Cotchery had to play several seasons with several sub par quarterbacks during his time with the New York Jets and I have already addressed that in a previous post. That’s why I was excited about his signing. Sub par quarterbacks on all, his 46% first down per third down target percentage was not bad considering the quarterbacks he played with. In case you are curious, Cotchery leaves the Steelers with a career 47.1% first down per third down target percentage, so you can see that playing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly benefited him.

Moore, on the other hand, has played his entire career with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and he enters 2014 with a 54.4% first down per third down target percentage.

So just how good as that 54.4% number?

Dating back to 2006, which was Moore’s first real year in the league, there have been 36 wide receivers targeted a total of 150 or more times on third downs. Moore not only has the highest completion percentage on third downs of those 36 players, he’s also tied with his former Saints teammate Marques Colston for the best first down per third down target percentage as well.

So, if the Steelers were trying to replace what Cotchery was able to provide the team on third downs, it looks like they have successful done that with the addition of Moore. At least thats what the stats tell us.

Sortable 2006-2013 Third Down Wide Receiver Targets – Minimum 150 To Qualify

PLAYER TARG REC REC % YDS TD FD FD/REC% FD/TARG%
Marques Colston 259 162 62.5% 2422 19 141 87.0% 54.4%
Lance Moore 158 104 65.8% 1343 11 86 82.7% 54.4%
Hines Ward 179 107 59.8% 1246 17 96 89.7% 53.6%
Reggie Wayne 316 185 58.5% 2687 18 164 88.6% 51.9%
Wes Welker 288 187 64.9% 2117 14 147 78.6% 51.0%
Greg Jennings 221 135 61.1% 2393 22 112 83.0% 50.7%
Roddy White 347 212 61.1% 3104 18 174 82.1% 50.1%
Anquan Boldin 268 170 63.4% 2283 14 133 78.2% 49.6%
T.J. Houshmandzadeh 196 125 63.8% 1396 6 97 77.6% 49.5%
Derrick Mason 222 135 60.8% 1670 11 108 80.0% 48.6%
Donald Driver 202 121 59.9% 1753 15 98 81.0% 48.5%
Jerricho Cotchery 234 138 59.0% 1702 10 112 81.2% 47.9%
Dwayne Bowe 248 144 58.1% 2014 14 117 81.3% 47.2%
Steve Johnson 166 100 60.2% 1331 9 76 76.0% 45.8%
Jason Avant 162 90 55.6% 1238 4 74 82.2% 45.7%
Randy Moss 152 75 49.3% 1236 22 68 90.7% 44.7%
Andre Johnson 248 145 58.5% 1833 13 109 75.2% 44.0%
James Jones 178 96 53.9% 1402 11 78 81.3% 43.8%
DeSean Jackson 153 83 54.2% 1476 8 67 80.7% 43.8%
Santonio Holmes 239 122 51.0% 2015 12 104 85.2% 43.5%
Nate Washington 231 125 54.1% 1753 14 100 80.0% 43.3%
Vincent Jackson 240 118 49.2% 2146 16 103 87.3% 42.9%
Larry Fitzgerald 278 145 52.2% 1923 15 119 82.1% 42.8%
Brandon Marshall 327 181 55.4% 2480 21 138 76.2% 42.2%
Calvin Johnson 306 146 47.7% 2352 14 127 87.0% 41.5%
Davone Bess 238 146 61.3% 1470 8 98 67.1% 41.2%
Steve Smith 273 141 51.6% 2173 13 112 79.4% 41.0%
Chad Johnson 189 80 42.3% 1175 10 77 96.3% 40.7%
Michael Jenkins 165 90 54.5% 1118 11 67 74.4% 40.6%
Braylon Edwards 199 94 47.2% 1405 12 80 85.1% 40.2%
Nate Burleson 161 82 50.9% 1002 9 64 78.0% 39.8%
Michael Crabtree 165 97 58.8% 1230 7 65 67.0% 39.4%
Terrell Owens 197 95 48.2% 1476 12 76 80.0% 38.6%
Lee Evans 152 75 49.3% 1327 10 56 74.7% 36.8%
Santana Moss 264 131 49.6% 1668 12 94 71.8% 35.6%
Bernard Berrian 155 67 43.2% 971 7 52 77.6% 33.5%
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