Andy Benoit, NFL analyst for Sports Illustrated and The MMQB, recently tweeted about new Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Donte Moncrief and what he had to say seemed to anger quite a few fans of the team.
Donte Moncrief is one of those players who is so average, he's bad. Who else is overwhelmingly average?
— Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit) June 20, 2019
It is true, however, that Moncrief has only averaged just a little more than 500 receiving yards a season since coming into the league in 2014 with the Indianapolis Colts. It’s also true, however, that Moncrief has had to work with several different quarterbacks since coming into the league and that number currently sits at 8 in total. Last season, Moncrief played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler and while he was targeted 89 times in total and caught 48 passes for 672 yards and 3 touchdowns, only 64 of those passes were catchable ones.
Quite honestly, Moncrief’s 2018 season was indeed quite average, all things considered. For starters, it was very easy to pick out his five top receptions from the 2018 regular season because his other 43 paled in comparison.
When you dig deeper into Moncrief’s 2018 target numbers you can really see how average of a season he had. For starters, while Moncrief’s average depth per target on 89 attempts last season was 13.2 yards, according to my charting, the average depth of his 48 total receptions was 9.2 yards. Obviously, that 4 yard difference is one you dont want to see but also keep in mind that 25 of the passes thrown his direction were scored as uncatchable by Sports Info Solutions.
According to my charting, 23 of Moncrief’s catches in 2018 came via passes thrown 6 or less yards past the original line of scrimmage. Additionally, he only caught 8 passes last season that flew more than 15 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage. He was targeted that distance 32 times, according to my charting, with 15 of those being uncatchable throws.
To best illustrate Moncrief’s receptions last season, I charted the distance of each pass he caught and where he was on the field when he caught the football. Keep in mind that every throw that’s charted on the field below is as if the original line of scrimmage of each play were the 30-yard-line.
As the charted data below shows, Moncrief only had two deep catches between the numbers last season. You can also easily see how many were caught 6 or less yards past the line of scrimmage. 9 of his catches last season came via short drag routes and 5 more came via short out routes.
Now, when Moncrief played with the Colts in his first four seasons in the NFL, and specifically with quarterback Andrew Luck, his average depth of completion in each of his first three seasons was 8.0. 6.7 and 8.8 yards, respectively. His average depth of total targets from 2014-2016 from Luck was 12.0, 9.8 and 9.8 yards. Also, Moncrief caught just 13 of 35 deep pass targets from Luck in those first three seasons and that percentage is not great.
When you compare Moncrief’s average depth of reception stat last year to his average when he was targeted by Luck in his first three seasons in the NFL, you see that last season’s number was better.
Now, as a means of comparison, last season Brown’s average depth per reception was 8.0 yards and his average depth of target was 11.4 yards from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Also, 60 of Brown’s 102 total receptions from Roethlisberger last season were caught 6 or less yards from the original line of scrimmage.
How will Moncrief do in his first season with Roethlisberger as his quarterback? Obviously he’s not going to be targeted 165 times like Brown was last season. He could, however be targeted at least 90-100 times in 2019 and if catches at least 63% of those passes, he could wind up having a career year, or at the very least, a better than average one.