There are many different prisms through which success can be evaluated in so many different aspects of football. With the continued advancement of analytics, in fact, there seems to be no shortage of tools at our disposal on which to judge performances.
One statistic that I like, even if it introduces a degree of subjectivity into the discussion, is the notion of a catchable target, which basically helps the process of not penalizing quarterbacks for mistakes that his targets make. A quarterback can make a great through on a pass attempt that was not completed, and that should be acknowledged.
As should be implied, any quarterback-pass-catcher duo who has produced a high catchable target percentage would be fairly judged as one that has a good working rapport, and it likely translates into a lot of success as well.
Recently, Pro Football Focus published a list of the top 10 active quarterback-wide-receiver tandems in terms of catchable target percentage. I don’t think you would be surprised to learn that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger and JuJu Smith-Schuster made the list.
Listed at sixth but essentially tied for fifth with a catchable target percentage of 79.5, Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster represent one of the largest age gaps between the two positions in a tandem, though it’s certainly not unique, as the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and Michael Thomas suggest (the second-overall pairing).
Connor Price writes of the Steelers’ combo:
Save for the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh threw on downs with a distance of five yards or less more than any other team in 2018 (158). The key reason for this? Roethlisberger’s catchable pass percentage, or more specifically, his catchable pass rate when targeting Smith-Schuster.
In just two seasons with the Steelers, the USC alumnus has become the number-one pass-catching option on one of the most pass-happy teams in the NFL and has done so by securing 70.5% of balls deemed catchable that come his way.
As should be implied by the stat provided above, obviously not every pass deemed catchable that is not caught is a dropped pass. That would mean that Smith-Schuster has a drop percentage of nearly 30 percent, which, if it were the case, he would soon be out of the league.
During his rookie season, the wide receiver caught 58 of the 79 targets that he saw, resulting in an overall catch percentage of 73.4. Last season, he saw his targets more than double, but his efficiency waned a bit, catching 111 of 161 targets for a catch percentage of 66.9. So far in his career, he has caught 69 percent of the passes that have come his way. That is the highest in franchise history among wide receivers with at least 100 targets.