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Eckert: TE Stat Study 2.0: Air Yards/Comp, Yards After Catch, Run Blocking Metrics 2016 – 2020

Today I am continuing my “Tight End Study Series”, here is a link to the first study that I would recommend for full context of this study:

TE Study 1.0

Today I wanted to dive a little deeper and get a broader view than a single season.  I also wanted to answer some questions: How were the Tight Ends used on their catches?  For example, in the last five years, which players made most of their catches down the field?  Also, which players created the most yards after the catch?  I also wanted to add run blocking to give more value to well-rounded Tight Ends as opposed to FLEX Tight Ends (typically limited blockers/more of a receiver role).

Here are definitions for the data points used in this study:

  • Air Yards/comp = Numeric value for distance in yards perpendicular to the line of scrimmage at where the targeted receiver caught the ball.
  • YAC (Yards After Catch) = Numeric value for distance in yards perpendicular to the yard line where the receiver made the reception to where the play ended.
  • RBLK = Pro Football Focus Grade for Run Blocking

With that in mind, let’s see what 2016-2020 looked like:

Great stuff to learn from here!  Ironically, just like my WR Study 2.0 there are four Tight Ends that made the top right of the graph: Rob Gronkowski, Jared Cook, Vernon Davis, and Travis Kelce.  Layering in the Pro Football Focus RBLK grades (dot sizes) also give Kelce and Gronkowski credit for being more well-rounded Tight Ends.  I found it interesting that Vance McDonald finished second in YAC Rank while also ranking last in Air Yards/comp over the five-year sample size.  I love Vance’s YAC and stiff-arm highlight videos, but the more important highlight is a takeaway from Dave Bryan on a recent Terrible Podcast, reminding us of this fact: the Air Yards/comp concern was not a new thing in 2020.  It’s great to see my studies of stats and our teams’ evaluations line up for additional confirmation.

Ebron lands toward the middle of the graph, but it is important to remember he has played for three different teams.  2020’s Air Yards/comp stat definitely brought his five-year average down, again highlighting the need for the Steelers offense to improve on this stat.  A big takeaway from the previous studies (along with many other Steelers Depot Contributors): hopefully the 2021 Steelers offense can increase their Air Yards/comp stat with a variety of players (even if it is slight).  With better run/pass balance and the new faces on the coaching staff, changes have me optimistic we could see an improvement.  I’m really hoping this takeaway will apply to Freiermuth, no matter how often he is targeted.

Now, let’s look at this angle, who were the best Run Blockers from 2016-2020 according to Pro Football Focus, adding in Complete Pass Ranks, and Study 1.0 Ranks:

PFF RBLK Rank Complete Pass Rank Air Yards/comp Rank Yards After Catch Rank Study 1.0 Rank
1. D.Goedert 25 25 9 16
2. J.Doyle 9 28 16
3. G.Kittle 6 22 1 17
4. T.Kelce 1 11 6 1
5. M.Andrews 19 2 18 13
6. H.Henry 15 8 21 6
7. T.Burton 20 15 27 28
8. C.Clay 21 16 17
9. T.Higbee 17 18 10 11
10. V.McDonald 24 30 2
11. G.Everett 28 23 8 23
12. R.Gronkowski 16 1 7 5
13. J.Witten 12 19 29
14. J.James 23 27 14
15. A.Hooper 7 17 20 4
16. T.Eifert 27 9 26 24
17. J.Graham 5 14 13 8
18. R.Griffin 26 29 11
19. C.Brate 14 5 30 27
20. K.Rudolph 3 24 15
21. J.Reed 18 20 23
22. G.Olsen 13 4 24
23. E.Engram 10 26 5 20
24. Z.Ertz 2 12 28 30
25. E.Ebron 4 13 19 21
26. D.Walker 22 7 22
27. D.Waller 11 21 4 2
28. J.Cook 8 3 12 15
29. V.Davis 30 10 3
30. M.Gesicki 29 6 25 3

 

I really enjoyed the value of layering these stats to get a more well-rounded view of Tight Ends.  Travis Kelce is the only Tight End that ranked top 15 in my studies so far, and George Kittle gets the recognition he deserves with the larger sample size and run blocking value.  Vance McDonald gets good value on this table for his run blocking and creating YAC, and I really enjoyed Jack Doyle’s value in run blocking and complete pass ranks.

Now I would like to take all the information from this study to get a more complete ranking for this study: PFF RBLK Grade (for 2016-2020 run block value), Complete Pass Rank (for 2016-2020 catch value), Air Yards/comp Rank (2016-2020 downfield value), Yards After Catch (2016-2020 creating yards value), and Study 1.0 Rank (2020 EPA/Success for team/recency value).

Study 2.0 Ranks
1. T.Kelce (KC)
2. R.Gronkowski (TB)
3. G.Kittle (SF)
4. H.Henry (LAC)
5. M.Andrews (BAL)
6. J.Graham (CHI)
7. A.Hooper (CLE)
8. T.Higbee (LAR)
9. D.Waller (LV)
10. J.Cook (NO)
11. J.Doyle (IND)
12. D.Goedert (PHI)
13. C.Clay (ARI)
14. K.Rudolph (MIN)
15. G.Olsen (SEA)
16. E.Ebron (PIT)
17. V.McDonald (PIT)
18. E.Engram (NYG)
19. V.Davis (WAS)
20. J.Witten (LV)
21. G.Everett (LAR)
22. M.Gesicki (MIA)
23. C.Brate (TB)
24. Z.Ertz (PHI)
25. D.Walker (LV)
26. T.Burton (IND)
27. J.James (DET)
28. T.Eifert (JAX)
29. J.Reed (SF)
30. R.Griffin (NYJ)

 

For the next study, I will add playoff value similar to my other series and wrap up with more visualizations, hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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