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NFL

Meet The Metric – True Catch Rate

by Aaron Stewart, June 7, 2021

In 2020, Emmanuel Sanders led the NFL with a 110.9-percent True Catch Rate, and that’s not a typo. What does this tell the RotoUnderworld audience? Despite a 67.1-percent (No. 97 among qualified wide receivers) Catchable Target Rate and 6.04 (No. 108) Target Accuracy, Sanders was able to utilize his 10.29 (92nd-percentile) Catch Radius to haul in a majority of his targets, even those deemed uncatchable. He caught 61 passes even though only 55 targets were deemed catchable.

Last season, Denzel Mims finished the season with a 51.1-percent (No. 103) Catch Rate. Box score hunters see this stat and assume “This guy can’t play and is a bust.” Mims’ 88.5-percent (No. 29) True Catch Rate and 14.1 (No. 12) Average Target Distance add context to his situation. A quarterback upgrade in 2021 would lead to an increase in Mims’ 57.8-percent (No. 107) Catchable Target Rate in 2020, and thus increase his Catch Rate that box score hunters overvalue.

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NFC Offensive Line Play

by Ikey Azar, June 6, 2021

The Cowboys offensive line took a step back last season after fielding what was arguably the league’s top line in 2019. Not much has changed for a good-looking group entering 2021, though the center position is still a hole that needs to be filled following Travis Frederick’s retirement. Like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys are banking on health in 2021 as Zack Martin, La’el Collins, and Tyron Smith return to play alongside Connor Williams. 

The Packers return four of five offensive line starters and could still re-sign Ricky Wagner, which would return 86-percent of their snaps from last season. However they did lose all-pro center Corey Linsley, who has graded as PFF’s No. 6, No. 7, and No. 1 center over the last three seasons, in free agency. While losing Linsley will hurt, there is still enough talent along this offensive line to remain a top unit in 2021.

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AFC Offensive Line Play

by Ikey Azar, June 5, 2021

The Miami Dolphins fielded a below average offensive line in 2020. They ranked No. 21 in PFF pass blocking and No. 30 in run blocking, while also ranking No. 24 in Adjusted Line Yards and No. 20 in Adjusted Sack Rate. This line seems to range between slightly below average to slightly above average unless both Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt take major leaps forward in their sophomore seasons.

Completing their offensive line rebuild, the Chargers saw Northwestern’s tackle Rashawn Slater fall to them at No. 13, where he was considered a top 10 pick and in a similar tier with No. 7 overall pick Penei Sewell. Provided enough health, no team in 2021 should see a larger turnaround in offensive line play from 2020.

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Meet the Metric – Burn Rate

by Corbin Young, May 31, 2021

The cornerback with the league’s highest Burn Rate, Jaylon Johnson faced several top-end wide receivers in his 13 games played in 2020. Meanwhile, he managed a +36.5 (No. 13 among qualified cornerbacks) Coverage Rating and 16 (No. 4) Pass Break-ups. We have a mix of notable receivers that performed well against Johnson in Mike Evans, D.J. Moore, and Justin Jefferson. Interestingly, we find low production from A.J. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling with Johnson covering them.

On the flip side, let’s look at Jaire Alexander, who allowed a 0.0-percent (No. 1) Burn Rate, tying with several other defensive backs. Meanwhile, he ranked No. 2 with a +54.9 Coverage Rating and No. 1 with 18 Pass Break-ups. Alexander dominated. Overall, it’s wild to think he didn’t allow a single burn against Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Calvin Ridley, Mike Evans, Will Fuller, and Allen Robinson twice. 

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Transaction Implication: Julio Jones and Post June 1st Transactions

by Aaron Stewart, May 28, 2021

New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot and the new front office have left the possibility of a Julio Jones departure by not restructuring his contract and converting unguaranteed money (base salary) into guaranteed money (prorated signing bonus). More guaranteed money means more dead cap on a player’s contract, making it harder to financially move on from them. The Falcons did not make that commitment to Jones.

Teams are allowed to designate up to two players as a post-June 1st cut, and the Eagles have already designated Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson. They’re projected to have $4.9 mil in cap space locked up on their top-51 players, eighth-lowest in the NFL. With a lack of cap space and a purge of aging, declining veterans already starting, the team will proceed with cutting Zach Ertz and saving almost $5 million in cap space.

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Meet the Metric – True Yards Per Carry

by Steve Smith, May 24, 2021

Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones led the way in 2020 with 4.9 True YPC averages. With a whopping 378 carries, King Henry nearly doubled Jones in attempts and still managed the same stellar average. In fact, Henry posted the highest True YPC for any RB seeing over 200 carries in the last three seasons. Rounding out the top performers are Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor.

In his rookie campaign, J.K. Dobbins led the league with a dazzling 5.4 True YPC average. Boosted by a No. 1-ranked 8.2-percent Breakaway Run Rate, his True YPC should be expected to dip as he earns more work. However, this elite average gives him plenty of room to stay in the upper echelon. He produced an impressive 2.18 (No. 3) Yards Created Per Touch with a 30.9-percent (No. 5) Juke Rate.

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Where Coaching Matters – AFC Edition

by Ikey Azar, May 18, 2021

Ben Roethlisberger missed the entire 2019 season, which necessitated a totally different gameplan, but he’s basically the offensive coordinator when on the field. The Steelers went right back to running 65 plays per game in 2020 while passing the ball 64-percent of the time, the league’s second-highest rate. However, Pittsburgh had the league’s lowest Play Action Rate, ranking No. 27 in Average Target Depth and limiting the ceiling on an extremely voluminous passing offense.

The 2021 Patriots still figure to be extremely run heavy, however we should expect a higher Pass Rate in 2021 with a revamped passing group including the free agent signings of tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. Last season, New England ran two back sets 43-percent of the time, a top five rate in the league that would be expected to flip to two tight ends sets, or seeing Smith in the backfield attempting to remind everyone of the Gronk/Hernandez days.

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Meet the Metric – Opportunity Share

by Edward DeLauter, May 17, 2021

Last season, both Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette saw roughly the same amount of snaps in the Buccaneers offense. However, Jones was the preferred fantasy option, averaging over two points more per game. His production was largely driven by seeing more than 15-percent more opportunities than Fournette. This Opportunity Share was the reason to be “on him” in 2020.

What many seem to be overlooking about Joe Mixon is his opportunity monopoly on an ascending Bengals offense. Last season, he saw an 81.5-percent (No. 2 among qualified running backs) Opportunity Share during his six active games. Additionally, when he last played a full season in 2019, he saw a 77.1-percent (No. 6) Opportunity Share.

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Where Coaching Matters – NFC Edition

by Ikey Azar, May 16, 2021

Now heading into 2021, Atlanta hired Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith as head coach. Smith’s offenses in Tennessee were run-heavy, but have ranked in the top five in both Play Action and Pre-Snap Motion Rates, while Koetter’s Falcons have been in the bottom half of the league. Even if he dials back the sheer volume of the passing game, an efficiency boost can make up the difference.

The Rams have actually been below league average in Pass Rate in three of Sean McVay’s four seasons, but the Rams run so many plays that they still have averaged 577 attempts per season. In addition, they rank top ten in Neutral Game Script Pass Rate, top five in Pre-Snap Motion Rate, and No. 3 in Play Action Rate.

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Meet the Metric – Production Premium

by Neil Dutton, May 10, 2021

Production Premium is particularly helpful when assessing players after they change teams in free agency or are traded. Two players, both making their way to new teams in 2021, featured among the top seven last season while on their old teams. Nelson Agholor posted a +26.3 (No. 6 among qualified wide receivers) Production Premium, while Corey Davis delivered a +24.3 (No. 7) mark.

At the other end of the scale, the Arizona Cardinals may have bid against themselves in signing former star A.J. Green. His 2020 campaign showed a player a long way past his best. He was neither productive, nor efficient, and finished with a -37.0 (No. 89) Production Premium.

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