Houston Texans Advanced Stat of the Week: Catch Rate and Third Receiver

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistJanuary 29, 2013

Who could have guessed the Texans would miss Jacoby Jones?
Who could have guessed the Texans would miss Jacoby Jones?Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The Houston Texans learned the hard way that reliability is an underrated trait in a wide receiver.

This week, Advanced Stat of the Week looks at catch rate.

Catch rate is a deceptively simple stat that can lead to very wrong conclusions about wide receivers if misused.

I first encountered catch rate on the FootballOutsiders wide receiver pages. Catch rate is easy to calculate. Take the number of time a wide receiver catches the football and divide it by the number of times he is "targeted" by the quarterback. The ratio of catches to targets is his catch rate.

Catch Rate = Receptions / Targets

Catch rate divorced from the overall context of a receiver's profile is meaningless. You can't simply say, "Wes Welker has a catch rate of 71 percent and Calvin Johnson has a catch rate of 61 percent." Without more information, you cannot judge players with this stat.

However, if in addition to catch rate you add yards per reception, targets and quarterback overall completion percentage, you can get a more complete view of the skill set and effectiveness of the pass catcher.

Last offseason, the Texans lost one of Matt Schaub's most reliable targets. Joel Dreessen may not have put up huge numbers in Houston, but he he always caught the ball. It was a big question mark as to how the Texans could replace his production.

As it turned out, they should have been more worried about how to replace Jacoby Jones.

Garrett Graham stepped in at tight end and managed to replicate Dreessen quite well. He wasn't as explosive on a per-catch basis, but his catch rate was virtually identical.

Where the Texans suffered was in replacing Jones.

Jones was released after the 2012 draft in what proved to be a colossal mistake. Not only did he have a standout season on special teams, making the Pro Bowl for the AFC, but the Texans had no way to replace his modest production in the passing game.

All three receivers the Texans tried at the third spot failed miserably. Keshawn Martin, Lestar Jean and DeVier Posey combined to catch barely 40 percent of the balls thrown their way.

While Jones's catch rate was abysmal at under 50 percent, the terrible trio of Martin, Jean and Posey was worse. They were targeted a comparable number of times, but were vastly less productive.

Martin eventually settled in as the replacement for Jones in the return game and while effective, wasn't the star Jones was in Baltimore.

At the time Jones was cut, no one questioned the move. He had been unproductive and disappointing. He was a lightning rod for fan criticism.

To this day, no one is going to argue that Jones is a great player, but there's little question that an outright release in May was huge miscalculation by the Texans front office. They overestimated the ability of the wideouts on the roster and cut a player who turned out to be superior to the ones they counted on.