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Indianapolis Colts Advanced Stat of the Week: Donnie Avery and Catch Rate

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Indianapolis Colts Advanced Stat of the Week: Donnie Avery and Catch Rate
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Avery has a hard time hanging onto the ball.

Donnie Avery had plenty of great moments in 2012, but his play had a chilling effect on the Indianapolis Colts' offense.

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 Football Outsiders 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.

One of the most scrutinized numbers for Andrew Luck was his completion percentage. There are many reasons why it was low; He had a weak line, he threw a high percentage of deep routes, and he didn't get much help from his receivers.

Luck was especially plagued by the poor play of Avery. Avery struggled to catch the ball, ranking among the league leaders in drop rate as calculated by Pro Football Focus.

Avery had a difficult time getting open as well, frequently forcing Luck to throw to him while tightly covered.

T.Y. Hilton had some of the same problems with drops, but unlike Avery was vastly more productive when he caught the ball. He also ran deep routes like Avery, but managed a much better catch rate.

When looking at the chart of Colts receivers, most of them were around the 55 percent mark. The outliers are Avery and Dwayne Allen.

One great moment does not make a great season.

Of course, the ugliest part of the chart is the sheer volume of targets for Avery. Despite generally terrible play, Avery was thrown to more than 120 times. That's more than both tight ends combined. Hilton crushed Avery in terms of yards and touchdowns in far fewer opportunities.

The Colts have to find a third receiver in 2013. There's no reason to bring Avery back for another go around. He's not young enough to hope for improvement. At this stage, he is what he is.

Indy can hope for continued improvement from Hilton, but it's clear that Luck will need another target sooner rather than later.

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