Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Larry Fitzgerald . . . all game-changers. They make the highlight catches, they produce the eye-popping stats, they catch the media's and the fans' attentions.
They're the big play makers, and in that right, are the best in the game. But oft overlooked are the unspectacular receivers who keep their offenses going by consistently catching the balls thrown to them.
Deciding to take a look at the stats, I created a rather sophisticated formula in which to measure a receiver's efficiency, or in other words, ability to most consistently catch any balls thrown to them.
As a backbone stat, I calculated the Reception Percentage of all NFL receivers with a reception count above 50, based on last year's statistics. The Reception Percentage is the percentage of passes targeted to them, i.e. thrown to them, in which they caught the ball.
I then took the 12 receivers with the highest Reception Percentages and further broke down statistics that would influence the players' Reception Percentages.
I took two additional statistics into account: their respective quarterbacks' accuracy percentage, and their strength of schedule.
For the Quarterback Accuracy Percentage, I would simply take out all attempts and completions involving the respective player from their quarterback's stats and then calculate the quarterback's accuracy.
A higher accuracy would deem worse for the player, as a player with a more accurate quarterback would get easier passes to catch...and thus a higher Reception Percentage.
For the strength of schedule stats, I would calculate the average passing completion percentage that opposing teams' defenses would allow (Ex. – If player A played Team A and Team B, I would see what completion percentage Team A allowed to Teams A’s opposing teams and then average that with Team B’s completion percentage allowed to their own opposing teams).
In other words, the better the pass defenses that a player faced, the lower the Strength of Schedule Percentage. I only calculated (into the average) teams in which the specified receiver played against (no teams that played the receiver's respective team while the receiver was injured or not playing for any other reason).
So, overall, I took into account three factors: the percentage of passes thrown towards the receiver that the receiver caught, the accuracy of the quarterback throwing to the receiver, and the toughness of the receiver's opponents' pass defenses.
To calculate the final rating I took each player’s Reception Percentage and subtracted the average of their Quarterback Accuracy Percentage and Strength of Schedule Percentage from it (think of the QAP and SoSP average as how well he “ought to do” in his given situation).
For example, a player who caught 70 percent of the passes thrown to him yet had a poor quarterback with a QAP of 50 percent and faced extremely tough defenses who, on average, allowed only a 50 percent completion percentage, the player would obviously be an extremely efficient receiver, warranting his incredibly high rating of 20.0 (70 - 50 =20).
After calculating each of the 12 receivers’ Efficiency Ratings, I ranked them accordingly and took out the bottom two to create a list of the top ten most efficient receivers in the league.
Get ready to be surprised. Be prepared for a shock. Names will be mentioned that you may not know, names will be absent that you may have expected! Ladies and Gentlemen: The Top Ten Most Efficient NFL Receivers!