Ryan Broyles vs. Mark Clayton: Who Is the Best Oklahoma Receiver?

Eric PennellCorrespondent IIAugust 5, 2011

Big things are expected from Broyles and the Sooners this year.
Big things are expected from Broyles and the Sooners this year.Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Given one remaining year of eligibility, it’s probably a year early to compare vaunted OU wide receivers Mark Clayton and Ryan Broyles. But I just couldn’t help myself.

Their stature, style and star power are so similar they are just begging to be compared. There is enough highlight video and stat accumulation to at least begin a process that will likely proceed throughout Sooner lore for a long time. I have compiled and analyzed information on the two studs and will compare their careers and abilities.

Let’s start with stats.

Upon first glance, this isn’t even close. With a full season left, Ryan Broyles has already surpassed Mark Clayton in every major Career and Season stat category including Receptions, Yards and Touchdowns. With 51 receptions and 1,656 yards in the upcoming 2011 seasons, Ryan will break the Career NCAA records in the two categories. However, numbers can lie.

There is no debating the increase in offensive production over the last decade, especially in Norman. Also, the last few seasons have seen the Sooners implement the no-huddle, giving them more plays per game. Both of these facts have combined to give Broyles more chances to make catches and accumulate stats. Keep in mind, though, we are searching for the best receiver, not the best stats. Big difference.

In 2010, Landry Jones threw the ball a whopping 617 times compared to Jason White’s 451 attempts in 2003 (Clayton’s best year), an increase of about 37 percent. Keeping with the 2003 to 2010 comparison, Broyles had 58 percent more receptions than Clayton (131 to 83). Looking at those two percentages, you would assume Ryan gets the edge. His increase in receptions outweighs the increase in passes thrown, right? In reality, all this shows is Landry’s preference to throw to Ryan over his other options.

Last year’s receiving corps was higher on potential than talent, seeing that Demarco Murray (a running back) was second in receptions. Ryan was Landry’s only reliable target as Broyles caught 32 percent of Landry’s 405 completions in 2010. Lining up alongside Mark in 2003 were the likes of Travis Wilson, Brandon Jones, JeJuan Renkins and Will Peoples. Clayton was one of several reliable targets for Jason White and the ball was much more spread out.

This all boils down to one fact: number of receptions isn’t a very good way to compare wide receivers.

Perhaps the best way to single out one receiver from another is Yards Per Catch (Receiving Yards over Receptions). It takes into account a receiver’s ability to run after the catch and their ability to get open downfield. These two traits are also two of the best ways to compare receivers outside of their respective offenses and quarterbacks. The better they do both of those things the higher the YPC and, arguably, the better the wide receiver.

So, what are the numbers?

(Drum Roll)

Clayton’s career YPC of 15.8 dwarfs Broyles’ 12.9. It gets worse when you look at the 2003/2010 comparison, as Mark broke off a 17.2 while Ryan put up a 12.4. Uh oh.

We’ve got real life debate on our hands here! Sure, Ryan is going to stockpile receptions, yards and TD’s as if Football Armageddon is right around the corner, but his stats, to some extent, are inflated due to the lack of other receiving options and offensive scheme. However, when the dust settles on Ryan’s storybook career in Norman, his Memorial Stadium-sized pile of stats, records and awards will make it hard to deny him top honors.

So which receiver is better?

If the stats are pointing in both directions, we will have to turn to our own brains to make the decision (yikes!). I sat in the stands during both of their careers and watched opposing defensive coordinators throw scores of headsets in every direction, but couldn’t decide using my fuzzy memory alone (on a side note, maybe that is the best way to determine the better player: Number Of Headsets Destroyed By Opposing Defensive Coordinators. Just an idea).

It had been a while since I had seen Mark do his thing, so I brushed up on some highlight compilations on YouTube to help me decide. Their ability to make difficult, circus-type catches is about even. They both have some ridiculous grabs. Mark gets the edge in elusiveness. His creativity with the ball and ability to cut and make people miss was uncanny. The dude never went down without a fight, something Broyles could improve on this year.

Top end speed is where Broyles excels over Clayton. When Ryan turns on the jets, he is the fastest man on the field. Mark was harder to tackle, but Ryan is harder to catch.

So, we’ve checked the stat books and the tape and I still don’t have an answer for you. If I were starting a football team and I had to pick one of the two, my gut urges me to take Mark. His level of elusiveness is hard to find. So there you have it. I’ll take Mark Clayton.

Come talk to me in January, though.