Indianapolis Colts Advanced Stat of the Week: Yards Per Target

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistFebruary 28, 2013

Hilton runs away from people.
Hilton runs away from people.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

T.Y. Hilton had a fantastic rookie year. That much is clear.

What's amazing is how much more efficient he was than his teammates.

Yards per target (YPT) is a player-specific derivative of the single most important stat in football: yards per attempt (YPA). There is no number more important for evaluating an offense or a defense than measuring yards per attempt.

YPT is just YPA isolated to a particular wide receiver. To calculate it, simply divide a player's receiving yards by his total number of "targets." As I discussed when looking at catch rate, knowing how often a player was thrown to matters when evaluating his overall play.

It's not always possible to get a perfect look at YPT, as we can't always tell for sure who a quarterback was targeting on a play. While we know if a pass is attempted, we can only guess at who it is intended for. Obviously, batted passes often have no intended target associated with them.

Still, looking at how many yards are gained every time a wideout is targeted by the quarterback, we can get a snapshot of his effectiveness in getting open downfield.

YPT doesn't tell the whole story, obviously. Take the 2012 Colts. No one is minimizing the effect of 1,350 yards from Reggie Wayne. Yes, his YPT was under seven, but he was also the focal point of the Colts offense.

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A better comparison is between Hilton and Donnie Avery. Both are often mentioned as "deep threats," but the numbers show only one of the two players is actually effective in that role.

The advantage of YPT as a stat is that it takes into account how many attempts required to get a receiver his yards. We know Hilton out-gained Avery by 80 yards on the season, but he also did it on 34 fewer passes.

The result is that Hilton had a YPT of 9.6. That's good for 11th in the NFL among qualified wideouts.

On the other hand, Avery proved to be a terrible deep threat. His YPT was only 6.3. That ranks 77th in the NFL. Avery caught some deep passes, sure, but to get him 781 yards, it took Andrew Luck 124 throws. There's just not much evidence that Avery was effective in that role.

Even LaVon Brazill, who played sparingly, showed a stronger ability to get open deep than Avery.

It's also interesting to note that among the running backs, Vick Ballard finished with a solid 5.6. That would have been good for 24th in the league (out of 47 qualified backs), keeping in line with the general observation that he's an average player.

For the curious, Donald Brown didn't qualify for the list because of limited playing time, but if he had, his YPT would have ranked fourth in the league among runners. Of course, his injuries held him back as they have his entire career.