The numbers speak for themselves. Nobody in the history of the National Football League has ever caught 400 passes in his first four seasons. There’s a lot to like about Jarvis Landry as, my colleague, Jake Bennett wrote a few weeks ago.
But to his great points, I present the counterpoint.
While catching 100 passes per year is an impressive feat, what Landry does with those catches is not anything special and can even be detrimental to his team’s success. After their first three seasons in the NFL, Landry was tied with his former college teammate, Odell Beckham Jr. with 288 catches. However, Beckham turned that record number of catches into 1000 more yards and 22 more touchdowns than Landry. While it may seem unfair to compare two different types of receivers, a comparison of Landry to a true number one receiver is necessary to show that he doesn’t belong in the same conversation as the elite targets in the league.
It is well noted that Landry averaged just 8.8 yards per catch in 2017, 108th out of 139 qualified pass catchers. That per catch average was only above Cole Beasley among NFL wide receivers. To be fair, this was a career low for Landry with his career average being 10.1 yards per reception. It should also be noted that Landry was targeted 161 times and caught a very respectable 69.57% of those passes in his direction. However, those Landry targets only traveled on average, 6.4 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Of the wide receivers whose targets averaged less than seven yards in the air (Golden Tate, Randall Cobb, Albert Wilson, Trent Taylor, and Adam Humphries), Landry’s catch percentage was only above Wilson’s. In fact, Landry and Wilson had the same targeted air yards per attempt in their direction. However, Wilson was actually more productive in smaller doses of the exact same role. Per NFL.com’s “Next Gen Stats”, Wilson was the only player in the league to average more than four yards of separation per target. In comparison, Landry was at 3.2 yards of average separation. This does not appear to be an outlier as Wilson finished top five in separation yards per target in 2016 also. While Landry is known for his prowess after the catch, Wilson’s separation led to a whopping 7.69 yards after the catch (YAC) per catch. Landry averaged 4.56 yards after each reception.
In today’s passing league, throwing the ball down the field is simply more effective than the short throws Landry is famous for. Landry’s catch percentage is boosted by the fact that a lot of the passes to him simply don’t travel as far. Passes are naturally easier to catch the less they travel in the air. But even lower percentage passes are more consistently productive than their counterparts closer to the line of scrimmage. Josh Doctson had the lowest catch rate of any player with over 75 targets at 44.87%. But the average air attempt to Doctson went 14.2 yards. Statistically speaking (my stats use is a little rusty, “Bear” with me), the expected outcome of a pass thrown to Doctson is more effective than the expected outcome of a throw to Landry.
Probability of a Doctson catch = 44.75%, Pay off of catch (yards per reception) = 14.34
P = 0.4487*(14.34) = 6.43 yards expected every target
Probability of a Landry catch = 69.57%, Pay off of catch = 8.81 yards
P= 0.6957*(8.81) = 6.129 yards expected every target
So essentially, without taking into account other factors, an offense can expect more yardage throwing over 55% incompletions to Doctson than it can expect throwing the ball to Landry.
People with more advanced statistics than I have also question Landry’s value as a receiver.
bottom 15 for value and how far under they were the NFL average.
jarvis landry averaged -1.19 adjusted yards per target (which ranked 91/129) but since he had 161 targets at that rate, his value drove down tremendously. black hole for the dolphins offense. pic.twitter.com/599krsKbrW
— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) January 2, 2018
The above shows Landry as well below the average NFL receiver when targeted. The more you throw Landry the ball, the more yardage the offense is leaving on the field. In the games where Landry has more than eight targets, the Dolphins are 11- 24. When they don’t make a concerted effort to force him the ball on ineffective short passing plays, the team is 19-10 in those games.
The folks at Football Outsiders also don’t appear to be huge proponents of Landry’s receiving value as he has never scored better than 45th among receivers in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Landry has finished with a negative DVOA in three of his four seasons, despite the high volume of receptions and targets.
Admittedly, the nine touchdowns Landry scored this season increase his value greatly. But that seems to be the outlier as he doesn’t have any other two seasons that combine for more than that. Maybe the career low in yards per reception is also an outlier and product of going from a progressing Ryan Tannehill to a previously retired Jay Cutler, but the majority of his value as a receiver comes from catch volume. To get that high catch volume, it requires a ton of targets. However, at some point, those targets become counterproductive as throws to him mean throws that aren’t going to an outside receiver who is more likely to make a bigger play.
It’s hard to know if Landry is being held back by his offensive scheme or if he’s simply limited as a receiver. However, he has been used in the same role now for two different coaching staffs in Miami. Additionally, Landry’s below average athletic measurements also goes to show there are serious limitations to his ability as a consistent downfield target in the passing game.
So, if the Bears do sign Landry, the coaching staff will be faced with the decision to continue his high volume short targets or risking that he can change his game and run more intermediate routes. Statistics show, Landry just simply isn’t worth the risk. Not to mention, the money he will command this offseason.