Can Rivers-Allen be the top pass-catching duo in the NFL?
Jan 12, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter against Denver Broncos cornerback Quentin Jammer (23) during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos beat the Chargers 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
What a year Keenan Allen had. Allen finished the season with 71 receptions for 1,046 yards, the sixth-most by a rookie in NFL history. He also hauled in eight touchdowns, which is third-most by a rookie in the NFL as well. According to Pro Football Focus, Allen was locked in as the No. 10 rated receiver with a +17.0 grade. Ever hear the name A.J. Green from the Cincinnati Bengals? Yeah, Allen beat out that A.J. Green.
Philip Rivers didn’t do too bad either. He won AP Comeback Player of the Year, finishing the year with 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns. He showed great poise in the pocket and led the league in completion rate (69.5). After so many years of playing the vertical game with Vincent Jackson, Rivers-to-Allen consisted of 3-step drop, quick-decision passing. Now the question is, can the combo of Rivers/Allen grow into elite status?
Allen only dropped five of the 104 passes sent his way, catching 68.3 percent of balls from Rivers which ranked best among all receivers targeted at least 75 times, per PFF. Another stat line I found impressive was that Allen forced 13 missed tackles. He gained an INSANE 10.1 yards per play his rookie year, too. Essentially, he had a better rookie campaign than those who developed into elite wide receivers.
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DYAR means a wide receiver with more total value. DVOA means a wide receiver with more value per play.
Football Outsiders put Keenan Allen at No. 8 out of 90 qualifying players in DYAR, the third highest DYAR season for a rookie ever behind Randy Moss (1998) and Michael Clayton (2004). If you take a look at other top-notch receivers who broke 1,000 yards in 2013 like Andre Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green and even T.Y. Hilton, their targets are much higher than Allen’s. Allen had phenomenal production with such a small amount of attempts which caused his value to rise. Football Outsiders ranked him at No. 6 in DVOA at 351 yards (YAR). His eight touchdown catches pushed him up the charts as well as finishing fourth in yards after the catch per reception.
For example, Green had 1,426 yards, but he ranked No. 24 in DVOA because of his 178 targets and low catch rate (completed only 55 percent); while Allen caught 68 percent of balls thrown his way with 104 targets.
In another comparison, Josh Gordon, who led the entire league with 1,646 actual yards, ranked directly behind Allen in DVOA at 336 yards. Of the 159 targets, Gordon was only able to catch 55 percent, dropping his value (in his defense it is hard when a four-year-old can throw better than Brandon Weeden).
THE OVERRATED NUMBER
In reality, when a receiver has a 1,000 yard season, he is instantly dubbed as one of the top receivers. Pierre Garcon, who had 1,346 yards, appeared to have a great season (which I’m not taking anything away from him), but the “1,000 yard” mark is overrated. Garcon ranked No. 45 in DYAR and and No. 37 in DVOA (-5.2%).
A positive DVOA represents a situation that favors the offense, while a negative DVOA represents a situation that favors the defense.
Even though Garcon was tied with Andre Johnson for the most targets (181) and had an above average catch rate (62 percent), he only hauled in five for touchdowns, hurting his value. In comparison, his 11.1 yards per catch were 4 yards fewer than Allen’s 14.7. It goes to show you it’s not how many yards you can rack up, but what you do when you have the ball in your hands.
THE TOP COMBOS
Below are the quarterback numbers when throwing to their guy: Romo-Bryant, Manning-Thomas, Dalton-Green, Cutler-Marshall, Ryan-Jones, Stafford-Johnson and Rivers-Allen.
As seen above, Rivers has a 114.8 quarterback rating when throwing to Allen. Allen quickly built a rapport with Rivers and the comfortability, arguably the most important aspect, is there. To add on to their recognition, PFF ranked Rivers No. 43 and Allen No. 63 on their top 101 list of 2013.
As for the others..Brandon Marshall has consistentely been one of the best wide receivers since 2007. He has posted at least 1,000 yards every year since his sophmore year. A.J. Green has broke 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons with Dalton at the helm. Offensive coordinater Hue Jackson already dubbed them as the NFL’s best combination. Demaryius Thomas ranked No. 1 in DYAR in 2013 and led all wide receivers with 14 touchdowns. And Calvin Johnson? Well he’s Calvin Johnson.
I absolutely believe Keenan Allen will ascend to the top in a year. Now to say he will be the next Randy Moss would be a little too optimistic, especially being that Allen has only one (great) year under his belt; but I can’t wait to see what he does for the next decade in (hopefully) a Chargers uniform. The NFL better take notice, because the Rivers-to-Allen combo will be coming at you like a hurricane.