By Matthew Marczi
Would you believe me if I told you that Jerricho Cotchery is the most valuable wide receiver in the league on a per-play basis?
According to their statistics, the veteran slot receiver ranks first in the league among wide receivers in their own Defense-adjusted Value Over Average statistic. It’s a mouthful, and is just another statistic, but it is symbolic of the value that fans of Pittsburgh have seen throughout the season.
In their own words, DVOA “represents value, per play, over an average WR in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player's performance”. Additionally, “DVOA means a wide receiver with more value per play”.
What makes Cotchery’s ranking even more remarkable is the fact that the only thing the statistic takes into account is passes thrown to a receiver. In other words, the statistic completely ignores his above average blocking skillset, and ranks him above every other receiver in the league—on a per-play basis—purely on his receiving skills.
It helps that he has seven touchdown passes, which is tied for sixth in the league, with just 48 targets. That equates to a touchdown percentage when targeted of 14.6 percent.
In my quick estimation, that is good for the third-best touchdown-per-target percentage among wide receivers that actually get playing time in the league, only closely trailing Eddie Royal and Marvin Jones, who both have seven touchdowns in 43 and 47 targets, respectively.
Among receivers with at least 40 targets, Cotchery also ranks third in the league in WR Rating, or the quarterback rating when targeting the receiver. His 127.0 rating trails only Philadelphia Eagles receivers DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. So at least we know Chip Kelly’s offense can produce explosive wide receiver numbers.
But back to the DVOA, Football Outsiders lists his value over an average player at 52.4 percent, meaning he does his job that much better than the average receiver. Second on that list is Kenny Stills with a DVOA of 46.8. Royal is third at 39.9.
Clearly, the limited snaps have an influence on DVOA. After all, some of the most targeted receivers, such as Calvin Johnson and Antonio Brown, rank 14th and 17th in DVOA due to their high workload. On the other hand, they rank first and third, respectively, in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement despite the heavy workload.
Royal is only 11th in DYAR, while Stills falls all the way down to 21st. Cotchery? He is still up there at fifth overall. The fact that he ranks so highly in these advanced metrics both on an overall and per-play basis to me is what really illustrates just how important his impact has been this year for the Steelers. And that’s not even factoring in his blocking.