Jerricho Cotchery Is The Most Valuable Receiver In The NFL

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?

That’s what Football Outsiders thinks.

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Jason

    Cotchery’s play this season has made the the fact that we’ll almost certainly lose Sanders a lot easier to deal with. He’s certainly earned another 1 or 2 yr deal.

  • steeltown

    I sure hope so, he’s only 31yrs old

  • steeltown

    Funny, a lot of people were against keeping Cotch in the offseason and said we should release him. I’ve always been a fan of his for the simple fact that he brings much needed veteran presence, very good blocking and solid hands on 3rd down. Now that he’s also scoring TDs regularly is just the icing on the cake

  • Luke Shabro

    I could not understand for the life of me why people were so keen to get rid of Cotch. All he did prior to this season was be money on 3rd down. I was against having Plax there because he only offered you something in the red zone and even then he couldn’t high point the ball. I will admit that I had no idea Cotch would be this good this year. I expected him to be the 4th WR sooner rather than later but he’s showing the kids how it’s done. People want to bash on Colbert till the cows come home but you can’t deny he gets some really good veteran FA signings sometimes. Never splashy but fairly high success rate. Look at Velasco, Cotch, Will Allen and William Gay. As Steelers fan we have very little room to criticize Gay this year, he’s playing great! If AB wasn’t having such a phenomenal year you’d have to look at Cotch for Steelers MVP.

  • steeltown

    Agreed, its the same thing with Spaeth now, people are either indifferent or against the signing of Spaeth. I am excited to have him back. Paulson is terrible and Palmer is nowhere near as good as Spaeth. I think next season when 100% healthy he will greatly help our run game.

  • Luke Shabro

    When we signed Spaeth I thought, hey he’s a good run blocker. He can be used here and there. I guess I just expected David Paulson to take a step forward. Not only is his blocking still garbage but he can’t seem to catch the ball either. I had high hopes and now I’m just having my fingers crossed for Spaeth to get back. Never thought I’d say that. I feel like TE has to be a pick in the top 3 rounds next year. But despite recent success it feels like we have lots of holes left to fill. CB, DE, OL (all over), CB, TE, S and depth at OLB, ILB and NT.

  • steeltown

    Paulson has pretty good hands, but so does Brown, Miller, Bell, Cotchery, Will Johnson and everyone else not named Ike Taylor… what we need is another good all around TE one that can catch passes but excels at blocking

    (2)CB, S, OT and TE are huge needs, with OLB and NT also greatly needed IMO

  • chris ward

    Cotchery has been great this year, deserves some type of an extension after this year. Cotchery works really well from the slot and has been outstanding in the red zone.

  • Mike Carroll

    I can’t say I’m worried about “losing” Sanders. I’ve never been a big fan, but I was open to seeing how he would do as a starter this year. But, as the season has gone on, it’s become clear his performance is underwhelming. I remarked the other day that I think the Steelers have already decided to move on from him and I hope that’s the case. Football Outsiders ranks him 79th and 82nd in DVOA and DYAR among 88 WRs with at least 35 targets. Coincidentally, Wallace is 77th and 81st in those two metrics.

  • steeltown

    The Team will need to get its salary cap in order (as the do every year) in addition to a few extensions and possible paycuts another way of clearing up cap restraint is by figuring out which FA players to keep and which to let walk. If Wheaton and Cotchery are on roster Sanders is not a necessity heading into 2014 IMO

    The money that would be used to sign Sanders to a multi-yr deal could in reality be used to re-sign Dwyer, Cotchery and someone like Will Allen in the offseason

  • RMSteeler

    Cotchery SHOULD have been great every season since he arrived. He showed his skills in the few times he was used before this season. With the loss of Hines, he should have been worked to death as a possession receiver. Had a great tool in the toolbox, but Haley wouldn’t use him. With go routes to our mini WR’s, the middle of the field was often left wide open for Cotch and Heath. Heath had a career year as he was targeted more, but since Haley’s arrival, it seems like the games with receptions by 8-10 receivers has gone by the wayside, making the offense way too predictable. Since Haley is likely finishing out a lame duck season, I think Ben should go more to the hurry up and adjust at the line per Manning, Brees, and Brady. No wonder Ben is so frustrated.

  • Mike Carroll

    I think it’s almost a certainty Cotchery is back. Ben is really comfortable with him and they have a great connection. If the team believes enough in Wheaton, then I think there’s a good chance they let Sanders go in free agency.

  • RMSteeler

    BTW, Cotch showed how classy he is by not complaining about being targeted, at least not in public. Same for Heath.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I wouldn’t give Sanders a full extension new England wants him anyway. Markus can develop into an elite receiver if he’s on the field more