Is Lance Moore An Even Better Third Down Wide Receiver Than Jerricho Cotchery Is?

When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery prior to the start of the 2011 season, one of the things that got me excited about him was his ability to move the chains on third downs. Now that he’s gone, the Steelers have signed former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore to assume his role and while we only have stats to go on, he might be even better on third downs than his predecessor was.

During his career, Cotchery has been targeted 263 times on third down and has caught 156 of those passes for a very respectable 59.3% completion ratio. Moore, however, has caught 86 of 158 passes thrown his way on third downs during his time with the Saints for an even better 65.8 completion ratio.

So how did those third down completions turn out for both players?

124 of Cotchery’s 156 third down receptions (79.5%) resulted in a first down. Moore, however, has converted 86 of his 104 third down receptions (82.7%) into first downs.

Now, the argument will be that Cotchery had to play several seasons with several sub par quarterbacks during his time with the New York Jets and I have already addressed that in a previous post. That’s why I was excited about his signing. Sub par quarterbacks on all, his 46% first down per third down target percentage was not bad considering the quarterbacks he played with. In case you are curious, Cotchery leaves the Steelers with a career 47.1% first down per third down target percentage, so you can see that playing with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly benefited him.

Moore, on the other hand, has played his entire career with Saints quarterback Drew Brees and he enters 2014 with a 54.4% first down per third down target percentage.

So just how good as that 54.4% number?

Dating back to 2006, which was Moore’s first real year in the league, there have been 36 wide receivers targeted a total of 150 or more times on third downs. Moore not only has the highest completion percentage on third downs of those 36 players, he’s also tied with his former Saints teammate Marques Colston for the best first down per third down target percentage as well.

So, if the Steelers were trying to replace what Cotchery was able to provide the team on third downs, it looks like they have successful done that with the addition of Moore. At least thats what the stats tell us.

Sortable 2006-2013 Third Down Wide Receiver Targets – Minimum 150 To Qualify

Marques Colston25916262.5%24221914187.0%54.4%
Lance Moore15810465.8%1343118682.7%54.4%
Hines Ward17910759.8%1246179689.7%53.6%
Reggie Wayne31618558.5%26871816488.6%51.9%
Wes Welker28818764.9%21171414778.6%51.0%
Greg Jennings22113561.1%23932211283.0%50.7%
Roddy White34721261.1%31041817482.1%50.1%
Anquan Boldin26817063.4%22831413378.2%49.6%
T.J. Houshmandzadeh19612563.8%139669777.6%49.5%
Derrick Mason22213560.8%16701110880.0%48.6%
Donald Driver20212159.9%1753159881.0%48.5%
Jerricho Cotchery23413859.0%17021011281.2%47.9%
Dwayne Bowe24814458.1%20141411781.3%47.2%
Steve Johnson16610060.2%133197676.0%45.8%
Jason Avant1629055.6%123847482.2%45.7%
Randy Moss1527549.3%1236226890.7%44.7%
Andre Johnson24814558.5%18331310975.2%44.0%
James Jones1789653.9%1402117881.3%43.8%
DeSean Jackson1538354.2%147686780.7%43.8%
Santonio Holmes23912251.0%20151210485.2%43.5%
Nate Washington23112554.1%17531410080.0%43.3%
Vincent Jackson24011849.2%21461610387.3%42.9%
Larry Fitzgerald27814552.2%19231511982.1%42.8%
Brandon Marshall32718155.4%24802113876.2%42.2%
Calvin Johnson30614647.7%23521412787.0%41.5%
Davone Bess23814661.3%147089867.1%41.2%
Steve Smith27314151.6%21731311279.4%41.0%
Chad Johnson1898042.3%1175107796.3%40.7%
Michael Jenkins1659054.5%1118116774.4%40.6%
Braylon Edwards1999447.2%1405128085.1%40.2%
Nate Burleson1618250.9%100296478.0%39.8%
Michael Crabtree1659758.8%123076567.0%39.4%
Terrell Owens1979548.2%1476127680.0%38.6%
Lee Evans1527549.3%1327105674.7%36.8%
Santana Moss26413149.6%1668129471.8%35.6%
Bernard Berrian1556743.2%97175277.6%33.5%