Miami gave away a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Jarvis Landry this offseason in exchange for a couple draft picks to the newly rebuilt and retooled Cleveland Browns. The headlines focused on Landry’s 400 catches in four seasons, and how the Dolphins will be without one of the game’s best playmakers.
Let’s just say the move didn’t go unnoticed. Others might not have.
In a series of short articles, STATS will highlight some signings of the opposite degree — ones that are a tad under the radar involving underrated players who have performed well in STATS-unique metrics.
There were fewer headlines when Miami signed ex-Chief Albert Wilson to replace Landry in the lineup, although according to STATS metrics, that shouldn’t have been the case.
Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill undeniably overshadowed Wilson in Kansas City’s offense last season, but Wilson was the second-most productive STATS-rated slot receiver in the NFL on a per-target basis. Yes, even more productive than Landry.
STATS takes a receiver’s numbers when he is covered by a defender to more accurately portray his production, excluding plays such as screens. When a receiver is targeted and makes a positive play while covered by a defender, it’s considered a burn.
Wilson’s burn percentage was 62.22 in 2017 according to STATS’ X-Info data, higher than Landry’s 59.23 percent. That means on 62.22 percent of the throws Wilson was targeted (excluding screens), he made a positive play. That burn percentage was 5.78 percent better than the positional average in 2017.
You can start to see why the Dolphins did well in their signing of Wilson, for half the price of Landry.
Another STATS metric that shines a very good light on Wilson is comparative yards per burn, which measures a player’s yards per burn compared to the positional average. Wilson had a comparative yards per burn of 1.2, which means on average he gained 1.2 more yards than the average wide receiver each time he burned a defender. For comparison’s sake, Landry’s comparative yards per burn was minus-2.2, due to the bulk of his workload being in front of the sticks.
In correlation with that, Wilson’s clutch reception (receptions resulting in a first down or touchdown) percentage was higher than Landry’s as well – 76.2 percent compared to 53.6 percent.
Wilson put his skills on display in Week 17 last season in Denver, when he and Patrick Mahomes hooked up 10 times for 147 yards in just 27 offensive snaps for Wilson. The new Dolphins receiver showed in that game the ability to make tough, contested grabs and to create separation between him and defenders.
That kind of production from the slot in an expanded role in Miami bodes well for Wilson, head coach Adam Gase, and whoever is throwing the ball to Wilson this season.