The Showdown: TE vs. WR

I've had this on my mind for a couple of days and I've finally been able to get this out...

We've talked quite in depth about having a #1 WR on TST over the past week, mostly because of the Rams apparent lack of interest in finding one. This post isn't about that (I wouldn't want to make it and you probably wouldn't want to read the same thing over again anyway). Carneros had an option in his poll a few days ago that intrigued me, specifically the option about adding a better TE to make up for the lack of a true #1.

That got me thinking. Are teams more successful when they have a #1 Tight End to take pressure of the QB? Are they more likely to go to the playoffs then teams that have a WR who accumulates more stats? Does a team even need a #1 WR with a good tight end and does it make a difference? Well, lucky for you, I sifted through eight years of data to try and find an answer. Before I crunch the numbers, first I'll explain the ground rules:

  • To be considered a "#1 Tight End," the player must have been in the Top 50 statistically for receiving yards. To be a team that has no "#1 WR", the Tight End must have also have been the top target for the team.
  • To be a team that has a #1 WR instead and #1 Tight End, the team must have had a WR who accumulated more yards then the Top 50 TE. Only teams who had a tight end statistically in the top 50 for receiving yards were used.

There reason why I have "quotes" around #1 WR and #1 TE is because I'm not jumping into the murky waters of what exactly makes them a #1. For the sake of simplicity, you are a #1 TE if you're in the top 50 for yards, and a #1 WR if you were the top target for the team (more yards then the tight end).

Hit the jump to see the results.

*Note* the players are in no particular.

2009

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Health Miller PIT 9-7 Santonio Holmes
Zach Miller OAK 5-11 -
Kellen Winslow TAM 3-13 -
Vernon Davis SFO 8-8 -
Antonio Gates SDG 14-2 Vincent Jackson
Jason Witten DAL 13-3 Miles Austin
Dallas Clark IND 11-5 Reggie Wayne

 

2008

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 2-14 -
Jason Witten DAL 9-7 Terrell Owens       
Owen Daniels HOU 8-8 Andre Johnson
Chris Cooley WAS 8-8 Santana Moss
Dallas Clark IND 12-4 Reggie Wayne
Zach Miller OAK 5-11 -
Antonio Gates SDG 8-8 Vincent Jackson

 

2007

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 4-12 -
Jason Witten DAL 13-3 Terrell Owens
Kellen Winslow CLE 10-6 Braylon Edwards
Antonio Gates SDG 11-5 -
Chris Cooley WAS 9-7 Santana Moss
Owen Daniels HOU 8-8 Andre Johnson

 

2006

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 9-7 -
Jason Witten DAL 9-7 Terrell Owens
Kellen Winslow CLE 4-12 Braylon Edwards
Antonio Gates SDG 14-2 -
Chris Cooley WAS 5-11 Santana Moss
Todd Heap BAL 13-3 Mark Clayton

 

2005

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 10-6 Eddie Kennison
Antonio Gates
SDG
9-7 -
Jeremy Shockey NYG
11-5
Plaxico Burress
Alge Crumpler ATL
8-8 -
Todd Heap
BAL
6-10 Derrick Mason
Chris Cooley WAS
10-6 Santana Moss
Jason Witten
DAL
9-7 Terry Glenn

 

2004

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 7-9 -
Jason Witten DAL 6-10 Keyshawn Johnson
Antonio Gates SDG 12-4 -
Eric Johnson SFO 2-14 -
Randy McMichael MIA 4-12 Chris Chambers
Alge Crumpler ATL 11-5 -
Jermaine Wiggins MIN 8-8 Nate Burleson

 

2003

Tight End Team Record #1 WR
Tony Gonzalez KAN 13-3 -
Shannon Sharpe DEN 10-6 Rod Smith
Todd Heap BAL 10-6 -

 

So there you have it folks. For the past eight years, these are the teams and players that met the criteria. Before I spit any more numbers out, take a look at these charts. For the most part, the teams that had good records with the tight end as the one who had the most receiving yards for the season were either a) San Diego (Antonio Gates) or b) Kansas City (Tony Gonzalez). Sure, there are some other examples, a Todd Heap here, an Alge Crumpler there. But the fact that the two others constantly showed up is pretty a much a testament to how damn amazing those two players have been at tight end.

So! Enough jibber-jabber about the jaw dropping skills of Tony and Antonio. Here is what I found:

For teams that had a receiver who had more yards then a #1 TE, the overall record was:

237-179, which comes out to about 9.1 wins per season.

For teams that did not have a receiver who had more yards then a #1 TE, the overall record was:

133-139, which comes out to about 7.8 wins per season.

 

Granted, without Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates, the latter numbers would be worse (about 6.5 wins a season). Even with them added in, teams that had a receiver as their #1 yardage guy on average won one more game per season then those teams that didn't. That doesn't seem like much, but a 9-7 record vs. a 8-8 record is light years apart when it comes down to the wildcard race. It's not easy to do at 9-7, mind you, but the only chance a team has at 8-8 is to win the division in this day and age of football, and even in the NFC West, that isn't easy.

Speaking of playoffs, I also calculated that out as well:

For teams that had a receiver who had more yards then a #1 TE, their chances of going to the playoffs where:

50% (13 out of 26 teams went to the playoffs) and the 13 times they didn't go, the teams average wins per season was 7.4

For teams that did not have a receiver who had more yards then a #1 TE, their chances of going to the playoffs where:

41% (7 out of 17 teams went to the playoffs) and the 10 times they didn't go, the teams average wins per season was 5.3

 

These numbers, to me, are much more dramatic. While the chance of going to the playoffs went up by 9%, the average wins per season of a team that didn't go to the playoffs but still had a WR to compliment the TE was 7.4, which is still quite impressive, as opposed to those that didn't have a WR to go with the TE (5.3). Of course, it's always hard to evaluate numbers on a scale that can include intangibles, but still. 5 wins and some change isn't something 31 teams out of this league would be hoping for. Excusing the Rams, of course.

So, while having a good (or great) tight end would be a great thing, the Rams need to add a number one receiver, not necessarily someone who is a prototypical player, but someone who can compliment the tight end. Do it for the fans. Do it for Sam Bradford. Do this and statistically, they will most likely have a better season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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