Football Outsiders updated their stats recently, including the similarity index for players. While I was looking at those numbers for some of the St. Louis Rams players, one comparison really jumped out at me. The players most similar to Brandon Gibson will surprise you. For his one-year and two-year similarity scores, the players most similar to Gibson are Anquan Boldin's 2004 season and Giants WR Steve Smith's 2007-2008 seasons.
So, does that mean Gibson is a super star and we didn't even know it? No. FO's similarity scores are a means of looking at a player at a given point in his career, comparing it to other players at similar points in their careers. Read the full explanation here. You'll see that FO is quite clear in noting that it's not a perfect tool, in part because it relies on traditional stats which are subject to a variety of outside factors such as the team around that player.
Let's take a look at what it means for Gibson and the Rams.
The two-year comparisons offer a little more insight in that they have more data to compare. Smith's '07 and '08 seasons were his first two in the league. In 2007, he had 8 receptions on 14 passes for 63 yards and no TDs in five games. In 2008, he had 57 receptions on 82 passes for 577 yards and 1 TD in 16 games, 4 starts.
Gibson, in his 2009 rookie season, had 34 receptions on 69 passes for 349 yards and 1 TD in 10 games, 4 starts. In 14 games last season - remember he didn't dress for the first two weeks of the season - Gibson had 53 receptions on 91 passes for 620 yards and 2 TDs.
The first thing that stands out is the catch rate. Smith's 70 percent catch rate in his second season stands well above Gibson's 58 percent catch rate last year. However, both saw a jump in that department between their rookie and sophomore campaigns. It's notable that Gibson experienced a much different QB situation from season to season.
Comparing Gibson's sophomore season to Boldin's is a little different. Boldin was coming off a 1,000 rookie season, and his catch rate that year was 54 percent, the lowest of his career. More telling is that he played in just 10 games. But keep reading Gibson's similarity index for one season (subscription required to see the complete list). The next name on the list is Michael Crabtree, 2009. Following him is Austin Collie, 2010. From there, you get Greg Camarillo, 2008, and Dwayne Bowie, 2009. The next two players listed on Gibson's two-year similarity index are Jeff Graham, 1991-1992, and Ronald Curry, 2003-2004.
What's it all mean? It's not so much about the similarities as it is about the possibilities. Gibson is a talented receiver, who could be poised for a breakout season with a quarterback like Sam Bradford throwing the ball and a more stable situation on the offense as a whole. If he can keep his catch rate at or above the 58 percent mark he had last year and stay healthy, he could be a reliable possession receiver for the Rams.