In the 2013 season, the Rams were third in the NFL in the percentage of passes dropped, with a drop rate of 6.0 percent. That means we dropped roughly 1 in every 17 passes.. To anyone who watched the games, this isn't surprising. In fact, I was expecting us to lead the league, but the Lions and Patriots outdid us.
So who was dropping all these passes?
Three players on the team dropped more than 10 percent of their targets, and that's total targets, not just receptions.
Tavon Austin with 7 drops on 69 targets, for a drop rate of 10.1%.
Daryl Richardson with 3 drops on 18 targets, for a drop rate of 16.7%.
Cory Harkey with 2 drops on 18 targets, for a drop rate of 11.1%.
Now let's take a look at some of the unexpected statistics from this list. It is generally believed, for example, that Austin Pettis is much more reliable than Jared Cook. The statistics, however, tell a different story.
Cook had 6 drops on 86 targets for a drop rate of 7.0%.
Pettis had 4 drops on 63 targets for a drop rate of 6.4%.
Many fans also point to the highly disappointing seasons by Brian Quick and Chris Givens. Now, there's no doubt they did disappoint, but not necessarily in the drops department.
Quick had 2 drops on 34 targets for a drop rate of 5.9% (below the team average).
Givens had 2 drops on 83 targets for a drop rate of 2.4% (the lowest on the team by anyone with more than 25 targets).
It's also interesting to note that Lance Kendricks became one of our most reliable targets. He had 2 drops on 46 targets for a drop rate of only 4.4%.
Now we come to the question of why these drops are happening. Are they the receivers' fault? Are they the quarterbacks' fault. After all, some say Bradford throws the ball too hard (which is kind of funny for a player who was criticized as lacking arm strength when he came out of college). I lean toward it being the receivers' fault.
During the 2012 season, which we played entirely with Bradford, we had the 24th most drops in the league (or the 9th fewest).
So what was the biggest difference?
Danny Amendola. He played the same spot in the offense as Tavon Austin played last year. Danny, however, dropped 1 pass out of 101 targets for a drop rate of 1.0%. Compare that to Tavon Austin's 10.1%.
Also, Pettis played sometimes in Amendola's place and was more reliable in 2012. He dropped only 1 pass in 48 targets for a drop rate of 2.1%. Pretty damn good.
Even Brandon Gibson, frequently criticized for his bad hands, dropped only 3 passes out of 82 targets for a drop rate of 3.7%.
In 2012, our highest drop rates were 8.3% by Daryl Richardson (3 drops on 36 targets) and Matthew Mulligan (1 drop on 12 targets).
Quick and Givens dropped 7.4% and 5.0% respectively, so they both improved from 2012 to 2013. The same goes for Kendricks, who dropped 6.3% in 2012).
So what can we take away from this?
1. Our overall receiver play got worse from 2012 to 2013 because we replaced Amendola with Tavon Austin, signed Jared Cook, let Brandon Gibson go, and got a worse hands year from Austin Pettis.
2. Despite the overall increase in drops and inexperience of the receiving corps in general, Bradford's play and numbers improved from 2012 to 2013.
3. In 2012, with more experienced and reliable (though less talented) receivers, we managed one of the league's lower drop percentages, which means Bradford is not the reason for the drops.
4. Givens, Quick, and Kendricks all showed improvement in their hands from 2012 to 2013.
5. For the love of God, don't throw the ball to Daryl Richardson. As strange as it sounds, Pead appears to be a much more reliable receiving back.