All this talk lately of the shotgun offense, rookie quarterbacks and OTAs must have tricked my head into believing it was August. Nope. Despite the impending dry spell for football, I mustered enough excitement to head over to Advanced NFL Stats with the intention of looking at what some of the stats said about the St. Louis Rams young group of wide receivers expected to grow into their potential along side franchise savior QB Sam Bradford. (No pressure guys.)
I found something else completely unexpected about one of the Rams players and his potential value to the team. I still plan on talking more about the wide receivers, lots more, but for now follow me down a side street to talk about TE Daniel Fells.
First, a quick review of the playmaking stats from Advance NFL Stats. A quick review of the stats used and the numbers presented. Win Probability Added (WPA) gauges the weighted impact of each play the player was involved in. Estimated Points Added (EPA) is similar, quantifying a player's contribution in terms of points.
Fells had a WPA of 0.33. Granted, that's not exactly earth shattering, but it was the highest WPA of any of the Rams offensive skill players, including Steven Jackson. But Jackson's a much more important player for the Rams than Fells. True, but Jackson's vaunted performance last year didn't help the team much...mostly because the team around Jackson couldn't do anything to make his contributions on the ground count for anything, like touchdowns. And you also have to consider that these stats, and the reality of the league now, value the passing game much more than the running game. Jackson moved the ball well, but it didn't help the Rams score points.
Back to Fells. His WPA of 0.33 is a long way from the league leading Tony Gonzalez and his 2.11 WPA. Fells' number does compare favorably to some other notable tight ends: Greg Olsen had a -0.09 WPA, Todd Heap had a 0.40 WPA and Tony Scheffler had 0.43 WPA. Context is everything, and Fells had fewer receptions than an of those guys, with 21 receptions.
Fells' EPA of 5.8 was good, second best on the team, but also says something about his limited role behind Randy McMichael...who put up a putrid -0.32 WPA and -6.8 EPA.
GM Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo might be onto something in thinking Fells could be an effective option atop the depth chart at TE. Fells had 21 receptions and was targeted 35 times for a 60 percent catch rate. He also averaged 13 yards per reception. He also proved to be a regular target for the deep ball, defined as attempts to the receiver greater than 15 yards down the field. Fells' deep ball percentage (%Deep) was 22.9 percent. Only Donnie Avery and Brandon Gibson had a higher %Deep.
The big question for Fells this year will be how effective he can be as main pass catching tight end on the team. His numbers from last year are pretty encouraging, though limited.