The St. Louis Rams are in the midst of installing a new offense through informal practices at Lindenwood today. QB Sam Bradford, leading the efforts, called the offense "more explosive" which should be music to the ears of weary Rams fans who watched the team dink and dunk its way to a still surprising 7-9 record last year. I need some segue into a bit about dropped passes. It's just not coming to me, so you get a straight forward approach. Or wait, one thing the receivers will have the chance to work on is catching the ball. Eh, let's just get on with it.
Drops are a funny thing. All receivers do it, the problem arises around it for two reasons: 1) it happens consistently and/or 2) it happens at a memorable time, like a third down conversion. Recently, Pro Football Focus took a look at the receivers most prone to drops, and those with the lowest drop percentage, for players with at least 50 "catchable" passes, defined as catches plus drops. Nobody from the Rams 2010 group of receivers made that list. Some because of the narrowing qualifications; only Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson qualified.
Still, with data from Stats, Inc. we can look at drops among Rams receivers from last year. Shall we?
Data listed with each receiver includes: targets/receptions, catch percentage, drops and drop rate (drops/catchable passes).
37 targets, 20 receptions, 54.1 catch rate and 2 drops, 9.1 percent drop rate
123/85, 69.1 percent catch rate, 8 drops, 8.6 percent drop rate
42/23, 54.8 percent catch rate, 2 drops, 8 percent drop rate
91/53, 58.2 percent catch rate, 8 drops, 13.1 percent drop rate
16/6, 37.5 percent catch rate, 0 drops
75/34, 45.3 percent catch rate, 3 drops, 8.1 percent drop rate
You can see the issue with drops and drop rates as the lone tool for judging receivers. The collective unconscious of Rams nation would never have pegged Amendola to a drop rate of almost 9 percent, nor Robinson to one under 10 percent. Drops count for frequency and timing.
Gibson's drop rate qualifies him for the bottom 15 on PFF's list, and I'm not sure why his name isn't among those listed. You'll notice that list includes some marquee names too.
To me, catch rate is a more useful stat, but even that doesn't tell the full story. The Rams receivers struggled to get separation all year, making it impossible to throw to them or guaranteeing that passes thrown their way would automatically be incomplete. That's not reflected directly in the stats (to some extent in catch rate it is). This is where the two new rookie receivers should pay dividends for the Rams, their ability to catch the ball while being covered. Only Danny Amendola could consistently do that last year.
I don't have the data for tight ends and running backs.
Take the drop stats at face value. These are also just for a single year, which like a single game, can give you a different impression than the overall picture. You'll also notice among the names listed above that very few, except Clayton, have much NFL experience at all. Might that be another factor that limited the group last year? Of course, and that illustrates the point that receivers should be judged on a number of factors.