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Who has the best wide receiver duo in the NFL?

Pundits have labelled Chicago's Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.  Do the numbers back up this assertion?

Pundits have labelled Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery the best wide receiver duo in the NFL. Do the numbers back up this assertion?

Recently a number of prominent media outlets, including Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com, have put out rankings of the top wide receiver duos in the NFL, with Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery topping both lists. 

Some Atlanta Falcons fans have protested these rankings, claiming that Julio Jones and Roddy White were every bit as good-and maybe better-in 2012 before they both struggled with injuries last season.  White and Jones were certainly an outstanding duo, so I thought I would look into the numbers and see how they compare.

First Glance

I am going to look at several factors here.  We’ll start with just raw statistics.

 CatchesYardsTouchdownsCatch %Yards per target
Marshall/Jeffery1892,7161960.4%8.7
White/Jones1712,5491762.9%9.4

Marshall and Jeffery combined for more catches, yards, and touchdowns than their White and Jones, but trailed them in both catch percentage and yards per target.  So while Chicago had better volume statistics, the efficiency metrics favor Atlanta’s wide receivers.  To me, the two duos are still looking pretty comparable at this point.

Account for offense

Of course, one factor that must be accounted for is different surroundings.  The wide receiver tandems played in different offenses with a different quarterback throwing the ball.  In order to help account for this, let’s see how their numbers stack up relative to the rest of their team.  For the volume numbers (catches, yards, touchdowns), we’ll look at the percentage of the teams’ total production the duo had.  For the efficiency numbers (catch percentage and yards per target), we’ll look at how they compare to the team average.  So, for example, Marshall and Jeffery averaged 8.7 yards per target, while Chicago quarterbacks averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, meaning the wide receiver duo had a yards per target differential of +1.0.

 CatchesYardsTouchdownsCatch %Yards per target
Marshall/Jeffery50.7%61.0%59.4%-4.0%1
White/Jones40.5%54.0%53.1%-5.8%1.7

Once again we can see that, relative to the total production of their offense, Chicago’s wide receiver duo was leaps and bounds ahead of Atlanta’s for total volume.  Now this does not mean that Marshall and Jeffery were necessarily better than White and Jones, but it does mean that the offense relied on them more, which meant defenses could focus more attention on them and make their job more difficult.

In the efficiency numbers, I find it interesting that both duos have significantly lower catch percentages than their team averaged.  I guess this makes sense, because the total team numbers include running backs and tight ends, who typically have higher completion percentages due to being targeted on shorter, safer throws.  But here we see that Chicago’s wide receiver duo outpaced Atlanta’s, though the Falcons receivers did still post a higher differential in yards per target.

Completion percentage and yards per target often will have a somewhat inverse correlation to each other, since longer throws (which lead to a higher yards per target) inherently will be completed less often.

Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (pictured) and Roddy White appear poised for a bounceback season in 2014.

Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (pictured) and Roddy White appear poised for a bounceback season in 2014.

The verdict

When you adjust for the offense the wide receiver duos played in, Chicago’s lead in the volume category increases while the efficiency shrinks to basically a tie.  Therefore, I would say that Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall were a better wide receiver duo in 2013 than Julio Jones and Roddy White in 2012, and therefore deserve the title of best wide receiver duo in the NFL that many pundits have placed on them.

It should be noted, however, that the numbers are fairly close overall, and certainly both teams can feel very good about their starting wide receivers right now.  Perhaps Atlanta’s duo will improve in 2014 (Julio Jones certainly looked significantly better in 2013 before getting injured) and/or Chicago’s will regress some.

It also cannot be overlooked that two new formidable receiving duos have been formed this offseason in free agency. Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate combined for 148 catches, 2,390 yards, and 17 touchdowns in 2013, while Washington’s DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon combined for 195 catches, 2,549 yards, and 14 touchdowns.  But both of these pairings need to play together for a while before we see how that impacts their numbers and can fairly evaluate them.

So for now, I feel confident in proclaiming that the Chicago Bears have the best wide receiver duo in the NFL.  But that may not be the case a year from now.  After all, who thought Chicago would even be in this conversation last offseason?

Weigh in

Let me know in the poll below who you think the best wide receiver duo in the NFL will be in 2014.

What wide receiver duo do you think will be the best in the NFL in 2014?

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1747 comments
natesweet
natesweet moderator

86 voters. That's impressive.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Or

R1: WR OBJ

R2: OT Joe Bitonio

R3: CB McGill

R4: WR Davis

R5: CB Gaines

R6: Best OT

R7: QB Guiton

bp.
bp. moderator

Khal Droogo, if you are out there, deepest apologies.

droog
droog

i'm never watching another hockey game ever again

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

Really hope Panthers get Cooks or OBJ.. Both very fast and can really stretch the field, would take a lot of pressure off Olsen.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

R1: OT Morgan Moses

R2: WR Davante Adams

R3: CB SJB

R4: WR Martivus Bryant

R5: Best OT

R6: CB Aaron Colvin

R7: QB Tom Savage

mountaineerNOLAforce
mountaineerNOLAforce

alright guys .... goodnight .... Geaux Saints .... fuck panthers, falcons and Bucs .....WHODAT4LIFE!!

mountaineerNOLAforce
mountaineerNOLAforce

My Dream Saints draft


Trade down to the 2nd round hopefully to top 5 in the 2nd ....

2a :- Jordan Matthews - WR - Vandy

2b:- Kyle Van Noy - DE/OLB - BYU

3:- Stanley Jean-Baptiste - CB - Nebraska

4a:- Bryan Stork - C - Florida State

4b:- best available ILB

5a:- Jerick Mccinnon - RB - Georgia Southern

5b:- Best available OT to backup Armstead

6:- Jeff Janis - WR- Saginaw Valley state

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

If we don't get SJB i just hope he doesnt go to NFCS team.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

I think Ed Dickson could be solud fir Carolina as long as he diesn't have to be the #1 option, which he won't be. Panthers just need to find an OT and WR in the draft.. If they are succesful, the team won't be much different than last year and I'd expect the O to be bether than 28th ranked last year.

bp.
bp. moderator

Mother bitcher.  Wild give up the tying goal with 13 seconds left.  Now I have to stay up drinking during overtime.

droog
droog

SON OF A FUCKING WHOOOOOOORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

If the Browns are smart they would take Watkins if there and QB with 22nd pick or 2nd round but they will probably take Johnny.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Carolina D will still be great...we should still compete for NFCS Title.

gatrbuc17 again
gatrbuc17 again moderator

BUCS Going 19 and 0 this yr.......................SB Baby!!!!

do I sound like LKP yet?


Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

I like this one.. If we get OBJ.. He replaces everything Ginn did and adds more..He a lot like Harvin, hopefully without the injuries

bp.
bp. moderator

You'll be back.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

They better only take Moses, if we lose out on the top WR's and CB's.

droog
droog

@bp.  i knew they were gonna score. if we lose this game i'm gonna stab somebody to death

droog
droog

@bp.  and we were only inches from that empty netter

gatrbuc17 again
gatrbuc17 again moderator

I think most teams are Iffy on the Top 3 QBs and there is gonna be alot of shuffling. Some teams are  banking on Garrappalo in the Second

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

As long Newton and the D is intact will make some noise.

bp.
bp. moderator

@gatrbuc17 Also, you have to irrationally hate a division opponent.  Probably NO makes the most sense.

bp.
bp. moderator

@gatrbuc17  You have many, many hours of honking to do to reach that level.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

Mcguill another one of those big CB's.. We need that.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

As long as the panthers get someone that can blow the top off coverages.. I'm fine with who they get, cause all we had right now are slow possession WR's.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

Hopefully one of them drops.. RobertJ thinks they're all future bust and we'd be reaching.. Lol

bp.
bp. moderator

@droog @bp. I don't volunteer as tribute.

But MN should have done better clearing the puck on a number of occasions.

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

Watkins, Barr, and Garroppolo with first 3 picks.

Cam Of Steel
Cam Of Steel

He reminds me a little of Smitty.. fast, about the sme height and plays bigger than he is..

JJ44HuskersGBR
JJ44HuskersGBR

All first round talents..we would be lucky to Lee sooooo that its not a reach

bp.
bp. moderator

@gatrbuc17 @bp. Well then, you shall never be LKP.  Which is good.