Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Golden Tate a Welcome Addition to Detroit Lions' Thin Receiving Corps

Some national media folks considered the Lions drafting of Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick to be overkill after securing prized wide receiver free agent Golden Tate.  The reaction to the Lions signing Tate was mixed, but generally well-received.  One common argument against signing Tate was, and I quote, “He is probably the third best receiver on the Seahawks roster!”.

That argument no doubt fueled by Madden ratings.  People who use sources other than Madden, however, generally cite Golden Tate’s consistent improvement, elite hands, and fiery presence as good compliments to the Lions roster that is notorious for drops and poor receiver play.

Golden Tate has been looking like a perfect accent to Calvin Johnson two preseason games in, and he’s been doing so without Calvin Johnson on the field.  That used to be a death knell for the Lions’ chances of fielding a competent offense as Johnson requires so much attention and game planning from defensive coordinators.  With Tate on the field, the Lions have someone, finally, who can relieve some of that pressure.

But how did the Lions have poor receiver play?  With Matthew Stafford quickly becoming one of the most prolific passers in the NFL, at least in terms of the amount of passes he’s throwing, how is it that his receivers have played so poorly?  Those numbers go hand in hand, right?  Well, sort of.

The average catch percentage for a WR is equal to the average completion percentage for QBs, or around 60%.  The easy thing about catch percentage on a single team is that the ‘average’ number is always going to be the QB’s completion percentage, so any number lower than that is a receiver not doing their job well.  In the case of Matthew Stafford, his career number is only slightly below that 60% number, making for easy math. 

Since 2010, the Lions have had six receivers and four tight ends catch more than 10 passes on a season.  10 catches is a very low number, as you’d expect, so that number is somewhat alarming over four seasons.  Taking a look at receptions speaks to the ability to produce volume in an NFL offense.  Those players are listed here in order of the number of targets :

Player Name Targets
Calvin Johnson 670
Brandon Pettigrew 407
Nate Burleson 299
Tony Scheffler 214
Titus Young 151
Kris Durham 106
Bryant Johnson 49
Ryan Broyles 46
Joseph Fauria 30
Will Heller 23

Of those ten players, five are no longer on the roster (Burleson, Scheffler, Young, Johnson, and Heller).  Of the remaining five, only Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew have caught more than 10 passes a season twice.  Two players.  Of the remaining three, one was a rookie (Fauria), one has injury concerns (Broyles), and the third had one of the worst drop percentages and catch rates in the NFL the past two seasons.

Tate, meanwhile, has had more than 10 catches in all four of his NFL seasons, in fact he’s had more than 20 catches in all of them. Tate can no doubt carry the volume that will be expected of him in the Lions offense, probably a larger volume than they have been accustomed to giving their #2.

The Lions receiving corps has seen a ton of volume due to their heavy passing schemes, but what about efficiency?  We already know they had one of the highest drop rates in the NFL over the past few season, but what about their catch rates?  Using the same group of receivers, the numbers aren’t very promising.

Player Name Targets Receptions Catch Percentage Season
Will Heller 23 17 73.91% 2012
Nate Burleson 55 39 70.91% 2013
Ryan Broyles 32 22 68.75% 2012
Golden Tate 80 55 68.75% 2012
Nate Burleson 115 77 66.96% 2011
Brandon Pettigrew 131 87 66.41% 2011
Brandon Pettigrew 63 41 65.08% 2013
Brandon Pettigrew 111 71 63.96% 2010
Nate Burleson 86 55 63.95% 2010
Golden Tate 114 72 63.16% 2013
Nate Burleson 43 27 62.79% 2012
Tony Scheffler 72 45 62.50% 2010
Calvin Johnson 173 108 62.43% 2011
Golden Tate 58 35 60.34% 2011
Tony Scheffler 45 27 60.00% 2011
Joseph Fauria 30 18 60.00% 2013
Calvin Johnson 204 122 59.80% 2010
Titus Young 56 33 58.93% 2012
Tony Scheffler 12 7 58.33% 2013
Brandon Pettigrew 102 59 57.84% 2012
Ryan Broyles 14 8 57.14% 2013
Calvin Johnson 137 77 56.20% 2010
Titus Young 95 52 54.74% 2011
Calvin Johnson 156 84 53.85% 2013
Golden Tate 42 22 52.38% 2010
Tony Scheffler 85 42 49.41% 2012
Kris Durham 85 38 44.71% 2013
Kris Durham 21 8 38.10% 2012
Bryant Johnson 49 18 36.73% 2010

I bolded Golden Tate’s name to point out that three of his four seasons were above that 60% mark.  Additionally, I italicized all of the players presently on the roster.  Of the 9 seasons in that chart above 60%, 3 of them are Golden Tate.  Surprisingly, 3 of them are also Brandon Pettigrew, whose hands are often considered suspect due to drops.  Of the remaining 3, only one is a starter (Calvin Johnson).

The addition of someone like Golden Tate to this roster was a very underrated acquisition.  The alternative to Tate at this point would be hoping for Broyles’ health or running with someone like Kris Durham as a starter.  Durham, as you’ll notice, boasts the second and third worst catch percentage of all Lions receivers over the past four seasons.

Adding a player who is not only sure handed (Lowest drop rate in the NFL over the past four seasons) who is also consistently catching the football (3/4 seasons above 60%) is an obvious and glaring upgrade over a player with one of the worst drop rates and catch percentages in football over the past two seasons.  Will the Lions capitalize on Golden Tate and his strong hands?  2014 looks promising.

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Tags: Detroit Lions Golden Tate

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