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


Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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  • 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 NameTargets
    Calvin Johnson670
    Brandon Pettigrew407
    Nate Burleson299
    Tony Scheffler214
    Titus Young151
    Kris Durham106
    Bryant Johnson49
    Ryan Broyles46
    Joseph Fauria30
    Will Heller23

    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 NameTargetsReceptionsCatch PercentageSeason
    Will Heller231773.91%2012
    Nate Burleson553970.91%2013
    Ryan Broyles322268.75%2012
    Golden Tate805568.75%2012
    Nate Burleson1157766.96%2011
    Brandon Pettigrew1318766.41%2011
    Brandon Pettigrew634165.08%2013
    Brandon Pettigrew1117163.96%2010
    Nate Burleson865563.95%2010
    Golden Tate1147263.16%2013
    Nate Burleson432762.79%2012
    Tony Scheffler724562.50%2010
    Calvin Johnson17310862.43%2011
    Golden Tate583560.34%2011
    Tony Scheffler452760.00%2011
    Joseph Fauria301860.00%2013
    Calvin Johnson20412259.80%2010
    Titus Young563358.93%2012
    Tony Scheffler12758.33%2013
    Brandon Pettigrew1025957.84%2012
    Ryan Broyles14857.14%2013
    Calvin Johnson1377756.20%2010
    Titus Young955254.74%2011
    Calvin Johnson1568453.85%2013
    Golden Tate422252.38%2010
    Tony Scheffler854249.41%2012
    Kris Durham853844.71%2013
    Kris Durham21838.10%2012
    Bryant Johnson491836.73%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.