Hey guys what's up? I'm on a friendly visit from the Daily Norseman today. Ever since Michael Crabtree tore his achilles tendon during OTA's, there has been relentless speculation about how Kapernick would perform without his #1 target from last year. Some (including most of you I'm sure) trust the team around him and aren't worried about #7. However, many others have questioned how Kaepernick will perform, and are worried this will seriously damage the 49er passing attack. Although, like I mentioned before, I'm sure most of you aren't worried about him performing well this year in the passing game, I'm here to provide some statistical analysis to hopefully prove why I think concerns over Kaepernick's passing attack this year are overblown.
Adjusted Yards per Attempt
I'm sure everyone reading this has heard of the statistic, Yards per attempt, or yards per target. There is a lesser known stat, called Adjusted Yards per Attempt, which incorporates a QB's Touchdown passes and Interceptions thrown. Basically, it measures not only how efficient the QB was throwing the ball, but also if he was able to score his team points without turning the ball over. It has been correlated with win %, and is an excellent measure of a QB's play. The formula for A.Y.A. is pretty simple, and is as follows: A.Y.A.=(yards+TDs*20-INTs*45)/Attempts.
For example, last year Alex Smith was 153/218, for 1,737 yards with 13 TDs and 5 INTs. His A.Y.A. was =(1737+20*13-5*45)/218, which comes out to 8.13. For context, league average is 6.89. According to A.Y.A., Smith was an above average QB last year. The nice thing about A.Y.A. is that it allows us to compare different QB's around the league without just throwing raw stats around. For example, Matt Stafford last year passed for 4,967 yards last year. That puffy faced man-muppet also threw the ball a ridiculous 727 times, and had an A.Y.A. of 6.33. Thats WITH the best receiver in the league catching passes from him. Last year, even though Stafford had about 600 times as many passing yards as Smith, he was much less efficient than Smith. And while it is true that efficiency generally starts to decrease the more times you do it (i.e. the more times you pass, the less efficient you will be doing it) other QBs threw for huge yardage and were much, much better than Stafford. I digress though.
A.Y.A. and How Kaepernick Stacks Up
The really cool thing (for me anyway, I'm an engineering major and kind of a numbers geek) is that A.Y.A. can be measured not only for a QBs entire season, it can also be measured between the QB and individual receivers. This can help us identify which players the QB threw to well, and which players the QB didn't have a good connection with. First, the bad news. Kaepernick targeted Crabtree a lot, as you well know. 69 attempts for 613 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs while throwing to Crabtree. Their A.Y.A. comes out to a ridiculous 10.33, which is well into elite territory. Here is some good news though. Kaepernick was efficient will almost every single receiver he targeted. The only player who Kaepernick didn't throw well to was Randy Moss. That was the only receiver who ranked in his top 5 targets who was below average in A.Y.A. with Kaepernick.
- Michael Crabtree, A.Y.A. 10.33
- Randy Moss, A.Y.A. 4.3
- Vernon Davis A.Y.A. 8.48
- Delanie Walker A.Y.A. 12.61(!)
- Mario Manningham A.Y.A. 9.41
As you can see, Kaepernick threw the ball well to almost everyone last year. That should be great news for all you guys, but wait there's more! Colin Kaepernick led the league in A.Y.A. last year, narrowly beating out Robert Griffin III (8.62 to 8.59). Better (narrowly) than Aaron Rodgers. Better than Peyton Manning. Better than Drew Brees. I attribute that not only to Kaepernick's skill as a passer, but also to your coaching staffs scheme, which seems to be very QB friendly. So while it may seem to really hurt Kaepernick at first glance, in reality he should still be successful this coming year.
I just want to point out two more things. One, this analysis is done without factoring any growth from Kaepernick from last year to full time starter. It'll be his third year in the league, the unquestioned starter, and should respond with a great year. Two, although he led the league in A.Y.A. last year, I don't foresee that happening again. Not because Kaepernick isn't talented, but the more he passes, the lower his efficiency will most likely be. I don't foresee a huge drop, he should still be well above average. But I also don't except him to lead the league again.
Thanks for hearing me out through this post guys. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope that this further bolstered your belief in Kaepernick for this coming year. I'm happy to answer any questions you have, just leave them in the comments section. Good luck this year guys.