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This Week in Advanced Stats and the San Francisco 49ers looks at Colin Kaepernick, Michael Crabtree, Smith Bros

A weekly peak into the world of advanced stats as it relates to the San Francisco 49ers.

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"We most love in a man his affinity for advanced football statistics!"
"We most love in a man his affinity for advanced football statistics!"

Welcome to another new, recurring series that we are going to be running here at Niners Nation (don't worry, Caught on Tape! will makes its triumphant return soon enough).

This series takes us a bit away from film and into the world of advanced stats proper. This Week in Advanced Stats will feature Niner-related info from around the web for you to chew on. We might even learn a thing or two in the process.  You never know.

Oh, and just to clear things up:

Yesterday I posted on the recent history of "challenge trades" in the NFL in regards to the Jenkins/Baldwin deal without realizing it was my first article here at NN since changing my handle from liberty_JAC to my real name, Andrew Carroll.

You may still call me "Liberty" or "JAC" or "LJ" or "Hey, you!" if you feel at all betrayed by this sudden revelation.

We'll always have PATs in the game day threads, and cheerleaders in all posts not related to a specific 49ers player (such as this one). Promises are promises, gents.

The Reid-Option

Pro Football Focus brings us their quick take on the performances of various 1st round draft picks this preseason.

San Francisco safety Eric Reid has two solid-enough outings through two games. He made some big hits in Week 1 and recorded a stop in the run game and a QB hit in Week 2.

His coverage skills have yet be challenged directly -- meaning, by PFF's data, no balls have been thrown Reid's way.  You can take it as a good sign, given that the rookie safety has been on the field for 85 snaps, spending 45 of those in coverage -- the 2nd most of any 49er play so far this preseason behind Perrish Cox.

If you were wondering (and you were), Cox has been thrown at 10 times, giving up 6 receptions for a measly 41 yards.  Not bad at all as both the safety and cornerback battles continue to intrigue.

The Smith Bros. Dominate

PFF has also been running a series on the "Best Single Game" performances at different positions during their time assigning grades (2007 - present).

Justin and Aldon Smith make appearances in the single best 3-4 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker games, respectively; with Cowboy showing up more than once.

Patrick Willis, too, gets a couple nods in the best single game performances for inside linebackers.

Check out the links for all three lists in full.


Just today, Chase Stuart brought us a "quick-and-dirty" trivia post on The Best Skill Position Groups Ever.  As expected, six San Francisco teams, appearing in three different "groupings", made it to the Top 10, with the 1998 squad finishing just outside at 12th.

The '96 team entered 7th.

The '90, '92, and '94 teams came in collectively at 5th.

And the '85 and '86 squads gave San Francisco its best showing at 4th.

Check out the post for full details on how the standings were determined, along with some historically interesting commentary.

The question moving forward is can San Francisco recapture the glory days? In terms of skill positions, the 49ers are set at QB, RB, and TE for the foreseeable future. It is WR that has continuously posed the biggest question for Jim Harbaugh's staff.

Michael Crabtree Shines

Speaking of wide receiver, Michael Crabtree (as you know) is sadly missing another training camp with a torn Achilles, and won't be expected back until late November at the earliest, according to our own David Fucillo.

Crabtree was without doubt the 49ers' best receiving threat in 2012, so the loss hurts.  He had a career year that really took off with Colin Kaepernick under center.

This past week, Chase Stuart of Football Perspective worked with Neil Paine to bring forth what they are calling True Receiving Yards. They introduced it 6 days ago and, while they can explain it better, I can tell you that it is basically a metric which adjusts receiving yards by giving a bonus for touchdowns and receptions, and then adjusts the new number for passing environment.

In other words, Calvin Johnson may have led the league in receiving last year with 1,964 yards, but he only caught 5 touchdowns and played for one of the most pass-happy teams in the league.

Given that the Lions passed much more than league average, and given that teams in general pass more today than they did, say, 30 years ago, Megatron's numbers go down in both contemporary and historical contexts.

So much so, in fact, that the man who beat Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yard record only ranked 5th last year in True Receiving Yards. Two spots ahead of him?  You guessed it: Michael Crabtree.

Playing on a balanced team that ran often with a lead, Clutchtree's 1,105 receiving yards, 85 receptions, and 9 touchdowns look even better in their proper context.

Stuart and Paine later adjusted their methodology to not give such a big boost to run-first squads, meaning Crabtree's True Receiving Yards went down a bit, knocking him out of the top 5 just barely in Part 2 of their post.

The good news is that Crabtree still probably lands in 6th or 7th, making him one of the best receivers in the league last season as measured by a production metric that takes efficiency and opportunity into account.

Of course, Part 2 also makes many historical comparisons to bring us the welcome news that Jerry Rice is still very much the GOAT.

But you already knew that.

Colin Kaepernick's Nonsense?

Lastly, Mike Tanier created a new "advanced stat" he is calling the Quarterback Nonsense Index.

Tony Romo ranks 1st, Tim Tebow breaks the index completely, and Mark Sanchez places 5th -- so you can guess what kind of stuff this measures.

An entertaining read.  Alex Smith came in 9th while our own Kaepernick ranked 12th.

But, fret not, for Tanier has nothing but good things to say about The Kid. He even makes some refreshing points and provides a different perspective on Kap's sudden rise to fame.

There is indeed only one place left for Colin to ascend to, and many places to tumble. An interesting and rare spot for a young quarterback to be in. Let's hope Jim Harbaugh's squad takes that last step forward this year.

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