The other day, Davis and I were texting about the development of the Seahawks, both collectively and with regards to certain individuals. Davis found a number of intriguing parallels between the 'Hawks and the Houston Texans, which I happen to think is the best team in the NFL. It got me thinking about the way various Seattle players profiled in comparison to their peers -- statistical doppelgangers, if you will (and you will).
Now, last year, I wrote a different piece on Seahawks doppelgangers and it was really, really fun. That article had almost nothing to do with football and everything to do with how John Schneider looks like Rudy and how Sidney Rice looks like he wants to Smang It (giiirl, smash it and bang). This article, however, will (attempt to, at least) draw more significant comparisons between Seahawks and non-Seahawks than that, as I effort to identify which players in the NFL have statistical profiles closest to select Seahawks*.
Because I don't want to bog down my valued readers with an avalanche of comparisons that may or may not cause me to make tenuous reaches, I've narrowed it down to the biggest statistical contributors to the Seattle offense: Marshawn Lynch, Sidney Rice, and Russell Wilson. Please keep in mind that these comparisons do not take appearance or style of play into account; these comparisons are based strictly upon a combination of traditional and metric stats accrued this season. On to the good stuff:
If this seems like an odd comparison at first, it's for good reason. After all, one is an established yet barbaric beast of burden for one of the most run-heavy teams in the NFL while the other is a relative newcomer that carries the ball for, traditionally, one of the more pass-happy offenses around. Furthermore, Lynch ranks 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,005 while Ridley trails him by a fair distance with 814. Raw counting statistics like rushing yards often cause us to overlook efficiency, however, and really, a player can only perform relative to the number of opportunities given him.
When you get past the fact that Lynch has carried the ball more times than anybody not named Arian Foster, you start to see a lot more similarities between him and Ridley. Both are by far the primary ballcarriers for their respective teams and each do almost the exact same things with their touches from a production standpoint. Besides the fact that both Lynch and Ridley average 4.7 yards per carry, the thing that stands out is their individual "success rates."
There are two main sources of determining a running back's success rate that I trust. One is calculated by AdvancedNFLStats.com, and the other is done by FootballOutsiders.com. The first site defines their formula as "the proportion of plays in which a player was directly involved that would typically be considered successful. Specifically, Success Rate is the percentage of plays resulting in positive Expected Points Added (EPA)". Using those parameters, we find that both Lynch and Ridley have success rates of exactly 46.2%. FO's formula is a bit different (weighted for situation but not for opponent) and bumps Lynch's success rate up to 53%. Care to guess where Ridley falls in their estimation? Yep, precisely 53%. With that in mind, it's no surprise that Lynch (6th) and Ridley (7th) rank right next to each other in individual DVOA on the season.
Statistical Doppelganger: Danny Amendola
I was as surprised as you were about this one. Now, there exists a greater litany of non-traditional stats for receivers than there are for runners, so the chances of finding exact counterparts diminish. There are still, however, some striking statistical similarities between Rice and Amendola so, at the risk of breaking the stupid-yet-universally-observed rule of not comparing a white player to a black player, allow me to point out a few things.
Looking past the fact that one of these guys looks like he wants to bang your sister while the other looks like he wants to warn you about a bed intruder trying to bang your sister, there are some production indicators that are very similar despite one being a diminutive slot guy while the other is considered his team's primary outside threat. For starters, they have a fairly similar number of receiving yards (Amendola has 497, Rice has 475) although they've gone about accruing them in very different ways. I can already hear some of you shouting that Amendola has missed the better part of three games with an injury, so let me respond by saying I know that, but it's not as simple as just extrapolating each player's yards per game.
You see, the Rams pass much more frequently than the Seahawks do and, as a result, Amendola has managed to accrue more total targets than Rice has despite playing in fewer games. Amendola is a volume producer whereas Rice is reliant on bigger plays for his yardage total. What stands out about these two is what they've done with their opportunities. Like Lynch and Ridley, these receivers have been used to different degrees by their teams, but what they've done with their opportunities have been relatively equal. Rice boasts a better yards per catch average (14.0 to Amendola's 11.6) but even that falls short as a metric, since an opportunity does not necessarily equal a catch. For that reason, total targets and what a player does with them is more indicative of performance, since a receiver technically has an opportunity to produce any time a ball is thrown his way.
Amendola's 497 yards come as a result of being targeted 61 times. That gives him a respectable yards per target average of 8.1, right there with the likes of Marques Colston, Eric Decker, and Percy Harvin. Rice's 475 yards, while taking more games to accumulate, have come on only 55 targets for a very similar 8.3 YPT. The assumption, of course, is that these numbers are what they are because the Rams must be throwing the ball towards Amendola more often than the 'Hawks do Rice. After all, he has six more targets than Rice despite only playing in half the games! It was my thought, too, so I checked each players Target % or, what percentage of his teams passes are directed at him. Despite racking up nearly twelve targets per game, Amendola's Target % is 21.3 whereas Rice's is 22.4. The big edge that the short guy holds over the tall one is a completion percentage of 70.5 on balls thrown his way while Rice checks in at 59.5. The equalizing factor in that number is that over 35% of Rice's targets are beyond 15 yards past the line of scrimmage while Amendola's "deep target %" is just 13.1, which is why Rice can hang his hat on six TDs while Amendola has just two.
Bonus fact: did you guys realize that Sidney Rice's individual DVOA ranks 7th in the NFL among receivers?
Statistical Doppelganger: Matt Schaub
I owe a tip of the hat to Davis on this one (and don't be surprised if you see him flesh this out in a different article in the coming days). At the beginning of my investigation, I found myself noticing that there were a lot of similarities between Wilson and St. Louis QB Sam Bradford, which was kind of funny given the unexpected parallels between their two favorite receivers. Not s(t)atisfied with the initial impression, however, I kept looking and found myself noticing one of the reasons Davis was linking the 'Hawks to the 'Xans.
Wilson and Schaub match up nicely and I find myself more comfortable with this comparison than with the Bradford one, and not just because Matt is better than Sam. Given that the quarterback position is almost infinitely more dynamic than running back or receiver, the system in which a QB operates takes on more weight. A running back is occasionally relied upon to help block or catch passes, but his main contribution is running the ball within a scope of of 40 degrees or so, almost always passing through the first line of defenders with the ball in his hands. A receiver, meanwhile, is counted on primarily to run routes and catch the balls thrown to him, but his impact is limited by the fact that he is only directly involved in a rather small percentage of plays and even when passes are thrown, usually splits opportunities with five to seven other prospective targets throughout a game. Both positions are reliant on someone else to call the play and make the majority of pre-snap adjustments.
That someone else, obviously, is the QB who not only has to make a plethora of decisions before the play even starts, the sheer tonnage of mid-play calculations he's required to make, coordinated with any number of potential physical actions is enough to stagger you. Go on, tell me you didn't stagger. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to find an RW comparison whose team's offensive profile mirrored that of the Seahawks at least somewhat.
It made sense, then to look at the only team besides Seattle to call more run plays than pass plays this season. Seattle leads the NFL with run s called on 54.9% of their plays, while Houston comes in at an even 52%. Both teams rely on establishing one-cut zone blocking schemes and pass off of play action a great deal (Wilson at 33%, Schaub at 28% -- second and fifth, respectively). Both teams have had success doing that and it's no surprise that their running backs rank first and second in carries and second and third in yards. Similarly, both teams are fond of using multiple tight ends and, in lieu of fashionably spreading out the field, pass out of formations that advertise run. So, to the numbers:
This season, we've seen the rapid progression of Wilson's ability to play at the NFL level. Schaub, while more polished, has been doing it longer (obviously) and is surrounded by a much higher degree of offensive talent (Foster, Andre Johnson, and the league's 4th best pass protection unit). Even so, Wilson's production lines up well with Schaub's. For example, Wilson is completing 62.3% of his passes on the season, while Schaub's connected on 62.9% of his. Wilson is netting 7.2 yards per pass, Schaub's getting 7.3. Wilson's success rate is 48.8%, Schaub's is 50.2%. Their QB PARs (Points Above Replacement, adjusted) are close, too, with Wilson notching a 37.6 while Schaub has registered a 39.3. To give you some context on how close that is, the difference between the top guy (Peyton Manning) and the lowest (Brandon Weeden) is 91.2!
If you prefer more traditional metrics, consider that Wilson's Passer Rating is 90.5, barely trailing Schaub's 91.7 and by the relatively new QBR standard, Wilson is only four spots behind Schaub, with a 56.1 score to the Houston signal-caller's 63.1 All of this is to say that if Russell Wilson were passing as frequently as Matt Schaub, he'd be putting up numbers almost identical to those of the guy captaining an 8-1 team.
I don't post this to necessarily ask/force you to draw any conclusions. Rather, this is the product of a curious project I undertook that ended up taking over five mostly enthralling hours to research and write. You're free (as always) to take from this what you will. I just thought this to be a very interesting exercise. If you have any questions about method or terminology, or have your own statistical doppelgangers to offer, please leave them in the comments section where I can almost promise you they won't be ridiculed by Kenneth.