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An objective analysis of the NFC West’s Wide Receiver Duos

Can any of Seattle’s rivals top the combination of Lockett + Metcalf?

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As is often the case during the “slow” part of the year, there have been some discussions lately about which NFC West team has the best (insert position or position group here). Examples include quarterback, defensive line, etc.

Sites like PFF spur these discussions by releasing positional rankings ahead of OTAs and each fan base weighs in whenever, wherever, and however they can. It’s a neverending cycle - in more ways than one.

The question that most interests me (even before new reports surfaced on Sunday about Seattle’s potential interest in adding to their WR room) is:

....

Which NFC West team has the best Wide Receiver combo?

....

Obviously the 12s here on Field Gulls (and elsewhere) know the correct answer at this particular point in time is the Seattle Seahawks. This might not always be the case, but right now we are enjoying the high that comes with having a 1-2 punch - or, rather, a 1A-1B punch - of DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

But are we biased?

Are our evergreen-tinted glasses blinding us to the truth?

Today, I am going to set my Seahawks jersey aside and try to look at this question objectively.

Wish me (and us, collectively) good luck!



The basis of a objective analysis

Before we jump into this, let me state three things upfront:

One. I don’t usually pay much, if any, attention to individual players on rival teams so I have absolutely no clue how this is going to turn out!

Two. I tried to come up with categories that were (a) easy to access and/or verify; and (b) relatively easy to understand (or at least something that most people can figure out if they are so-inclined).

Three. Piggy-backing on #2, there are no Next Gen stats or advanced number crunching involved in this analysis. For example:

DeAndre Hopkins may have tied for the lowest drop rate in the NFL last season (0.9%), and Tyler Lockett may have the highest percentage of catchable deep targets caught over the past 3 seasons (94.1%), and D.K. Metcalf may have racked up more yards on vertical routes than anyone in the league last year (475), but . . .

We. Don’t. Care. Not for this analysis anyway.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let’s look at the categories and criteria that I/we will be using.

Points-Per Categories

Players get points on a 1-for-1 basis for their cumulative totals over the past 2 seasons in these two categories:

  • Games Played *
  • Touchdowns *

Sliding-Scale Categories

The top guy each of the last 2 seasons gets 8 points; the bottom guy gets 1 point. If there is a tie in any category, the players that tie get the same amount of points. There is a maximum of 16 points for any one player in each category.

  • Big Plays *
  • Yards Per Catch - calculated by dividing total yards by total catches
  • Yards Per Game - calculated by dividing total yards by games played
  • Catch Rate (%) - calculated by dividing total catches by total targets
  • PFF Overall Ranking *

* Other than the PFF rankings, which come from PFF.com, all of the stats used for this analysis are from ESPN.com and are for the 2019 + 2020 regular-seasons only.



The competitors

Now that we know how we are grading this thing, let’s look at who the competitors are, when they were drafted, and how they came to be on their current team.

Arizona Cardinals

  • DeAndre Hopkins: Drafted #27 overall in the 2013 draft; traded to Arizona last year.
  • Christian Kirk: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, #47 overall.
NFL: SEP 13 Cardinals at 49ers Photo by MSA/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Note: I considered using A.J. Green (drafted #4 overall by the Bengals in 2011; signed as a free agent this offseason), but most of his 2020 stats were worse than Christian Kirk’s. Same with Larry Fitzgerald (currently unsigned).

Los Angeles Rams

  • Cooper Kupp: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, #69 overall.
  • Robert Woods: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, #41 overall (by the Bills); has been with the Rams since 2017.
NFL: SEP 20 Rams at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers

  • Brandon Aiyuk: Drafted #25 overall last year.
  • Deebo Samuel: Drafted in the 2nd round in 2019, #36 overall.
Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Note: Because Brandon Aiyuk was drafted in 2020, I will be using George Kittle’s stats for the Niners in 2019. If anyone objects, let’s discuss it in the Comments.

Seattle Seahawks

  • D.K. Metcalf: Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2019 draft, #64 overall.
  • Tyler Lockett: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, #69 overall.
Divisional Round - Seattle Seahawks v Green Bay Packers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Interesting, but meaningless: If you add the draft positions for each receiving duo together, your rankings, so to speak, in order of lowest total to highest, would be: San Francisco (61), Arizona (74), Los Angeles (110), Seattle (133).



The stat lines

Next, we’ll look at the raw stats for each of the competitors (listed in alphabetical order by first name).

The 2019 season

  • Christian Kirk: 13 games; 68 catches; 107 targets; 709 yards; 3 TDs; 6 big plays, PFF #125.

  • Cooper Kupp: 16 games; 94 catches; 134 targets; 1,161 yards; 10 TDs; 21 big plays, PFF #30.

  • D.K. Metcalf: 16 games; 58 catches; 100 targets; 900 yards; 7 TDs; 13 big plays, PFF #67.

  • DeAndre Hopkins (with Houston): 15 games; 104 catches; 150 targets; 1,165 yards; 7 TDs; 16 big plays, PFF #4.

  • Deebo Samuel: 15 games; 57 catches; 81 targets; 802 yards; 3 TDs; 17 big plays, PFF #46.

  • George Kittle (on behalf of Brandon Aiyuk): 14 games; 85 catches; 107 targets; 1,053 yards; 5 TDs; 16 big plays, PFF #1 *

  • Robert Woods: 15 games; 90 catches; 139 targets; 1,134 yards; 2 TDs; 14 big plays, PFF #17.

  • Tyler Lockett: 16 games; 82 catches; 110 targets; 1,057 yards; 8 TDs; 15 big plays, PFF #25.

* George Kittle’s overall PFF grade was 4 full points higher than Michael Thomas who was #1 among WRs in 2019, and more than 7 points higher than DeAndre Hopkins, the #4 wideout. Kittle gets the 8 points in that category by default.


The 2020 season

  • Brandon Aiyuk: 12 games; 60 catches; 96 targets; 748 yards; 5 TDs; 10 big plays, PFF #22.

  • Christian Kirk: 14 games; 48 catches; 79 targets; 621 yards; 6 TDs; 7 big plays, PFF #130.

  • Cooper Kupp: 15 games; 92 catches; 124 targets; 974 yards; 3 TDs; 12 big plays, PFF #34.

  • D.K. Metcalf: 16 games; 83 catches; 129 targets; 1,303 yards; 10 TDs; 17 big plays, PFF #17.

  • DeAndre Hopkins: 16 games; 115 catches; 160 targets; 1,407 yards; 6 TDs; 17 big plays, PFF #6.

  • Deebo Samuel: 7 games; 33 catches; 44 targets; 391 yards; 1 TD; 8 big plays, PFF #20.

  • Robert Woods: 16 games; 90 catches; 129 targets; 936 yards; 6 TDs; 11 big plays, PFF #60.

  • Tyler Lockett: 16 games; 100 catches; 132 targets; 1,054 yards; 10 TDs; 10 big plays, PFF #31.



It’s time to crunch some numbers!

Let’s start with the “Points-Per” categories: Games Played and Touchdowns.

Games Played, 2019 + 2020

  • Arizona: 58 (Hopkins, 31; Kirk, 27)
  • Los Angeles: 62 (Kupp, 31; Woods, 31)
  • San Francisco: 48 (Aiyuk, 12; Kittle, 14; Samuel, 22)
  • Seattle: 64 (Lockett, 32; Metcalf, 32)

Touchdowns, 2019 + 2020

  • Arizona: 22 (Hopkins, 13; Kirk, 9)
  • Los Angeles: 21 (Kupp, 13; Woods, 8)
  • San Francisco: 14 (Aiyuk, 5; Kittle, 5; Samuel, 4)
  • Seattle: 35 (Lockett, 18; Metcalf, 17)


Now let’s look at the “Sliding Scale” categories: Big Plays, Yards Per Catch, Yards Per Game, Catch Rate (%), and PFF Overall Ranking.

Big Plays - Order of Finish

  • 2019: Kupp (21); Samuel (17); Tie: Hopkins (16), Kittle (16); Lockett (15); Woods (14); Metcalf (13); Kirk (6)
  • 2020: Tie: Hopkins (17), Metcalf (17); Kupp (12); Woods (11); Tie: Aiyuk (10), Lockett (10); Samuel (8); Kirk (7)

Big Plays - Points Awarded

  • Arizona: 16 (Hopkins: 6, 8; Kirk: 1, 1)
  • Los Angeles: 22 (Kupp: 8, 6; Woods: 3, 5)
  • San Francisco: 19 (Aiyuk: 4; Kittle: 6; Samuel: 7, 2)
  • Seattle: 18 (Lockett: 4, 4; Metcalf: 2, 8)


Yards Per Catch - Order of Finish

  • 2019: Metcalf (15.5); Samuel (14.1); Lockett (12.9); Woods (12.6); Tie: Kittle (12.4), Kupp (12.4); Hopkins (11.2); Kirk (10.4)
  • 2020: Metcalf (15.7); Kirk (12.9); Aiyuk (12.5); Hopkins (12.2); Samuel (11.8); Kupp (10.6); Lockett (10.5); Woods (10.4)

Yards Per Catch - Points Awarded

  • Arizona: 15 (Hopkins: 2, 5; Kirk: 1, 7)
  • Los Angeles: 13 (Kupp: 4, 3; Woods: 5, 1)
  • San Francisco: 21 (Aiyuk: 6; Kittle: 4; Samuel: 7, 4)
  • Seattle: 24 (Lockett: 6, 2; Metcalf: 8, 8)


Yards Per Game - Order of Finish

  • 2019: Hopkins (77.7); Woods (75.6); Kittle (75.2); Kupp (72.6); Lockett (66.1); Metcalf (56.3); Kirk (54.5); Samuel (53.5)
  • 2020: Hopkins (87.9); Metcalf (81.4); Lockett (65.9); Kupp (64.9); Aiyuk (62.3); Woods (58.5); Samuel (55.9); Kirk (44.4)

Yards Per Game - Points Awarded

  • Arizona: 19 (Hopkins: 8, 8; Kirk: 2, 1)
  • Los Angeles: 20 (Kupp: 5, 5; Woods: 7, 3)
  • San Francisco: 13 (Aiyuk: 4; Kittle: 6; Samuel: 1, 2)
  • Seattle: 20 (Lockett: 4, 6; Metcalf: 3, 7)


Catch Rate (%) - Order of Finish

  • 2019: Kittle (79.4); Lockett (74.5); Samuel (70.4); Kupp (70.1); Hopkins (69.3); Woods (64.7); Kirk (63.6); Metcalf (58.0)
  • 2020: Lockett (75.8); Samuel (75.0); Kupp (74.2); Hopkins (71.9); Woods (69.8); Metcalf (64.3); Aiyuk (62.5); Kirk (60.8)

Catch Rate (%) - Points Awarded

  • Arizona: 12 (Hopkins: 4, 5; Kirk: 2, 1)
  • Los Angeles: 18 (Kupp: 5, 6; Woods: 3, 4)
  • San Francisco: 23 (Aiyuk: 2; Kittle: 8; Samuel: 6, 7)
  • Seattle: 19 (Lockett: 7, 8; Metcalf: 1, 3)


PFF Overall Ranking- Order of Finish

  • 2019: Kittle (1); Hopkins (4); Woods (17); Lockett (25); Kupp (30); Samuel (46); Metcalf (67); Kirk (125)
  • 2020: Hopkins (6); Metcalf (17); Samuel (20); Aiyuk (22); Lockett (31); Kupp (34); Woods (60); Kirk (130)

PFF Ranking - Points Awarded

  • Arizona: 17 (Hopkins: 7, 8; Kirk: 1, 1)
  • Los Angeles: 15 (Kupp: 4, 3; Woods: 6, 2)
  • San Francisco: 22 (Aiyuk: 5; Kittle: 8; Samuel: 3, 6)
  • Seattle: 18 (Lockett: 5, 4; Metcalf: 2, 7)



The moment of truth

Let’s add up all the points and determine the winner!

Individual totals

  1. DeAndre Hopkins: 105 (49 in 2019; 56 in 2020)
  2. Tyler Lockett: 100 (50; 50)
  3. D.K. Metcalf: 98 (39; 59)
  4. Cooper Kupp: 93 (52; 41)
  5. Aiyuk + Kittle: 89 (51 for Kittle in 2019; 38 for Aiyuk in 2020)
  6. Robert Woods: 78 (51; 37)
  7. Deebo Samuel: 71 (42; 29)
  8. Christian Kirk: 54 (23; 31)

Worth Noting: D.K. Metcalf had the best individual season and the largest difference (improvement) between seasons. Tyler Lockett (aka Mr. Consistent) was the only one that got the same score in both 2019 and 2020.

The team totals

Arizona

  • Games Played: 58
  • Touchdowns: 22
  • Big Plays: 16
  • Yards Per Catch: 15
  • Yards Per Game: 19
  • Catch Rate: 12
  • PFF Ranking: 17
  • TOTAL SCORE: 159

Los Angeles

  • Games Played: 62
  • Touchdowns: 21
  • Big Plays: 22
  • Yards Per Catch: 13
  • Yards Per Game: 20
  • Catch Rate: 18
  • PFF Ranking: 15
  • TOTAL SCORE: 171

San Francisco

  • Games Played: 48
  • Touchdowns: 14
  • Big Plays: 19
  • Yards Per Catch: 21
  • Yards Per Game: 13
  • Catch Rate: 23
  • PFF Ranking: 22
  • TOTAL SCORE: 160

Seattle

  • Games Played: 64
  • Touchdowns: 35
  • Big Plays: 18
  • Yards Per Catch: 24
  • Yards Per Game: 20
  • Catch Rate: 19
  • PFF Ranking: 18
  • TOTAL SCORE: 198


The Bottom Line

Based on this completely unbiased and super-objective analysis, it has been definitively concluded that:

One. Arizona has the #1 wideout in the NFC West . . . at least for now.

Unsurprisingly, DeAndre Hopkins landed the highest score based on his performance over the last 2 years - 1 of which was in Houston. However, both Tyler Locket (-5) and D.K. Metcalf (-7) are on his tail and looking to pass him in 2021.

Two. Seattle has the best WR-combo in the division. And it isn’t even remotely close.

Behind the lethal 1A-1B punch of the division’s #2 and #3 receivers, the Seahawks lead the NFC West by a healthy margin: +27 over the Rams, +38 over the 9ers, and +39 over the Cardinals.

Go Hawks!