FanPost

Projecting Receiving Totals on the Pats Depth Chart

I came across a tweet today asking what how many yards would people project for rookie Tyquan Thornton.

Most fan comments were tempered, saying that because he's a rookie and low on the depth chart, they would not expect him to produce much. The consensus seems to be at around 400 yards, which is reasonable considering all the exciting young receivers coming into the league lately and putting up 1000 yard seasons as rookies. 400 can't be too much to expect... can it?

I decided to go back and take a look at the Pats' offense over the last 8 years to see if I can find a trend in receiving yards based on the respective position on the depth chart:

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 Average
WR1 972 692 1106 1082 850 1117 729 866 926.75
WR2 953 648 680 659 720 397 604 800 682.625
WR3 200 515 401 439 532 359 315 473 404.25
WR4 82 269 243 194 290 287 309 184 232.25
WR5 53 141 42 23 247 207 62 42 102.125
TE1 1124 1176 701 1084 682 173 199 603 717.75
TE2 259 259 540 86 52 131 39 294 207.5
RB1 447 410 551 429 751 645 375 405 501.625
RB2 48 388 94 254 131 279 192 132 189.75
RB3 23 180 38 214 50 111 114 123 106.625
RB4 20 43 15 15 6 94 52 94 42.375
Total 4181 4721 4411 4479 4311 3800 2990 4016 4113.625

What I found provided a lot of great nuggets and insights:

  • 2 of 3 Superbowl years didn't have a 1000 yard receiver
  • No Gronk = almost no TE production (16' Marty the exception)
  • TE1 AND TE2 combined over the last THREE years was only 1,439. Gronk once had a 1,327 season.
  • TE2 has been a non-factor over the last decade. Pats' "2 TE" reputation is a dud. Can that turn around?
  • James White may be one of the best receiving backs in NFL history, and heavily skews RB1 results
  • Mac Jones somehow turned Brandon Bolden into an average RB1
  • Mac's rookie season is not quite Brady levels, but night and day compared to the previous 2 years
  • 2020 was a bottomless pit of pain

And finally, the chart answers my original question: What was the average yardage along the depth chart? The result:

  1. WR1 = 927
  2. WR2 = 683
  3. WR3 = 404
  4. WR4 = 232
  5. WR5 = 102
The truth is that outside of the top 3, there is very little production. Now, you can set the depth chart however you want. But there are only so many yards/snaps to go around. Can we expect Tyquan to be #3 on the depth chart? #2?? It seems very unlikely. I think his ceiling this season is #4 and that would require a depth chart shake-up (injury, trade, etc). I expect if things stay the same, he tops out at around 100 as the WR5. And there's nothing wrong with that. Considering the Pats history of WR development, I'd just be happy seeing progress and building to the future. Then again, I've always been too low on rookies in the past. Maybe he can surprise us and climb to the top. The Pats are nothing if not a meritocracy..

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