My nerd math teacher would call the Bills’ WR Room a negatively-skewed leptokurtic distribution. Then he would try to explain it: “Leptokurtic distributions are statistical distributions where there are extreme points along the X axis, more concentrated about the mean”.
BTW, Google auto-correct will want to change “leptokurtic” to “narcoleptic”; don’t let that happen. That will just make the Bills’ 31st-ranked passing game worse.
A negatively-skewed leptokurtic distribution of, say, thirteen Bills WRs would have one Pro Bowl-level WR on the far right of that X-axis, and a big logjam of average receivers to the left. That’s what we have right now: Benjamin is far and away the go-to receiver in Daboll’s offense, and, for the time being, everyone else is a guy named Fred.
Or are they?
By adding Corey Coleman and maintaining their trust in Zay Jones, the Bills have 2016 and 2017’s leaders in receptions in college football in that WR room. In fact, Coleman also led the 2015 college crowd in touchdowns.
Can this translate to the NFL level? PFF did a study. They found that catch rate (0.50 correlation), yards per reception (0.43), and yards after the catch per reception (0.49) do translate quite well, but there is a steeper learning curve (yes, a positively-skewed leptokurtic distribution) for wide receivers that needs more than a year’s time to un-cloud the skies for future stars.
The predictive correlation becomes higher over time, and that’s promising. Coleman’s in his 3rd year; Zay’s just a sophomore. If wide receivers are asked to play the same role with their NFL team that they practiced and performed in college, the correlation with NFL success becomes even higher. That’s promising, too, because Brian Daboll is a wizard at determining what players do well and having them do just that, unlike certain recent coordinators.
Could there be other wideouts on the Bills that would more positively skew the leptokurtic distribution? I submit that there are several.
I’ve been to five practices, and one newbie has caught almost everything thrown his way, scored two touchdowns, nearly caught a third, and is not named Brandon Reilly.
With an impressive 2.89 yards per route run, Cam Phillips was the 2nd-most-productive route runner in the ACC. Cam dropped only 2 of his 73 catchable passes in 2017, and forced 40 missed tackles on 235 career catches. In 2016, Phillips’s best year, Phillips’s catch rate was 80%. Add Cam Phillips to the plus end of the graph.
Missing from the Bills’ media reports until perhaps yesterday’s practice, Malachi Dupre has a shot at skewing up. While you hope Corey Coleman can vie for the WR2 receiver in Daboll’s offense and stretch the field, Malachi Dupre could be that big-play guy.
In his last two years at LSU, 43% of Dupre’s yards and 5 of his 9 TDs came on passes of more than 20 yards. Still only age 22, Dupre was the Packers’ RD7 draft pick in 2017. He was going to make the Packers, but suffered a big blow to the head in preseason and was waived in the final cut.
The Packers’ loss is the Bills’ gain. Dupre’s ‘my-ball’ mentality can help. In yesterday’s practice, Allen went 2 for 2 to Dupre, with a DPI on Breon Borders ruining Dupre’s 3-for-3 morning. Peterman had the longest throw to the LSU wideout, so we’ll likely see Dupre assert himself against the Panthers Thursday night.
There’s always going to be a dark-horse wide receiver who flourishes in preseason, like last year, when Brandon Reilly led the Bills with 11 preseason catches. That could be Robert Foster or RayRay McCloud this year. There’s always a 30-plus-year-old who exceeds his past performance (Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, Jeremy Kerley).
There’s also Beane’s assertion that he might scoop up a talented veteran that gets cut from a team who loaded up on Day1-Day2 WRs over the last 2 years (especially Panthers, Broncos, Steelers, and Titans, who all drafted two). That’s why I’m quite optimistic that the negatively-skewed leptokurtic distribution that NFL analysts are predicting for the Bills will look better on the field than it does on a graph.
Editor’s babble: Music to the ears of any fan of statistical analysis (raises nerd-like hand). Love Dean’s contributions to our blog! You can follow Dean on Twitter @TCBILLS_Astro. If you’re not, you’re missing a real treat.