At the simplest level, there are only two types of routes that receivers run: ones where they catch the ball while standing still and ones where they are still moving when they catch the ball (Editor's note: whoa). It would stand to reason that QBs who completed more passes on routes where receivers are still in motion would get more YAC, but the ability of the receiver to avoid tacklers or to break tackles and the tackling proficiency of the defenders also play a huge factor in YAC. Let's look at some numbers bearing a few things in mind:
1. Demaryius Thomas led the league in total YAC last year (713 YAC) despite ranking 34th in YAC% among all receivers (50%) (28th among guys with 2 or more catches per game) - YAC% = YAC/(Total Receiving Yards).
2. Danny Woodhead led the league with an astounding 82% of his receiving yardage coming after the catch.
3. Lance Moore was the worst receiver in the league last year in terms of doing something after the catch with only 14% of his yards coming after the catch, Roddy White was not much better at 18% (minimum 2 catches/game).
4. The best WR in the game last season for YAC% was Ace Sanders with 63% (min 2 catches/game), but he was only 8th in the league among all eligible pass catchers.
From a purely Broncos receiver perspective, here are the YAC% of all of the guys who made the YAC list
The best YAC% on the Broncos was Julius Thomas, who ranked 26th among eligible receivers. Caldwell's 21% was near the bottom of the league, so Peyton Manning had a mix of good and bad from his receivers. Well then, how did PFM rank in 2013?
|18||Robert Griffin III||WAS||13||3203||1560||48.7%|
So we see that despite having the greatest season by a QB ever in 2013, PFM was average in terms of YAC%. Almost exactly half of Manning's passing yards came from YAC. We also see that even a "weak-armed" QB like Henne gained more than 40% of his passing yards as "air yards" in 2013. The Air% is the other passing yards (1-YAC%) are so named because those QB yards are gained with the ball in the air, hence "air yards". It's also interesting to note that PFM had more YAC than Mike Glennon had TOTAL passing yards (admittedly Glennon only 13 starts).
Who have been the QBs who have benefitted the most from YAC in recent years (measured by YAC%)? See below for the NFL leader by year
What do all of the QBs on that list have in common? There were all "game-managers" (at least at that time) and most of them did not keep their starting gigs (if they were starters to begin with).
What about the guys who got the smallest % of their passing yards from YAC (among qualifiers)?
Interestingly, there are some failed NFL QBs on this list along with guys who made it to the super bowl and lost (Delhomme, Hasselbeck and Collins) and one guy who has two super bowl rings (Eli).
So where has PFM been throughout his career in terms of YAC%? see below
|Year||League Rank||Total passing Yards||YAC||YAC%|
So while PFM was in the top 3rd in the league in the majority of his early years, something changed in 2004 and since then PFM has been in the bottom half or bottom third of the league in terms of YAC%. Oddly the only difference between 03 and 04 for PFM was addition of Stokley and Clark to his receiving corps - his top 4 receivers from 03 were back (Harrison, Wayne, James and Pollard) - so it wasn't a change in who was catching the ball. The change was in the NFL as a whole - the 5-yard rule was implemented (ostensibly to help Manning's Colts beat the press-coverage of the Pats) and many teams starting doing what PFM and the Colts had been doing for years. It is interesting to note that Peyton was 2nd in the league in 2003 with 43.5% of his yardage coming after the catch while in 2013 he had a career high 49.0% of his yardage come from YAC and that was ONLY 17th in the league. That would indicate to me that over the course of Manning's career the league as whole has gone to more of a "YAC-oriented" passing game. To put it another way, Manning's 35.8 YAC% from 2000 was 10th that year, but would have been last in the league in 2011, 2009 and 2007.
Based upon Manning's numbers from the past decade, I would not expect a dramatic change in his YAC% in 2014. The swap of Decker for Sanders should not have that much of an effect Manning's YAC%. I would not be surprised if his YAC% was more like his 2012 number than his 2013. What do you think?