Time to bench Donnie Avery? Catching fire for drops

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

From the FanPosts -Joel

Alex Smith needs a hand. That is, receivers with hands. Donnie Avery has been the goat this week due to drops in the Chiefs home game against the Broncos.

Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos was an emotional game. It was a home game against not only one of the best teams in the league, but a division rival. The game ended in a loss, which drums up some especially strong emotions when, as a fan base, you're starting to break into the national scene as a contending team. It's natural to want to win and feel that sense of arrival as a big team.

There were several key takeaways in the big game, including:

  • Our special teams still is a difference maker
  • Alex Smith has been a real bomber for several games in a row
  • Something is wrong with our pass defense
  • Donnie Avery can't catch a ball

I have thought about Avery a lot, and about his place with the Chiefs. So with that narrative I dug a little into the season stats for Avery and see how he's doing this year. Let's look at some comparisons at how we are doing against the rest of the league, and then compared to the other Chiefs wide receivers.

Chiefs WRs in comparison to the league - Catch %


This chart indicates the rate the team's WR group will catch a ball when thrown to them.

The first thing you'll notice is that KC ranks poorly compared to the rest of the league in WR catch performance. In fact, only one team with a single starting QB is worse than KC, and that's the Colts. Darrius Heyward-Bey has dropped the WR performance for that team considerably at a below-50% catch rate. All other teams have had multiple QBs through the year, so their weak performance can be explained that way. KC stands alone as one of the worst WR corps in the ability to catch the ball when thrown at them.

Deep passing compared to league

Now let's only look at how the KC WRs compare to the rest of the league on throws that are more than 20 yards in the air. Of course, this stat is of special interest because it's a well wrought phrase around here that Alex Smith can't throw 20 yards.


You might notice something pretty significantly changes here. The Chiefs WRs have gone from bordering the bottom tier (bottom 3rd) to bumping up against the top third in the league! KC is tied for 10th in deep passing %.

Why the huge jump in WR performance here?

There is one reason. Alex Smith has only thrown to one receiver (who plays regularly -- 25 percent of snaps) over 20 yards in the air this year, and it's been Donnie Avery.

Team KC

Catch % Yards Targets Receptions
Donnie Avery 38.5 184 13 5
Grand Total 38.5 184 13 5
Chiefs WRs in comparison to each other

Let's break down the WR types in the West Coast offense before jumping into the stats. Generally, these are the position the Chiefs receivers play, even though I've seen that change a bit lately.

X Receiver- Donnie Avery. The X receiver's job is spread the defense out, be fast enough to threaten deep, and handle 1-on-1 coverage well. Archetype: Mike Wallace, Julio Jones

Y Receiver- Dexter McCluster. The Y receiver's job is to run the slot. This often means having sure hands, being agile for running the full receiving route running tree, and using agility to exploit matchups against low quality coverage defenders. Archetype: Wes Welker

Z Receiver- Dwayne Bowe. The Z receiver is the funnel of the West Coast offense. Generally, the most passes are going to be sent to this receiver, and should be the best overall receiver on the team to make a West Coast offense thrum. Archetype: Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison



DMC has the highest completion rate out of the KC starting WRs. Set apart from the other two WRs, DMC catches two of every three passes that go his way. While that's good compared to KC WRs, that puts him at 39th in the league in slot WR percentage performance, and 33rd in the percentage of targets from the slot. He also has the least yards out of the starting WRs, and the lowest QB rating when thrown to.

Dwayne Bowe has the lowest completion rate out of the starting WRs. At 55% catch rate, Bowe has had a very hard time playing WCO as the lead receiver. One oft heard meme on the AP forums is that Alex Smith doesn't throw Bowe the ball enough because he'll get open if you do. Bowe has the highest amount of targets on the team by quite a bit. He's been targeted 82 times, compared to Avery's 61 and DMCs 64.

It's important to note as we move on to Avery that Bowe has amassed nine more yards over the course of the season than Avery with 21 more targets.

Donnie Avery has roughly the same completion rate as Bowe, with one major context difference, he's the deep receiver. He receives the lowest amount of targets, but has the highest YPC and the highest yards per target by quite a bit. DMC and Bowe BOTH average 6.5 yards per target, but Avery enjoyed 8.6 yards per target. Avery also enjoys the highest QB rating when thrown to over the other two receivers.

I prefer yards per target (YPT) over yards per catch (YPC) because it factors in efficiency but for comparison, DMC has 9.9 YPC, Bowe 11.84 YPC and Avery 15.41 YPC.

To guide this data to a conclusion, I believe that Avery's drops are perhaps more frustrating than the other two receivers because he's new, and because they could have been really big plays, and a fan's adrenaline peaks during those bomb throws. Personally, when Bowe drops a five yard route, I feel a tinge of disappointment, but when Avery drops a bomb from a beautiful Alex Smith pass, I'm like Ramsey on the Patriots commercial

Value: Should the same be expected out of everyone?

A big part of a successful team over the long run is using the salary cap wisely, and investing players that make a difference in wins and losses for the team. Dollar per dollar, here's how the WRs match up in 2013 performance based on what their average salaries are.


Dollars Per Yard Dollars Per TD
DMC $3,177.46 $1,325,000
Avery $5,438.93 $1,425,000
Bowe $21,013.13 $2,800,000

Dollar per dollar, the values aren't the same. Bowe and Avery are on second contracts, and DMC is still on rookie contract. A successful rookie contract is wildly valuable, but getting consistent production out of players on the rookie contract is very inconsistent.

If you take a broad perspective and understand that you can't pay every one of the 53-60 players eating the salary cap 12 million a year, then you have to look for efficient production out of lower paid players. In this case, you see that DMC and Avery are much more efficient producers at the monetary level than Bowe.

Bowe is the primary WR for the Chiefs, and there is some expectation that a primary will get over paid a bit more than the other WRs due to marketing value, etc. But the efficiency difference is pretty stark in this case.


Since this post is about Avery, it's important to understand that Avery is considered the 3rd WR on the Chiefs. He doesn't hurt the team much in average salary, and although it's well documented that the whole WR corps is below average, he is both the most efficient WR as far as on field production *and* monetary value for the Kansas City Chiefs.

His drops are frustrating, because they are often big plays, but he's making more of each opportunity than the other two WRs, and ultimately his drops are frustrating not because they make him a terrible receiver, but because they are preventing him from being a league star at his position.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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