In the last 50 years, only three wide receivers (with at least 20 targets) have averaged over 15 yards per pass play. Two of them, oddly, came from last season. Tyron Johnson of the Chargers and Donovan Peoples-Jones of the Browns.

I thought it might be interesting to look into a little bit. What is the hit rate, in general, when we look at a young wide receiver who shows some ability to hit on long passes? How many of those guys wind up developing into something?

There is one huge example I found. Miles Austin of Dallas, who was the breakout receiver of the year in 2009. The previous season Austin caught 13 passes for 278 yards and 3 TDs on 23 targets. It would have paid off if we had been paying closer attention to him.

A notch down, I see Robert Meachem and Randall Cobb, who flashed some big-play ability and then did bigger, better things later in their careers. They’re different from Austin in that everyone could see them coming. Cobb was a third-round pick who was clearly waiting his turn for stardom with the Packers. Meachem was a first-round pick in a great passing offense (he caught 9 TDs the next season but never had an 800-yard season).

Breshad Perriman, Robert Foster and Mecole Hardman have had some deep ball success in recent years. All of those guys came in lower than expected in their follow-up seasons. (Hardman might still be a really good NFL player, but his second season goes down as a disappointment relative to his first.)

Malcom Floyd was a decent deep threat for a while with the Chargers but never moved up to being more than a contributor in their offense.

Here’s the rundown on the comps I found. I was looking for guys who averaged over 12.0 yards per pass play (not per catch, but yards including incompletions). I set the minimum at 20 targets and tossed out the guys who were clearly already starters and on their way. Similarly, I discarded players who were well into their careers – trying to focus on young, up-and-coming guys.

For both Johnson and Peoples-Jones, I would expect them to be contributors off the bench this year, rotating in and running some deep routes. Interesting guys to follow, but not guys who should be selected in any fantasy format I can think of.

2012Joe Morgan, N.O.12110379318.0
2020Tyron Johnson, LAC12620398315.3
2020Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cle.12014304215.2
2008Robert Meachem, N.O.22012289314.5
2018Breshad Perriman, Cle.42516340213.6
2019Mecole Hardman, K.C.14126538613.1
2002Quentin McCord, Atl.22011253112.7
2008Malcom Floyd, S.D.43727465412.6
2018Robert Foster, Buff.14427541312.3
2006Mark Bradley, Chi.22314282312.3
2011Randall Cobb, G.B.13125375112.1
2008Miles Austin, Dall.32313278312.1
2001Brian Finneran, Atl.34123491312.0

—Ian Allan