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Decoy receivers

Wide receivers who don't see the ball

Marquez Valdes-Scantling had puzzling a Super Bowl. He was on the field for almost two thirds of Kansas City’s plays. He was a starter-type guy in a 38-35 shootout. Yet he had only one pass thrown his way (an incompletion).

He had a lot of those games. He was a regular in their offense for all 20 games, playing for the team that passed for more yards and touchdowns than any other. Yet he caught only 49 passes and 4 touchdowns. They just don’t use him all that much.

Got me wondering about which receivers tend to see the ball the most (and the least), and whether MVS was the league’s most underutilized wide receiver.

Guys played different numbers of games, of course, and there’s a difference between being a rotational or spot-duty guy versus a full-time starter. So I decided to go by play count. As luck would have it, there were an even 100 wide receivers who saw at least 400 plays worth of action. We can take those plays, merge them with the stats, and see what comes to the surface (and falls to the bottom).

Production or fantasy points per play looked clunky, so I instead went with plays per reception. That is, when a guy like Valdes-Scantling is on the field, how many plays should I have to wait before he catches a pass?

Five players averaged better than a catch per every 8 plays, and no big surprises: Hill, Kupp, Diggs, Keenan Allen and St. Brown. Allen had an injury-plagued season, but he caught plenty of balls when he was out there. These numbers reaffirm to be that he’s still a very good receiver in PPR formats.

Mildly surprising that Justin Jefferson didn’t quite make that group. Caught a ton of balls, but I guess they just don’t take him off the field much.

Biggest surprise in the top 10, I thought, was Chris Olave, coming in at No. 7. I knew he had a good rookie season, but didn’t realize he was quite that busy.

Surprises in the teens include Richie James and Greg Dortch. Those guys had some good production. Both are now in new offenses (James signed a low-cost deal with KC, while Arizona has a new coaching staff).

I was surprised that Valdes-Scantling wasn’t lower. Not even in the bottom 20. But another KC receiver, Justin Watson (pictured) was the very last guy, catching only 15 passes in 494 plays. The most decoy of all the decoys last year.

Watson came in the just lower than Nick Westbrook-Ikhine. They were the only two receivers who were even less involved than the two Chicago guys, Dante Pettis and Equanimeous St. Brown.

Tyreek Hill, Mia.8001191,71076.7
Cooper Kupp, LAR5307581267.1
Stefon Diggs, Buff.8361081,429117.7
Keenan Allen, LAC5156675247.8
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.8321061,16167.8
Justin Jefferson, Min.1,0791281,80988.4
Chris Olave, N.O.607721,04248.4
Chris Godwin, T.B.8801041,02338.5
DeAndre Hopkins, Ari.5556471738.7
JaMarr Chase, Cin.793871,04699.1
Richie James, NYG5245756949.2
CeeDee Lamb, Dall.1,0151071,35999.5
Tyler Lockett, Sea.799841,03399.5
JuJu Smith-Schuster, K.C.7657893339.8
Greg Dortch, Ari.5135246729.9
DK Metcalf, Sea.893901,04869.9
Tee Higgins, Cin.757741,029710.2
Jakobi Meyers, N.E.69067804610.3
Russell Gage, T.B.52951426510.4
Davante Adams, L.V.1,0441001,5161410.4
Jaylen Waddle, Mia.785751,356810.5
Jerry Jeudy, Den.71367972610.6
Garrett Wilson, NYJ884831,103410.7
Michael Pittman, Ind.1,06599925410.8
Mike Williams, LAC70363895411.2
Rondale Moore, Ari.45941414111.2
Zay Jones, Jac.93082823511.3
Drake London, Atl.81972866411.4
DeVonta Smith, Phil.1,083951,196711.4
A.J. Brown, Phil.1,004881,4961111.4
Brandin Cooks, Hou.65857699311.5
Marquise Brown, Ari.78367709311.7
Isaiah Hodgins, 2 tms43337392411.7
Deebo Samuel, S.F.65956632211.8
Christian Kirk, Jac.991841,108811.8
Kalif Raymond, Det.55547616011.8
Nico Collins, Hou.44137481211.9
Mike Evans, T.B.927771,124612.0
Diontae Johnson, Pitt.1,04286882012.1
Christian Watson, G.B.50741611712.4
Josh Palmer, LAC89872769312.5
Amari Cooper, Cle.978781,160912.5
Romeo Doubs, G.B.52942425312.6
Kendrick Bourne, N.E.44135434112.6
Brandon Aiyuk, S.F.1,002781,015812.8
Isaiah McKenzie, Buff.55542423413.2
Demarcus Robinson, Balt.63748458213.3
Curtis Samuel, Was.85064656413.3
Tyler Boyd, Cin.79758762513.7
Courtland Sutton, Den.88264829213.8
Terry McLaurin, Was.1,063771,191513.8
Jauan Jennings, S.F.48935416114.0
Chris Moore, Hou.67848548214.1
Allen Lazard, G.B.86360788614.4
Chase Claypool, 2 tms66246451114.4
K.J. Osborn, Min.87360650514.6
Adam Thielen, Min.1,04270716614.9
Darius Slayton, NYG69846724215.2
DeAndre Carter, LAC69846538315.2
Marvin Jones, Jac.70046529315.2
Robert Woods, Ten.80953527215.3
Nelson Agholor, N.E.47631362215.4
DJ Moore, Car.97863888715.5
Marquise Goodwin, Sea.42027387415.6
Parris Campbell, Ind.98063623315.6
Darnell Mooney, Chi.63040493215.8
Josh Reynolds, Det.62538479316.4
George Pickens, Pitt.88252801417.0
Allen Robinson, LAR56233339317.0
Devin Duvernay, Balt.63237407317.1
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cle.1,05561839317.3
DeVante Parker, N.E.54531539317.6
Alec Pierce, Ind.72541593217.7
DJ Chark, Det.53430502317.8
Ben Skowronek, LAR69639376017.8
Mack Hollins, L.V.1,03057690418.1
Olamide Zaccheaus, Atl.73740533318.4
• Marquez Valdes-Scantling, K.C.77742687218.5
Jahan Dotson, Was.65135523718.6
Michael Gallup, Dall.73839424418.9
Noah Brown, Dall.82243555319.1
Kendall Hinton, Den.46124311019.2
Corey Davis, NYJ61732536219.3
Gabriel Davis, Buff.92648836719.3
Elijah Moore, NYJ73137446119.8
Trent Sherfield, Mia.61130417220.4
Quez Watkins, Phil.68133354320.6
Van Jefferson, LAR49824369320.8
TreQuan Smith, N.O.40319278121.2
David Bell, Cle.51624214021.5
Shi Smith, Car.48222296221.9
Terrace Marshall, Car.64528490123.0
A.J. Green, Ari.55424236223.1
Phillip Dorsett, Hou.46520257123.3
Tyquan Thornton, N.E.52722247224.0
Chosen Anderson, 2 tms49320282124.7
Equanimeous St. Brown, Chi.55521323126.4
Dante Pettis, Chi.52419245327.6
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, Ten.77725397331.1
Justin Watson, K.C.49415315232.9

—Ian Allan

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