Wednesday October 28th, 2015

Wide receivers are paid lots and lots of money to catch footballs in the NFL. Of course, there are other aspects to the job description: Speed, blocking and route-running all help make a valuable flanker. By and large, though, simply catching the ball is the primary goal. 

And yet, some wideouts just aren’t that great at accomplishing their main objective. PointAfter has calculated the drop rates for 94 wide receivers since the beginning of the 2014 season, all of whom have been targeted at least 25 times over that span and have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps in 2015. Below, I’ve highlighted the guys with the 10 worst drop rates, hoping to put some context into their poor performances.

It's important to note that drop rate only measures the percentage of incompletions that are wholly the receiver’s fault—attempted passes that hit a player in the hands, then end up on the ground through no spectacular defending or poor aim from the QB.

So, these players truly deserve to be scrutinized for their hand-eye coordination. Nevertheless, several inclusions on this list are well-regarded veterans who have spent years making millions.

Dishonorable mention: Devin Funchess, Panthers

2014–15 Drop Rate: 33.3%

The rookie Funchess doesn’t have enough targets to qualify for this list, but he almost certainly has the worst hands of any NFL wideout. Either that, or he’s having a horribly-timed case of the dropsies.

Through the first 18 targets of his professional career, the second-round pick out of Michigan has as many drops as he does receptions (six). He’s tied for the third-most drops in the NFL, even though everyone tied or ranked above him has been targeted at least 37 times. Funchess’s 33.3% drop rate is almost double the highest drop rate (18.9%) among qualified receivers this year.

10. Julian Edelman, Patriots

2014–15 Drop Rate: 9.6%

You’re probably shocked to see Edelman here, and I don’t blame you. He’s the sparkplug behind the most ruthlessly efficient offense the NFL has to offer. But there’s no disputing the fact that he has a disturbing tendency to drop balls he shouldn’t, especially with the amount of short routes he runs.

This is no small sample size fluke. Since becoming an integral part of New England’s offense in 2013, Edelman has the most dropped passes in the NFL (31), and it’s not particularly close.

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick don’t seem too concerned. Edelman’s hot-and-cold hands haven’t stopped him from leading the Patriots in targets this year, and ranking in the top 10 league-wide.


9. Dwayne Harris, Giants

2014–15 Drop Rate: 9.7%

Since Harris entered the league, it’s been pretty clear his skill set best translates to being a return specialist. So we won’t fault him too much for his placement here.

We will, however, fault the Giants for featuring him on offense. With three drops on 20 targets thus far, Harris has the fourth-worst drop rate in 2015 among the 94 receivers qualified for this article.

So, why is offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo wasting precious offensive touches on Harris when New York already has Odell Beckham Jr., Reuben Randle, Shane Vereen, Larry Donnell and Victor Cruz (albeit injured) at its disposal? Well, Jerry Reese did just hand this guy a five-year, $17.5 million contract during the off-season. So expect the Giants to keep trying their hand at fitting a square peg into a round hole, at least until Harris stops being a dynamite kick returner.

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8. Louis Murphy, Buccaneers

2014–15 Drop Rate: 10.0%

Murphy’s 2014 drop rate was unacceptable (11.3%) with Josh McCown helming Tampa Bay’s offense, but he’s had a bit more success with Jameis Winston under center.

The former Florida speedster hasn’t had a ton of opportunities to shine (17 targets through six games), but he’s averaged a whopping 19.8 yards per reception while acting as an explosive third option behind Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. That’s the fourth-highest average among receivers with at least 10 receptions.

7. Andre Roberts, Redskins

2014–15 Drop Rate: 10.3%

Washington has thrown a hodgepodge of receivers at the wall in DeSean Jackson’s absence, hoping one would stick as a consistent threat opposite Pierre Garcon. Ryan Grant and Jamison Crowder have gamely stepped up, while Roberts has slinked into the background.

Roberts’ 47.4% catch rate is sixth-worst out of 107 qualified receivers this year, and he’s dropped two of his 19 targets for a troubling 10.5 percent drop rate. Once Jackson returns from his hamstring injury, don’t expect Roberts to see the much of the field at all.

6. Justin Hunter, Titans

2014–15 Drop Rate: 10.5%

If there’s anyone who has even worse hands than their drop rate indicates, it’s Hunter. Not only does he have the sixth-worst drop rate dating back to last season, but he’s also caught just 47.7% of his targets. That means that among 94 qualified receivers, he has the worst 2014–15 Catch/Drop Rate Difference (CDRD) at 37.2%.

CDRD is a statistic that punishes wideouts for both a low catch rate and high drop rate by subtracting the latter from the former. And by CDRD, Hunter is the least efficient wideout in the league.

GALLERY: The 10 receivers with the worst hands in the NFL

5. Torrey Smith, 49ers

2014–15 Drop Rate: 10.8%

A flanker who lives and dies by the deep ball, Smith earned himself a five-year, $40 million contract with the 49ers last off-season after catching a career-high 11 touchdowns in 2014. Unfortunately, he also held the ignominy of tying Edelman for second in the NFL with 11 dropped balls on 27 fewer targets.

Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick both possess the strong arm necessary to complement Smith, but he hasn’t been able to lift the 49ers out of their offensive slump. Smith is on pace for 32 receptions and 738 yards, both career lows. He’s been targeted even less than 49ers tight end Garrett Celek. At least Smith only has one drop so far.


4. Mohamed Sanu, Bengals

2014–15 Drop Rate: 11.8%

Sanu is a curious case. He led the league with 14 drops last year when no one else had more than 11, necessitating his inclusion on this list with a truly awful 14.4% drop rate on 97 targets.

The fourth-year Rutgers product seems to have turned a corner in 2015, however. Despite losing the No. 2 wideout role to Marvin Jones, he’s yet to drop any of the 22 balls thrown to him and has a robust catch rate of 72.7%. That’s good for a spot in the top 20 among qualified receivers.

Sanu’s problem? Jones (77.8% catch rate) and A.J. Green (74.5%) both rank ahead of him, and it’s unlikely he’ll see a bigger piece of the pie in a humming Cincinnati aerial attack.

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3. Ted Ginn, Panthers

2014–15 Drop Rate: 12.1%

By raw receiving numbers, Ginn has experienced a revival on offense in 2015. The 30-year-old is on pace to record 48 receptions, 755 receiving yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 15.7 yards per catch, all of which would rank as his best or second-best single-season marks.

Look a bit deeper, however, and it’s clear Ginn has benefited from the Panthers’ laughably weak receiving corps. His 54.5% catch rate ranks eighth-worst among the 53 receivers with at least 30 targets this season, and his 2015 drop rate (12.1%) is virtually identical to last year’s mark.

2. Josh Huff, Eagles

2014–15 Drop Rate: 14.3%

Huff is a heck of an athlete. He played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and cornerback during high school and set the school record for single-season receiving yards (1,140) during his senior year at Oregon.

That being said, he might not be on an NFL roster if Eagles coach Chip Kelly hadn’t scraped his roster of receiving depth over the past two years. Huff has dropped five of the 35 passes thrown to him since making the team’s roster as a rookie in 2014.

Though Huff is a good kick returner, that position has lost value in the NFL since kickoffs were moved to the 35-yard line. He’s only had the chance to return 15 kicks since taking over as the primary kick returner last season, returning one back to the house. That’s the same amount he’s cashed in as a receiver in 443 snaps with Philadelphia.

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1. Leonard Hankerson, Falcons

2014–15 Drop Rate: 18.9%

The other members of the top three also have their uses as return men, so they have an excuse for their drop rates. Hankerson adds no such value on special teams, and it’s unclear why he’s been featured so prominently in Atlanta’s offense.

Roddy White has never had the greatest hands himself—he led the NFL with 15 drops in 2011, and posted a below-average 8.2% drop rate last season. But it’s baffling why the Falcons have elected to upset their longest-tenured player by giving his No. 2 WR role to a player who played just 23 snaps for Washington last year, recording zero targets.

Hankerson tweaked his hamstring in Sunday’s victory against the Titans, possibly giving White another shot to prove he still has enough left in the tank to replace a guy who might just have the worst hands of any professional wideout.

More from Will Laws:

The Best Homegrown QB from Every State

Projecting the 2015-16 NBA Standings via Win Shares

The Most Overpaid NFL Players at Each Position

PointAfter is part of the Graphiq network, a data aggregation and visualization website that’s collected all the information about Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it.

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