Seahawks 2021 Rookie Analytics Deep Dive, Part 1: D'Wayne Eskridge

Matty F. Brown kicks off a miniseries which looks at the Seahawks' 2021 rookie class from an analytics perspective. Sports Info Solutions' numbers highlight some exciting names to keep an eye on in Seattle.
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While tape analysis on the Seahawks’ 2021 draft class and newcomers will arrive throughout the offseason at Seahawk Maven, looking at the data also provides enlightening detail. Opening up the Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook 2021 highlights three analytically-speaking standouts from Seattle’s 2021 rookie class. Blending this data with initial tape observations leads to some interesting conclusions. Here is part one of a three-part miniseries.

WR D’Wayne “Dee” Eskridge

It's nice the Seahawks’ first pick of 2021, selected No. 56 overall, stands out from his peers in a variety of SIS metrics.

First up we have total points, described by SIS as their "proprietary player value metric that uses an expected points framework and distributes the value gained or lost on a play to the players involved based on their impact on the play.” 

It’s a more precise tool for evaluating individual player contributions than solely using expected points added (EPA). “Total points is more robust because it accounts for things that EPA does not—uncatchable passes, drops, air yards, YAC, offensive line play, etc.,” SIS research and design associate Bryce Rossler explained in February 2021. 

Eskridge shined in the total points area: 

  • 4.0 total points per game, third among receivers
  • 3.8 receiving total points per game, third among receivers
  • 3.1 receiving total points per game: wide, first among receivers

Aside from Eskridge performing well in this metric, we can also see that he led the entire draft class in total points when aligned wide. When Seattle took a receiver under 5-foot-9, the immediate conclusion was that Eskridge would be in the slot. However, at 190 pounds with genuine press release craft, he's actually more of an outside type who is likely to start out at the Z receiver position. Therefore, Tyler Lockett could shift into slot duty when the Seahawks are in 11 personnel.

  • 35 percent target share, tied second among receivers
  • 1.3 total touchdowns per game, tied fourth among receivers
  • 6.6 total EPA per game, third among receivers

Eskridge will not be targeted nearly as much in Seattle playing behind Lockett and DK Metcalf—the duo accounted for 48.6 percent of the team’s targets, 47.2 percent of the receptions, 55.5 percent of the offensive yardage, and 50 percent of the receiving touchdowns in 2020. It is encouraging, however, that the second-round pick was able to stay consistently productive and efficient despite being the obvious threat on his team.

  • 2.3 yards per route run, tied third among receivers
  • 130.7 receiving yards per game, fourth among receivers
  • 14.8 yards per target, first among receivers
  • 81.3 yards after catch per game, first among receivers
  • 14.4 yards after catch per reception, first among receivers

Eskridge’s explosiveness on tape and big play ability is reflected in most of these numbers. There has been much talk about his YAC potential, with YAC a much-sought after, often missing element in Seattle’s attack. But aside from play-calling and player type, how much does the lack of YAC fall on Russell Wilson’s skillset and style at quarterback? 

Bringing the conversation back to Eskridge, most of his YAC arrived via run-pass option plays that do not translate to the NFL. If the Seahawks and new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron can regularly apply the constraints required for success, taking the jet ‘pass’ feels like their clearest path to amassing YAC in bunches.

Eskridge’s 2019 season was shortened by nine games after he broke his right clavicle. Comparing his 2018 season with 2020 shows how Western Michigan’s usage of the receiver changed. It’s a nice contrast given Eskridge had similar receiving totals: 767 receiving yards in 2018 and 784 in 2020.

In 2018, Eskridge’s 767 receiving yards total was made up of 562 air yards with 205 yards coming after the catch or 5.5 YAC per reception. His average depth of target was 19.9.

From being a deep bomb target in 2018, 2020 showed the transition of Eskridge into more of a catch-and-run weapon. His senior year receiving yards total of 784 featured 296 air yards and 488 yards after the catch or 14.4 YAC per reception. His average depth of target dipped to 11.

Looking at Eskridge’s change in deep percentage is also illuminating. This is the percentage of routes run by a receiver that have an average target depth of at least 15 yards. His 2020 deep percentage of 19 percent did not feature in the top-10 of draft-eligible receivers. In 2018, however, his deep percentage was a staggering 43 percent—for context, this would have eclipsed the 2020 leader, Stanford’s Simi Fehoko, who had a deep percentage of 34.

Seattle was rumored pre-draft to be interested in Fehoko. This could have been the receiver they would have drafted if they had been able to execute a trade down from No. 56. The explosiveness and deep route ability elements to his game hint that Eskridge was drafted with these traits in mind. The Seahawks knew what they were looking for from the receiver position and were also aware of what Wilson likes as a QB—specifically, sideline deep balls. 

Here's a look at Eskridge's timeline and notable numbers:

  • 2018: 767 receiving yards, 562 air yards, and 205 YAC
  • 2019: Missed nine games with broken right clavicle
  • 2020: 784 receiving yards, 296 air yards, and 488 YAC
  • 2018: 5.5 YAC per reception
  • 2019: 7.0 YAC per reception 
  • 2020: 14.4 YAC per reception
  • 2018: 19.9 ADoT 
  • 2019: 14.8 ADoT
  • 2020: 11.0 ADoT 

One final note is Eskridge’s unique routes run. SIS charts this as the number of distinct routes that a receiver ran at least once in an offseason. His 13 unique routes missed the top-10 by one spot. Learning an NFL route tree is something that Eskridge will spend most of the offseason focusing on. 

His year one goal will be to cut down on the added steps present at the top of some of his routes, like comebacks. If he does indeed play mainly the Z receiver role in Seattle, you can expect him to run go routes, post routes, comeback routes, hitch routes, slant routes, and the jet.

Permission to use the Sports Info Solutions data was granted by the SIS vice president of football and research and Rookie Handbook editor Matt Manocherian on May 22, 2021. You can purchase “The SIS Football Rookie Handbook 2021” here. It’s a fantastic read full of data, articles, and NFL-level scouting reports. Follow SIS on Twitter here and Matt here