Jordan Reed's Historic (Yet Amazingly Under the Radar) Rookie Season

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Just how good was Jordan Reed’s rookie season? We look at his advanced metrics and per game statistics to find out, and the results might surprise you.

Nothing seemed to go right for the Redskins in 2013. The losses piled up and Robert Griffin's slumping play and poor relationship with his coaches dominated the headlines. It was hard to find any bright spots in this disappointing season, but if you looked you could find them. Perhaps the most promising of which was the emergence of Jordan Reed. The rookie tight end out of Florida burst onto the scene with 499 receiving yards, 45 receptions, 30 first downs and 3 touchdowns in his first year as a pro. He displayed a tireless work ethic off the field and a high level of concentration on it. This helped him avoid the all too common "rookie mistakes", as he did not once fumble, commit a penalty or allow a sack, and he only dropped 4 balls on the year.

These are all very impressive numbers, but what's most impressive is that all of his production came in just nine games; especially when you consider that he didn't really see that much action in those nine games. Reed started in just 4 of the 9 weeks that he played, and his 42.56 snaps per game and 25.33 routes run per game ranked 36th and 25th respectively for tight ends. He accomplished things in 9 weeks that most rookie tight ends don't achieve in 16. When you put all of this into context it helps you to understand just how remarkable Reed's rookie year really was. It should also help you to realize that in order to fully appreciate what he did we need to look at more than just his raw totals. With the help of a few advanced metrics and per game statistics I was able to do this, and the deeper I dug, the more impressed I became with Jordan Reed.

Advanced Metrics

Football Outsiders:

When it comes to advanced metrics, Football Outsiders is one of the best in the business. Two of their most well known metrics are DVOA and DYAR. DVOA, Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, represents value, per play, over an average player in the same game situations (VOA is a related stat that is not adjusted for the opponent). DYAR, or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, gives the value of the performance on plays where the player passed, ran, caught the ball, etc. compared to a replacement-level player in the same game situations and then translated into yardage (YAR is not adjusted for the opponent ). Our favorite tight end, Mr. Reed, compares quite favorably to every Redskins TE and every other rookie to play the position (FO statistics date back to 1989).

Jordan Reed's Football Outsiders Stats & Rankings (minimum of 25 targets required)
DYAR YAR DVOA VOA
2013 Values
98 124 19.5% 26.6%
2013 TE Rankings 10th 5th 9th 6th
Redskins TE Rankings (89-Present) 5th 2nd 5th 5th
Rookie TE Rankings (89-Present) w/ >= 99 Rec. Yards 13th 9th 19th 11th

Reed's 2013 season ranks in the top five in each category for all Redskins tight ends, and he accomplished this in his first year in the league. His standings amongst all other rookies aren't too shabby either. Only 12 other first-year tight ends finished in the top ten in DYAR, YAR, DVOA and VOA. Also, in case you were wondering, I had to trim down the list of all-time rookie tight ends somehow, so I initially chose to cut the list off at all rookies that totaled at least 100 receiving yards. Then I saw that the great Shannon Sharpe put up 99 yards in his debut season, so I had to drop it by 1 yard. In my opinion, this was a more than reasonable cutoff point.

Pro-Football-Reference:

Approximate Value (AV) is PFR's attempt to put a single numerical value on each player-season, so that they can compare players across different years and positions. This is probably my least favorite of all of the advanced metrics, and it doesn't really do Jordan Reed's season justice, because it rewards for higher raw totals and for starting in games. However, since I've included most of the other popular advanced metrics, I decided to include AV as well. In order to compensate for the metric's bias for aggregate totals, I looked at the AV on a per game basis.

Jordan Reed's Approximate Value Stats & Rankings (among true TEs)
Approximate Value Approximate Value/Game
2013 Values 3 0.33
2013 TE Rankings 25th 16th
Redskins TE Rankings (50-Present) 33rd 27th
Rookie TE Rankings (50-Present) 72nd 40th

The results are quite good for Reed when you consider that this metric looks at every player going all the way back to 1950 (including AFL). However, at the same time, they don't paint quite as glowing of a picture as the other statistics do.

Advanced Football Analytics (Formerly Advanced NFL Stats):

Reed posted a 1.16 Win Probability Added (WPA), a 39 Expected Points Added (EPA) and a 0.13 WPA/Game, and ranked 7th, 5th and 5threspectively in these categories last year. He is only the fifth rookie tight end to ever rank in the top ten in each of these metrics (Witten, Hernandez, Miller, Jolley). His WPA and EPA were the highest ever recorded by a rookie tight end. Advanced NFL Analytics' stats date back to 1999. For explanations of WPA, EPA and how they're used visit Advanced NFL Analytics and their Stats Glossary page (the site has been undergoing a redesign, so apologies if the links are broken).

Jordan Reed's Advanced Football Analytics Stats & Rankings (regular season only & among true TEs)
WPA EPA WPA/Game EPA/Play
2013 Values 1.16 39.0 0.13 0.64
2013 TE Rankings 7th 5th 5th 15th
Redskins TE Rankings (99-Present) 4th 1st 1st 8th
Rookie TE Rankings (99-Present) 1st 1st 3rd 38th

Pro Football Focus:

Pro Football Focus is currently the most popular site for advanced football metrics. Just as many coaches do, they give a grade to every player on every play (grading system explained here). Let's see what the folks at PFF thought about Jordan Reed in 2013.

Jordan Reed's PFF Stats & Rankings (minimum of 25% of snaps played)
Overall Pass Run Block Pass Block
2013 Grades 10.3 5.9 1.9 0.7
2013 TE Rankings 5th 12th 8th 21st
Redskins TE Rankings (08-Present) w/ no snap restrictions 1st 3rd 4th 5th
Rookie TE Rankings (08-Present) 4th 2nd 10th 14th

Reed is one of only four tight ends (Gronkowski, Allen, Moeaki) to receive a top 12 overall, passing and run blocking grade in their rookie year. His passing and overall grades rank 2nd and 4th amongst rookie tight ends since 2008 (PFF has graded every game since 2008). His overall rating of 10.3 is the highest grade ever received by a Redskins tight end.

PFF also tracks every tight ends yards per route run (YPRR). This is quite possibly my favorite receiving metric because it really displays how well a TE or a WR produces relative to how many times they have the opportunity to actually run a route and get open. I took things a step further by compiling data on receptions per route run (RPRR) and touchdowns per route run (TDPRR). By now you probably get the point, and can guess how well Jordan Reed did.

Jordan Reed's Per Route Stats & Rankings (minimum 25% of targets required)
YPRR RPRR TDPRR
2013 Values 2.19 0.20 0.13
2013 TE Rankings 3rd 1st 13th
TE Rankings (08-Present) 14th 2nd 74th

Approximately 225 player seasons since 2008 are ranked here, and Reed's 2013 season finished in the top 15 of two categories. He is one of only 3 tight ends rookie tight ends to ever finish with a YPRR over 2.0 (Gronkowski and Graham). His 2.19 YPRR is the second highest ever recorded by a rookie (Graham). Eight of the thirteen (57%) YPRR seasons that rank ahead of Reeds belong to Gates, Gronkowski and Graham. He ranked 2nd in RPRR and finished just .001 behind Dallas Clark's 2009 season for the most receptions per route run. I need to stop for a second and collect myself here. Wow, Jordan Reed was a rookie in 2013 and he did all of this! OK, I'm back, and I do realize that his TDPRR numbers weren't out of this world great. However, before we knock him too hard for that, we should consider that the Redskins didn't really spend much time in the red zone last year, and when they were there, they weren't the pass-happiest team. If Reed had more opportunities to produce there I think he would, because he has the best career RZ Target-to-TD conversion rate of all of the Redskins projected starters by a healthy margin.

2013 Redskins Red Zone Stats & Rankings
Total RZ Plays RZ Passes RZ Pass % RZ Runs RZ Run % RZ Target to TD Conv. Rate
Redskins 2013 Values 133 71 53.4% 62 46.6% 21.5%
NFL 2013 Average Values 144.8 78.5 54.3% 66.4 45.7% 24%
Redskins 2013 Rankings 20th 19th 20th 18th 13th 18th

Week 7: Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins

Alright, that's enough advanced metrics for today. It's time for some more traditional stats. We'll start with Reed's breakout game against the Bears. Reed caught all 9 of his targets and put up 134 yards receiving and a touchdown. According to PFR, his 134 yards and 9 receptions were both team records for a rookie tight end. Reed’s 134 yards were the fourth-most in a game by a Redskins tight end of any experience level. They are also the 5th highest totals on record by any Redskins rookie (including WRs and RBs). His yardage and reception marks in this game are tied for the 9th and 7th most by a rookie tight end respectively since 1960 (probably of all-time, but game logs only go back to 1960). Reed's first 100 yard receiving game came in only his fourth career game. He was the second fastest tight end to do this in NFL history. Against the Bears, Jordan Reed only played in 40 of the teams 76 snaps (53%) and only ran 22 routes in those 40 snaps (55%).

Redskins Rookie and All-Time Tight End Seasons

Right about now some of you (I hope not many of you) might be saying "So Jordan Reed had one good game, and a bunch of stats nerds love him. Big deal! How well did he actually produce? Show me the yards, receptions and the TDs." I'll attempt to oblige any such doubters by showing you how Reed's rookie season ranks against his peers. We'll work our way outwards, and start by comparing his 2013 season to every other season by a Redskins tight end. Just remember that he only played in nine games, and that because of this the most important thing to pay attention is the per-game numbers. After all, efficiency is king in statistics.

Jordan Reed's Total and Per Game Stats & Redskins Rankings
Rec Yards FD TD Recs/G Yards/G FDs/G TDs/G
2013 Values 45 499 30 3 5.0 55.4 3.3 0.33
All-Time Redskins Rookie TE Rankings 1st 1st 1st 3rd 1st 1st 1st 2nd
All-Time Redskins TE Rankings 14th 18th 9th 26th 2nd 4th 1st 17th

I know these rankings only apply to one team, but when you consider how long that team has been around, it makes those numbers look pretty damned impressive. The Redskins were founded in 1932, they are the 6th oldest active franchise and they have played 1,138 regular season games in 82 years. Also, the tight end position has been around in one form or another since the 1940s. Yeah.

All Rookie Tight End Seasons

"Is this guy crazy? Where does he get off ranking Jordan Reed against every other rookie tight end in the history of the NFL? That's not to mention that this article is too long, he's now used the same literary device in the opening of two consecutive sections and his 90s references are too old and random." To that I say "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion man."

Jordan Reed's Total and Per Game Stats and Rookie Rankings
Rec Yards FD TD Recs/G Yards/G FDs/G TDs/G
2013 Values 45 499 30 3 5.0 55.4 3.3 .033
All-Time Rookie TE Rankings (w/ >= 99 Rec. Yards) 14th 30th 6th 47th 2nd 4th 1st 25th

In 2013, Jordan Reed posted yards, receptions and first downs per game numbers that ranked in the top four all-time for rookie tight ends. He had more first downs on a per game basis than any other rookie tight end (FD data goes back to 1991), and he trailed Keith Jackson by .0625 for the most receptions per game all-time by a rookie tight end. Let those facts wash over you while I drop this mic.

Bottom Line & Outlook

[Picks up literary mic] In 2013, Jordan Reed had the greatest rookie season by a tight end in Redskins history. On a per game/efficiency basis it was one of the best ever by any Redskin TE, and it should rank in the top ten overall for all rookie tight ends in NFL history. However, at the same time, I can't say with certainty that it was truly a top ten overall (per game and aggregate) season by a rookie tight end in general. This is because there is something to be said for actually playing in nearly all of your team's games and carrying those high per game totals through an entire season. Efficiency typically does decline as volume increases. Would it have dramatically declined for Jordan Reed? I don't know; but I do believe and I can say that Reed's season was one of the best ever by a rookie tight end in NFL history.

While, 2013 was a great year for Jordan Reed, I do not at all expect it to be the high point of his career. Reed should greatly benefit from the new coaching staff in Washington. Jay Gruden brings a tight end friendly and pass heavy offense to the table, and the team's new offensive coordinator, Sean McVay, is Reed's former tight ends coach. The addition of DeSean Jackson will keep defenses honest and out of Reed's wheel house in the short to intermediate areas of the field. If he can avoid concussion issues that have dogged him since his days as a Florida Gator, then the sky is the limit for the young tight end. Jordan Reed has the potential to be a true star in this league.

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