Jamison Crowder was a solid contributor to the Redskins offense in 2015. Though he didn't put up eye-popping numbers in his rookie campaign it's clear to most Redskins fans and other spectators that Crowder will be a significant part of the Redskins offense in the future. His stock has an arrow pointing way up in part because of the route running ability he displayed and his ability to play bigger than his size and make the tough catches. Aside from Crowder's physical talent, his toughness and competitive ability is a cornerstone for why I think he's poised to do big things in 2016. Before I gush over Jamison I want to throw out some comparisons and numbers of some of the top slot WR's in the NFL. I'll mainly be referencing "rookie" stats and comparing the difference to "second-year" stats. With some players I'll reference the first and second years they were a significant part of the offense. As a metric I'll be using seasons where the players targets were at least 75. I want to compare seasons where players played in a significant portion of the offense. For some guys there may be some gaps due to injuries or another factor. I'll use an asterisk beside their name if it wasn't their true rookie and second year season.
One last thing I'm trying to compare only true slot receivers or as close as I can get to that term. For that reason guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Eric Decker who have been moved to the slot later in their careers won't be listed below.
"Early" Career Stats
*2013 Targets: 151, Receptions: 105, Receiving Yards: 1056, Receiving TDs: 6
*2014 Targets: 134, Receptions: 92, Receiving Yards: 972, Receiving TDs: 4
*2012 Targets: 75, Receptions: 44, Receiving Yards: 626, Receiving TDs: 1
*2013 Targets: 113, Receptions: 67, Receiving Yards: 740, Receiving TDs: 6
*2012 Targets: 104, Receptions: 80, Receiving Yards: 954, Receiving TDs: 8
*2014 Targets: 127, Receptions: 91, Receiving Yards: 1287, Receiving TDs: 12
*2011 Targets: 85, Receptions: 51, Receiving Yards: 788, Receiving TDs: 4
*2014 Targets: 98, Receptions: 66, Receiving Yards: 825, Receiving TDs: 3
2003 Targets: 165, Receptions: 101, Receiving Yards: 1377, Receiving TDs: 8
2004 Targets: 104, Receptions 56, Receiving Yards: 623, Receiving TDs: 1
*Anquan Boldin only played in 10 games ths season and still got over 100 targets.
2014 Targets: 103, Receptions: 67, Receiving Yards: 872, Receiving TDs: 8
2015 Targets: 126, Receptions: 85, Receiving Yards: 997, Receiving TDs: 8
2014 Targets: 112, Receptions: 84, Receiving Yards: 758, Receiving TDs: 5
2015 Targets: 166, Receptions: 110, Receiving Yards: 1157, Receiving TDs: 4
What Does All That Have To Do With Crowder?
It's worth mentioning that Jamison Crowder has already made it into PFF's Top 10 Slot Receivers 2015 List. As a rookie Crowder was targeted 78 times, caught 59 passes for 604 yards and 2 TDs. Crowder is pretty close if not on pace (proportionately) starting off his career with some of the best slot receivers in the league. When comparing improvements from rookie to second year seasons for the slot guys I listed above targets increased on average by 35. Receptions increased on average by 18. Receiving yards increased by 201 yards and receiving TDs increased by 3. If we project that to Crowders 2016 numbers he would have 113 targets, 77 receptions for 805 yards and 5 TDs (using his rookie year as a base). That would be a solid increase in production and it would continue the pace Crowder has been on in keeping up with the best slot guys in the league.
But You Left Something Out
In the above projection I left out any negative values when I determined the averages. When you compile all the data good and bad from the guys listed above it shakes out to look more like this. Targets increase by 9. Receptions increase by 5. Yards increase by 24 and TDs actually go down by 2. If we projected that outcome onto Crowders 2016 stats using his rookie season as a base it would look like this. 87 targets, 64 receptions for 628 yards and 0 TDs. We definitely don't want to see any regression from a guy who looks to be on the up and up. For what it's worth the negative values I factored in are mostly from Julian Edelman and Anquan Boldin's first two major years. In their "second" years both sustained injuries and missed some time. Injuries are a part of football but if Jamison can stay healthy this year there is no reason to think that his numbers couldn't be closer to the best case option as opposed to this worst case.
How and When Could He Make The Big Jump?
Looking beyond 2016 is it possible that Crowder could become one of the better receivers in the league that happens to line up in the slot? I think its possible that eventually Crowder can break the stat line in the "best case" scenario I listed above. Guys like Julian Edelman, Anquan Boldin, Emmanuel Sanders, Randall Cobb etc all have had seasons with over 100 catches, over 1000 yards, and over 6 TDs.
First part of getting to that point is opportunity. I doubt Crowder gets to that point of production in 2016. In 2015 Crowder was on the field for 68.7% of the time. I expect that number to be more or less the same in 2016. Compare that to the top guys like Emmanuel Sanders (77.5%), Randall Cobb (91.5%), Anquan Boldin (75.1%), Jarvis Landry (84%) etc. You can find the data for 2015 snap % here . The point is I don't see Jamison Crowder getting onto the field in that capacity unless Pierre Garcon and/or Desean Jackson are no longer with the team. It wouldn't be a terrible guess to think that could happen as early as the 2017 season.
Secondly, another huge part is the quarterback. Edelman, Sanders, Cobb, and a lot of the other guys on the list above have or had top QBs throwing their way. If Kirk Cousins can keep his pace from the back half of last season or even improve this year and in future years everyone on offense including Crowder will be beneficiaries.
The third factor is consistency. Crowder had just 2 drops in his rookie season for a drop percentage of 2.6%. Two drops all year may not sound like a lot but it's not something that should continue to grow as Crowder is worked more into the offense. There are a few players that performed better in this category from the above list and they include: Doug Baldwin (1.9%), Emmanuel Sanders (2.2%), Anquan Bolding (1.8%). Crowders drop percentage may adjust itself as he see's a higher number of targets.
The Eye Test For Success
As I alluded to earlier Crowder's competitive nature and ability to play larger than his size will play a big role in his future success. The slot receiver role is no longer the shorter speedy guy. Larger WRs are beginning to make a living there based on being a mismatch on usually smaller nickel cornerbacks. Though Crowder is only 5'8'' and 175 lbs he certainly can play like someone who is 5'11 and 190 lbs. All of the top guys have that ability to make a spectacular catch.
I think Jamison Crowder is capable of making plays like these and more and we will get our first glimpse of it in 2016.
Thanks for reading let me know if you think Crowder can join the ranks of the best slot WRs this coming season and if he has the potential to become even better once given the opportunities.