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How good can Terry McLaurin be?

His potential is truly scary

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NFL Washington Redskins at Miami Dolphins Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

On a team filled with young, developing players, Terry McLaurin is the one young offensive playmaker who both produced at a high level throughout 2019 and appears to have “star” potential.

On a roster dominated by top draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, McLaurin and Haskins are probably the only two players on offense who have any national name recognition (aside from a TE with the notable name of Moss).

Because the team has looked so bad of late, I think that Redskins fans at times hesitate to embrace the idea that a given player can perform at a very high level on the field even as the team struggles. It can be hard to be a star on a bad team, but as the Redskins fortunes hopefully improve under Ron Rivera, Terry McLaurin has the opportunity to rise to national prominence.

I contend that Terry McLaurin is going to build on his 2019 rookie season and be among the best in the NFL in 2020.

First Down Training breaks down Terry McLaurin’s use of the “blindspot” technique

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 25, 2020

First, let’s look at some simple statistics from Terry’s 14 games in 2019. He caught 58 passes for 919 yards and 7 touchdowns. He made a 1st down on 74% of his catches. He did not fumble the ball, and in fact, recovered one of his of his teammates’ fumbles.

Had he played 16 games instead of 14, his numbers project as:

  • 66 receptions
  • 1,050 yards
  • 8 touchdowns

But the raw statistics above don’t really do justice to what Terry McLaurin accomplished in 2019 and how well that bodes for the future.

Contested Catches

Perhaps the most surprising and impressive advanced metric related to Terry McLaurin from 2019 has to do with his contested catch percentage. Terry McLaurin was #1 in the NFL in contested catch percentage at 68.4%.

Watch this video that talks about how impressive McLaurin is when it comes to contested catches.

Posted by Bill Horgan on Tuesday, May 26, 2020
Video from Billy’s Film Session

Yards Per Route Run (YPRR)

Consider the Yards Per Route Run, which you see charted against Target Rate below. Of course, being targeted at a higher rate will lead to higher YPRR, so we’re looking for receivers who are the highest on the chart at any given point along the X axis.

You can see, if you look closely, Terry McLaurin’s name in a group at the 20% vertical axis, lumped together with Keenan Allen and A.J. Brown. Graphic messiness aside, this is a strong indicator of future success. McLaurin’s yard per route run (YPRR) average in 2019 is one of the best ever recorded by a rookie wideout in the 14 years from 2006-2019 shown on this chart. Only 11 other rookie receivers have recorded a higher YPRR average across 300-plus routes than McLaurin (2.05) during that time.

Chart from Pro Football Focus

Deep ball, sideline and end-zone receptions

One of the hallmarks of a player who catches a lot of deep balls and makes a lot of contested sideline catches or catches in the end zone is that the player has limited Yards After Catch, which is a statistic that is compiled more by running backs and receivers who catch the ball on short passes, especially over the middle of the field.

Compiling cumulative big yardage totals with limited YAC is a sign of a special type of receiver — one who is frequently beating defensive backs deep, catching the ball with more of the field behind him than in front of him when he gets his hands on the ball.

First Down Training breaks down McLaurin’s ability to change direction

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 25, 2020

Billy’s Film Session talks about the threat of McLaurin’s speed and shows him beating Stephon Gilmore

Posted by Bill Horgan on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

McLaurin created separation down the field at a high rate, with his speed, route-running and releases all combining for high-end receiving production without high-end YAC. He was one of eight NFL receivers who recorded fewer than 25% of their receiving yards after the catch but still managed to total more than 800 receiving yards in 2019.

Chart from Pro Football Focus

According to PFF:

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, the NFL’s top receiver in 2019, ranked tied for 52nd in yards after the catch per reception with McLaurin at 3.8. And Atlanta Falcons veteran Julio Jones averaged only 3.6 yards after the catch per reception this past season. Winning downfield routes and separating at a high rate can lead to sustainable receiving production similar to consistent YAC threats like AJ Brown and Deebo Samuel in 2019.

Route running abilities

Darius Slay (who, after signing with the Eagles, will now get to play against Terry twice per season) rated McLaurin as the second-toughest receiver he had to cover in 2019 behind Keenan Allen. That’s pretty high praise when you consider that Slay went up against players like Stephon Diggs, Amari Cooper, and Allen Robinson last year.

Terry McLaurin is capable of running any route the coaching staff asks him to. To illustrate, McLaurin and Seattle rookie WR DK Metcalf were the only two rookies with 100-plus receiving yards across four or more different route concepts.

Chart from Pro Football Focus

Terry McLaurin’s sophistication and versatility as a rookie auger great things still to come.

What Terry McLaurin accomplished is especially impressive when you consider how little help he had from the scheme or the rest of the offense for most of the 2019 season.

A Redskins top producer

McLaurin ranked 6th in the NFL in 2019 with regard to the percentage of his team’s total passing yards accounted for. Michael Thomas was #1 at 38.6%; Terry accounted for 28.6% of the Redskins passing yards last season.

He ranked 4th in the NFL in percentage of the team’s total passing touchdowns, at 38.9% (Cooper Kupp was #1, at 45.5%).

McLaurin is one of only four players to be in the top-7 in both categories, and the only rookie to appear in either category.

First Down Training breaks down McLaurin beating press man coverage

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 25, 2020

Billy’s Film Session talks about McLaurin’s ability to take a hit and hold onto the ball

Posted by Bill Horgan on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Limited by quarterback play

The real limitation to Terry McLaurin’s production in 2019 was the inaccuracy of the three quarterbacks throwing to him.

  • No rookie receiver saw a lower percentage of accurate passes on downfield throws than McLaurin.
  • Only 45.2% of his targets of five-plus air yards were charted as accurate in 2019, which ranked 52nd among all qualifying pass-catchers and dead last among rookies.

Again and again, McLaurin beat the coverage and was running open, only to have the quarterback du jour overthrow him, throw behind him or far too high or low for the ball to be catchable.

Just in the six passes shown in the video below, I estimate that Terry lost around 145 yards and 3 touchdowns to inaccurate throws without allowing for any YAC.

Billy’s Film Session narrates as Redskins QBs miss a wide-open Terry McLaurin again and again

Posted by Bill Horgan on Monday, May 25, 2020

A foundation laid for greatness

Consider this from one analyst:

McLaurin didn’t put up crazy numbers, but he was the focal point of his team’s offense, so if the quarterback play gets any better, McLaurin’s numbers will most likely go up significantly. Another thing to consider is that he was a rookie, and immediately became his team’s number one receiver. So you have to think he’s only gonna get better as a football player. He was definitely one of the steals of the 2019 draft, and seems like...a number one option moving forward.

Terry McLaurin demonstrated the skills of a savvy veteran in 2019. He will only get better. Scary Terry is poised to dominate the competition and establish himself among the elite receivers of the NFL.


What kind of career is Terry McLaurin going to have?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Charley Taylor level - Hall of Fame
    (382 votes)
  • 49%
    Gary Clark level - Ring of Fame
    (416 votes)
  • 4%
    MIchael Westbrook level - his name will be remembered
    (35 votes)
  • 0%
    Rod Gardner level - good start, but ultimately a disappointing career
    (3 votes)
836 votes total Vote Now