The Misconception that Bigger is Better with Receivers in the NFL

It’s officially the most boring part of the NFL offseason, and there is literally nothing to talk about besides the seemingly endless amount of suspensions being handed down. Since I don’t really want to harp on suspensions all offseason, I’m writing about a misconception that a lot of recruiters and analysts have in regards to the receiver position.

“Size matters” is a phrase we hear all the time in almost every aspect of our lives. It’s especially relevant when analysts create scouting reports for receivers before the draft. “Great size” or “too small” are common phrases to describe receivers. Despite being proved wrong time after time, they still have a misconception that bigger is better. Here’s why bigger doesn’t always mean better with receivers.

*For purposes, I divided size categories into small being 6’1 and under and big being 6’2 and over.*

The easiest way to judge a receiver in the NFL is by receptions. Receptions can tell you a lot of things. It tells you how many times one catches the ball, which inevitably shows how well a receiver can get open or make tough catches in traffic.

Let’s take a look at the receptions leaders in the NFL for 2017. The NFL’s leader in receptions last year was Jarvis Landry with 112 receptions on the year. If you don’t know, Jarvis Landry is only 5’11” and would fall under the small category. In fact, if you look at the top ten receptions leaders, five are 6’1″ and under. Those receivers include Antonio Brown, arguably the best receiver in football at 5’10”, Golden Tate, who is roughly 5’10”, DeAndre Hopkins and Le’Veon Bell.

Another simple way to judge a receiver is by receiving yards. The NFL’s leader in receiving yards was none other than Antonio Brown, a small guy in a league that awes over size. The craziest part about Brown is that he plays on the outside position, which is usually reserved for the larger receivers, otherwise known as an X. That’s a position you will see a lot of 6’3″ guys playing, but AB is better than all of them.

The last of the stats is non other than the glamorous touchdown total. The NFL leader in touchdowns last year was another “small” guy in DeAndre Hopkins, who had 13 on the year. In fact, four of the top five TD leaders among receivers in the NFL were guys who would be considered as small. Those receivers were Hopkins, Davante Adams, Brown and Jarvis Landry.

An area on the field that is supposed to be dominated by these big bodied receivers is in the red zone. However, when you look at the stats, the red zone is an area dominated by the small guys. Three of the top four receivers in receptions inside the 20 are guys like Jarvis Landry, who was number one with 18 receptions. When you get inside the 10, he is even better, catching 11 passes out of 14 targets with a whopping nine TDs. Julio Jones, a big bodied receiver and one of the league’s most physically gifted receivers, had only five receptions inside the 20, four inside the 10, and ONE touchdown. Even in the red zone, bigger doesn’t mean better.

When we take a look at targets, three of the top four receivers in regards to targets are small guys. This means that they are more likely to get open and that their quarterback trusts them to make a play. I know schemes and certain passing concepts play a part in this, but when it’s all said and done, the QB is going to throw to the guy who he trusts the most to make a play.

Maybe I’m just crazy, but after looking at the stats, bigger does mean better. If we all took the stats more seriously,  we could put this stigma that bigger receivers are better to rest.

Picture: Sports Illustrated

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