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Jason Witten: NFL's best pass-catching tight end

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For those of you who've never read KC Joyner, his claim to fame is creating new ways to measure the effectiveness of NFL players. He uses formulas beyond the basic statistics with which we're all familiar. It's kind of like the way baseball manages to break everything down into stats and then uses the combinations of those stats to create things like a pitcher's WHIP and other arcane measurements.

Today, he has an article out proclaiming the best receiving tight end in the NFL for last season. Guess who the answer is: Jason Witten. (Oh boy, that's going to drive our friend BigBlueShoe batty as he continues to insist that Dallas Clark is a better TE than Jason Witten). The story is part of ESPN Insiders, some of you may not be able to access it, so I'll try to sum it up.

Joyner uses this basic formula:

The first two are TYPCA (total yards per catchable attempt) and success percentage. The third metric is derived by multiplying TYPCA by the success percentage. This last metric combination provides the best overall balance between production and consistency and is the metric I used to identify the best receiving tight end.

TYPCA removes incomplete passes to a receiver not caused by the receiver's actions.

1.    QB is actually throwing the ball away.
2.    If a defensive lineman knocks down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
3.     If the quarterback is hit while throwing a pass.

Success percentage is the percentage of play's to a specific player that were successful. Here's his take on Witten:

The best receiving tight end in the NFL in 2005 was Jason Witten. The offensive line injuries in Dallas didn't stop him from ranking second in the total TYPCA category and fifth in success percentage. He also had the lowest overall dropped pass percentage of any tight end.

Witten didn't rack up these numbers strictly on short passes. Witten was excellent at medium passes, ranking second in medium TYPCA and second in medium success percentage. He wasn't the best deep threat, but managed to rank fifth in deep success percentage.

I expect Gates to bounce back from his injuries to reclaim the throne as the best pass-catching tight end in 2006, but until then, he'll have to take a backseat to Witten.

Joyner adds the disclaimer that Antonio Gates would've won this hands-down if not for a leg injury late in the season. Tony Gonzalez was hurt by the fact he ended up blocking a lot more for the Chiefs last year (he ended up 6th in the rankings).

Here are the final rankings:

Success % x Yards Per Attempt

  1. Jason Witten -- 6.7
  2. Jerramy Stevens -- 6.5
  3. Chris Cooley -- 6.4
  4. Todd Heap -- 5.9
  5. Erron Kinney -- 5.8