Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee Excel in Yards After the Catch

by Blaine Grisak
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It’s no secret that the Los Angeles Rams and Sean McVay like their receivers to excel in gaining yards after the catch. The offense isn’t so much about just catching the ball as it is what you do after you catch the ball. Therefore it should be no secret that Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both ranked inside the top-10 in yards after the catch last season. Additionally tight end Tyler Higbee ranked 11th among tight ends.

However, those are just pure yards after the catch numbers. Football Outsiders has a metric called YAC+. Football Outsiders describes this metric as:

YAC+ is similar to plus-minus; it estimates how much YAC a receiver gained compared to what we would have expected from an average receiver catching passes of similar length in similar down-and-distance situations.

When it comes to YAC+, both Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee ranked within the top-10 at their positions. Last season, Kupp had a YAC+ number of +0.8. This ranked tenth among receivers.

Cooper Kupp

What makes this metric unique is that while we know that the Los Angeles Rams receivers are good at picking up yards after the catch, this shows how efficient they are at doing so. The Sean McVay offense is designed for receivers to pick up yards after the catch. Most receivers with a primary role in the offense would do well in this area as it’s a staple in the McVay-Shanahan type offense. This stat does a good job of telling just how good someone like Kupp is in picking up yards after the catch compared to what another receiver would do in a similar situation.

Kupp has now been in the top 20 in YAC+ in each of his four seasons in the league. His career YAC+ number of +1.2 is the most for anyone with at least 200 targets over the last four years. Kupp ranked 29th in DYAR which puts a number on a wide receivers total value. He also ranked 45th in DVOA which is more about a players value per play.

What’s surprising is that Robert Woods didn’t even make it into the top-20 in YAC+ despite ranking inside the top-10 in pure YAC yards.

Tyler Higbee

Tyler Higbee ranked 11th in yards after the catch, but was actually very efficient after the catch, outperforming some tight ends that finished inside the top-10. Higbee ranked eighth in YAC+ with a +1.1. 2020 marked the third straight season that the Los Angeles Rams tight end has ranked top-15 in the category.

In other Football Outsider metrics, Tyler Higbee also ranked inside the top-10 in DVOA at number nine and also ranked fifth in DYAR. Again, these metrics help determine a player’s overall value and value per play to their offense.

Higbee is an underrated tight end in the NFL landscape, frequently being left off of top-10 lists. However, with these metrics, it’s fair to say that he could do more with more opportunity. We’ve seen stretches of this, specifically at the end of the 2019 season. In the final five weeks of 2019, Higbee accumulated 43 catches for 522 yards.

The Rams tight end will get a chance to show what he can do with more opportunity this season. With Gerald Everett, Higbee will be the most experienced tight end on the Rams roster. He will likely be the sole TE1 on the roster and dominate snaps.

Conclusion

When it comes to analytics, it’s important to pair it with the tape which is what Football Outsiders tries to do more than most analytics outlets. It’s fair to say that most knew that Copper Kupp and Tyler Higbee were good after the catch, and these numbers just back it up. In most cases, that’s when you know it’s a good stat.

With Matthew Stafford under center in 2021, there is a good chance that players like Kupp and Higbee perform even better after the catch. Last season, the Rams offense became congested because teams didn’t respect the quarterback under center. Stafford should be able to help create more for the Rams receivers which bodes well for YAC.

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