Second Year Jumps: Projecting Patriots Potential Pass Catchers

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko 

Patriots fans were disappointed with the debut performances of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Their drops and inconsistencies were evident, however Patriots supporters should be much more optimistic about their future when taken into more context. What can the Patriots expect from these players entering their second full season in the NFL? Let’s take a look.

Wide Receiver is notoriously one of the most difficult positions to step into as a rookie and make an immediate impact. The position is so much more complex in the NFL than it is in college, that the majority of the season is spent learning new route concepts, making adjustments, and reading coverages. Even the most talented receivers start off slow as they become adjusted to the pro game. It’s not until their second full season in the NFL that things begin to “click” and their impact on their field becomes more consistent.

The phrase “Second year jump” is thrown around by coaches and media members often. When it comes to the Wide Receiver position the perceived “second year jump” is very real and the data in this chart backs it up.

In an effort to project the contributions of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins in year two, I analyzed the performance of 29 top Wide Receivers and compared their rookie season to that of their second full season in the NFL.

Based on this chart:

  • Top Tier Wide Receivers on average 86.38% increase in their receptions from year one to year two
  • Top tier Wide Receivers on average 87.83% increase in their yard totals from year one to year two
  • It takes some WR more than two seasons to become impact players (Demaryius Thomas, Jordy Nelson, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson)
  • Even if the jump in numbers aren’t dramatic a slight increase should be perceived as a positive result
  • There is no linear curve to project the future impact of a player in the NFL, these numbers are meant to show the leap the majority of top tier receivers make in their second full season and aren’t necessarily a predictor of future success.
  • Aaron Dobson’s rookie season was slightly better than the average and the median (only 12 games).
  • Kenbrell Thompkins’ numbers are eerily similar to the median for a rookie WR in both receptions and yards.

It’s unreasonable to assume that both Thompkins and Dobson can make the significant leap to reach the second year averages. After all, Dobson is coming off a foot injury and both players will be competing for targets not only with each other, but other talented weapons on the Patriots offense. The Patriots don’t need both players to become 1,000 yard receivers.

Based on this data I think it is reasonable to expect one of these players will take the next step forward in their development and reach the 2nd year median numbers of 62 receptions and 979 yards. If that happens the Patriots offense will be much more dynamic on the outside than people expect and the perception that they don’t have any wide receivers will quickly fade away.


25 Responses to “Second Year Jumps: Projecting Patriots Potential Pass Catchers”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    Not to get off the subject, released by the Falcons DL/LB/FB Roosevelt Nix hailing from Kent St. He was on my UDFA list and was a DL at 5″11 250 and was an absolute beast being undersized as a DL, he might be a very good LB and special teamer, Pats bring him to camp!

    • steve earle says:

      Interesting thought. Not sure Bill would do more at this point then just bring him in for a talk and a workout though. Those already in camp have to be still being evaluated so unless BB is already to cut someone or unless someone really jumps out for him I’d think him unlikely to make any move until after Thurs. game at least. (Now watch him prove me wrong).

  2. Jack Greguoli says:

    Sorry fellas, but Dobson has yet to practice. It’s only been four months since his surgery. It’s very possible he misses the first half of the season. He can’t be counted on to contribute. He can’t even get on the practice field right now. Boyce and Thompkins will need to step up into the number three and four roles. Right now, Amendola and Edelman are our starting wide receivers.

    • steve earle says:

      Amendola and Edelman are both slot receivers so I would not say they are our starters because LaFell could likely be the wide out. That’s not to say that both slot receivers can’t or won’t be on the field at the same time in some instances. Either way I like our WR corpes as it now is. Hope they all stay healthy. As for Dobson it’s looking more and more as though he may be starting on the recall IR list. That could give someone like Van Hooser some extra time or even Bill could pick someone off the cut lists to bring in on a temp bases.

  3. jack says:

    As has been pointed out already, if Gronk stays healthy (please for the love of God let that happen), then that will negatively impact the targets the second-year guys get. Similarly for Amendola/Edelman. In that case we’re talking the 4th/5th/6th receivers, possibly. Although I think Dobson could break into the top 3, because he was really showing signs of “getting it” last year, and he’s a big, fast guy. Sux that he’s been hurt.

    I’m projecting that between Amendola and Edelman, they get a full year’s health for one guy. Gronk is just *due* for a healthy year. Between Dobson/Amendola/Boyce, who are all injury-prone, they probably get two good second year receivers. So, that gives you one superstar (Gronk) and two good (Edelman/Amendola and Dobson/Thomkins/Boyce) receivers, which should give Brady enough targets to have at the very least an adequate passing game through the year.

    • steve earle says:

      Good point Jack. Edelmen’s 100+ catches last year came abour largly because of all the injuries. Best scenario would be for catches to be spread around with all starters to be in the 40 50 catches +/_ range with back-ups in the 20’s by end of season. I have high hopes as always this time of year.

      • jack says:

        Hi Steve,

        Actually I meant if Amendola/Edelman stay healthy, that the second year guys’ targets would be limited similar to if Gronk stays healthy. I could’ve worded it better.

        But to your point, that’s very true. If he gets another 100 catches, I’m not positive if that would be such a great thing, because it possibly means Brady isn’t getting what he wants out of the other receivers for whatever reason. Like you and most everybody else I would think, I prefer a nice balance without the focus on one receiver, nor on passing vs. running for that matter. Keep the defense guessing, and the best way to do that is to give Tommy boy the weapons he needs.

        • steve earle says:

          That’s exactly what I was trying to get at. Spreading the passes around ( whoever’s open) so if they double gronk, edelman or whoever someone else gets the reception. That makes it really tough on defenses and add to that a good rushing game and it’s darn near impossable to keep that kind of offense in check, let alone stop. As you rightly note it all depends on keeping guys healthy and on the field. Completely with you on this.

        • DMC413 says:

          It may look and sound as “wishful thinking” from a die-hard Pat’s fan but I have to agree with the majority of what you posted.

          In my perfect world we start the season off mixing the offense up with a very even Pass to run (to include dump/screen passes to RB’s) ratio for balance. Edelman, #80, KT (will be a beast this year) and Gronk will be enough to give defenses enough trouble. Start the season with Dobson on IR, bring him along slow… We don’t need to rush him back onto the field until he is 110%, the six weeks he is ineligible to play will serve as his training camp… bye week 12 he’ll be up to full speed terrorizing DB’s.

          Boyce and LaFell will contribute early on in the season and as Boyce catches up from time missed from his rookie year and LaFell becomes more comfortable with the system, manufacturing crisp routes depicted by the defense that matches with what Tom Terrific sees will really come together as the season plays along. Come Play-Off time we will be clicking on all cylinders.

          Like the point you made the most important thing to me is that we spread the ball around, 4 or 5 guys with mediocre to descent catches for the season is far better than 2 guys with off the chart numbers. The Patriots are far less predictable and TB is at his best when he takes what the defense gives him. Not to mention at any given time we could put a 4 or 5 WR corp. out on the field that would be very hard to cover, especially when you look at the WR’s who are being covered by the #3 and 4 DB’s, unless the D plays a zone and we all know you don’t do that against Tom!

  4. Oppitz says:

    You’ve got to look at playing time too… A lot of those receivers didnt have regular playing time on their rookie seasons, and with more snaps on 2nd year came the better production… Dobson and Thompkins were playing from day 1, so lets see if they can improve their production with the same amout of snaps

  5. Grendel_the_Dog says:

    The trouble with this analysis is that you’re looking at a biased sample. As you say:

    “In an effort to project the contributions of Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins in year two, I analyzed the performance of 29 top Wide Receivers and compared their rookie season to that of their second full season in the NFL.”

    But you can’t analyze the improvement *among top wide receivers* and use it to project Dobson or Thompkins’s second year jump, unless you already know that AD and KT will be top wide receivers. Which of course we don’t know.

    It figures that top WRs will improve a lot between 1st and 2nd year (and keep improving). That’s what makes them top WRs. But your stats leave out the nameless guy who had 3 catches for 59 yards his rookie year but wasn’t named Vincent Jackson. And there are a lot more guys like that than there are top WRs.

    • jack says:

      Yes, that’s a very good point, Grendel_the_dog. How would those numbers look in the case the average, or middle 29, receivers in the NFL? Not nearly as good, certainly. But, would they still show a second-year jump? That’s what I’d like to know. My guess is it would, but by how much?

      The other question being, how do you rate the middle 29? By their rookie year only (that’s the most unbiased way, since we just have rookie data for the Dobson/Thompkins/Boyce), or by their overall careers? Also, do we adjust for injuries and extrapolate to full seasons? In that case, you’d have to do it for all the rookie receivers included. And why limit it to 29? Wouldn’t it be better just to take *all* rookie receivers?

      It seems to me a very demanding task to do a really good statistical analysis on 2nd year jumps – there will always be some factors skewing the data. But, it’s a nice, optimistic post and without a doubt the second year gives the players much more familiarity and therefore ability to improve over the first year.

      • Grendel_the_Dog says:

        Yep, I agree. And I’m always willing to be optimistic about second year players who showed something as rookies. Both those guys did, as much as people complain about KT hitting “the wall” and making rookie mistakes, and AD being hurt.

  6. Jack T says:

    Okay, are stats of any value? Here are the league’s top 100 WRs in yds per game from last year’s regular season in a limited comparison of the four teams that made it to the conference finals:

    Patriots: Edelman – 27th, 66.0 yds/g; Amendola, 44th, 52.8 yds/g; Dobson, 58th, 43.2 yds/g; Thompkins, 67th, 38.8 yds/g.

    Denver: Thomas, 6th, 89.4 yds/g; Decker, 14th, 80.5 yds/g; Welker, 31st, 59.8 yds/g

    San Fran: Bolden, 18th, 73.7 yds/g; Crabtree, 38th, 56.8 yds/g

    Seattle: Tate, 39th, 56.1 yds/g; Rice, 90th, 28.9 yds/g

    Of these, only Denver had a wide receiver in the top ten. Seattle who won couldn’t muster 100 yds/g total for it’s two receivers combined. Edelman, the Pats most valuable wr, was 4th in the league with 105 catches but wasn’t in the top 25 of the league’s best in yds/game.

    I guess in order to quantify wins and losses it comes down to playing mistake-free football and teamwork on both sides of the ball. Just don’t ask me how I arrived at that conclusion.

  7. Jack T says:

    Okay, here are the league’s top 100 WRs in yds per game from last year’s regular season in a comparison of the four teams that made it to the conference finals:

    Patriots: Edelman – 27th, 66.0 yds/g

    • Jack T says:

      Sorry about the half-post. The text program interpreted the tab key as a submit signal.

  8. J H TARBORO says:

    The media needs to focus on some of the other receivers such as Van Hooser, Derrick Johnson, Cole Stanford ,Brian Tynes and not just Edelman and Gronkowski. This year we need to pass the rock around instead of having a single receiver with a 100 catches and rest, not that much. We also have RBs that can catch the ball too.

  9. Russell says:

    With Dobson missing more time in training camp, he maybe on the bubble, or short term IR to start the season. I like this kid Van Hooser.

    • Ed says:

      For the second time, Dobson is not on the bubble. He had the most receiving yards for a rookie drafted under BB.

    • Nuf Ced says:

      Just quit with the “bubble” comment, there is absolutely no basis for it

    • steve earle says:

      Russell, with all due respect I have to agree with Ed and Nuf said. No way Dobson is on the “bubble” in only his second year after being a 2nd rd draft pick. Heck he may not start the season on active but I’m sure he will be on the 53.

  10. DMC413 says:

    Awesome read!!!!

  11. Jack T says:

    Aah, statistics, we fans love ’em. Those numbers depend on Brady’s proclivity for seeking out certain individual players. We imagine Tom would instinctively look for the guys who have proven themselves more successful and have established themselves as top producers, like Gronk and Edelman.

    One of Tom’s perceived strengths has been going to the guy or against the guy nobody expected him to but there’s no statistic for that, so another metric needed for a truer assessment of their rookie vs. second season stats is the players’ completion percentages. This figure’s always brought up in a QB’s evaluation, but it takes both people to complete a pass, so a second metric would be how good all receivers did completion percentage-wise.

    • GM-in-Training says:

      Agreed. Welker tended to have a very high completion percentage, owing to good hands, short routes, great ability to get open and having a mindlink with his quarterback.

      I think completion (or drop) percentages are a great metric for receivers, coupled with yards per catch to factor in short vs long pass attempts. TE tend to have higher catch percentages, but lower yards per catch. It’s especially good for showing the receivers that are ultra-reliable when the game is on the line.

      • TKen says:

        GM-in-Training: According to PFF, Wes’s completion percentage is not very good and hasn’t been for a while. His forte has always been getting open enough for Tom (and now Peypey), not so much hanging on the ball.


        Interesting article, keep up the great work. I’m full of hope that at least one of the 2nd year men will make at least an average improvment. Very encouraging to hear Browner praise KT today, via Mike Riess: “KT’s got routes at the line of scrimmage that are unmatchable”. Very consistent with what you guys have been pointing out about him since training camp last year.

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