Busting Common Myths Vol. 1: Tyreek Hill is Just a Gadget Player

Will Scheib Jul 31st 12:54 AM EDT.

One of my fondest childhood memories is watching the show MythBusters. On it, 5 expert scientists come together to test common myths such as the spinning bullet myth, the myth that falling on water from a significant height hurts worse than falling on concrete from the same height, and many others for truth.

In the spirit of this show, I am starting a series of pieces testing common fantasy football beliefs for accuracy. Remember, in this series, we don't just tell the myths, we put them to the test!

First out of the blocks is a myth that uses speed to tell a story. There is a myth that Tyreek Hill is just a gadget player. Well what better place to test it than the fantasy football laboratory: FantasySP.com?

Part 1: All He Has is Speed

One justification people have for the claim that Tyreek Hill is a gadget player is that speed is his only NFL-worthy quality. Well, based on the research I have done to this end, this just seems false.

In fact, Hill had the greatest amount of separation per target of any mainly outside receiver in the NFL last season. He got an average of 3.52 yards of separation per target.

This means that he can make himself open on every route he runs, both short and long. He does this both by using both his speed (Hill hit 22.77 mph on one of his kickoff returns last season) and incredible short area quickness to pair with it.

Many people will even go as far as to say that Hill can only run deep routes. Again, based on the research I have done, this just seems false. Hill actually ran a variety of routes, as exemplified by this graphic from @MattHarmon_BYB on Twitter, showing the routes he ran during the week 10 game against the Panthers:

Part 2: Coaches Will Gameplan Against His Speed

Another argument that people use to classify Hill as a gadget player like Cordarelle Patterson is to say that, like what happened with Patterson, coaches will get smart over the offseason and gameplan against his speed.

Let me introduce you to a stat called Yards After the Catch Percentage (YAC%). This measures how many of a receiver's yards came after the catch. This is important because yards after the catch are generally created by the receiver, not by the play design. These are last year's top 10 receivers in YAC% (minimum requirements 50 catches and 500 yards):

Rank

Name

YAC%

1

Adam Humphries

61.4

2

Randall Cobb

59.6

3

Golden Tate

57.4

4

Jarvis Landry

54.2

5

Tavon Austin

53.4

6

Cole Beasley

51.2

7

Tyreek Hill

45.1

8

Julian Edelman

44.7

9

Jamison Crowder

44.5

10

Mohamed Sanu

43.9

11

Willie Snead IV

43.2

12

Michael Thomas

42.4

13

Mike Wallace

41.9

14

Doug Baldwin

41.8

15

Quincy Enunwa

41.1

As you can see, Tyreek Hill ranked 7th in the NFL in YAC% last year at 45.2%. He beat out a lot of noticeable names like Julian Edelman, Jamison Crowder, Michael Thomas, and Doug Baldwin.

This 45.2% means he created almost half of his yards for himself, regardless of the defensive gameplan. This is significant because it shows that defensive coordinators can't gameplan against over half of his yards.

Additionally, one could argue that defenses had already begun to try to gameplan against Hill last year, with cornerbacks lining up sometimes upwards of 10 yards off the line of scrimmage against him (see Panthers week 10, Broncos weeks 12 and 16). However, his crisp underneath routes with lots of YAC potential hurt them anyway.

Hill's proficiency in short routes is also shown by his relatively low yards per reception (9.72). Receivers that thrive mostly on deep balls like Brandin Cooks (15.0), Taylor Gabriel (16.5), and DeSean Jackson (17.9) generally have yards per receptions larger than 15.

Part 3: His Scoring Rate Will Regress

In 2016, Hill scored a good clip, scoring on 8.6 percent of his touches (including returns). However, for some context, both Odell Beckham Jr and Antonio Brown scored at higher rates, scoring on 8.9 and 9.6 percent of their touches, respectively (including returns). My point is that we can expect his scoring rate to regress some, but not nearly as much as some people may think.

Also, last year, Tyreek Hill received 83 targets in 15 games, or 5.53 targets per game. Let me show you a chart of the targets per game of Cheifs #1 receivers over the past 5 years:

Year

#1 WR

Targets

Games

Targets/Game

2015

Jeremy Maclin

124

15

8.27

2014

Dwayne Bowe

95

15

6.33

2013

Dwayne Bowe

103

15

6.87

2012

Dwayne Bowe

114

13

8.77

2011

Dwayne Bowe

142

16

8.88

Average

115.6

14.8

7.82

Assuming Hill plays 15 games again and receives 7.82 targets per game, he would receive approximately 117 targets over the course of the season, or 141% of the number he saw in 2016. It can be easily seen that even if his scoring rate decreases, he will still score a lot of touchdowns because of his increased opportunities.

Summary

Overall, we have found that Tyreek Hill has more than just speed, coaches won't be able to gameplan against him, and he will score a lot of TDs. Therefore, I declare the myth that Tyreek Hill is just a gadget player... BUSTED!

Sources:

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000779682/article/tyreek-hill-leads-top10-no-3-receivers-in-separation

http://www.sltrib.com/home/4745262-155/nfl-broncos-wary-of-tyreek-hill

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/

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