Numbers in context: How bright are the future's of Brandon LaFell and David Gettis?

CHARLOTTE NC - OCTOBER 24: Teammates Steve Smith #89 and David Gettis #12 of the Carolina Panthers celebrate after Gettis scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 24 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It's difficult to look at numbers in isolation, so when I tell you "David Gettis and Brandon LaFell were 7th and 11th in the NFL in receiving yards among rookies" that sounds impressive, but what does it really mean? Today I'm looking back at the last five years of NFL rookie receivers to see if we can find any patterns to determine just how bright the future of Brandon LaFell and David Gettis are.

The stats: In order to first evaluate their potential we need to see what they did on Sundays as rookies. Here are both LaFell and Gettis' lines: 

Brandon LaFell: 38 receptions, 468 yards, 12.3 receiving yard average, 1 TD

David Gettis: 37 receptions, 508 yards, 13.7 receiving yard average, 3 TD

I think most would agree that the level of tumult in the 2010 season was such that neither LaFell, nor Gettis could reach their full potential. Furthermore, they tended to both hinder each other in a way because as the coaching staff flip-flopped on who would be starting the other player suffered. Keep in mind that the QB play (or lack thereof) put severe dampers on both receivers abilities. 

What is the ceiling of LaFell and Gettis? Can we look into the past to predict the future? Let's find out what other receivers have had similar starts... after the jump

Closest analogs in 2005

Braylon Edwards: 32 receptions, 512 yards, 16.0 receiving yard average, 3 TD

Roddy White: 29 receptions, 429 yards, 15.4 receiving yard average, 3 TD

Matt Jones: 36 receptions, 432 yards, 12.0 receiving yard average, 5 TD

- Edwards and Gettis have a lot in common statistically from their rookie seasons. The big difference is that receiving yard average. The two receivers who now have the best careers had receiving yard averages over 15.0 yards, however, both were slot receivers and therefore 'big play' guys. Matt Jones and Brandon LaFell are very close statistically also.


Closest analogs in 2006

Nobody close in 2006. This was a funny year for receivers as everyone was truly 'boom or bust' there was the 1,032 and 834 yard performances by Marques Colston and Santonio Holmes respectively bookended with some weak WR play.


Closest analogs in 2007

Ted Ginn: 34 receptions, 420 yards, 12.4 receiving yard average, 2 TD

Sidney Rice: 31 receptions, 396 yards, 12.8 receiving yard average, 3 TD

- Ginn and Rice represent the two players who put up similar numbers to LaFell and Gettis. The thing to keep watching is that receiving yard average. Like a QBs YPA it can be a good metric for showing how open a WR can get downfield.


Closest analogs in 2008

Donnie Avery: 53 receptions, 674 yards, 12.7 receiving yard average, 3 TD

Davone Bess: 54 receptions, 554 yards, 10.3 receiving yard average, 1 TD

- While the yards are higher, both Avery and Bess represent receivers who had similar TD numbers and similar RYA stats as Gettis and LaFell.


Closest analogs in 2009

Johnny Knox: 45 receptions, 527 yards, 11.7 receiving yard average, 5 TD

Michael Crabtree: 48 receptions, 625 yards, 13.0 receiving yard average, 2 TD

- Granted, Crabtree missed a significant amount of time due to holdout, but his 13.0 RYA is very telling and closest to LaFell and Gettis in the 2009 season. 


The Field

Across the previous five NFL seasons we have nine NFL analogs for guys who posted statistically similar rookie seasons to either LaFell and/or Gettis. Of these nine receivers: 

- Three are former probowlers (Edwards, White, Rice)

- Four have had at least one 1,000 yard season (Edwards, White, Rice, Holmes)


What does this tell us?

I believe what this shows is essentially what many of us already knew. Statistically speaking odds aren't on the side of both Gettis and LaFell being those 1,000 yard, probowl caliber receivers... however, there is a better than average chance that one of them will be. From where I sit this looks most likely to be David Gettis who has a closer statistical base and RYA numbers as those top receivers.

Obviously, players make their own legacy- but the good thing is that none of these statistical analogs are bona-fide NFL  'busts' all have been productive for their teams with every receiver having a year with over 700 yards receiving. Whether or not we have our #1 is a question that remains to be answered, but it looks like we'll be set at #2 for a long time.

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