Numbers Can't Lie: Readjusting Our Ginn Expectations

Before I get into the meat of my column today, I wanted to quickly answer a question that a reader (DolfinPhan) asked in the comments of last week's column.  He wanted to know the drop-off, if there was any, in Miami's run-blocking after Justin Smiley was replaced in the lineup by Andy Alleman.

In some of the discussion here on the site, it seemed like a lot of people thought the running game remained relatively unscathed after Smiley's injury.  And while I really like what Alleman brings to the table as a young prospect, the running game did in fact suffer significantly from Week 13 on.

According to Football Outsiders, Miami's rushing DVOA with Smiley in the lineup was 8.1%; without him, it dropped to 1.9%.  Now, that may not seem like a big difference, but consider this: If those DVOA rates were the season-totals, Miami's running attack with Smiley would have ranked 7th overall in the league.  Sans Smiley, the Dolphins' run game would have fallen to 14th.

Now, onto the main topic of discussion: Ted Ginn.

Ginn has been a hot topic of conversation around here lately, and for good reason.  People want to know what to think about him.  Is he a #1 receiver? (no)  Is he a bust? (no) Did he improve this year? (yes)

I think a big problem with some of the outrage over Ginn has to do with some, shall we say, "unrealistic expectations," from a lot of the fans.

For instance, let's take a look at Ginn's first year numbers, his Phinsider community-projected numbers for his second year (along with Pro Football Prospectus' KUBIAK projections), and what he actually did this year.












'07 actual












'08 Phinsider proj.












'08 KUBIAK proj.












'08 actual













First off, I'm pretty amazed at how accurate PFP was in their projections.  They almost hit his numbers exactly, which is all the more impressive since this was only his second year.  On the other hand, the projections that Matty deemed "very doable" at the time they were made, now seem to have been a bit of a pipe dream, no?  Out of the 15 people who posted their projections, 8 saw Ginn going over 1,000 yards this year.  Only one person projected Ginn gaining less than 800 yards (out of 15!).  That tells me that this community had expectations that far exceeded reality.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well, that's easy to say now."  But, honestly, if you take off your Dolphins' cap, did you really, truly believe that Ted Ginn was going to more than double his rookie production?  Progression in this league takes time, and developing at the WR position is one of the longer progression paths.

I'm curious as to why those people who submitted projections saw Ginn being able to catch so many passes and gain so many yards this season.  If we knew anything about Ginn coming into 2008, it was that he lacked the ability to quickly change directions, making him a below-average route-runner, and he couldn't consistently get any separation from his defender, despite rarely being double-teamed.  Now, Ginn certainly does have some very useful traits for a receiver, but he lacks the essential skills required of a No. 1 guy who is going to consistently see 10 balls thrown his way every game.  That's just not him.  I don't think he ever will be that guy.

Where Ginn's skills would shine, would be opposite a physical possession-type receiver like Anquan Boldin who would demand extra attention underneath, allowing Ginn to run deep routes on a regular basis (much like Lee Evans).  Of course, that arrangement would also require a quarterback who could deliver the ball to him on said deep routes.  That's simply not Chad Pennington's game, for better or worse.

As nice as this article was that was posted here earlier this week on the Air Yards statistic, it failed to point out the critical fact that just because Pennington is ranked high in most of the Air Yards categories does not mean that he was great at throwing bombs.  There are many ways you can amass air yards.  Five passes that travel 20 yards in the air are numerically the same as two passes that travel 50 yards.  Pennington was great within that 20 yard box, but I could probably count on two hands the number of times he threw the ball more than 35 yards in the air to Ginn.

Plus, Air Yards only measures the distance thrown in a straight vertical line.  But if Ginn is lining up wide outside, and running straight down the sideline, whoever is throwing him the ball is not simply throwing a straight pass.  That pass has to travel extra yardage to reach outside the hash marks, so suddenly 40 yard passes actually require the ball to travel upwards of 50 yards.  Pennington simply doesn't have those passes in his tool belt.  That doesn't mean he isn't the right QB for this team - he absolutely is at this moment.  What it does mean is that Ginn is not a fit for this offense at this moment, and so his full potential will inevitably have to lie dormant until we get a stronger-armed thrower under center.

Luckily, he's still only 23 years old, so we have time.  In the meantime, though, he absolutely has got to get better at creating separation.

Lastly, I'd just like to briefly touch on another component of Ginn that will likely prevent him from becoming a No. 1 receiver.

His body mass index (BMI).

You've likely seen BMI charts when you visit the doctor.  They take a person's height and weight into account and spit out a number that represents that person's density.  Doctors use these numbers to tell if a person has a healthy weight given how tall they are.  As far as NFL receivers go, these numbers are like Nostradamus.

Pro Football Prospectus first wrote about this study in the 2008 edition of their book.  It's a fascinating read, and you should check it out if you are interested.

Their research essentially showed that there are four distinct height/BMI combinations that produce elite receivers.  They are:

* Slight (average height, low BMI, ex. Torry Holt)

* Short (short, average BMI, ex. Steve Smith)

* Thick (average height, high BMI, ex. Andre Johnson)

* Tall (tall, average BMI, ex. Terrell Owens)

PFP found that of the top 25 receivers drafted from 1998 through 2007 (according to receiving yards per game played) 23 of them fit into one of these four categories.  According to the article, "No elite receiver in the last ten years has fallen outside of the Four [body builds]."

Ginn falls closest to being in the slight category, but he is too short and too light to make it in.

While he can't change his height, it seems that Ginn would be well served by putting on an extra 8-10 pounds (Beefcake, anyone?).  He's never going to fall into one of the four categories, but at least he can improve his playing build.

Still, when it comes time to discussing WRs in the draft, remember to keep BMI in mind.

As always, if you have any questions or suggestions for future columns, let me know about it in the comments or send me an email.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Phinsider's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of The Phinsider writers or editors.

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