Miami Dolphins: Do advanced metrics show Amendola, Wilson can replace Landry?

Albert Wilson of the Kansas City Chiefs runs past a few San Diego Chargers. Wilson, of Port St. Lucie, is taking his talents to South Florida. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

As of now, Jarvis Landry is going to cost the Cleveland Browns $15.9 million in 2018.

As we’ve long explained, the Dolphins didn’t want to pay Landry that. And so, instead, Miami dealt Landry away and signed veteran Danny Amendola and up-and-comer Albert Wilson in free agency.

Amendola’s cap hit will be $6 million this season and Wilson’s will be $4.8.

So for $10.8 million, plus the fourth- and seventh-rounders acquired in the deal, the Dolphins feel two is better than one.

It’s not fair to separate intangibles from the equation, but we’ll try in this study.

Landry was passionate (sometimes too passionate?), energetic (not always channeled the best way?) and fearless (nobody can fairly doubt this).

Amendola brings work ethic, drive and a history of clutch play. Wilson brings energy, toughness and a competitive fire.

And no, none of these guys are particularly tall.

Landry and Amendola are listed at 5-foot-11. Wilson is listed at 5-foot-9.

Wilson has the edge in speed, having covered 40 yards in 4.43 seconds, with Amendola at 4.58 and Landry at 4.77.

Of course, no receiver in the history of the NFL has more catches over the first four years of his NFL career than Landry. So we cannot dispute his production as well as his connection with Miami’s starting quarterback, Ryan Tannehill.

We can’t say for sure how Amendola and Wilson will mesh with Tannehill.

Over the course of their careers, some basic statistics can be used to compare the three receivers. For example:

Yards Per Game: Landry 63.1; Amendola 37.0; Wilson 28.1.

Yards Per Catch: Wilson 12.5 Landry 10.0; Amendola 9.6.

Yards After Catch: Wilson: 7.7; Landry 4.6; Amendola 3.4

Catch Rate: Landry 70.2 percent; Amendola 68.7; Wilson 62.3.

Touchdowns Per Season: Landry 5.5; Wilson 1.8; Amendola 1.7.

Obviously, Amendola (9 seasons, 32 years old) has the largest sample size here. Landry (4 seasons, 25 years old) is in his prime. And Wilson (4 seasons, 25 years old) must now prove he was underutilized in Kansas City.

The basic statistics outlined above show that Wilson actually has the ability to make the most big gainers in the group. He’s been a dangerous weapon (albeit in limited duty) as a slot receiver and out of the backfield. But his skill set allows him to line up in multiple positions.

Wilson is outstanding at gaining yards after catch. This has always been a Landry forte. But statistically, Wilson is even better.

Landry was also criticized (prior to last season) for a perceived lack of touchdowns. But Miami is really going to need a step forward from DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills and whoever plays tight end, because Amendola and Wilson have not been huge touchdown producers.

How coach Adam Gase utilizes his top four receivers (plus perhaps, similarly small Jakeem Grant) will of course play a large role in how successful Tannehill and Miami’s passing game is in 2018. (We believe the offensive line, overall, has also slightly improved).

There should be less of disparity in catches between receivers. And perhaps, Miami’s offense will be somewhat less predictable. Consider for example, that Kenyan Drake can also line up at receiver.

Imagine a play where Drake lines up at receiver, and Wilson and Grant line up in the backfield. Why not? I’m sure Gase has already been thinking of some creative ways to use his new weapons.

Now, this is what we’ve been driving to (took us a while to get here, we admit). Does a dive beyond the obvious (ie., Landry catches a lot of passes) actually show that perhaps Landry was a bit overvalued and Amendola and Wilson have been a bit undervalued?

Does a look at some advanced metrics (of course the Dolphins look at this stuff, too) indicate that Amendola and Wilson may be able to more-than-capably replace the popular and bombastic Landry?

Some research available at footballoutsiders.com and NFL.com Next Gen Stats provide a deeper insight. And there are some encouraging statistics in there.

Let’s start with Football Outsiders. For wide receivers, they have developed three complex statistical formulas.

They are called: 1) Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement 2) Yards Above Replacement and 3) Defense Adjusted Value Over Average.

Without going into every detail just know that these formulas include factors that extend well beyond net yardage by assigning every single play a value based on both total yards and yards towards a first down.

Let’s also explain that for 2017, Football Outsiders ranked the three wide receivers discussed here as: 1) Albert Wilson 2) Danny Amendola 3) Jarvis Landry.

In other words, despite all of Landry’s catches (a league-leading 112), Football Outsiders is suggested the Dolphins may have been better served with Jay Cutler tossing some of those passes toward someone like — Albert or Amendola.

Taking into account an average of the three above-discussed formulas, for 2017, Football Outsiders ranked them as such:

Wilson (17th); Amendola (30th) and Landry (53rd).

This is not to suggest Landry is not the best player in the group. We’re just suggesting, again, that some advanced metrics are at work against Landry and for the others.

The NFL has been working on some new ways to evaluate and compare players and a few of their Next Gen Stats are revealing for purposes of our comparison.

Here’s how the three ranked last season in yards downfield before a pass attempt: Amendola (8.0), Landry (6.4), Wilson (6.4).

So, yes, Landry and Wilson have both been similarly utilized as very quick-touch players.

Here’s how the three rank in yards between them and the nearest defender at the time of a catch or incompletion: Wilson (1st), Landry (18th), Amendola (41st).

Come again? That’s right. According to NFL Next Gen stats, no player had more average separation than the 4.1 yards Wilson put between himself and defenders. How? He’s quick, that’s how.

Now, will Wilson and Amendola be as productive in 2018 at the statistics indicate they might?

We’ll all learn together.

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