Dec 23, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid talks with wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (18) during the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field. Th Redskins defeated the Eagles, 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs FA Targets: Jeremy Maclin vs. Golden Tate

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The worst fears of most Kansas City Chiefs fans have been realized. Not only were the Chiefs painfully bounced from the postseason without a win, but now they must tolerate two weeks of Super Bowl coverage focusing on a certain quarterback and his team that is located in the Mile High City. You won’t see their names printed here. This is a safe zone. What you will find is a look ahead to possible free agent targets that KC may consider this offseason, starting with wide receivers. AA’s Joseph Hoyt offered up his opinion that KC should draft a WR in the first round to fill their need, but if they do go the free agent route, who should they sign? The general consensus is that Jeremy Maclin, who was drafted by and played for KC’s head coach Andy Reid in Philadelphia, makes the most sense for KC to sign this offseason. While that reunion does seem logical, I will also offer up an alternative, Seattle’s Golden Tate (some may bring up Eric Decker as well, but with his numbers the past two seasons his price tag will be too steep for KC to afford). This post will compare Maclin and Tate and see if one appears to be the better option for KC to pursue.

First off, let’s just look at their basic stats that they’ve compiled thus far in their careers. Both Maclin and Tate have played four seasons in the NFL. Maclin has been in the league one year longer, but missed this entire past season with a knee injury.

Jeremy Maclin:
2009: 55 rec, 762 yards, 4 TDs
2010: 79 rec, 964 yards, 10 TDs
2011: 63 rec, 859 yards, 5 TDs
2012: 68 rec, 861 yards, 7 TDs
Total: 256 rec, 3,446 yards, 26 TDs

Golden Tate:
2010: 21 rec, 227 yards, 0 TDs
2011: 35 rec, 382 yards, 3 TDs
2012: 45 rec, 688 yards, 7 TDs
2013: 64 rec, 898 yards, 5 TDs
Total: 165 rec, 2,195 yards, 15 TDs

So Maclin has put up 91 more receptions, 1,251 more yards, and 9 more TDs in just four seasons. That clearly shows that Maclin is the better WR, case closed, end of discussion, right? Well, just for the sake of getting your money’s worth out of this article (not that you paid anything to read this), let’s delve a little deeper into things.

First off, it doesn’t take a statistician to see that Tate’s numbers are trending in the right direction. Maclin was clearly more ready to play as a rookie and built most of his “lead” in those stats early on. The last season that each played was nearly identical. Second, Maclin was also playing in a much more pass heavy offense under Andy Reid in Philly than Tate was in Seattle. So let’s not make this about sheer statistical volume. Let’s see if we can get a better idea of their actual skill at the position.

While I don’t live and die by the numbers at Pro Football Focus, I do find that they can give you a general idea of how well a player is doing his job on the football field. It is ultimately subjective, but they do watch and grade the player on every single snap that they play. Here are the scores that PFF have given Maclin and Tate in their four seasons thus far.

Maclin:
2009: 2.4
2010: 0.6
2011: 3.2
2012: -9.1
Total: -2.9

Tate:
2010: 0.6
2011: 4.4
2012: 9.8
2013: 11.0
Total: 25.8

That certainly paints a different picture than their overall statistics, doesn’t it? The first thing that sticks out to me is how Tate’s performance score has been improving at the same rate that his statistics have. That indicates that his increased production is the result of his improved play, not just a change in system or more balls thrown his way. Second, Maclin has never had a highly rated season by PFF and his last season they rated him as one of the worst WRs in the entire NFL. Again, PFF is not law, but clearly they are seeing some flaws in his game.

So what is Tate doing better than Maclin to grade out so much better?

After pouring over their numbers I came away with two things.

First, Tate catches the ball much more reliably than Maclin. In four NFL seasons (according to PFF) Golden Tate has only been credited with 6 dropped passes. Meanwhile, Jeremy Maclin has been credited with 27 drops in his four seasons of play.

Could that have to do with Maclin simply being thrown the ball more often since Tate didn’t play as much early on?

To see if that was the case I divided each WR’s total career drops by their total career catchable passes (drops + receptions). That should give us the percentage of dropped catchable passes for each player.

Jeremy Maclin has dropped 9.5% of his catchable passes.

Golden Tate has dropped 3.5% of his catchable passes.

That’s a pretty big difference. Over his career Maclin has dropped one in ten of the balls that were deemed catchable. In 2012 (his last season) that percentage was actually 11.7%. As a point of comparison, since PFF has been keeping stats, Dwayne Bowe has dropped 11.5% of his catchable passes and Donnie Avery has dropped 12.1% of his. So the numbers say that Maclin wouldn’t be much of an upgrade (if any) over their current WRs in terms of drops. Golden Tate, however, would be drastically better with his 3.5% drop rate.

Sep 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate (81) during the national anthem prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Jacksonville 45-17. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The second area where Tate scored VASTLY better than Maclin was in the “missed tackles” department. In other words, how often does the WR break a tackle or put a move on a defender that makes him miss.

Maclin:
2009: 2
2010: 5
2011: 1
2012: 3
Total: 11

Tate:
2010: 5
2011: 13
2012: 16
2013: 21
Total: 55

If you factor in the fact that Maclin has 91 more career receptions, those missed tackle numbers become all the more absurd in Tate’s favor. In other words, Maclin breaks a tackle once every 23 receptions while Tate does it once every THREE receptions. His 21 missed tackles this season lead all NFL WRs, despite the fact that he only had 64 receptions. So not only does Golden Tate catch the ball at a much higher rate, but he does a LOT more with the ball once he gets it in his hands.

That ability to make defenders miss leads me to my next point. Signing Golden Tate would not only fill KC’s need for another starting caliber WR, it would allow them to save money by not re-signing Dexter McCluster. You just saw how many missed tackles Tate has been able to generate on his receptions. Now imagine him returning punts on a special teams unit coached by Dave Toub. Tate’s punt return average this season was 11.5 yards per return. Dexter McCluster’s average this season was 11.8 yards/return. So even with Dex’s two TD returns (and the magic of Dave Toub) he only averaged 0.3 more yards per return than Tate.

In case you were wondering, Jeremy Maclin only has 13 career punt returns with an average of 5.8 yards per return.

So on one hand, we have a player that has compiled more career statistics while playing in Andy Reid’s offense, but is coming off of a major knee surgery and prior to that injury had his worst season as a professional. It doesn’t appear he’s any more sure handed than KC’s current WRs and he almost never breaks tackles (which would be nice in a Reid/Smith lead offense that is built around the short passing game). On the other hand, we have an ascending player that has shown improvement every single season that he’s been in the NFL, has been consistently sure handed, lead all NFL WRs in broken tackles last season, and could fill KC’s possible need of a featured punt returner.

Which player would you want on your team?

For me the answer is simple. I want Golden Tate. Last week I pointed out that KC won’t have much money to spend this offseason. So if they only sign one or two starters this offseason they need to hit on those players if KC is going to improve next season. After looking at those numbers, Jeremy Maclin scares me to death. I would MUCH rather pay a couple of million more and get Golden Tate. Since Tate hasn’t put up big numbers in the NFL yet, he shouldn’t break the bank on this contract and is only 25 years old. You could sign him to a 5-6 year deal and still have the entire contract be in his “prime years”.

I realize that the connection that Maclin has with Andy Reid makes him a natural fit for KC. I was on that bandwagon too until I really looked at the numbers. So what do you think? Am I on to something here? Is Tate clearly the better option? Would anyone still pick Maclin over Tate after seeing those statistics? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen

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