You’re sitting back, watching the game with your buddies. The offense just got the ball back and you’re ready for some action. Nothing beats the feeling of steam rolling your way to a W. Everyone has their eyes glued to the TV (except for Carl who is too busy texting to pay attention. You really can’t remember why you keep inviting him over on Sundays), and that’s when it happens. The play is breaking down and you have a man downfield. You can picture 6 more points going up when, WAIT, WHAT THE **** WAS THAT?!
Perhaps nothing is more infuriating in the game of football than a drop. Knowing that your receiver had the ball in his hands and just couldn’t keep it there. Knowing that even when a play develops perfectly, you can get in your own way. A drop is the worst form of failure in football because it could have just as easily been a success.
While every team will deal with drops at one point or another each season, some teams experience them much more frequently. As shown in Table 1, the Indianapolis Colts led the league with 39 drops over the 2014 season. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys only had 10 drops.
Of course, number of drops isn’t everything. While the Colts had the highest number of drops, they also were second in targets. It would stand to reason that they’re receivers drop the ball a bit more often.
As Table 2 shows, “a bit more often” might be “a bit” of a stretch. The Colts dropped passes at a rate of 6.06%, nearly triple that of the Cowboys at 2.13%. The league averaged 23.75 drops per team and only a 4.31% drop rate with a standard deviation of .88%. When comparing drops to targets, we begin to see a clearer picture of each team’s struggles.
Table 3 demonstrates a slight positive correlation between targets and drops. Sheer volume does not explain fully why some teams are more prone to drops than others. Fault on drops tends to land on both the QB and receiver (though this fault is rarely weighted equally). More often than not, the receiver takes the brunt of the blame. Though not a perfect indicator of the quality of a receiving corps, drop stats are an important part of the picture.