This post has 3 purposes:
1) To push that Holmgren article further down the list.
2) To provide an argument based on statistical analysis
3) To dispell the commonly accepted notion that Greg Little showed potential his first year.
Greg Little is a disappointment.
This may not be how Cleveland fans see him, but that is how I see him, and how most of the national media sees him. Here's why: he has terrible adjusted stats, he nearly led the league in drops (4th highest drop rate), and his attitude is troubling.
Counter argument: But he's a rookie! He showed potential!
Counter to the weak, yet commonly heard argument: Fine, let's compare him to other rookies drafted later than him (below). And as for showing potential, it seemed that way because he was targetted a lot. What he did with those targets is a different story, and that's where adjusted stats come in. What the hell are adjusted stats? Intro to Football outsiders, as follows.
["DYAR"] or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement. This gives the value of the performance on plays where this WR caught the ball, compared to replacement level, adjusted for situation and opponent and then translated into yardage.
["DVOA"] or Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This number represents value, per play, over an average WR in the same game situations. The more positive the DVOA rating, the better the player's performance.[/spoiler]
["Effective Yards"] listed in red, translate DVOA into a yards per attempt figure. This provides an easy comparison: in general, players with more Effective Yards than standard yards played better than standard stats would otherwise indicate, while players with fewer Effective Yards than standard yards played worse than standard stats would otherwise indicate.
["Catch Rate"] represents the percentage of passes to this receiver completed. This is a reference to incomplete passes, not dropped passes.
I picked 3 rookie receivers at random. If I was actually trying to make Greg Little look bad, I could have done much a much better job. The negative numbers at DYAR and DVOA say that an average player who was put in the same position as Greg Little would have returned a much greater performance. Like say, Jordan Norwood.
The main thing I wanted to draw from the stats were that Greg Little seemed useful due to the volume of passes we forced his way, not his play on the field. To his credit, if he ever does learn to play wide receiver, he is as good as advertised at not going down on first contact. This makes it all the more frustrating that he can't hold onto the ball. While researching the actual number of drops committed by Little last year I came across this snippet at Pro Football Focus:
Now, the drops are worthy of their own paragraph. 14 drops is a brutal number. As referenced earlier, Greg Little was thrown 75 catchable balls. He ended up with 61 receptions and 14 drops, finishing the season with an 18.67% drop rate – meaning roughly 1 out of every 5 balls his way ends up on the ground. This is unacceptable, regardless of how the quarterback play in Cleveland is. As a result, his PFF play-by-play cumulative rating was -12.4 (114th for all NFL wide receivers playing at least 25% of their team snaps).
So when fans see he caught 5 balls, they may not take into account that he was thrown to 9 times.
However, the motive for me to even question Little's production was not his play, it was his attitude ever since day 1. I had managed to parlay a training camp visit into a birthday gift for my little cousin one sunny afternoon last summer, while Greg Little's obnoxious behavior was already on display. The entire team was lining up for stetches and most players were genuinely trying to loosen up, others of course were just going through the motions. There was only one though, who intentionally caused a commotion with what looked to be a juvenile plea for attention. It wasn't Stonehands himself was it? There was some kind of flying insect - hard to imagine, being outside and all - that caused Little to jump around, run in a circle, and yell about there being a fly. He carried on to the point where the trainer had to come by and inject him with Ritalin to calm him down. That part I may or may not have embellished.
The prancing around incident raised some curiosity, but I let it go as they split off into units for drills. Little was relegated to practicing with the 2nd string wide receivers (mind you our first string was Robiskie, Massaquoi, and Cribbs). And low and behold Little was already dropping passes; I can tell you it wasn't the velocity the assitant coach was putting on em. The part that bothered me though, was that it didn't seem to bother him. He would pick up the ball, wind up like Randy Johnson, and baseball pitch it back. Does this guy care at all about getting better, or is his main goal in life to goof around? I'd say by his track record, 1 year ban from NCAA football, and infatuation with punting the ball after touchdowns, it's the latter.
We all hope Greg Little plays better this year, but don't be fooled into thinking he showed cause for optimism about in his first season as a pro.