Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Thursday, July 22, 2010
Is Austin the best WR in the league?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Most of you know that the Beast doesn't write a word without looking at every available metric. But we're no match for ESPN.com's KC Joyner, aka the Football Scientist, a man who crunches numbers for a living. This time, Joyner's outdone himself by suggesting that Houston's Andre Johnson isn't even the best wide receiver in the state of Texas.

Johnson
Johnson
Austin
After looking at 10 categories and making a deft reference to Bear Bryant, Joyner has concluded that Miles Austin is perhaps the best receiver in the league. If you're an ESPN Insider, you can read the entire story. If not, I've decided to circumvent company policy and reveal a couple of paragraphs.

Joyner says Austin has a "better set of metrics" than Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne, too. He uses the wildly popular yards per attempt (YPA) metric in the Johnson-Austin showdown. The 10 categories included short, medium and bomb-length passes. Joyner also took a long look at how the two wide receivers did against some of the league's top cornerbacks.

Long-suffering Texans fans had clung to the perception that Johnson was the best receiver in the league, but with one mighty column, Joyner has broken their spirit. Let's take a peek at one of the most interesting portions of the column:
Another way to measure receiving excellence is to see how well each wideout did when facing varying levels of competition," writes Joyner. "I went through the breakdown charts I did on every game from the 2009 season and pulled out the plays where a receiver faced a cornerback. I then assigned color-coded grades to the cornerbacks based on their 2009 YPA totals (which can be found in the KC Joyner Metricmania section in the 2010 ESPN The Magazine fantasy football preview).

Against cornerbacks who yield YPAs of 7 yards or fewer on average (red-rated CBs): Austin was hardly fazed by elite competition, as he posted 12.0 YPA against them. Johnson's 8.0 YPA in this category ranked 18th in the league but didn't keep up with Austin's total.

There's a lot more where that came from if you're an Insider. If you're not a paying customer at this point, just know that Joyner's metrics indicate that Austin may be the most underpaid wide receiver in the history of the league. Jerry Jones is hoping Austin's agent, David Dunn, is not an ESPN Insider.

It's actually pretty fascinating stuff, but everyone's waiting to see if Austin can repeat his performance now that he's not sneaking up on anyone. Oh, and there's the whole SI jinx thing to worry about if you've seen this week's issue. So do you guys put any stock in the Football Scientist's discovery? Did Austin actually have a better season than Johnson?

Can't we allow Texans fans to have at least one claim to fame since they're still waiting on that first playoff appearance? I'll try to find some metrics that suggest Matt Schaub had a better '09 than Tony Romo. Maybe that will smooth things over.