The Truth Booth: Our Dynamic Duo – Best or Less?

I would be lying if I said the way the rest of the season played out didn’t throw a bit of a wrench into the outcome of this piece, forcing me to redo a good portion of the article. With Cooper and Crabtree having what many would call a lackluster finish to the season for the second year running, and other variables effecting comparable team’s outcomes, I even wondered if this topic was still relevant and worth considering. Challenge accepted!

A few quick disclaimers before getting started:

  • I am looking strictly at team’s top two WR’s here, nothing beyond that in regards to overall WR corps and incorporating TE/RB production.
  • I am not looking to compare #1 vs #2’s and vice versa (Copper vs the Steelers M. Wheaton and Crabtree vs A. Brown for example, as that would be a wash and looking at many variables beyond my desire).
  • What I am looking to get out of this article is simply do we possess the best and most threatening 1&2 WR combo in the league?

Without further ado, here is the updated version. Buckle your seat belts folks, we are going to dive right into this week’s topic; are Cooper and Crabtree the league’s best #1 and #2 WR duo?

Unbeknownst to us fans, April 13th 2015 was the moment this conversation subtly began with a single tweet from Michael Crabtree stating that he had signed with the Raiders:

A few short weeks later at the NFL draft this debate gained some ground on paper when fans around the world heard “With the 4th pick in the 2015 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select…Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Alabama.”

With Cooper being lauded as one of the more polished and pro ready WR’s to come out of the draft in years, this was the moment the conversation started to become relevant based on their potential together, despite either of them stepping foot on the gridiron with their new team and franchise QB. With the hype train gaining momentum, attention now turned to seeing the product on the field.  Thirty-two games later the debate has now become a reality encompassing the entire league, not simply myopic homerism being discussed on fan sites/blogs.  

When thinking of the best WR tandem in the league, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders instantly come to mind and are often mentioned as the league standard. Looking back over the past few years it’s rather hard to debate that claim based on production. During the two season span from 2014-2015 they combined for a whopping 5,462 yards and 32 TD’s. That was lightyears ahead of the any other WR duo in the league. Fortunately for the sake of this debate we are focusing on 2015 forward seeing as how the grounds for this argument are based partly around Cooper who wasn’t in the league prior to last season.  

With that said, I have chosen the following six teams to use for comparison, all of who’s #1 and #2 receivers together rival ours statistically for the best tandem in the league. Stats are combined from 2015 to current. Seeing as how this is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league I of course had to omit Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson from the list due to Nelson missing all of 2015 (coupled with Cobb having consecutive down years they weren’t comparable).

[FD’s = first downs and the * denotes leaders among the groups]

 

Raiders

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Cooper 155 2,223 14.3 11 92   13
  2. Crabtree 174 1,925 11.1 17 101   17

–TOTALS– 329 4,148 12.7 28 193   30*

 

Saints

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Cooks 162 2,311 14.3 17 90   5
  2. Snead 141 1,879 13.3 7 95   4

–TOTALS– 303 4,190 13.8 24 185   9

 

Cardinals

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Fitzgerald 216 2,238 10.4 15 124    4
  2. Brown 104 1,520 14.4 9 77    6

–TOTALS– 320 3,758 12.4 24 201   10

 

Jets

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Marshall 168 2,290 13.6 17 119   18
  2. Decker 89 1,221 17.2 14 69     4 (Only played 3 games in 2015)

–TOTALS– 257 3,511 15.4* 31 188   22

 

Falcons

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Jones 219 3,280 15.4 14 157    9
  2. Sanu 92 1,047 11.5 4 50    1 (Played 2015 with Bengals)

–TOTALS– 311 4,327 13.5 18 207   10

 

Broncos

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Thomas 195 2,387 12.2 11 113   16
  2. Sanders 155 2,167 14 11 101     3

–TOTALS– 350* 4,554* 13.1 22 214*   19

 

Jaguars

Player Rec Yards Avg. TD’s FD’s Drops

  1. Robinson 153 2,283 14.8 20 112   8
  2. Hurns 99 1,508 14.8 13 71   8 (Missed 5 games in 2016)

–TOTALS– 252 3,791 14.8 33* 183 16

 

The Verdict:

When I first did this article back after week 11 the stats were spread pretty evenly across the board. However, as the season prolonged a clear cut winner started to stand out among the group and it wasn’t even as remotely close as it was just several short weeks ago.

The ONLY department our guys Cooper & Crabtree led in was…drops! I had to look a few times to ensure I wasn’t misleading myself, but much to my disappointment, I wasn’t. While we do rank 2nd in receptions, 4th in yards and 3rd in TD’s, we were second worst in average yards per catch. Taking all of that into consideration, I just can’t bring myself to denote our dynamic duo as the best tandem in the league, even though they are arguably the best complimentary duo of the bunch in regards to benefiting from each other’s skill sets and talent. The drops are simply too detrimental to the team’s success, although it does indeed remind us of the potential these two have together to rise to the top if they can clean things up in that department.

The Jaguars “A-Team” have the most TD’s, second highest average, and are 5th among the group in yards despite Hurns missing 5 games this season, so they did require some serious consideration. Unfortunately for them, the good ol’ garbage time argument comes into play (not a fan of that argument myself but can see where it is relevant here). Not to mention their plunge this season has last year seeming like more of a fluke than arguably the best tandem.

Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead ended up with the 2nd best average rank among all the qualifiers (3.7). Their stats were a bit skewed unfortunately as rookie Michael Thomas had a better 2016 than Snead, but since he only has played one season I stayed consistent with the criteria and went with Snead’s stats the past two years alongside Cooks. I have a pretty strong feeling if we were to revisit this article after next year the nod will be going to Cooks and Thomas, surely a luxury of playing with one of the greatest QB’s in recent memory.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am certainly hanging myself out to dry here with this assertion, but the best WR tandem in the league over the past 32 games is undeniably our bitter rivals – Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders [ducks’ tomatoes and beer bottles]. There is no denying the substantial drop-off in production in terms of yards, average (almost a complete yard), and TD’s, from Peyton Manning to now, speaking volumes about how much they were elevated having played with arguably the greatest QB ever. But the fact remains, they still led the league in catches, yards and first downs the past two seasons with far less QB talent. As much as it pains me to say it, that is pretty damn impressive considering they had Brock Osweiler and former 7th round pick, Trevor Seimian, throwing them the pigskin a majority of that period. That is why I chose them as the best WR tandem in the league, feel free to let me know why I am wrong Nation.

Side note:

When I originally constructed this article several weeks ago D. Thomas and E. Sanders ONLY led the groups in catches and were no better than middle of the pack elsewhere. My original choice for best tandem was Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, and here is my reasoning for that decision at the time:

Ladies and gentlemen, I am certainly hanging myself out to dry here with this assertion, but the best WR tandem in the league over the past 26 games is Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker of the New York Jets. You are probably wondering how in the world the duo with the least amount of yards and were second in both lowest receptions total/drops could be the best of the bunch, but please, put down the pitchforks and hear me out for a minute. They have the best average by a yard, are 2nd in TD’s with 30 and 3rd in first down catches. This is all despite the fact that Eric Decker has missed eight games since the start of 2015 while no other duo combined has missed more than two games (a big reason for them ranking last in yardage and towards the bottom in receptions). Once their pitiful QB situation is brought into the equation, I firmly believe the argument pretty much settles itself. While I wouldn’t be apt to replacing Cooper and Crabtree on this team, you would be kidding yourself to think that Marshall and Decker’s production isn’t exponentially better with a QB the caliber of Carr at the helm.  That is why I chose them as the best duo over this period, feel free to let me know why I am wrong Nation.

As always, thanks for reading folks.


Written by: Sir Truth

This article was originally constructed back after our week 11 matchup against the Texans. When I first submitted it I tried getting all cute by creating team color coordinated tables for the stat comparisons but it was very time consuming for Kenny to transfer them to the WordPress format. We decided then it would be best to move forward with posting the next member’s article in the queue and revisit this piece at a later time.