Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are clearly the two best Texas WRs. Which is more valuable? - Brett Deering
Where the offseason lacks in true, substantial football, there is one thing it will never be short of: discussions and debates of every form. Today, the discussion that broke out was who is the best wide receiver at Texas. Ultimately, the discussion boils down to returning stars senior Mike Davis and junior Jaxon Shipley. I'm here to tell that player is Mike Davis.
The auditor in me needs standards to measure results against. The standard I believe WRs should be measured on is performance. Performance is not the only way to measure a receiver's value, as there are plenty of other qualities a receiver can have that aren't measured on a stat sheet (the propensity to draw a double team, blocking ability, leadership traits, etc). However, over the course of a season, if a WR isn't producing catches and yards, then their value is limited.
Clearly, any of this analysis relies on the assumption that the Texas offense will closely match the offense of 2012. The value of a player's skillset will dramatically change if that player is in an Air Raid offense or the triple option. While offensive coordinator Major Applewhite looks to improve the offense's tempo, he has insisted that the offense will feature the same plays and look of 2012. I reserve the right to backtrack like the day's finest politicians if that premise turns out to be false.
I believe Mike Davis the better (and, by extension, more valuable) of the Texas WRs. Don't take this as a knock on Shipley, either. He's a tremendous player that brings his own unique skillset to the table. But I think, qualitatively, Davis's skillset is more valuable to the Texas offense. Statistically, Mike Davis's 2012 stat line reads 57 catches - 939 yards (16.5 yards per catch) - 7 TDs reads better than Shipley's 59 catches - 737 yards (12.5 yards per catch) - 6 TDs. The primary explanation for that statistical difference is Davis's ability to get free in the deep, play action game. The deep threat is a well the Texas offense went to often, and the ability to score on a single play should not be overlooked. And Davis was the biggest deep threat for Texas: 5 of Texas's 10 longest pass plays went to Davis.
But Mike Davis wasn't just a one trick pony that was only sent on one route, and useless when that wasn't open. The narrative paints the enigmatic Davis as inconsistent and unreliable, a narrative not supported by the numbers. When ordering Davis and Shipley's 2012 performances based on yardage, you get the following results and groupings:
Mike Davis's 2012 performances by cluster:
5 best: 27 catches - 639 yards (5.4 catches per game, 23.7 yards per catch, 127.8 yards per game) - 6 TDs
3 middle: 14 catches - 162 yards (4.7 catches per game, 11.6 yards per catch, 54.0 yards per game) - 0 TDs
5 worst: 16 catches - 138 yards (3.2 catches per game, 8.6 yards per catch, 27.6 yards per game) - 1 TD
Jaxon Shipley's 2012 performances by cluster
5 best: 32 catches - 447 yards (6.4 catches per game, 14.0 yards per catch, 89.4 yards per game) - 4 TDs
3 middle: 18 catches - 169 yards (6.0 catches per game, 9.4 yards per catch, 56.3 yards per game) - 2 TDs
5 worst: 9 catches - 101 yards (1.8 catches per game, 11.2 yards per catch, 20.2 yards per game) - 0 TDs
Comparing each player's five best games, Davis went for nearly 30 yards more per game and 2 more TDs on 5 fewer catches. In their best performances, Davis's ceiling was much higher. However, if Davis was strictly a deep threat, fast or famine player, his floors would be as low as his ceilings are high. On the contrary, Davis had nearly twice as many catches in his 5 worst games than Shipley for 37 more yards in those outings.
Don't get me wrong, I love both players. This isn't a Mike Davis vs. Jaxon Shipley post. Luckily for the good guys, we can play both at the same time. This is simply to point out that Davis's production, taken on the whole, emphasizes his place as the most valuable WR on the Texas roster.
So, how bout it BONers? Am I off my rocker? My standards wrong? Am I looking at the wrong data? Am I neglecting something?