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Game film: Reviewing all of DeSean Jackson's 'drops'

A couple weeks ago, Pro Football Focus came out with a report on the "drop percentages" of NFL wide receivers, and DeSean Jackson finished dead last in the league, with a scary-high drop percentage of 19.67%, on 12 drops.  I've always been skeptical of PFF and their rating system, which ranks DeSean Jackson as the 104th best receiver in the NFL.  Obviously, any ranking system that thinks DeSean Jackson is the 104th best receiver in the league has some serious flaws.  Naturally, I pondered the accuracy of their evaluation of what exactly is a "drop."

Sheil Kapadia of had DeSean Jackson down for 7 drops last season (it's something he charted), and I've been made aware by others that Stats Inc. had him down for 6.  Charting "drops" is subjective.  It's not a black and white statistic like a catch, a fumble, TD, etc.  Because a "drop" is so subjective, I emailed PFF to ask them who is watching the film and charting the drops.  Was ONE person watching film on every receiver in the league, all 16 games for all 32 teams?  That seems like a full-time job.  Or was it the more likely scenario, that they have several people watching film?  If it's several people, the perception of what one person thinks is a drop could vary greatly from the perception of another.  In other words, the person charting DeSean's drops could be far more strict than whoever charted Jordan Shipley's , who was rated as having no drops.on 52 'catchable balls.'  They did get back to me, although they didn't answer that question.  Instead, they said they re-watched the film and decided that DeSean had 11 drops, not 12.

I thought it might be fun to decide for ourselves what were drops and what weren't, so I pulled film of all 11 of DeSean's drops from the 2010 season.  Let's just get right to it:

Drop #1 - FOX didn't give us a close-up replay of this one, but this rocket by Vick was reminiscent of one of Donny Mac's old trademark throws - The unnecessary 10 yard laser beam thrown off target.  DeSean gets a hand on it, but couldn't bring it in.  It would have been an amazing catch had he been able to make it, but clearly the fault is on Vick here.  My opinion - Not a drop.

Drop #2 - Cullen Jenkins beats Nick Cole like a rented mule and immediately gets in Vick's face.  On the replay, you can see DeSean isn't even looking as he passes through the frame while Vick is getting hit and basically throwing the ball away.  Who would call this a drop?  Like... Seriously?  That's a drop?  My opinion - OK, this one isn't even subjective.  Clearly, not a drop by any stretch of the imagination.

Drop #3 - DeSean has to make this catch.  My opinion - Drop.

Drop #4 - Ew.  My opinion - Obviously, a bad drop.

Drops #5 and #6 - These two I lumped together, because they're basically the same play - On both of them, DeSean isn't the primary option, and the play has broken down.  Vick dumps the ball to DeSean a yard or two past the line of scrimmage near the sideline, on what are both very catchable balls, but also sort of throw-aways.  I think these are more of a case of disinterest than bad hands.  One was on 2nd and 10, the other was on 1st and 10.  I could forgive these if they were 3rd and 10 situations and you're punting anyway.  But on 1st or 2nd down, do you want that one yard?  Sure, of course you do.  Just catch it DeSean.  My opinion - Not a huge deal here, but statistically, both should be considered drops.

Drop #7 - Oof, TD drop.  More difficult play than it looks with a lot of traffic in front of him, but an NFL receiver has to make that play.  My opinion - Drop.

Drop #8 - In the audio, you hear Moose say "You gotta make that catch."  I agree.  My opinion - Drop.

Drop #9 - This one, and the next one, are really the two most difficult ones of the group to decide on.  It appears to me that D.J. Moore (#30) gets juuuuuust enough of the ball to change its trajectory, leading to an incompletion.  This is kind of like in baseball, when the catcher can't hang onto a foul tip on a would-be strike 3.  You want him to catch it, but you don't give him an error if he doesn't.  I think calling this one a drop is too harsh.  My opinion - Not a drop.

Drop #10 - I don't like the replay here by FOX.  I would have liked to have seen Jackson run his full route, but based upon what we're presented with here, I'm thinking that's a ball DeSean should reasonably catch.  My opinion - Drop.

Drop #11 - Black and white.  My opinion - Drop.

TOTALS - Clearly, on any that were questionable, PFF called them drops.  I count 8 drops, which would bring his DeSean's drop percentage down from 19.67 to 14.04%, which is still not good.  How many do you see?

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