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Projecting the Production of James Washington in 2017

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Here’s an interesting question: How will James Washington’s production be affected by the influx of talent at wide receiver?

You’ve got the return of Marcell Ateman, who racked up 766 yards and five scores in 2015 but missed 2016 due to injury. Then there’s LSU-transfer Tyron Johnson, who Mason Rudolph said was the best receiver on the roster with the ball in his hands.

Add in the natural progression of guys like Jalen McCleskey and Chris Lacy, as well as Dillon Stoner and Tylan Wallace. Plus, about four other guys who could plug right in and provide you a big play.

It might seem like Mike Gundy is going to have to sneak more footballs onto the field. Is Washington going to be able to get his? Vegas doesn’t seem too worried about that.

Bovada Casino released proposition betting numbers for James Washington’s 2017 production on Friday. He ranked the highest of the three wide receivers the service gave prop numbers for, which is another indication of Washington’s preseason Biletnikoff love nationally.

Player School Receiving Yards – O/U Receiving TDs – O/U
James Washington Oklahoma State 1,100.5 10.5
Christian Kirk Texas A&M 900.5 8.5
Calvin Ridley Alabama 800.5 7.5

This is a betting line, not a prediction. If I’m putting my hard-earned money down, I’m taking the over, on both. And I’ll explain why.

First off, here’s a look at Washington’s production over the last two seasons, when he was the No. 1 target. Natural progression should see an increase in catch rate and, in turn, yards per target. He’s already the leading OSU receiver with a career average of 19.2 yards per catch.

Year Catch Rate Yards Per Target Passing Yards TDs
2015 51.5% 9.5 1,087 10
2016 54.2% 10.4 1,380 10

On the question of touches, Washington has done all of this while never leading the team in receptions for a season. He was fourth as a freshman and came in second to slot men David Glidden and Jalen McCleskey the last two seasons. He’s never (!) caught ten catches in any of his 39 games at OSU.

Here’s a look at Washington’s targets over the last two years.

Year Targets Rest of the team Target Rate
2015 103 395 20.5%
2016 131 320 28.7%

Washington has been the unquestioned star but the Cowboys have always spread it around under Yurcich. While this could be the deepest and most talented receiver group Gundy has seen dress, let’s not act like receiver hasn’t been a strength for the Cowboys for years. My feeling is that Ateman, Johnson, Lacy and McCleskey are better than the group surrounding Washington last year in overall talent and depth, but I’m not sure that it hurts his numbers much more than it could help them.

With those type of playmakers opposite Washington, opposing secondaries are going to be under constant assault and any cute bracket coverage like we saw Kansas do last year, could result in career games from one of four or five of his teammates. Think back to the Pitt game and against Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, when Washington faced mostly single coverage — and took the top off of them.

So my money’s on the over. We’re likely looking at more tempo, more wide-open sets and more opportunities for the Cowboys’ best playmaker.

Credit Bill Connelly and Football Study Hall for the advanced receiver stats.

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