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Drops Aren’t a Good Predictor of Future Play

Dropped passes are one of the most reported events at Green Bay Packers training camp and especially so this year, with at least eight receivers vying for five or six roster spots.

At least four receivers have already been cited by reporters as having multiple drops at camp. While I’m not a fan of dropped balls, I doubt that such mistakes will have much bearing on who makes the roster or the order on the depth chart.

Drops are not so much a physical failing as a mental one. Virtually any receiver who makes it to the NFL has about 10 years of football already under his belt. Anyone who has excelled at the college level has shown he can catch the ball. Without this basic skill, players don’t make it this far.

This is not to say that some players aren’t blessed with extraordinary hands. On the Packers, tight end Richard Rodgers is the consensus good-hands receiver. I would think Jordy Nelson ranks high too. Newcomer Trevor Davis has also demonstrated good hands to this point.

In mid-career, James Jones became a focus one year due to having a bunch of drops the year before. He responded by having one drop all season, and ever since he’s had a deserved reputation for fighting for and hanging on to passes thrown his way.

Based on last season, if dropped passes were seen as a predictor of future performance, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb would be far down on the depth chart or off the roster entirely. Dropped passes are a streaky phenomenon – or we better hope so if we don’t want a repeat of 2015.

Several All-Pro level players have dropped more than their fair share of passes, without it hurting their careers. Terrell Owens and Dez Bryant come to mind. Sportingcharts.com is one of several analytics outfits that tries to count dropped passes – though it ridiculously counts any pass touched but not caught as a drop. Even so, its list of top 10 receivers with the most drops in 2015 includes such stars as Mike Evans, Amari Cooper, Brandon Marshall, Martavis Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and Julian Edelman.

I can’t think of any pro receiver who washed out of the league due to too many dropped passes.

Rather than dwelling on drops, the focus at Packers training camp this year ought to be on receivers getting open enough – and spreading the field while doing so – to be an inviting target.

After that goal is achieved, then we can worry about whether they’ll catch the ball.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Howard August 10, 2016

    Drops may not have impacted certain players career’s, however they can impact the outcome of a game or a drive. Isn’t that what really counts the team wins over the individual career?I sure wish Quarless would have not dropped the first down pass from Rodgers late in the 2014 NFCC game.

    1. Phatgzus August 11, 2016


  2. Jtmax August 10, 2016

    What matters most is drops during critical plays like when first down or game on line. There the elite receivers excel. When the game is on the line cobb catches them. Not adams.

  3. Phatgzus August 11, 2016

    Corey Bradford.

    Everyone hated Finley because of his drops.

    You hit it on the head, drops speak greatly to the mental focus/toughness/preparation of a receiver, and that is a major issue and matters. For young players trying to make a team, showing you can be relied upon to catch the ball when it’s thrown your way is extremely important, especially when it takes time to develop other skills such as timing and crisp route-running. For veterans who have shown they can consistently catch the ball-Cobb-drops (particularly in practice) are not as significant an issue.

  4. Andy Peth August 12, 2016

    Gaining separation and good hands both matter, but separation was missing most from last year’s team–and it’s not fixed yet. I went to practices this past week, and receivers were not getting open.

    Ted Thompson clearly made speed his #1 focus in the offseason, adding Cook at TE and drafting Davis at WR–both burners. Richard Rodgers lost over 15 pounds, and looks much quicker (though still slow by NFL TE standards). Cobb looks quicker. Seems obvious lots of guys were told to slim down and quicken up.

    Of course, speed isn’t everything, and indecisive route-running will keep even blazers like Janis from getting open. And ironically, undrafted WR Geronimo Alison–not a burner–has dominated camp thus far. His hands look great, but he also shows a knack for creating separation with a feel for coverage.

    Tonight against Cleveland will tell a lot. Guys must create separation this year, or Rodgers will once again be running for his life and hearing complaints about how he “holds the ball too long.”