Who Deserves To Be A Pro Bowler? Part III: Larry Fitzgerald

Does Larry Fitzgerald deserve to be a Pro Bowler? I thought of this one day and I think it's an interesting debate. If you look at my Part One of this series, you won't find Fitzgerald's name anywhere. He's tied for 9th in the NFC in touchdowns (5), 7th in the NFC (5th among wide outs) in receptions, 9th in the NFC in receiving yards, 74th in the league in DYAR, 70th in DVOA, and one of the worst in the league in WPA and EPA (being negative in both).

I think part of the reason the advanced stats according to Football Outsiders and Advanced NFL Stats rank Fitzgerald so low is the same reason fantasy owners who own him are pissy at him- he just isn't getting the ball and when he does it's hard for him to do much with it.

Larry Fitzgerald has a 49% catch rate in 2010. Essentially (and I think pretty obviously) Fitzy is only catching every other ball thrown his way. In the past three years he's never had a catch rate below 60%. This year, Larry is second in the NFC and tied for 3rd in the NFL in targets. This has given Fitzgerald some decent statistical numbers and good for a top 7 (from a statistical perspective) wide out in the NFC. But the advanced numbers don't like final numbers, they like how you get to the final numbers. In baseball, the 3000 hits club essentially means nothing because a guy like Craig Biggio didn't have any great or special talent except be healthy. Similar to advanced football statistics. The yards and fantasy points may look nice, but because you're targeted so much, your one special skill seems to just be thrown to- and even a blind squirrel can catch a nut.

But the answer for Larry Fitzgerald's low catch rate is painfully obvious- it's his quarterback. Derek Anderson has the second lowest completion percentage in the NFC next to rookie/ part time starter Jimmy Clausen. Anderson has a career 52.6 completion percentage (to this date) and is just an awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful awful quarterback. I can rant and rave all day about Arizona flat out releasing Matt Leinart in favor of Anderson. You can watch the games to see just how open and awesome Fitzgerald is and just how awful Anderson is at getting him the ball.

When you break down into what a receiver has to do- he has to run, get open, catch the ball that comes his way, and then if he can run towards his end zone. Fitzgerald does these things just as good as any other receiver in the league. Larry runs, he gets open and if the ball is coming his way, he (for the most part) catches it. But the problem is that the ball has to come his way. There's only so much even a guy like Jerry Rice could do with an awful pass. The reason for Fitzgerald's poor statistic numbers is independent of the things Fitzgerald does that makes him a great wide receiver.

I posed this question to Cubsfan on our recent podcast: if all conditions equal and say Dan Marino was throwing them the ball (I originally said Peyton Manning but with Peyton doing his best Derek Anderson impression as of late, I'll change it for this post to Marino), who would put up the best numbers? While Cubsfan personally put Roddy White #1 (which is I think a BIT ridiculous) the consensus is that Andre Johnson (when healthy) and Larry Fitzgerald are one and two in no particular order. So the fact that shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty shitty Derek Anderson is throwing to Fitz shouldn't make a different when you're asking who's the best wide receiver in the NFC.

So does Larry Fitzgerald deserve to go to the Pro Bowl? I don't know; I don't have a good answer for you. If he went I would be very happy for him, but if he didn't I wouldn't have a huge problem with it. I think Roddy White is the clear cut #1 NFC receiver for the 2010 season so I think he deserves to go in ahead of him. I think Calvin Johnson not only can match Fitzgerald in talent but also leads the NFC in touchdowns and doesn't have a great QB either so I think Calvin Johnson is NFC's #2 receiver. At then there's Greg Jennings vs. Fitzgerald and we get closer. I think Fitzgerald is the better talent but it's also not fair to Jennings because HE DID produce. Maybe Fitzgerald deserves the last spot, especially over an injured Hakeem Nicks. Maybe he deserves it over Jeremy Maclin. I don't know. There's just no good answer. But I think it's fun to debate.


Dmitry said...

I like the post but why you gotta hate on craig biggio? Ultimate grinder, with above average talent. 25hr, 50 doubles, 50 steals, .325ba, 34HBP, and played C/CF/2B.