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A Rookie Quarterback’s Real Best Friend

Posted by Jason Lisk on September 7, 2010

From time to time, I hear that a tight end is a rookie quarterback's best friend. I've often wondered what this is supposed to mean. Do they room together and eat dinner after practice? Is it some hypothetical ideal, where the young quarterback should realize that he can utilize the tight end as a secondary outlet? Do people actually mean that the rookie quarterback does throw to the tight end more?

Whatever the original intention or origin of this truism, it seems to me that many people perceive the latter and actually do believe that a tight end paired with a young quarterback is a good thing. This talk comes up frequently this time of year, when people are looking for "value" in their fantasy drafts.

So, dubious of such claims about tight end and rookie quarterback glory, I decided to take a look at the data. I pulled every season where a rookie quarterback at age 24 or under threw 300+ passes in a season since the merger, and then looked at the reception distribution on those teams. 26 seasons made the list. I divided the receptions on those teams into WR1, WR2, WR3, RB1, and TE1. Here are the percentage of team receptions that went to each:

WR1: 23.8%
WR2: 16.1%
RB1: 15.4%
TE1: 10.4%
WR3: 8.1%
Others: 26.4%

For a quick and incomplete comparison, here is the distribution for the ten highest scoring teams from 2009

WR1: 23.6%
WR2: 15.6%
RB1: 11.9%
TE1: 15.9%
WR3: 10.7%
Others: 22.3%

I know that the tight end versus running back usage rates have changed a little in recent years, but there is no truth to the adage that a tight end is a rookie quarterback's best friend. Apparently, the Jeff Komlo to David Hill combo back in 1979 was quite memorable, and I'm going to attribute the rise of the "tight end is a young quarterback's best friend" mantra to that historic combination. It appears though, that it is a running back as a receiver who receives a relative percentage increase with rookie quarterbacks, while tight ends are, well, whatever the opposite of a young quarterback's best friend.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 at 6:38 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.