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Breaking down the Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Keenan Allen debate

Let’s look at some numbers.

Keenan Allen had some interesting words on Monday.
| Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

NFL fans everywhere were already plenty excited enough Monday morning. It’s the eve of training camp. Could it get any better?

Apparently it can.

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen sent out a late-night/early-morning tweet that targeted Tyreek Hill, Mike Evans and Chris Goodwin Chris Godwin. The message was clear: Allen, in his estimation, is a better receiver.

It’s not entirely clear why Allen targeted those three guys. Maybe he is assuming that they will be ranked ahead of him in the NFL’s Top 100 Players list for 2020. Allen came in at No. 77, so it looks like he believes they will be ranked ahead of him. Regardless, Evans decided to fire back:

And then Goodwin Godwin joined in on the fun:

Poor Chris Goodwin. He just wanted a normal start to the week.

Anyway, these debates are always fun. Especially when the players get involved. Let’s break this down. We’ll leave Hill out because he’s obviously a member of the Kansas City Chiefs and not the Buccaneers.

Career Stats

We’ll use volume stats before we get into the advanced metrics.

Keenan Allen: 86 games with 82 starts, 524 receptions for 6,405 yards (12.2 ypc) and 34TDs Mike Evans: 90 games with 89 starts, 462 receptions for 7,260 yards (15.7 ypc) and 48TDs
Chris Godwin: 46 games with 21 starts, 179 receptions for 2,700 yards (15.1 ypc) and 17TDs

Volume stats are a good way to start this off, because they should be used (if at all) as more of an introduction than the body of the essay. They don’t tell the whole story.

Volume stats won’t tell you that Godwin was the No. 3 receiver for the first two years of his career while Allen was the No. 1 receiver his rookie year and Evans was a heavy-utilized No. 2 (nearly No. 1) at minimum in 2014.

They also don’t tell you that Allen had a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Philip Rivers every year until 2020 while Evans caught passes from Josh McCown and Mike Glennon his rookie year. Evans and Godwin both had Jameis Winston for the majority —the entire career in Godwin’s case— of their careers. Winston certainly had his good moments in the NFL, but Rivers is top-10 in a lot of career passing categories.

Since 2013, Evans is sixth among all receivers in receiving yards, third in touchdowns, and 14th in receptions. Allen is ninth in receptions, 12th in receiving yards, and 21st in touchdowns. Godwin is 85th in receptions, 74th in yards, and 70th in touchdowns.

Lastly, you have to dig a little to find out that Allen missed 23 games between 2015 & 2016. So, he’s missed time. However, Allen was drafted in 2013, while Evans was drafted in 2014. That almost makes up the difference, but it’s still important to note.

Let’s move past the volume stats and into the good stuff. This is 2020, after all.

Advanced Metrics

This is where the fun begins.

Separation

Let’s start with separation, because that’s what drives Allen’s argument the most. I mean, he specifically mentioned it in his tweet.

According to Next Gen Stats, Allen has registered 2.7 yards of separation per catch in each year since 2017, making his average 2.7 yards. Evans has averaged 2.2 yards and Godwin has averaged 2.53, but Godwin registered the highest, individual single-season separation mark (2.8 yards in 2019) and has seen his average increase each year.

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Godwin had an incredibly good 2019 season.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

System and type of player is important context here, as well. Evans and Godwin have primarily played in a vertical system their entire career while Allen’s is mostly West Coast, but more multiple (think Erhardt-Perkins). Evans is a deep threat/red zone target, a guy who can win jump balls and contested catches down the field. Allen is a monster over the intermediate-middle but can also beat you deep. Godwin is more of your all-around guy, but was used more over the middle in 2019 and he absolutely flourished.

We know what Evans is in this regard by now and from the looks of it, we know what Allen is, too. But Godwin is still figuring things out when it comes to separation, so Allen may want to dial it down a bit when it comes to comparing separation stats. Evans, though, is definitely behind Allen in this category.

EPA vs. Man Coverage in 2019

Using Sports Info Solutions’ Pro Data Hub, let’s take a look at how each receiver fared when facing man coverage in 2019.

Some receivers aren’t productive when they play a defense in man coverage. Whether it’s a lack of an ability to separate, get off the line quick enough, strength, or whatever, there are plenty of receivers who struggle when they are placed on island with a defensive back.

The following stats are when each player faced Cover 0, Cover 1, or Man Cover 2:

Keenan Allen: (.45) EPA/tgt on 68 targets. 44 receptions, 543 yards, 4 touchdowns. (79.5%) 1st Down %, (7.9) Y/Tgt, (12.3) Y/R. (90%) On-Tgt Catch %, (2.0%) Drop % (one total drop).
Mike Evans: (.45) EPA/tgt on 39 targets. 23 receptions, 429 yards, 5 touchdowns. (95.7%) 1st Down %, (11) Y/Tgt, (18.7) Y/R. (92%) On-Tgt Catch %, (3.8%) Drop % (one total drop).
Chris Godwin: (.47) EPA/tgt on 34 targets. 22 receptions, 283 yards, 3 touchdowns. (86.4%) 1st Down %, (8.32) Y/Tgt, (12.9) Y/R. (100%) On-Tgt Catch %, (0%) Drop % (zero drops).

All three players played well when facing man in 2019, but Godwin clearly had the most success.

EPA vs. Zone Coverage in 2019

Zone coverage is a different animal compared to man. You have to read the defense and find the soft spot. It’s a lot more mental, but there are physical aspects involved — like selling your route— that help players have success, as well.

The following stats are when each player faced Cover 2, Cover 3, and Cover 4:

Keenan Allen: (.13) EPA/tgt on 68 targets. 49 receptions, 611 yards, two touchdowns. (53.1%) 1st Down %, (8.99) Y/Tgt, (12.5) Y/R. (93.6%) On-Tgt Catch %, (5.6%) Drop % (three total drops).
Mike Evans: (-.14) EPA/tgt on 62 targets. 33 receptions, 561 yards, two touchdowns. (75.8%) 1st Down %, (11) Y/Tgt, (18.7) Y/R. (82.1%) On-Tgt Catch %, (11.9%) Drop % (five total drops).
Chris Godwin: (.68) EPA/tgt on 64 targets. 45 receptions, 878 yards, 5 touchdowns. (82.2%) 1st Down %, (13.72) Y/Tgt, (19.5) Y/R. (93.3%) On-Tgt Catch %, (2.0%) Drop % (one total drop).

Godwin clearly owns this category. He was a monster against zone coverage and his total EPA was the third-highest total in the league last year and his EPA/tgt was the third-highest among receivers with at least 30 receptions.

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Allen is one of the league’s best receivers.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

DVOA/DYAR

DVOA/DYAR are very effective ways of measuring individual player performance. If you’re not familiar with how either metric works, check out the explanation here. In short, DYAR measures a player’s impact against that of a replacement-level player (the higher the number, the better the player, so-to-speak) and DVOA measures overall impact.

Allen’s yearly DYAR average is around 248, which would have placed him 12th among receivers last year. His yearly DVOA average is 12.3%, which would have been good for 20th.

Evans’ yearly DYAR average is around 264, which would have been good for 11th among receivers in 2019. His yearly DVOA average is around 11.6%, which would have tied Julio Jones for 21st last year.

Godwins’ yearly DYAR average is 219, which would have been good for 18th in 2019. Keep in mind that he had the second-highest DYAR in 2019 and never finished higher than 33rd in this regard, so it just speaks to how good his 2019 season was. Godwin’s DVOA over the last three years has averaged out to 18.2%, which would have been good for 13th last year. He had the league’s highest DVOA with a 32.8% mark.

Miscellaneous Stats

-Average Depth of Target (2018-2019 average):

Keenan Allen: 9.35 yards/target
Mike Evans: 15.35 yards/target
Chris Godwin: 11.05 yards/target

-Average run blocking grade (per PFF):

Keenan Allen: 68.6 over seven seasons
Mike Evans: 70.9 over six seasons
Chris Godwin: 70.1 over three seasons

-YAC

Keenan Allen: 4.4 YPC over seven seasons
Mike Evans: 2.7 YPC over six seasons
Chris Godwin: 5.6 YPC over three seaons

-100+ yard games

Keenan Allen: 23
Mike Evans: 24
Chris Godwin: 10

-Pro Bowls

Keenan Allen: 3 (2017, 2018, 2019)
Mike Evans: 3 (2016, 2018, 2019)
Chris Godwin: 1 (2019)


The last —and most telling— aspect would be a tape review, but I’ll leave that up to one of the many, great folks who do that on a regular basis. I’m sure it’ll happen sooner or later.

What do you think? Does Allen have a case? Let us know in the comments/poll below!

Poll

Is Keenan Allen better than Mike Evans and/or Chris Godwin?

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Yes
    (414 votes)
  • 44%
    No
    (541 votes)
  • 17%
    Better than Godwin, but not Evans
    (208 votes)
  • 3%
    Better than Evans, but not Godwin
    (48 votes)
1211 votes total Vote Now

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