The New England Patriots added one of the biggest offseason prizes to their roster in wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who rose to become one of the best receivers in the game just recently after being a journeyman veteran. His acrobatic catches and ability to stretch the field vertically have made him one of the premier deep threats in the league, and he certainly adds a new dimension to the Patriots offense.
Much has been made of the Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd hook-up, as both were terrific in training camp and worked well together. They teamed up for some big plays in practice, but the results in Friday’s preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did not mirror the success that both players have had in practice.
But this isn’t about the rapport between Brady and Lloyd, because things will be fine on that front. I don’t see a problem there. It’s all about projecting Lloyd’s numbers in 2012, with the most difficult aspect of the projection being gauging how many targets Lloyd will receive.
In 16 regular season games, the targets broke down like so:
Wes Welker 173
Rob Gronkowski 124
Aaron Hernandez 103
Deion Branch 90
Chad Ochocinco 32
The top five options stacked up in this manner, with Julian Edelman receiving an insignificant eight targets in six games. Gronk and Welker played in all 16 games, while the other receivers played in 14.
Lloyd is basically replacing Branch’s role on the roster, and he will receive at least as many targets as Branch. The Patriots are going to use Hernandez more often in 2012, and I expect both Gronk and Herny to have around 110-115 targets each.
Meanwhile, I think Welker is going to be utilized a bit less next season, but I doubt he receives less than 150 targets overall. That’s basically 20-25 extra passes headed Lloyd’s way, while Ochocinco’s 32 targets will go to either Branch or Jabar Gaffney (whoever wins the No. 3 job).
Only two tight ends and two wide receivers will be used heavily in the New England Patriots offense, and the team might run the ball more next season with the emergence of a better two running back attack with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Even so, Brandon Lloyd should still receive at least 100 targets next season. One thing to look at, however, is that Lloyd is going to be drawing a lot of coverage to the outside and will open up things in the middle of the field- where the Patriots are at their best. With that in mind, I expect 105 targets for Lloyd next season. He’s going to be the team’s primary deep threat, while Welker and the tight ends are going to be the more heavily targeted players for Brady. Lloyd will likely get around 100-110 targets next season, and he will be drawing out a lot of coverage to help the team in that manner.
Continue reading to see how I project Lloyd doing in 2012 and the mathematical reasoning (stat geek alert) why.