How do you measure the influence an offensive player had on his team’s production? Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) aims to do just that, and, with access to data stretching back four years, we can determine the most influential displays of the last half-decade, including Phillip Dorsett’s top-ranked performance from 2016.
Phillip Dorsett’s top-ranked performance? Yes, you read that correctly. The wide receiver, now of the Seattle Seahawks but with the Indianapolis Colts at the time, earned a monster grade of 56.98 for his Week 8 showing against the Kansas City Chiefs. Dorsett’s display was the highest-graded of any performance from a wide receiver in 2016.
OSM uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to assess a player’s impact on his team’s production by looking at the factors only he could control. A grade as high as Dorsett’s suggests he must have put up huge numbers in a day of offensive dominance for the Colts.
That was far from the case. Dorsett received his score in a game that saw him catch five passes for 33 yards in a 30-14 defeat for Indianapolis.
How can the top-ranked OSM performance for a wide receiver in 2016 come from a receiver who had such underwhelming numbers? The context of his day and the Colts’ performance is important for explaining that.
It was a dismal day for the Colts, with Luck throwing for only 210 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Dorsett’s dependability was a bright spot. While other receivers struggled, he caught all five of the targets that came his way. He was outshone in the stat sheet by Donte Moncrief, who led the way with 41 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
However, Moncrief had five of his nine targets fall incomplete, and, as the film shows, his three-yard touchdown grab likely would not have come to pass without the efforts of Dorsett.
Cushion the key for Dorsett
A natural speedster, Dorsett came into the league as a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft having posted an elite Relative Athletic Score (RAS), a composite metric on a 0 to 10 scale based on the average of all of the percentiles for each of the metrics he completed either at the combine or pro day, of 8.46.
As part of his RAS, Dorsett received a speed score of 9.9, having blazed down the 40-yard-dash track at the combine in 4.33 seconds. He improved on that at this Pro Day, clocking 4.28 seconds.
The respect defenses have previously displayed for his speed is reflected in the cushion Dorsett has consistently been afforded. In the 2016 season, he received an average of 7.1 yards of cushion, according to NextGen Stats. Only five wide receivers – Albert Wilson, DeSean Jackson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Travis Benjamin, and Tyreek Hill – averaged more.
Kansas City’s defense treated him no differently, with the cushion the Chiefs gave Dorsett key to each of his receptions that went for double-digit yardage, the first of which came late in the first quarter.
The second of those catches was more critical to the limited production of the Colts’ offense. Dorsett, effectively working as a check-down option for Luck, had a massive cushion at his disposal. He hauled in a low throw from an under-pressure Luck and got the Colts to the Chiefs’ 14-yard line by making a defender miss to pick up extra yardage.
Three plays later, Moncrief was in the endzone celebrating his touchdown. Dorsett’s performance did not live long in the memory, which is what makes it so surprising to see it top of the OSM charts among wide receivers from 2016.
However, in a game where others around him toiled and struggled to make an impact, Dorsett did an excellent job of controlling what he could control. He caught all his targets and made the most of physical gifts to run for extra yardage after the catch.
Most notably, he made the crucial play that got the Colts in the red zone, a position on the field from where they then pulled within two scores by making it 24-14.
His display is a reminder that it isn’t always the 100-yard blockbuster performances that earn top billing when it comes to OSM. But is there anything we can take from it pertaining to his future with the Seahawks?
Dorsett is a Super Bowl champion, having won with the New England Patriots in the 2018 campaign. He has not, though, enjoyed considerable individual success in his pro career. His 2016 season with the Colts, in which he finished with 528 receiving yards, was his best. Across five seasons with the Colts and Patriots, he has only 1,634 receiving yards.
Playing as a part of a talent-poor Patriots receiving corps last year, Dorsett was not set up to succeed. He enters an environment more conducive to production in Seattle for 2020.
Seattle, much to the chagrin of large sections of the Seahawks fanbase, has a steadfast commitment to running the ball. When he does drop back to pass, quarterback Russell Wilson has two dynamic options to choose from.
Physical phenom D.K. Metcalf will be expected to make the leap after a hugely impressive rookie year. Tyler Lockett, meanwhile, is one of the league’s premier route-runners and arguably the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL.
They should each command plenty of attention from opposing defenses, potentially presenting a raft of opportunities for Dorsett to operate from the slot with significant cushion.
As Dorsett demonstrated back in 2016, that is a scenario in which he can make a pivotal impact for his team. Still only 27, Dorsett has not lost the speed that has allowed him to excel with the ball in his hands in the open field. If Seattle elects to throw the ball more in 2020, he could be in line for one of the most productive seasons of his career.
Dorsett led the way in 2016 with a Week 8 performance in which his production was mediocre. After signing with the Seahawks, Dorsett is in a situation where he could again rank highly in OSM while racking up substantially better numbers.