Why Kenny Golladay was one of the worst 2021 free agent signings

    Kenny Golladay signed a huge contract with the New York Giants last season. The data shows he was one of 2021's worst free agent signings.

    Kenny Golladay was one of the biggest NFL free agent signings of 2021. Unfortunately, his first season with the New York Giants went exceptionally poorly. Let’s use the advanced metrics to see how ineffective he really was.

    Kenny Golladay didn’t come close to living up to his contract

    The New York Giants gave Golladay a massive four-year contract worth $72 million ($40 million guaranteed). To say that Golladay hasn’t rewarded their faith in him is a dramatic understatement.

    He totaled just 521 receiving yards last season. Even more damning, he didn’t score a single touchdown. That is far from the kind of production you would hope for from such an important signing.

    Kenny Golladay’s advanced metrics were worse than his traditional ones

    To analyze Golladay’s 2021 season, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to measure how much of a player’s statistical production they were actually responsible for.

    In his first season in New York, Golladay earned a grade of 20.08. By the standards of the average NFL wide receiver, that is a genuinely awful grade, the third-worst received by any of the 98 qualifying players in 2021. A grade that low suggests that Golladay was completely ineffective as a player.

    Golladay was also extremely inconsistent

    If we want a deeper understanding of Golladay’s overall performance, we need to examine his weekly grades.

    You can see his grades from each week of the 2021 season in the chart below, marked by the black dots. For comparison, the yellow line represents the average OVM grade for wide receivers during the 2021 regular season.

    Kenny golladay

    Golladay started the season on a rough note. But he showed improvement with a two-game stretch in which he played extremely well, earning a grade of 37.38 in Week 3 and 45.67 in Week 4.

    Unfortunately, injuries and a lack of targets meant he didn’t earn another grade until after the Giants’ bye week. All of the grades he earned after that point were below the league average, often by a significant margin. He even received two grades below 10 points: 5.94 in Week 14 and 9.93 in Week 16.

    On the whole, it was an extremely disappointing season for the veteran wide receiver.

    The Giants WR had awful advanced metrics

    To understand why Golladay earned the grades he did, we need to examine the advanced metrics involved in calculating them. As you would expect, given his low overall grade, Golladay underperformed across the board.

    He caught 48.68% of his targets, one of just four players who failed to catch at least half of the passes thrown his way — it was complete inefficiency.

    Likely contributing to the inefficiency was Golladay’s inability to get open. He averaged 1.7 yards of separation when targeted, tied for the lowest number in the league. And he did so despite being given 6 yards of cushion. That is lower than most of the NFL’s other wide receivers, but it’s far from the bottom.

    Golladay’s yards-after-the-catch numbers weren’t anything special either. He averaged 3.2 yards, 0.2 yards lower than expected according to the NFL’s projections. Both were tied for 80th in the NFL at wide receiver. Taking all of those statistics together, it becomes apparent that Golladay failed in basically every area relevant to being a good wide receiver.

    He wasn’t good in previous seasons either

    When evaluating a player’s OVM performance, it’s helpful to look at how they graded in previous seasons. Unfortunately, thanks to injuries that caused Golladay to miss 11 games in 2020, he didn’t earn an overall grade. That on its own is a reason against the Giants’ decision to bring him on as a free agent in 2021, but it also makes comparing this season to previous ones more difficult.

    Two years ago, though, he earned a grade of 27.69. To be frank, while better than he did this past season, it is still a terrible grade. Even so, it’s far better than what he earned in his first year in New York, and if the Detroit Lions are outperforming you in any category, you have probably done something wrong.

    Golladay was one of the worst free agent signings of 2021

    The Golladay signing actually saw a lot of hype when it was announced. However, given his statistics and injury history, it’s difficult to see why. Looking back, it was a disaster waiting to happen. And somehow, it turned out worse than expected.

    To be fair, a single season is too short a period to call Golladay’s signing a complete bust. Perhaps new head coach Brian Daboll can help the veteran receiver (and the Giants in general) turn things around this season. But Golladay has a history of poor play and injuries, and he’s only getting older. It’s difficult to be optimistic.

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