When the Clemson sports information department releases a year-end football highlights video, wide receiver Jacoby Ford will likely have a prominent place.
Ford scored a signature (possibly season-turning) touchdown Saturday afternoon at 10th-ranked Miami. On third-and-11 in overtime, he broke loose for a 26-yard touchdown to beat Miami. The upset was huge, as was the end-zone celebration at Land Shark Stadium.
Ford’s speed is undeniable. Harder to argue is his productivity. The senior is third in the ACC in targets-per-game, seeing 8 passes each contest. He’s not doing a lot with all those tosses in his direction, however: Ford has caught 50 percent of the 56 passes sent his way, the lowest rate among the ACC’s top 20 pass catchers.
Here’s what Ford’s stat line for the season looks like:
Ford has been less efficient on third down. He leads the league in third-down targets (22), but he’s caught only 10 of those passes (42 percent).
The Miami game is actually a solid exemplar of Ford’s performance on the season. Highlight reels showed him ending a marquee game with a dramatic touchdown. They didn’t show him catching only one of the other six passes directed at him. Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker threw only 12 incompletions Saturday; nearly half were intended for Ford.
In Ford’s defense, he’s playing with one of the most scattershot starting quarterbacks in the ACC. Only Boston College’s Dave Shinskie (he of the worst college performance in five years) has a lower completion percentage than Parker’s 53 percent. That rate is actually a major improvement. With three consecutive strong games, Parker’s raised his completion percentage by 6 points. Ford, meanwhile, has gone the opposite way, catching 38 percent of the passes intended for him over that period.
The point of this isn’t to slam Jacoby Ford (although I do love raining on a nice-seeming parade). It’s that appraising wide receivers is hard. The statistics we see in games – catches, yards, touchdowns – tell half the story, at best. Over the next few days, we’ll be looking at different ways of gauging ACC wide receivers. Who’s the best on third down? In the red zone? Who does the most with the least? Which ACC team has the best group of receivers?