Cecil Shorts III is the same player he was in 2012

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Cecil Shorts III has been the subject of criticism for his drops in 2013, but he's playing exactly like he did in his breakout 2012 season.

When Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts III broke out during the 2012 season with 55 receptions for 979 yards and seven touchdowns it came one year after he recorded a grand total of two receptions. He was a non-factor as a rookie and his unexpected, breakout sophomore campaign drew praises from many who went on to say that the Jaguars finally had a dynamic receiving duo with Shorts and Justin Blackmon.

Perhaps it was those heightened expectations for the 2011 fourth-round pick that has been the cause for criticism in 2013.

Sure, he's had drops. A lot of them, actually.

According to football analytics site, Pro Football Focus, Shorts has accumulated six drops through seven games, second only to Cleveland Browns receiver Davone Bess in 2013. But with 74 targets, Shorts has been given more opportunities to drop passes than every player in the NFL with the exception of Tampa Bay Buccaneers three-time Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, who has been targeted 75 times and also has six drops.

Of the 74 passes that have headed in his direction, PFF deemed 45 of them as catchable for Shorts (I know), of which he hauled in 39. That 13.33 percent drop rate ranks as the 14th highest in the NFL among the 51 players that have been targeted on at least 50 percent of their team's pass plays. Yeesh. That sounds bad, but when looking at who else has struggled to make the plays available to them, it doesn't seem so rough.

Shorts' drop rate is in the company of players like Jackson, Mike Wallace, Steve Johnson, Josh Gordon, Eric Decker, A.J. Green and Julio Jones, all of whom have drop rates over 10 percent.

So how does his high drop rate compare to his breakout season in 2012? Nearly identically.

Shorts was thrown 64 catchable balls last season and managed to come away with 55 receptions. That's a 14.06 percent drop rate.

His statistical contributions have been nearly identical as well, as Shorts' 69.9 yards per game in 2012 have been upped to a 70.1-yard average in 2013. While his receptions per game have jumped, his yards per reception have dropped, as he's been unable to record any of the breakaway touchdowns that he did in 2012.

Regardless, he's on pace for 1,122 yards receiving in 2013, which would make him the only receiver in franchise history not named Jimmy Smith or Keenan McCardell to cross the 1,000-yard barrier in a season.

Perhaps it's the expectations of a dominant showing in 2013 that are to blame for the perception of a lesser version of Shorts, or perhaps his drops have been more memorable, as two came in the endzone against the San Diego Chargers in Week 7. Regardless, all numbers would seem to indicate that Shorts is exactly the same player he was in 2012.

With Shorts and Blackmon (who is one of only five receivers with 25 or more receptions and a drop rate of zero percent), the Jaguars have a dynamic young receiving duo that is among the best in the NFL and easily one of the highlights of their under-construction roster.

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