Thanks to Pro Football Focus for the statistics provided in this article.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have an incredible wide receiver tandem in the NFL in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns -- certainly in the running for one of the best in the NFL.
But who's better?
Robinson is, as Alfie Crow described in a conversation we had earlier, a high variance receiver. That is to say that while he may not be as dependable a route-runner or ball-catcher as Hurns, he's able to make much more explosive plays. Robinson's floor is lower, but his ceiling is higher.
Hurns, while not thought of as the playmaker that Robinson is and has the potential to be, is more consistent. He catches a higher percentage of passes thrown his way and is a more dependable receiver overall. He is low variance in that Hurns' floor is not as low as Robinson, but his ceiling is not as high.
So, who's better? And how do we measure "better" anyway?
This is the one category where one player can clearly edge out another. Robinson has more yards (707 vs. 635), receptions (40 vs. 36), plays of 20 yards or more (17 vs. 12), and plays of 40 yards or more (4 vs. 2).
Statistically speaking, Robinson edges out Hurns with 0.5 more receptions for nine yards and 0.63 more explosive plays (20 yards or more) per game. They've also done it on almost exactly the same number of snaps. Robinson averages 64 per game and Hurns averages 63 snaps per game.
But there's one statistic where the two are separated more than any other: Targets.
While Robinson has been targeted 76 times this year, Hurns has only earned 56 targets. Yet they're only separated by four receptions. This is where Hurns is the clear winner, catching 64.3% of the targets thrown his way compared to Robinson who has caught just 52.6% of his targets.
Could this be a result of Robinson being targeted on pass attempts that have a lower potential for being caught but a higher reward if it works?
Out of Hurns' 56 total targets, 17 of them have been where the ball has travelled 20 yards or more in the air. Of those 17 targets, Hurns has caught eight of them, dropped one, and the remaining eight were uncatchable. That's a catch rate of 47.1% which is good for third in the NFL. In all, 30.4% of his total targets so far this year were for explosive plays.
But with Robinson and his 76 total targets, 27 of them have been where the ball has travelled 20 yards or more in the air. Of those 27 targets, he caught 11 and the remaining 16 were deemed uncatchable. (Overthrows by Blake Bortles were the main culprit.) That's a catch rate of 40.7% which puts him at fifth in the NFL. In all, 35.5% of his total targets so far this year were for explosive plays.
Through Week 9, no other receiver has more than 27 targets for explosive plays and only Malcolm Floyd of the San Diego Chargers and Michael Floyd of the Arizona Cardinals has a higher percentage of their total targets be for explosive plays. But while Robinson is third in the league, Hurns is right behind him at fourth.
So, as of now, we have a very close statistical battle with both Robinson and Hurns near the top of the league when it comes to being targeted on explosive plays. The one main differentiator is that slightly more of Robinson's targets have been for explosive plays.
This is where Robinson and Hurns are the most different. Not in the sense that one is better than the other, simply that they are different.
Robinson is clearly the playmaking, home run hitting, deep threat for the Jaguars receiving group. He makes catches that other receivers on the Jaguars can't. For example...
Hurns, however, has made the most impressive and most meaningful catch of the year so far for the Jaguars.
And while Robinson certainly has playmaking ability, he hasn't made sideline grabs like this yet.
Watching the first eight games for the Jaguars, several things are very clear.
First, Robinson has the skill set to be the home run hitter on the team and the Jaguars are giving him every opportunity to show those skills off. He has nearly twice as many targets when the ball has travelled 20 or more yards in the air, and he's making catches no one else on the Jaguars can make.
Second, while Robinson's ceiling is higher, I don't think his statistical edge warrants him automatically being called the "best" receiver. A different set of skills than Hurns? Yes. A better receiver? Not really.
Lastly, Hurns is more dependable than Robinson is a playmaker so far this year. Hurns has sideline grabs and he has 12 catches on third downs as compared to Robinson's five.
I will say, however, that the two combined are worth more than the sum of their parts. They complement each other incredibly well and general manager Dave Caldwell lucked into a receiver like Hurns falling out of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Neither receiver has separated themselves so far from the other to warrant a "better" label, but what do you think? Is Robinson's playmaking potential better? Or do you prefer Hurns' dependability and consistency?