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Using PFF Plus/Minus to sort out the 2019 wide receiver seasons

Oct 6, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) celebrates with wide receiver Austin Carr (80) after making a touchdown catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I released the methodology and top-12 all-time list for PFF Plus/Minus, a new way to value wide receivers. PFF Plus/Minus is built on historical on/off the field splits for receivers, who are grouped by type in order to build larger, less-noisy samples of data that boost the usefulness of the information gathered. The full methodology is included in the link above, and worth your review to get the most out of this analysis.

The core of PFF Plus/Minus is building larger samples in clusters, or groups of similar wide receivers. These clusters are determined by minimizing the variance, or the differences within the number of clusters determined by the analyst. To illustrate the concept, I walked through an example of grouping the roughly 1,500 receiver seasons since 2007 with at least 200 routes run into 12 clusters.

Below I briefly walk through the 12-cluster example again, then highlight the top-20 PFF Plus/Minus receivers from 2019 in their respective clusters. Lastly, we review the rank ordering of Plus/Minus numbers and the stats from which they’re derived.

Historical clusters

I named each cluster from our sample after a recognizable name that has multiple seasons in the cluster, and highlighted them on the plot below.

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