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Talking "Reception Perception," Odell Beckham, draft prospects with Matt Harmon

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We sat down for a chat with Matt Harmon, creator of the Reception Perception, about the Giants and the wide receivers in the 2016 draft class.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

If you are looking for a great football Twitter follow, look no further than Matt Harmon. Harmon is the creator of the "Reception Perception", an intuitive way of introducing analytics to the study of the NFL passing game. Matt is also the creator of Backyard Banter and a writer for NFL.com. Suffice it to say, he does his homework.

And that's why when the New York Giants opted to let Rueben Randle walk down to Philadelphia, we approached him for his insight on the Giants' passing attack, his work charting the 2016 wide receiver class, and whether there are any answers for the team's receiving corps in the draft.

Alex:
Matt, you developed Reception Perception, and it's helped a lot of people out with both their fantasy football teams and their general knowledge of the game. Can you tell us a little about your system?

Matt:
Sure. So what Reception Perception aims for is to paint a complete picture of a wide receiver's game. The best way to do that, in my view, is to chart the player on a route-to-route basis. So I come up with a sample of games and chart every single route that they run in those contests. I track how often they run each route, what coverage they faced and how often they get open. So the main metric out of Reception Perception is "Success Rate Vs. Coverage" or SRVC, but there are also peripheral metrics like contested catch conversion rate and breaking tackles "in space", in order to get a full picture of who the receiver is as a player and where they are successful.

Alex:
And this is the same system that predicted that the Giants' own Odell Beckham Jr would succeed when he got to the NFL. Was that a high point for you? Just being able to point to arguably the best receiver in the game and say that basically, you saw it coming?

Matt:
Beckham was a fun case, and he's a good example of what makes the system so helpful. He obviously got on the field right away and had some solid showings, but had not topped 50 yards in his first three games in 2014. However, I put him through the Reception Perception process in those early showings and he had an 81.5 percent success rate vs. man coverage and an 87.5 percent SRVC against zone. Those are numbers of elite NFL receivers. So Reception Perception was early on showing that Beckham was getting open at rates unlike any other receiver in the game. Then of course, we know he has "the catch" against Dallas and tears through the league as a rookie. Not many people were following Reception Perception back then, or at least not as many as do now, but it was definitely a big moment for me in terms of believing in this process for evaluation.

Chris:
At the time, Beckham was largely forgotten by ... everyone. A quick Google search found that he was getting roughly 30/1 odds to be the Rookie of the Year in Vegas. Matt, from your charting, what were the Giants getting from Rueben Randle last year?

Matt:
Frankly, not much they could count on. I think that's pretty much the book on Randle at this point, too. He's not someone that routinely separated from coverage or presented a reliable target for Eli Manning. He was never a high-end athlete, and never really developed any sort of technical approach to the game. I think that's a big reason why there was not much of a market for him despite him still being just 24 years old.

Chris:
Did you, by chance, take any notice of Dwayne Harris?

Matt:
Harris had a bit of a better year than I expected for the Giants. He can create some separation on specific underneath routes, and that is valuable for a slot receiver. He's one of those players you can get by with, but you'd probably want to upgrade.

Alex:
Now that the Giants let Randle walk in free agency, might not think Harris is an appropriate No.2 guy, and have no clue what to expect from Victor Cruz, is there anyone you could point to as being a good fit opposite Beckham? The Giants are picking 10th, and then 40th, and 71st. Can you give us one name that might work for each of the possible selection places?

Matt:
I think this draft class is stocked full of complimentary options, and that suits well what New York needs. If they want to go for the high-end, I absolutely would not hate pairing Laquon Treadwell with Beckham at pick No. 10. He's underrated as a route runner, and can present a reliable target in the short areas. Teams would have to respect what Treadwell offers and selling out to stop Odell becomes a lot less appealing. I really love his skill set and future projection. He's a lot like former Giant Hakeem Nicks, who I was a massive fan of when he was at his peak.

At the 40th pick, I think you're looking at players like Leonte Carroo and Sterling Shepard. Carroo can bring that physical edge and is tough in contested situations. He has some route nuances to his game, and earns an easy release from the line of scrimmage. Shepard is my favorite receiver in the draft class. He could pick up those route concepts in McAdoo's offense with ease, as he's almost a pro-level route runner already. He could alternate between flanker and slot for them.

In the third round, I think Malcolm Mitchell would be a total steal for the Giants, and might give them surprising contributions as a No. 2. I'm higher on Mitchell than most. My sixth-ranked receiver in this class. Oh, actually I'd also include that I think Rashard Higgins would be perfect for the Giants as a late-round pick. Disciplined technician who crushed it in Reception Perception, but will need that to succeed past his poor athletic testing pre-draft. I wrote about him recently for BYB.

Chris:
I got to do our scouting report of Shepard, and I came away thinking that he has the potential to grow into the "Antonio Brown" mold of receiver. But it's also unrealistic to expect that from any rookie. From what you've seen, can Shepard live on the outside in the NFL?

Matt:
I definitely think he can, though you'll want to move him around to get matchups in the slot as well. Shepard is so explosive in short areas, and a master route craftsmen, I'd be shocked if he can't defeat outside coverage. He blew away his peers in SRVC against man and press.

Chris:
The metrics and SPARQ guys seem to be big fans of TCU's Josh Doctson (he was also mocked to the Giants recently). How do you and the Reception Perception view him?

Matt:
Oh, he has a very favorable Reception Perception profile. He's the only player in this class with an above average success rate versus coverage score on every single route on the route tree. He's a player that can do everything well for a team. Even better, he has an obvious trump card trait with his ability to track and high point the ball in the air. His 85 percent contested catch conversion rate was far and away the best score in the class.

Alex:
Is there a hyped receiver whom you think is a little overrated at this point? Not that he won't do well, but that the numbers aren't indicating immediate success.

Matt:
Will Fuller is that guy to me. Speed is appealing, of course, but he had the lowest SRVC against press that I charted. He's a thin-framed player, and he could really struggle against bigger press corners. If he can't get off the line, that speed won't matter. He's also a below average performer at winning contested catches. His lack of ball skills and ability to snare off target passes in the air is troubling. I think he's more of a second round player.

Once again, we'd like to thank Matt for his time and insight. We'd also like to encourage everyone to give him a follow on twitter at @MattHarmon_BYB, check out Backyard Banter, and his work regarding fantasy football on NFL.com. And a special "Thank you!" to Matt for being so flexible in working with us across eight hours worth of time zones.