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Why Brian Hartline is Worth 3.5million per year!
Brian Hartline was a bright spot on the Dolphins much maligned receiving core in 2012, and he became the favorite target of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
In a contract year as the #1 receiver, Hartline posted career best numbers with 74 receptions, 1083 yards, and one touchdown.
Hartline, undoubtedly was the best receiver the Dolphins had on its roster, but was it that difficult for him to stand-out given the group of receivers around him?
Even the dullest of metals will shine amongst rubble right! Before I am crucified, let me share my thoughts. Let’s take an in-depth look at Brian Hartline.
Brian Hartline was selected in the 4th round of the 2009 draft by the Miami Dolphins. He played his college career at Ohio State University where he was part of the 2008 BCS National Championship Team that lost to LSU. Hartline was listed as the #2 WR behind Brian Robiskie. Hartline was not a dominant college player, but proved too be an average one, his production in college left much to be desired and was average at best. It’s fair to mention that OSU had a fairly run heavy scheme with Terrell Pryor and Beanie Wells. But, in Hartline’s 3 seasons with OSU his best ever single season came in 2007 where we gained 693 yards for 6TDs. Over 3 season’s he scored a total of 12TDs. Hartline has never proven to be a receiver that can put points on the board.
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Hartline entered the 2009 NFL draft listed at 6’2” 195lbs and ran 4.52 40 yard dash.
Dolphins Career – 3 Season’s Prior to 2012
Hartline has been a starter since his rookie year, and he has been predominantly used in the role of the #2 and #3 receiver prior to the 2012 season. He has been a satisfactory receiver on a team with generally poor Quarterback play over his first 3 years, and he has turned out to be decent value for a 4th round draft selection. However, his production at the Pro level is consistent with his college career, while somewhat reliable, it has never been great. And there continued to be a trend of him not being able to find the End-Zone. Hartline managed to catch an uninspiring 56% of the passes targeted to him over his first 3 seasons.
Dolphins Career – 2012 Breakout
Things got off to a rough start for Hartline in 2012. The young receiver who was heading into a contract year had an arduous off-season where he missed OTAs and much of the pre-season with a calf-injury and an emergency appendectomy which ravaged his body. It was not a routine procedure either; it was more of a “through the valley of the shadow of death” sort of appendectomy! But Hartline persevered and got himself ready for the start of the season. This is the kind of guy I want to root for, but alas I am a fan of the Dolphins first and Hartline after, so that makes it a little easier to do this analysis.
With the trade of the mercurial Brandon Marshall, the epic flame-out of Chad Johnson, and the inability of any other receiver on the roster to rise to the challenge Hartline won the #1 role by default. Things were finally starting to look up for the young receiver.
|Through the first 4 games in 2012 Hartline led the league in receiving yards, thanks to a 12 reception, 253yard performance away to the Arizona Cardinals in week 4. But this turned out to be the pinnacle of his season, as Hartline only managed to break the 100 yard receiving mark once after this.|
When it was all said and done, Hartline finished with career best numbers of 74 receptions, 1083 yards and 1 touchdown. But again, only catching 58% of the passes targeted to him, while continuing to show a disturbing inability to score touchdowns even as a #1.
Hartline as a Game Changing Play-maker
Hartline did have a fairly decent season where he was the #1 target, and yes he did have 1083yards, and yes he did have an amazing performance against the Arizona Cardinals, but was Hartline effective and efficient in that role through-out the season?
|The following figures were calculated using WR stats only. TEs and HBs stats were not included.The Statistics used, were taken from only those WRs who had 35 plus receptions for the 2012 regular season. 73 receivers met the threshold of 35+ receptions in 2012.
Of the 73 wide receivers with more than 35 receptions in 2012, 45 of them had a higher “catch per target” ratio than Hartline. Therefore roughly 62% of receivers were better than Hartline at making a play on the ball and coming down with the catch when being targeted.
Also surprisingly, the average of all 73 receivers “catch-to-target ratios” was higher than Hartline’s 58%. And amongst the top 45 receivers, this disparity increased to 65% versus Hartline’s 58%. In both cases, Hartline ended up having inferior numbers from a “catch-to-target ratio” perspective.
From a “yards per catch” perspective, there were 24 receivers that had a higher “yards per catch” average than Hartline. However, Hartline did show better “yards per catch” statistics of 14.6 yards versus the 13.7 yards average for all 73 receivers evaluated. So there is a minor consideration that Hartline’s was running slightly deeper routes by 1 yard as compared to 67% of the receiver’s used in this analysis.
|This table shows where Hartline ranked in each category out the 73 WRs that had +35 receptions in 2012|
The table above is very indicative of Hartline’s lack of play-making ability.
Although Hartline ranked 19th in total targets in 2012, he did not outperform those targets in any significant way across all metrics.
|For Hartline to be ranked the 19th most targeted receiver in 2012, how does he finish as the 67th ranked player for touchdowns! That’s a difficult thing to achieve.|
Further damaging to Hartline’s outlook is the fact that he finished as the 42nd ranked player for total yards after catch (YAC) even though he was the 17th ranked receiver for receptions. It can’t get much worse than that right?
Well yes it could, because Hartline finished as the 58th ranked receiver for yards after the catch per reception made. That meant once Hartline did catch the ball, he did next to nothing with it over the course of the season.
Except for that performance versus the Arizona Cardinals, Hartline is a very average receiver. Hartline needs to have a high number of targets to make very little happen with the football. The problem for him is that he is not a #1WR, so I expect him to fade back into his previous years production once the Dolphins acquire a viable #1. Is this the play-maker that we desperately need to resign at 6 million per year? I say definitively NO.
|Let me repeat that: Hartline is an average receiver, and needs to have a high number of targets to make very little happen with the football.|
Hartline – The Magician
Excluding the Cardinals game, Hartline had a knack for disappearing versus the better pass defenses in the league. As I crunched the numbers, just when I thought the evidence couldn’t be more compelling against Hartline, it got even worse.
We can see from the table below that versus the better pass defenses the Dolphins faced in 2012, Hartline all but disappeared, apart from his performance against the Arizona Cardinals. In the 9 games versus defenses that finished the season in the TOP 16 versus the pass, Hartline averaged just 61 yards per game. And that’s including his 253 yard outburst versus the Cardinals. If we were to take that game away, his performance stats would be downright abysmal, averaging just 37.9 yards per game. Is this the play-maker that’s worth 6 million per year!
|Hartline’s Performance versus the NFL’s Top 16 Pass Defenses
|WEEK||OPPONENTS||Pass Def Rank||REC||TGTS||YDS||TDs|
See below: Even with the big game against the Arizona Cardinals, Hartline’s 2012 stats versus the 9 top ranked defenses vs the pass was absolutely dreadful.
|HARTLINE VS TOP PASS DEFs||AVG REC||AVG TGTS||AVG YDS||AVG TDs|
We can see again below: That if the Arizona Cardinals is left out of the calculations Hartline’s stats goes from dreadful to atrocious.
|HARTLINE VS TOP PASS DEFs EXCLUDING ARZ||AVG REC||AVG TGTS||AVG YDS||AVG TDs|
Hartline vs Free Agents from 2012
Hartline or his agent thinks he is in the Laurent Robinson’s and Robert Meacham’s contract range.
Well let’s put up their contract year numbers from 2011 and compare them to Hartline’s 2012 numbers.
|Hartline vs Robinson – Robinson got a 5yr deal paying 6.5million per year|
|Hartline vs Meacham – Meacham got a 4yr deal paying 6.5million per year.|
As you can see from the above tables both Robinson and Meacham had less total targets than Hartline and as a result less total yardage. However, both players produced more yards per catch and scored more touchdowns even though they were targeted less. Also observe the REC/TGT (catches-to-targets ratio) column; both players caught approx. 9% more balls that were thrown to them. And both players had more “yards per targeted” pass. Which means both Robinson and Meacham did lot more with fewer opportunities and fewer balls thrown their way.
How Hartline compared to the Best “Catch per Target Ratio” Receivers in 2012
The table below shows the success rate of receivers making a play on the ball when they were targeted. Hartline ranked poorly, he was 46 out of 73 receivers. Guys like Brandon Stokley, Jason Avant, Leonard Hankerson, Andrew Hawkins, Dexter McCluster, Domenik Hixon and Brandon Gibson out-performed him.
|Table compares Hartline to the best reception-per-target receivers of 2013|
How Hartline stacked up against Receivers with the Best “YAC per Reception” in 2012
Table shows the guys who gained the most amount of yardage per reception after the catch. These are the guys that made the most out of every ball they caught. These guys are play-makers with the ball in their hands. Hartline ranked a disconcerting 58 out 73 in this category.
|Table compares Hartline to the best yards after catch per reception receivers of 2013|
Brian Hartline has been an average receiver who has never shown the ability to score touchdowns at both the college and pro level. He is a receiver that requires a lot of targets to make things happen. He was in a fortunate situation in 2012 where he became the go-to option in Miami on a team with a weak receiving core. There are several receivers in the NFL and in the draft that could have done more with the number of targets Hartline saw from rookie Quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I do believe Hartline belongs in the NFL. He definitely has a role to play in the league, but that role is not worth 6 million per year. Far from it!
|If Brian Hartline was a free agent from another team, would you want your front office to pursue him at 6 million per year? Hartline’s value is closer to what Mario Manningham got from the 49ers and what the San Diego Chargers gave Malcom Floyd. Brian Hartline is at best a 3.5 million per year receiver.|