Fast Connections, Week 5: Goff has eyes for Kupp

Print

Not all fast connections require both a great quarterback and great wide receiver. Sometimes, good chemistry and the right offensive structure can produce results that outperform expectations. Though Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, last week's leading QB-receiver combination, have earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades, respectively, the rest of the top four included at least one player who has never earned either.

Accordingly, this week's Fast Connections column largely focuses on the passer-receiver combinations that exceed the perceived limitations of their raw talent.

Jared Goff to Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams


Unlike the other quarterback-receiver connections this week, Jared Goff and Cooper Kupp have already played their game. Goff looked in Kupp's direction 17 times in Thursday night's loss, more than any other pass catcher in the game. Those targets turned into nine catches for 117 yards and a score, Goff's only touchdown pass of the night. In large part due to the tandem's chemistry, the Rams fought back from a 14-6 deficit to take a 29-24 lead in the fourth quarter.

After Thursday's game, Kupp now has received double-digit targets in all but one week (a nine-target outing against the Saints). He needs just two more touchdowns the rest of the year to match his career high for a single season. While other Rams receivers have contributed in big ways -- Gerald Everett hauled in seven balls for 136 yards against the Seahawks -- it has become clear that Kupp has become the No. 1 option in Los Angeles.

Next Gen Stats says ...

The Next Gen Stats explain why Goff throws to Kupp so often. The wideout has created three yards or more of separation on 42.9 percent of his targets. Furthermore, on passes to Kupp, Goff has a 104.3 passer rating, his highest with any receiver on the team with at least 20 targets. Kupp also leads the Rams in end-zone receptions (two), both completions.

Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons


Though Austin Hooper's name doesn't often come up during the discussion of top tight ends, he has quietly become one of the most productive players at the position. Last year among tight ends, he finished seventh in receiving yards (660) and fourth in receptions (71). Hooper has kept that up in 2019, currently ranking fourth at the position in yards and second in catches (307 and 28, respectively).

Hooper worked himself into an impact player, but quarterback Matt Ryan also deserves a share of the credit for the big numbers. This year, Ryan has targeted Hooper almost as much as top receiver Julio Jones (37 throws versus 33), a strong sign for the tight end's place in the offense moving forward.

Next Gen Stats says ...

One way to earn your quarterback's attention is to haul in everything that comes your way, and Hooper has done about as well in that regard as possible. Through four weeks, Hooper has caught 84.4 percent of his catches, a robust 7.7 percent over his expected catch rate. Generally, when Ryan targets his top tight end, the end result looks good for the Falcons.

Joe Flacco to Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos


Joe Flacco has certainly absorbed a lot of criticism over the years. The former Ravens quarterback joined the Broncos this year as John Elway's latest attempt to find a replacement for Peyton Manning. Denver hasn't seen a sizable difference between Flacco and his direct predecessor, Case Keenum, and that has contributed to the team's 0-4 start.

However, Flacco has built a rapport with Emmanuel Sanders, the team's leading receiver from a season ago. That might not seem impressive initially until one considers Sanders is less than a year removed from a ruptured Achilles and has never played with Flacco previously. Already, the duo has combined for 23 receptions on 34 targets, producing 298 yards and two touchdowns.

Next Gen Stats says ...

As with Hooper, Sanders hauls in far more passes than a typical receiver would. His 67.6-percent catch rate exceeds his expected rate by 7.1 percentage points. Sanders has also become a reliable threat down the field, leading the team with 383 air yards and 11.3 air yards per target.

-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is a fantasy analyst for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH

Print