To say that Geronimo Allison has struggled for the Green Bay Packers this year is an understatement. By both the eye test and advanced numbers, the struggle has been very, very real. Normally when a former undrafted free agent struggles, it isn’t noteworthy. UDFAs typically aren’t very good. They usually provide some special teams value and anything else you get is a plus. However, G-Mo being this poor is incredibly disappointing, and his promising start to 2018 is the reason why.
Despite having a cool name, THAT Twitter account, and some occasionally useful moments as largely a WR4 in 2016/17, Geronimo hadn’t actually done all that much. However, to start 2018, he started to put together a year worthy of a starting role. His line through September projected out to 76 catches, 1,156 yards, and 8 touchdowns over a full season. Those are legitimate WR2 numbers at a time when Green Bay really needed someone across from Davante Adams.
It wasn’t just the raw numbers that liked G-Mo either. By Football Outsiders’ DVOA, he ranked at +16.8%, which would have been good for 17th had he had enough catches to qualify. Paul Noonan’s WROPS had him at 11th out of 95, tied with one George Kittle. He was good, but his season came to an abrupt ending when he needed surgery to repair an adductor muscle that ripped off the bone. Not only did this end his very promising season, but it may put his entire career in jeopardy.
Major injuries happen a lot in football, and for decades they’ve ended careers. With modern medicine and rehabilitation processes players are now coming back at least close to if not equal to their old selves. But there is something very important to note with Geronimo: close probably won’t cut it.
A lot of folks make fun of the combine or pro-day drills, and some of that is for good reason. A good 40 time does not guarantee a player will be good in the same way that a mediocre one doesn’t make a player bad. There are certain athletic requirements to playing in the NFL though, and Geronimo was already teetering on the edge. All this data comes from Kent Lee Platte’s great RAS database, and I will be using combine numbers as pro-day numbers can be less reliable. As you can see below, Geronimo is far from a stellar athlete.
Which directly leads to my frustration for how Green Bay uses him.
Stop. Running. YAC. Plays. For. The. Guy. With. The. Same. Forty. Time. As. High. School. Rcon.— rcon14 (@rcon14) November 25, 2019
Tunnel screen on 3rd and long. Good idea. Don't give it to the guy who runs a 4.7.— rcon14 (@rcon14) November 3, 2019
His 40 time is 22nd percentile all-time, his 3-cone is 9th percentile, and his vertical is 36th percentile. He’s a wide receiver who can’t run fast, can’t change directions well, and can’t jump. Not an ideal start. This athleticism issue is only exacerbated by the fact that he suffered a severe lower body injury. He couldn’t afford to slip five percent. Now he does have the advantage of being pretty long at 6032 and 196 isn’t exactly small, so if he could carve out a possession niche, that would still be workable, despite his lacking athleticism.
Except that’s where we run into our next problem. Allison has a case of the drops. Using Pro-Football-Reference’s drop% rate, Allison ranks 22nd-worst in the NFL in 2019 after ranking 4th-worst in 2018. So the possession receiver can’t catch. That seems problematic.
But what about the other stuff wide receivers do? He’s used for a lot of plays that are designed to set up YAC, how does he do as far as getting YAC? According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Geronimo’s xYAC/R (the expected amount of YAC per reception) is 5.5. The actual YAC/R is 4.1. That differential of -1.4 is 4th worst in the NFL. This shouldn’t be surprising as he’s not a good athlete, he’s not shifty, nor does he run with physicality in the way an Allen Lazard does.
So, he can’t catch, and he can’t make people miss, but maybe he can make some big plays? Again, no. Amongst wide receivers with at least 40 targets he ranks 4th worst in yards per target. If you only focus on the balls he actually catches, it gets worse, as he ranks 2nd worst in yards per reception.
Perhaps we’re missing something in the grand scheme of it all though. Things certainly don’t look good here, but let’s check in on some advanced numbers. The first query I ran for this was EPA/target for Packers WR. The results were… telling.
If you’re unfamiliar with EPA, essentially what this graph says is that when it comes to scoring points, targeting Geronimo Allison has been the least helpful in doing so this year for the Packers. In fact, Geronimo is the only receiver who produces negative expected points when targeted! DVOA paints a similarly grim picture. Geronimo does not have enough catches to qualify for a ranking, but his -34.2% would rank second to last among qualified receivers, above only Nelson Agholor. Paul Noonan’s WROPS is no more kind, ranking him 97th out of 98 qualifying receivers.
In order to be an NFL player, you must bring something to the table. Even role players have to be good at something. Ted Ginn Jr has made a career entirely out of just being fast. Danny Amendola just catches whip routes at insanely high rates until his body gives out. Even if you’re not a star, you must have one “plus” tool.
Geronimo is not a jack of all trades, and he is not a master of any particular trade. He’s just not good at anything nor particularly competent at anything other than having Aaron Rodgers like him, which may be making this offense worse. He is a player who can’t catch, who can’t provide YAC, and he can’t make plays down the field. And then he ranks awful in metrics like EPA/target, DVOA, and WROPS.
If you’ll pardon the Office Space joke, what would you say you do here, Geronimo?
Editor’s note: this is a guest post by rcon14. You can find more of his thoughts and Packers analysis on Twitter at @rcon14.