Reception Perception: Understanding Chad Hansen’s Narrow and Limited Assignment

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Everyone sees things differently and that’s okay. As soon as you can accept that reality and be settled with it, the closer you are to finding peace in not just many social walks of life, but also in debates surrounding football players.

A group of three individuals can watch a robbery unfold and all recount to the police a trio of quite different accounts of the event. Past constructs of socialization, previous interactions and pure biological intake of information can influence that witness’ tale given to the authorities.

The three members of the group are all correct in what they perceived to have happened and internalize it as truth. They just disagree on the objective reality that occurred before them.

Much in the same way, three analysts can watch a player on film and come away with entirely conflicting takeaways. Past opinions on other prospects, as well as preferences over time spent scouting tape are just some of the influencers of that opinion. Each individual analyst is completely correct in what each perceives to be the truth of the evaluation based on what they’ve absorbed. As with any study involving human subjects, football evaluators are at the mercy of an inexact and fragile path in finding some sort of truth.

So, we essentially have no choice but to accept that we will all see different things when watching film. Again, that’s not necessarily a negative. Perhaps in a marriage of multiple opinions, the truth lies somewhere between, or one viewer just emphasizes two separate aspects of a player’s game or values a different trait over another.

A charting methodology like Reception Perception looks to smooth over some of the rough edges in the pure observational science of watching a player. Yet, it’s a system operated by a human, recording the actions of other humans. There’s always the chance of human error, as such.

What it can help us do, however, is unfurl the different attributes of a wide receiver’s game in order to gain a better understanding of why so many analysts view their stock so differently. It’s a method that certainly comes in handy with a prospect where opinions are so divided like Chad Hansen out of the University of California-Berkeley. With that being said, it might not be his play that needs your perception the most, but rather the package in which it was delivered.

Alignment Data

Games Sampled: Stanford, UCLA, Washington, San Diego State, Texas, Oregon State

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In an item we’ve observed throughout the Reception Perception series, not only does Chad Hansen fall in the group of players who spent their college careers on one side of the field, he sits right at the top of the list. Hansen took an eye-popping 97.5 percent of his snaps at right wide receiver, leading all prospects charted over the last two seasons.

Yes, some of the players on that list struggled to find immediate success in the NFL and this metric could be a part of the root cause. Yet, we don’t have enough data or a requisite sample size to suggest it is a trend, at this time. We can at least propose that a receiver only playing one assignment and position in college, especially at the wild rate of Hansen, will present a massive learning curve once in the NFL where he’ll need to reverse his release moves and route timing to move around the formation.

Despite seeing little action in the Jared Goff-led Cal offense of 2015, Hansen was a target hog in 2016 with Davis Webb under center. Hansen drew a target on 44.5 percent of his 218 routes run over the six-game sampled for Reception Perception. He only caught 53.6 percent of those passes sent his way, which speaks not only the mistake-laden nature of his play but also to the team’s utilization of him.

Success Rate vs. Coverage

Analysts seem captivated by Chad Hansen’s speed and quickness displayed on film. As we’ve seen throughout Reception Perception’s history, being fast isn’t always the best assistance in becoming a consistent separator.

Hansen posted a 64.6 percent success rate vs. man coverage on 127 attempts in his Reception Perception sample. Not only was that below the two-year average score for college prospects, it fell at the 36th percentile. It’s difficult to get around that as a red flag when we already know he existed in a limited role by playing right wide receiver almost exclusively.

Not a natural separator, Hansen struggles to take an 85th percentile agility score, per Player Profiler, and integrate it with his technique. Appearing stiff at times, he’s also not necessarily a player to use a variety of moves or deception at the breakpoints of routes.

Getty Images Sport / Brian Bahr

In other areas of success rate vs. coverage, Hansen posted better results. His 83 percent success rate when facing zones checked in at the 91st percentile. Certainly able to stop and flip back at the proper time on the curl, or shift through the traffic running the slant, Hansen knows how to find a hole in zone coverage. He also showed better ability winning at the line of scrimmage than further throughout the route. His 67.3 percent success rate vs. press coverage was above the two-year prospect average, falling at the 70th percentile.

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With positive results against zone and press but a strikingly poor score against man coverage, which he faced most often, Hansen remains a mystery to this point of his Reception Perception evaluation. In these cases, this is where sifting out their work on a route-by-route basis is extremely helpful.

Route Data

We’ll once again mention Hansen’s 97.5 percentage of snaps played at right wide receiver, as it influences a theme in his route data too. The one side metric does quantify a limited assignment given to a wideout. With the player only responsible for mastering releases, timing, route breaks and depths from one side of the field, their performance can be elevated. It’s not something we see replicated in a fashion even close to that degree at the NFL level. The item is noteworthy with any receiver, but even more so when the player comes with a limited route tree.

Red is below the two-year prospect average, green is above and yellow is within the average.

A whopping 80.8 percent of Hansen’s routes run fall under the screen, slant, curl or nine. That’s one of the more skewed and unbalanced charts we’ve seen in Reception Perception this year. If it weren’t for the dig at an above average 5.9 percent, it would be something we’ve never seen before.

We already know that Hansen worked with a limited assignment playing on just one side of the field, but this just takes it another step further. Most of the NFL passing game revolves around slant, curl and vertical route concepts, but not quite to this degree. Hansen only executing an out-breaking route on five percent of his charted routes is alarming.

Hansen truly exploded onto the college football radar this season after never registering much of a blip in previous years. His minuscule task portfolio may be a reason as to how he rose up so quickly.

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Hansen’s 57.4 percent success rate on the nine route is above the two-year prospect average, and a strong score when compared to his peers. There are makings of a vertical threat here with the former Cal Bear. Fast in a straight line, and with the body control to adjust to balls in the deep game, Hansen could develop into a player who functions as an NFL shot play target in a spot role.

We also see Hansen check out above the two-year prospect average in success rate vs. coverage on the slant route at 82.2 percent. He gets off the jam well at the line of scrimmage and his clean release helps him create separation on the slant given his speed. Should he continue to master those two routes as he enters the pro level, that alone will help Hansen stick on a roster and help him earn small handfuls of playing time.

As we get to more portions of the tree, Hansen was a mixed bag on the other two routes he ran at a high-degree compared to his peers. He scored above average on the dig with a 76.9 percent mark but his 71.4 percent success rate on the curl was quite poor. The route he ran most often in his games sampled, Hansen did not show the needed ability to sell the vertical route before snapping back to the quarterback on curls. This made him easier for defenders to stick with and predict, thus getting him tired up in tight man coverage.

Getty Images Sport / Ezra Shaw

He hardly ran out-breaking routes in college and it was no surprise for them all to show up in the red on his success rate chart. To say he’s a work in progress as a route runner would be an understatement.

In the past, I’ve dismissed “doesn’t run the full route tree” as a valid criticism of NFL Draft prospects. It’s mostly a recycled old piece of jargon that gets overrated considering how some of the NFL’s top receivers also run a small handful of routes on the majority of their plays. All that is still true. With that being said, Hansen’s level of inexperience, quantified with multiple metrics, is still striking. Additionally, a prospect like Corey Coleman who didn’t run a full route tree, showed he was worth the investment with special success rate scores and strong performance in Reception Perception’s ancillary metrics. Chad Hansen can’t quite claim the same feat.

Ancillary Metrics

For being a player who ran so many in-breaking routes, Chad Hansen was not a strong player after the catch. Hansen was “in space” on 11.5 percent of his routes, right within the prospect average. He went down on first contact on 60 percent of those plays, a rate over 11 points higher than the average prospect and the second-highest in the 2017 class. None of his in space attempts saw Hansen break more than one tackle.

Even worse, Hansen is in a dubious company in costed catch conversion rate. Well, he’s really in a class of his own. Hansen’s 25 percent conversion rate on contested catch attempts is tied with Alabama’s Ardarius Stewart for the lowest in the series’ history. One difference: Hansen registered 16 attempts, more than four times what Stewart collected.

Hansen tracks the ball well deep but struggles when contact arrives. Despite showing plenty of catch radius with notable leaping ability on his highlight reels, leaving his feet with a defender in close quarters proved to be a task too much for the Cal receiver.

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Moving Forward

There is no arguing that Hansen shows so positive marks in his Reception Perception profile. A strong success rate vs. press and a handful of positive route success rate scores show there may well be a player worth developing here.

However, his narrow assignment in college, including one of the more limited route trees recorded and only playing on side of the field show he has a long way to go to being an impactful NFL-level receiver. Unlike a Corey Coleman type of player, Hansen didn’t check ancillary metrics or show the special separation production to confidently say the destination at the end of the development path is one worth the journey.

Chad Hansen is a project receiver, that much is clear. Without question, he’s a player that should go on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. With proper time and coaching, he could turn into a contributing receiver in the pros. Just how much he’s capable of will depend on his ability to extrapolate his performance on a limited assignment portfolio in college to the rest of his game.

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