I’ll be honest: while I liked the draft pick, I was horrified by Alec Pierce’s performance the first couple of weeks of the season. It looked like the moment was too big and that he wasn’t close to ready to playing in the NFL. I was wrong, he’s more than ready.
His Route Running
- The Colts are asking Pierce to run a variety of routes. He plays primarily out of the wide receiver spot and almost never plays in the slot so you don’t often see him run outward-breaking routes. Nevertheless, the routes he does run include the following:
His average depth of target is 12 yards which means that when targeted, he is, on average, 12 yards down the field. This puts him at 35th in the NFL (in terms of qualified players). The Colts are targeting him deeper down the field because he isn’t a player who is going to get you a lot of yards with the ball in his hands. His YAC number is very low at 2.3 yards per reception.
What hurts him a bit is the fact that he’s currently limited to being a wideout even though he has slot experience in college. If given more chances in the slot, he will be able to run more routes and potentially give the offense another element. However, at the moment, his inability to do anything with the ball in his hands is what’s limiting him to staying out wide.
His hands are a little suspect. His drop percentage of 14.3% is one of the 6 worst in the NFL and they are focus drops, not because of an issue with his catching technique. His drops have also come over the course of 3 games so he can’t blame it on an off day.
In college, Pierce also struggled with focus/concentration drops and it was deemed one of his weaknesses by scouts. He had a drop rate of 7.1% which was higher than the average receiver in his draft class. It’s an area he needs to work on to round out his game and to solidify him as a solid well-rounded #2 receiver.
A number that is positive is his contested catch percentage being 57%. He has the 5th most contested targets, and he has 7 catches off those contested targets. His 7 catches is amongst the most in the NFL (only Mike Williams, Michael Thomas and DK Metcalf have more), which shows that he can win the 50/50 balls. If he had bad hands, he would not be able to win those battles in traffic so it just reinforces the fact that his hands are good but he has bad lapses in concentration which cause the drops.
Pierce is on pace for 61 catches for 921 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers would place him in the top 50 of receivers in terms of 2021 stats. Those basic numbers alone are respectable numbers for any #2 receiver in this league...and he’s just a rookie.
What is he good at?
- Winning 50/50 balls and catching in traffic
- Running intermediate and deep routes
- Crisp in and out of cuts and good releases off the line to create separation
What does he need to improve?
- YAC - Making plays with the all in his hands
- Concentration drops
- Limited to wideout
Can he be the Colts’ longterm #2 receiver?
It’s hard to argue against Pierce being the longterm #2 receiver for the team. He’s steadily improving, he’s putting up good numbers, he’s made big plays in big games and he looks more and more comfortable every week. He’s a rookie who has played 6 games so you can imagine how good he could become in a couple of seasons. He serves as a very good complimentary receiver to Pittman, who has more versatility and can run more routes than Pierce. Pittman is more reliable and more well-rounded than Pierce, but that’s fine for now and it’s fine even if it stays like that 2-3 years from now. Pierce just needs to offer something different from Pittman. At the moment, he gives the Colts a good intermediate and deep threat. On top of the good play from the tight ends, that has opened up a lot of opportunities for Pittman. As a #2 receiver, all Pierce needs to do is give favourable matchups and chances for Pittman, which is exactly what he’s doing. Pierce had himself a good game against the Jaguars, and because of his good play, Pittman was able to have a 13 catches 134 yard game; this is the exact type of play you want from a #2 receiver.