Cameron Meredith ran the best double-move in football, and proved to be pretty good at hauling in the deep pass in what turned out to be a breakout season for the former undrafted free agent out of Illinois State. But at any point did you see Meredith in the conversation as the NFL’s most productive receiver?
Well, from at least one statistical standpoint, we did – and we didn’t even notice it:
No wide receiver in the NFL was as productive as Cameron Meredith over the final five weeks of the 2016 season. pic.twitter.com/Kxx1AGHEGb
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 18, 2017
According to Pro Football Focus, no receiver was as productive as Meredith in the final five weeks of the 2016 season. While the Bears floundered as a team down the stretch, Meredith thrived as he ran the most yards per route run in a span of five games from Weeks 13 to Week 17. During that five-week run of excellence, Meredith caught 31 of 43 targets (catching a very impressive 72.1 percent of the passes thrown his way) for 439 yards and two touchdowns.
Punch those numbers into a calculator and you’re looking at a player who averaged 6.2 catches, and 87.8 yards per game. If you want to dream on a projection, dare to extrapolate those numbers over the course of a full 16-game season and see what you come up with as a final total. To save you some time, that all adds up to an estimated 99 catches (on 131 targets), 1,405 yards, and six touchdowns.
Put those numbers on a 2016 leaderboard, and Meredith would rank third in receiving yards (behind T.Y. Hilton and Julio Jones), fourth in receptions (behind Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham), and tied for 17th in targets. And even though the six touchdowns would only make him tied for 25th with 11 other players, those are Pro Bowl-caliber numbers from a player who wasn’t even on the radar as a top receiving target at this time last year.
Meredith’s ascent to becoming the Bears’ best receiver is remarkable, especially considering he played a total of 40 snaps in the first four weeks of the season. He didn’t get significant playing time until Week 5 where he played 63 snaps – including 46 passing snaps. Starting from Week 5, Meredith averaged five catches (7.4 targets) and 69.7 yards in 12 games. Extrapolate those numbers over a 16-game season and it adds up to 80 catches on 119 targets and 1,115 yards.
Despite not having the prospect pedigree that comes with most high-profile receivers who are among the league’s most productive players, there is a lot to dream on with based on his 2016 production and some of what has been revealed through advanced statistics. Meredith was PFF’s 53rd rated receiver with a 74.5 grade, which landed him among those graded out as league average in 2016.
If he can prove to be a top-notch receiver for a second straight season, it could soften the blow of losing Alshon Jeffery and possibly lessen the stress load for Kevin White as he approaches his third season in the league.