Next Gen Matchup Advantage: Week 4 NFL mismatches to exploit

Do you see how open Zay Jones is here? Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire

If I'm betting on a receiver, I'd like to pick the guy who gets open.

So, who is that?

We've previously been able to infer who gets open via stats like target rate. Separation at time of ball arrival is somewhat useful too but comes with significant flaws -- it's heavily impacted by factors like depth, coverage type, whether the ball was underthrown, route type, etc.

Enter: Open Score.

A new metric from ESPN Analytics based on player tracking data from NFL Next Gen Stats. The full methodology can be explained by its creator, ESPN Sports Data Scientist Brian Burke, here. But the abridged version is this: The idea is to isolate a receiver's ability as much as possible and to quantify his openness on all routes -- targeted or not -- while considering factors such as the route the receiver is running, the coverage he is facing, defender positioning, leverage, ball placement and QB skill, among others.

It's actually part of a new suite of receiver tracking metrics that also include Catch Score and YAC Score, but I want to primarily focus on Open Score today. That's because it's the most stable metric of the three so there's the most likely signal there, and it's also the most important. Receptions and YAC are both somewhat contingent on targets, which are at least partially determined by a receiver's ability to get open.

Now these metrics have quite a bit of variance within them, so we'll often be looking at them on a season or multi-season level. But, still, it's Week 4 so let's work with what we've got in 2022, right? I think as long as we understand there's noise in these numbers, they can still be quite useful.

I couldn't wait to check out which receivers have been getting open -- and not! -- even over a three-game sample. So that's what we're focusing on today in the Next Gen Advantage. For starters, here's the top 20 (well, 21) players in Open Score through three weeks.

I don't think we're breaking any news to say Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce have been getting open. But there are some definite takeaways here, especially for younger players. Let's dive in!

Good sign: WR Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars