Slot Receivers

| June 2, 2011

In our continuing breakdown of various aspects of wide receiver play, next up is a look at slot receivers.
 
We’re talking yardage, touchdowns, receptions and … well, let’s just say there’s so much information on slot receivers that the thought of getting it all down scared me a little bit. Coming at it from a number of angles, this 2010 slot receiver data paints a picture of who is getting slot opportunities and who is doing the most with them.
 
So without further ado, let’s get into it.
 

 
 
(Note: Only players who lined up in the slot at least 100 times qualified for this study and any other qualifying marks are noted per table.)
 
 

Time Spent in the Slot

The best place to start is with who lined up in the slot most often. It may surprise a few to see Jason Avant ahead of guys like Wes Welker (who finishes ninth) and Danny Amendola (fifth), but the Eagle was No. 1 in 2010. It’s a pretty self explanatory list so I’ll let the table of the top fifteen do the work for me. As always, if you have a question regarding where your favorite player fits in to any of this, feel free to contact me.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Snaps, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot Snaps
1Jason AvantPHI622
2Hines WardPIT606
3tJordan ShipleyCIN566
3tAnquan BoldinBLT566
5Danny AmendolaSL561
6Donald DriverGB520
7Eddie RoyalDEN495
8Marques ColstonNO484
9Wes WelkerNE472
10Jerricho CotcheryNYJ455
11Nate BurlesonDET449
12Miles AustinDAL439
13Mike ThomasJAX430
14Blair WhiteIND429
15Earl BennettCHI411

 

Taking the snap numbers a step further, let’s see who spent of their time in the slot. Moving up to the No. 1 spot is David Nelson of the Bills, who spent 94.35% of his total snaps in the slot. No real surprise for those who watched the Bills with Nelson working predominantly in three and four receiver sets where he caught 58.06% of his balls over the middle and short of ten yards.
 

Wide Receivers, Percentage of Snaps in Slot, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
% of Snaps
1David NelsonBUF94.35%
2Jordan ShipleyCIN93.25%
3Brandon StokleySEA89.54%
4Austin CollieIND84.25%
5Danny AmendolaSL84.23%
6Eddie RoyalDEN81.01%
7Roscoe ParrishBUF78.59%
8Blair WhiteIND78.28%
9Chansi StuckeyCLV77.47%
10Jason AvantPHI77.08%
11Early DoucetARZ73.31%
12David AndersonHST73.11%
13Max KomarARZ72.22%
14Sammie StroughterTB72.00%
15Earl BennettCHI71.73%

 

Yardage

Establishing which players spend most of their time in the slot brought with it the names of a lot of guys you’d expect; the smaller, shiftier types. So the first relative shock of our findings is that Marques Colston generated more yardage from the slot than any other player in the league. What’s notable about Colston here is that he’s the only guy listed above 6’ 1” to make the Top 15 in slot yardage.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Yards, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot Yards
1Marques ColstonNO696
2Danny AmendolaSL662
3Wes WelkerNE585
4Jordan ShipleyCIN576
5Jason AvantPHI569
6Anquan BoldinBLT561
7Donald DriverGB542
8Austin CollieIND509
9Eddie RoyalDEN504
10Mike ThomasJAX498
11Santana MossWAS486
12Earl BennettCHI460
13Percy HarvinMIN452
14Hines WardPIT448
15Nate BurlesonDET447

 

Receptions

What makes Colston’s yardage total all the more remarkable is that he had 27 fewer receptions from the slot than the No. 2 yardage man, Danny Amendola. By quite some distance, Amendola caught more balls than any other while lined-up out-flanked by another receiver. It goes some way to showing you how much of a safety valve he was for rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, and how wise teams that are looking to play rookie quarterbacks may be to offer a similar option who thrives on the underneath routes.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Receptions, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot Rec
1Danny AmendolaSL80
2Wes WelkerNE64
3Marques ColstonNO53
4Austin CollieIND50
5Jason AvantPHI49
6Jordan ShipleyCIN48
7tEddie RoyalDEN47
7tPercy HarvinMIN47
9Donald DriverGB44
10Santana MossWAS43
11Anquan BoldinBLT39
12Nate BurlesonDET38
13tMike ThomasJAX36
13tBrandon StokleySEA36
15tEarl BennettCHI34
15tBlair WhiteIND34
15tChansi StuckeyCLV34

 

Targets

While the top reception guys, Amendola, Welker, and Colston also rise to the top of the following slot targets list, be sure to note Eddie Royal’s appearance in the Top 5. A big reason why Amendola finished with more slot receptions is because he was quite obviously targeted a great deal more than everyone else, but there are players like Royal that got the looks without converting them nearly as often.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Targets, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot Targets
1Danny AmendolaSL107
2Wes WelkerNE86
3Eddie RoyalDEN82
4Marques ColstonNO78
5tDonald DriverGB71
5tJordan ShipleyCIN71
7Jason AvantPHI69
8tPercy HarvinMIN65
8tAnquan BoldinBLT65
10Santana MossWAS62
11Austin CollieIND61
12Nate BurlesonDET59
13tEarl BennettCHI54
13tHines WardPIT54
15Mike ThomasJAX53

 

Catch %

The next logical step here is to get a glance at who was, in fact, converting most of their chances into receptions. Looking at those with at least 50 slot targets, we see Royal slip out of the Top 15 and Donald Driver nearly do the same while Austin Collie shoots up to Amedola-Welker-land.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Catch Percentage, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot Targets
Slot Rec
Slot Catch%
1Austin CollieIND615081.97%
2Danny AmendolaSL1078074.77%
3Wes WelkerNE866474.42%
4Percy HarvinMIN654772.31%
5Jason AvantPHI694971.01%
6Brandon StokleySEA513670.59%
7Santana MossWAS624369.35%
8Chansi StuckeyCLV503468.00%
9Marques ColstonNO785367.95%
10Mike ThomasJAX533667.92%
11Jordan ShipleyCIN714867.61%
12Blair WhiteIND513466.67%
13Nate BurlesonDET593864.41%
14Earl BennettCHI543462.96%
15Donald DriverGB714461.97%

 

Depth of Target

What’s a bit more interesting is a look at how far down the field these targets were coming. There were 20 receivers who were targeted at least 50 times while playing in the slot, and here’s the average distance of the ball thrown at them. What you get to see is how different teams use their players differently in the slot. Teams like St Louis and New England ask their slot men to attack with underneath routes, while teams like New Orleans and Pittsburgh tend to push seams and get their slot options moving upfield.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Target Depth, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Depth of Target
1Danny AmendolaSL5.30
2Wes WelkerNE5.45
3Chansi StuckeyCLV5.76
4Nate BurlesonDET6.80
5Percy HarvinMIN6.98
6Brandon StokleySEA7.12
7Santana MossWAS7.79
8Austin CollieIND8.18
9Jordan ShipleyCIN8.89
10tEddie RoyalDEN9.21
10tMiles AustinDAL9.21
12Donald DriverGB9.46
13Blair WhiteIND9.59
14Earl BennettCHI9.72
15Jerricho CotcheryNYJ9.73
16Mike ThomasJAX9.81
17Jason AvantPHI10.52
18Anquan BoldinBLT11.63
19Marques ColstonNO11.69
20Hines WardPIT11.81

 

Yards Per Catch

That last list leads in quite nicely to the yards per catch portion of the piece, with those with the highest average depth of target also finishing with the highest yard per catch. Worth noting that the following list came about after editing it down to look at receivers who had at least 25 receptions from the slot, otherwise Mike Wallace, Johnny Knox and Desean Jackson would have runaway with this award, despite picking up relatively few slot receptions.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Yards per Catch, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot YPC
1Hines WardPIT14.93
2Miles AustinDAL14.60
3Anquan BoldinBLT14.38
4Greg JenningsGB14.28
5Mike ThomasJAX13.83
6Earl BennettCHI13.53
7Marques ColstonNO13.13
8Jordy NelsonGB13.00
9Jerricho CotcheryNYJ12.93
10Donald DriverGB12.32
11David NelsonBUF12.06
12Jordan ShipleyCIN12.00
13Nate BurlesonDET11.76
14Jason AvantPHI11.61
15Roscoe ParrishBUF11.57

 

Yards After The Catch

Which slot receivers helped out their quarterbacks the most with yards after the catch?  Unsurprisingly we see familiar faces in Amendola, Welker, and Royal near the top. Again, it’s not really until you get to Marques Colston that you get a real “different” type of receiver when you consider he doesn’t run quite so many underneath routes in the Saints offense.
 

Wide Receivers, Slot Yards After the Catch, 2010

Rank
Player
Team
Slot YAC
1Danny AmendolaSL349
2Wes WelkerNE302
3Eddie RoyalDEN283
4Nate BurlesonDET274
5Percy HarvinMIN273
6Austin CollieIND252
7Santana MossWAS236
8Miles AustinDAL208
9Jason AvantPHI196
10Donald DriverGB194
11Mike ThomasJAX188
12Marques ColstonNO187
13Jordan ShipleyCIN186
14tAnquan BoldinBLT182
14tJordy NelsonGB182

 

After all that information, I’m a little bit tabled out, but there you have a pile of data that will be of interest to those intent on finding out just what players are doing damage from the slot. Guys like Danny Amendola and Wes Welker won’t come as a surprise to many, but even watching a lot of the Saints, it took me about 10 guesses before I realized Marques Colston had more slot yardage than any other (much to the delight of my tormentor-in-chief, Neil Hornsby, who had the data in hand).
 
Will the Saints’ use of Colston change the way other teams do things? Perhaps more will look to create that type of mismatch against defenses that don’t shift personnel to follow receivers. A successful formula in the NFL is soon to be mimicked.
 
The Saints, though, are a unique offense, and it wouldn’t simply be a case of putting a big, physical guy in the slot and expecting dividends. New Orleans has threats out of the backfield, and used players like Lance Moore lined-up outside to run their underneath routes and create more mismatch problems.
 
Still, it’s fun to see something different from teams, and it’s nice to have the information available to shine proper light on it.
 
 
PFF Fantasy guru, Mike Clay, also dove into the slot numbers recently. Check out his notes on the topic that were posted in PFF’s Fantasy section.
 
 
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled
 
 

  • snowman88

    One of the best articles i have seen so far

  • southbeach

    Great article. I’m very surprised not to see the Phins Davone Bess anywhere. Where did he rank?

    • Rick Drummond

      southbeach, Bess ended with 28 catches on 49 targets for 254 yards in 301 snaps from the slot. He had 372 snaps lined up outside.

      • southbeach

        Thanks for the quick reply Rick.

  • Classic silver and black

    I see that there are no Oakland receivers mentioned in any of the stats at all.
    I wonder if even one of them aligned at least the minimum 100 times in the slot to be eligible for this research.
    In fact the Raiders must be the single team using most traditional formations (2 wideouts, 1 TE, 1 RB, 1 FB, with no WR in the slot) in the whole NFL.

    • Rick Drummond

      classic S&B, Murphy (258 snaps, 28 targets, 17 catches, 309 yards) and Ford (239 snaps, 28 targets, 15 catches, 212 yards) each qualified, just didn’t hit the Top 15′s. Higgins played 96 slot snaps, DHB 23, and Schilens 15.

      • Classic silver and black

        Thanks a lot, Rick.