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
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
% of Snaps
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
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
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
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
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
Depth of Target
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
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
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