The statistic is as simple as it sounds in that it divides receiving yards by the number of pass routes a receiver runs. It was created as an alternative to ‘yards per catch’ which is biased against the deep threat receivers and ‘yards per target’ which hurts the elite receivers who are thrown at often but draw better coverage.
Yards Per Route Run is a metric to level the playing field, sifting out the most effective receivers. It allows us to see just how good the best are, but also shines light on who might be under the radar because they’ve run fewer routes for one reason or another.
First up are the wide receivers. In order to qualify for this study, a wide receiver needed to run at least 700 pass routes over the past three seasons. This allowed 88 wide receivers to be included.
Racking up the Yards
The first number needed for this metric is receiving yards. The media loves receiving yards to judge receivers, so it’s no surprise that everyone on this list is a household name. At the top of the list is Calvin Johnson who is regarded as the best receiver in the league by the players as well as his 2011 PFF ratings. Something eight of these 10 players have in common is they have played with their franchise since 2007 or earlier, and will continue to play there in 2012. The first exception is Hakeem Nicks who was drafted in 2009, and is a rare case of a receiver playing well from his rookie year on. The other is Brandon Marshall who went from Denver to Miami, and will now be playing in Chicago.
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Running the Routes
The other part of the equation is pass routes. While you almost have to be elite to accumulate a high number of passing yards, you don’t need to be in order to have a high number of pass routes. While there is a lot of overlap in the yards list and this one, there are a few notable exceptions. The first is Pierre Garcon who has benefited from playing with the Colts who very rarely substitute out their top two receivers. The other is Nate Burleson, who saw 42% of his pass routes come last year while Matthew Stafford threw the third most passes in NFL history.
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Yards Per Route Run–The Best
Now that we have the two numbers that go into the Yards Per Route Run figure out of the way, it’s time for the leaderboard. At the top of the list is Andre Johnson, who has a dominate lead over the rest of the pack, followed by Wes Welker which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The first name on the list that might surprise is Kenny Britt who just barely qualified. He missed most of 2011 as well as part of 2010 due to injury.
The following two names are a pair of NFC North players who deserve to be on the field more. Jordy Nelson has been one of the best receivers in this metric the past few seasons, and has seen his playing time increase each season thanks to his strong play. A few weeks back our Sam Monson detailed how the Vikings have misused Percy Harvin and just how good he is.
Outside of the Top 5, there are two players to keep an eye on in 2012. The first is Malcom Floyd who has benefited from having Vincent Jackson on the field to take some of the better defenders away from him. With Jackson gone, Floyd could finally start seeing bigger numbers, or he could struggle as the defenses game plan will be to stop him more than it was in past years. The second is Sidney Rice. The majority of Rice’s numbers that caused him to make the list came from when a former Packers quarterback was throwing him the ball. If he can stay healthy, he could produce big numbers again with Flynn as his QB.
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Yards Per Route Run–The Bottom
Mostly for comparison purposes, here is how the worst receivers in YPRR shaped up. Three of them aren’t currently on an NFL roster, another three switched teams this offseason, and two will see their roles diminished due to offseason additions for their respective teams. This leaves just the Falcons and Browns who are keeping faith in their young receivers when it might be time for a change. Atlanta has Harry Douglas who has a good chance of keeping the third receiver job, while Mohamed Massaquoi could remain a starter in Cleveland.
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