News & Analysis

The increased fantasy relevance of slot weapons

By Tyler Buecher
Aug 13, 2017

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BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 4: Wide receiver Jarvis Landry #14 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball against defensive back Jerraud Powers #26 of the Baltimore Ravens in the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Every year the NFL continues to gain more and more followers. Why? People love to see big hits and big touchdowns. While the NFL’s Safety Committee continues to make sure the big hits we see our legal and not overtly dangerous, the scoring that draws folks generally comes from one thing – big pass plays. The NFL has continued to evolve into a pass-happy league, and with the way the current rules are set up, it’s no wonder. Receivers are allowed to get away with more than ever before, and we’re seeing current league-wide trends reflect that. Since 2010, we’ve seen a steady rise in pass volume as the NFL naturally transitions into spreading out the field and making this a much more tactical game. We’re seeing a higher number of pass plays, and subsequently, a higher number of formations featuring at least three wide receivers.

Year Pass Attempts Pass Play % % of Pass Plays with at least 3 WRs
2016 571.7 56.3% 75.2%
2015 571.9 56.1% 70.6%
2014 558.7 55.1% 69.5%
2013 566.8 55.2% 67.4%
2012 555.9 54.6% 63.0%
2011 544.1 54.0% 60.2%
2010 539.7 53.6% 59.9%

This upward trajectory in passing is likely here to stay, and as such, we need to start utilizing the slot wide receiver-slot cornerback relation more to our advantage. The rise in slot wide receiver usage and their overall effectiveness is something that we can utilize to our advantage as fantasy football enthusiasts via PFF’s tools. As evidenced above, the rise of the slot receiver isn’t anything new, and after several years of consistent data, we can confidently say that it’s here to stay.

We often see receivers move all over the formation, running a vast array of routes from all over the field. However, to keep things concise for the sake of argument, let’s limit our term to “slot wide receivers” in this article as those that saw at least 50 percent of their routes run from the slot (min. 200 routes run total). That leaves us with 34 wide receivers over the course of the 2016 season. What did we learn in 2016, and can it be applied to 2017?

Dominant slot WRs

The top wide receivers out of the slot shouldn’t come as big surprises. They’ve held these roles near the top for several years and continue to produce at a high level.

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