Sig Stat Snapshot: Yards Per Route Run, Slot WRs
The slot wide receiver has become a staple of NFL passing offenses everywhere. Because of this many teams now designate a certain wide receiver to work out of the slot when they employ three (or more) wide receiver sets. 32 players so far have run at least 50 routes from the slot and also played more than half their snaps from the slot. To measure these players’ production, we will use the Signature Stat: Yards Per Route Run or ‘YPRR’. YPRR is a valuable tool to use when comparing slot production because it evaluates on a per-route basis. There can be a vast difference in snaps between guys who play mainly slot in an offense that uses many multi-receiver sets and guys who has either gotten hurt or plays in in an offense that uses the formation less frequently. YPRR takes this all into account.
Like any all-encompassing stat of player performance there are some flaws to YPRR that need to be addressed. The biggest one is that a receiver is only as good as his target percentage. Even if you are Jerry Rice in your prime, if your target percentage is around 10 percent, it is nearly impossible to achieve a YPRR of 2.0 or greater (this would imply a yards per target of at least 20 which is unheard of). The other big one is that quarterback skill is not taken into account. A quarterback with an Accuracy Rating of 80% is going to give his wide receivers more catchable targets than one with an Accuracy Rating of 60%. Given these shortcomings, we believe that YPRR is still one of the best ways to compare receivers’ production. Now let’s get to a look at the slot guys.
Note: Only receivers that ran 50% or more of their routes from the slot and ran over 50 slot routes were considered.
Key to the Offense
When the Rams’ Danny Amendola was injured in Week 5 against the Cardinals, the Rams lost more than just a receiver. He may not be a household name or be classified as an elite receiver, but through four games the Rams’ offense utilized him like he was one. Amendola saw almost 32% of the team’s passes when he was on the field and that number rose to 32.4% when he played in the slot. He rewarded them with the third-highest YPRR from the slot and second-highest overall. That is why it is no coincidence that the Rams’ offense and Sam Bradford have sputtered with him off the field. The Rams’ points per game dropped from 20 before his injury to just under 14 since, and Bradford went from a grade of +7.0 before Week 5 to -1.9 after. Amendola has truly been the key to this offense and Bradford must be counting the days until his return.
Better on the Edge
If one were to build the perfect slot receiver, he may look pretty similar to Percy Harvin. Typical slot receiver qualities like sure hands, quickness and agility, speed, and elusiveness are all ones the Vikings’ wide-out possesses. That is why it is so surprising to see Harvin’s numbers drop dramatically when he plays in the slot. He still has a respectable 1.58 YPRR, but when one looks at his 4.10 YPRR from all other positions, the slot average is paltry in comparison. Maybe the problem isn’t Harvin, though. He has been targeted 22.4% of the time in the slot, a fairly average number for an elite receiver and 10% lower than the Amendola. When Harvin isn’t in the slot, he has been targeted an amazing 44% of the time, almost twice as much. Given that Harvin’s catch rates are very comparable (75% in the slot, 78% everywhere else) it isn’t a stretch to think that his slot performance may have more to do with Christian Ponder looking elsewhere rather than him not getting open.
Last week the Lions obtained receiver Mike Thomas in a trade with Jacksonville and shipped away a fifth-round pick in 2014. Since Blaine Gabbert became the starter for the Jaguars, Thomas has been a complete no-show, posting less than 500 yards since the start of 2011. Who is to blame is tough to say, but there is no denying that Thomas wasn’t performing in the Jaguars’ offense and his dead-last slot YPRR makes that clear. The intriguing part of this trade is what it all means for Lions receiver Ryan Broyles. The trade made it seem as though Detroit was unwilling to let Broyles get an opportunity to take over for Nate Burleson who is out for the season. The thing is, Broyles has flourished once given the chance. He has a YPRR of 1.72 in limited time and had a great game again on Sunday even with Thomas in the rotation. It will be interesting to monitor the production and playing time of each moving forward.
Not the Contract Year he Planned
In 2008 and 2009 when Greg Jennings was mainly an edge receiver, he functioned as an effective tool from the slot posting YPRR’s of 2.59 and 2.90. He was only used in the slot less than 30% of the time, though. Ever since then he has seen his slot percentage increase and his effectiveness there decrease. Then, in 2012, Jennings debuted as a full-time slot receiver, taking 84% of his snaps out of the slot and the results were alarming. Before his injury the Packers’ receiver had a YPRR of 0.69 out of the slot, even though he was still being targeted 21% of the time (same as his overall percentage from 2011). To add insult to injury, Randall Cobb has taken over almost the exact same role as Jennings had and excelled to a YPRR of 2.11 out of the slot. If Jennings had dreams of re-signing long-term with the Packers, everything that has taken place this year would be his worst nightmare.
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