Signature Stats: Yards Per Route Run
Comparing the production of wide receivers can be difficult. Yards and touchdowns are the traditional barometers for wide receivers, but many factors can skew these numbers either way. The most notable factor is simply the amount of snaps that are run in pass routes. Calvin Johnson broke the record for receiving yards this season, but his quarterback Matthew Stafford also attempted the most passes ever. Is it really fair to compare Johnson’s 1,964 yards to Sydney Rice’s 748 yards when the Lions threw the ball 335 times more than the Seahawks? We don’t think so.
That is why we created our signature stat, Yards per Route Run (YPRR). This unique metric evaluates yardage totals solely based on routes run so that the stats are indicative of performance relative to the number of opportunities. It’s easy enough to understand, so let’s look at the notable performances.
No. 1 Option
This season one man put himself in another league in terms of being the featured receiver in an offense. No, it wasn’t Calvin Johnson; it was the Bears’ Brandon Marshall. Marshall had the second highest YPRR in the league at 2.76, but it was his peripheral stats that were truly amazing. The Bears wide out was targeted on 33.1% of his routes and accounted for 45.8% of the Bears’ total receiving yards — both were the highest in the league by wide margins. It is safe to say that Marshall made a big impact in his first year with the Bears.
Limited by his Offense
Michael Crabtree played like an elite receiver all season long, he just didn’t play in a pass-heavy offense. Of the Top 5 receivers in YPRR, Crabtree’s 433 snaps in route are the fewest by 98 even though he didn’t miss a game. For the season he ran three less routes than Michael Jenkins yet totaled 656 more yards. The way Crabtree finished out the season with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback suggests things are pointing up for the fourth-year wideout. Crabtree caught 41 balls for 595 yards and a YPRR of 3.15 in the last seven games of the season with Kaepernick at the helm.
Mid-Season Pick Up
One of the most physically imposing receivers in football this season wasn’t even on an NFL roster until mid-October. Danario Alexander played his first snap in Week 8 and then proceeded to gain 658 yards in nine games after that, compiling a YPRR of 2.1. The third-year pro led the league with a yards per target of 12.2. His stats are quite impressive, but his physical abilities are even more intriguing. With former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy now calling the shots in San Diego, Alexander will be a strong candidate to have even more of a breakout season in 2013.
Rank Name Team Targets Yards Snaps in Route YPRR
1 Andre Johnson HST 159 1598 531 3.01
2 Brandon Marshall CHI 181 1510 547 2.76
3 Calvin Johnson DET 199 1964 771 2.55
4 Michael Crabtree SF 118 1105 433 2.55
5 Demaryius Thomas DEN 138 1430 571 2.50
6 Vincent Jackson TB 137 1384 591 2.34
7 A.J. Green CIN 158 1350 585 2.31
8 Cecil Shorts JAX 101 979 426 2.30
9 Randall Cobb GB 102 954 423 2.26
10 Steve L. Smith CAR 127 1174 527 2.23
11 Wes Welker NE 166 1354 619 2.19
12 Lance Moore NO 100 1041 482 2.16
13 Dez Bryant DAL 137 1383 652 2.12
14 Danario Alexander SD 54 658 314 2.10
15 Roddy White ATL 138 1351 648 2.08
Sometimes a receiver just can’t overcome the deficiencies of his quarterback. Nowhere was that more evident than in Arizona. The Cardinals had four receivers qualify with at least 300 snaps in route and their highest finisher in YPRR was Michael Floyd, who finished 56th out of 75. Arizona attempted the ninth most passes, but ended up with the 28th most total passing yards as they had the worst yards per attempt in the league. The carousel of quarterbacks featured Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer, and only Kolb threw more touchdowns than interceptions. All of it added up to Larry Fitzgerald gaining his lowest yardage total since his rookie season, and his lowest YPRR we’ve calculated by .58 yards. This goes to show that all receivers are still very much dependent on their quarterbacks.
Rank Name Team Targets Yards Snaps in Route YPRR
61 Andre Roberts ARZ 107 759 599 1.27
62 Kevin Ogletree DAL 55 436 345 1.26
63 Donnie Avery IND 112 784 642 1.22
64 Dexter McCluster KC 70 452 371 1.22
65 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK 77 606 510 1.19
66 Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 148 798 677 1.18
67 Greg Little CLV 87 641 556 1.15
68 Kevin Walter HST 64 518 458 1.13
69 Donald Jones BUF 62 443 402 1.10
70 Michael Jenkins MIN 66 449 436 1.03
71 Harry Douglas ATL 56 396 420 0.94
72 Titus Young DET 53 383 410 0.93
73 Louis Murphy CAR 55 336 390 0.86
74 T.J. Graham BUF 58 322 416 0.77
75 Early Doucet ARZ 51 207 306 0.68
As was pointed out earlier, it will be nearly impossible to be high on this list without at least an adequate quarterback. Another factor that plays highly is targets. All but one of the bottom 15 were targeted less than 20% of the time, while all but one of the Top 15 were over 20%. The last thing to keep in mind is that these are, in the end, just stats and they will never be as indicative of overall performance as PFF’s grades. That said, it’s well worth looking beyond the box numbers to see who really impressed.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner