Route Breakdown: Slants

Kicking off a dig into our 2014 route data, Steve Palazzolo looks at the season's best receivers when running slants.

| 2 years ago

Route Breakdown: Slants

slantsIn an effort to add to the reams of data that we already collect at PFF, we took the passing game to a whole new level in 2013.

Instead of just tracking each receiver’s targeted route, we went ahead and charted every route run on every pass play in the NFL and continued this work in 2014. We can now tell you how often each receiver ran a particular route, at which depth he ran it, and whether or not he was targeted.

This data becomes quite useful when analyzing each receiver’s role, but it’s also handy when determining passing concepts for each team. The ante was upped further this past season as we added exact WR splits as well as shifts in motions to our charting data. We now have the data to break down how often teams run their favorite plays, and the corresponding tendencies that come with them.

How often did Peyton Manning run his staple “levels” concept? How often did Chip Kelly have a built in bubble screen for his slot receivers? Which team’s receivers run the deepest routes? This is the type of data that can only be found in the PFF database, and it’s a big reason why NFL teams are adding our information into their weekly scouting reports.

While much of this data remains exclusive for NFL team usage, we’re pulling back the curtain to show some of the passing game trends, starting on a route-by-route basis.

Here’s a look at the slant route.

Route Overview


Our route charting is extremely detailed, but for the sake of this exercise, routes will be sorted into the basic families above. So while we can tell you if a wide receiver’s “go” route had an inside or an outside release, or if it was run up the seam or with a back shoulder throw, all of these unique routes will be lumped into the “go” route category for simplicity sake.

The Slant Route

The slant is rather self-explanatory, and there are not many iterations to it. It’s a staple in every NFL offense — for short, quick receivers looking to pick up yards after the catch and also for the big receivers looking to move the chains.

Here’s a deeper look into the players who ran the slant most often and most efficiently.

slant routesRoutes

– For the second year in a row, the Green Bay Packers feature the top two receivers in numbers of slants run as Davante Adams dwarfed the field in his rookie season while Jordy Nelson ranked second. Another Packer rounds out the Top 10 with Randall Cobb running 54 slants on the season.

– Adams ran the slant on 15.8% of his routes, the second-highest percentage in the league, though he only picked up 110 yards on slants, the 27th-best total in the league.

– Fellow rookie Sammy Watkins ranked third in slants run with 73 making up 10.8% of his total routes.


slant tgtsTargets

– Despite ranking 15th with 49 slants run, Demaryius Thomas led the league with 25 targets on slants, showing that Peyton Manning was looking for him a very high percentage of the time when running the route.

– Dwayne Bowe, Steve Smith, and Kelvin Benjamin all tied for second with 23 targets on slants with Smith proving most efficient as he averaged 3.24 yards per route.

– Despite running the most slants, Davante Adams and Jordy Nelson failed to make the most targeted list as they both tied with 16.


slant ydsYards

– Big receivers dominate the top of the yardage chart, led by Rueben Randle who picked up 245 of his 938 total yards on slants. His 12.9 yards per target ranked third in the league.

– Antonio Brown ranked fifth with 171 yards and he led the league with 21 receptions on slants.

– Golden Tate’s 165 yards came on only nine catches, the only receiver on the list with fewer than 14 catches on slants.


slant yprrYards per Route Run

– Victor Cruz was the most efficient slant runner in the league catching all seven of his targets and picking up 146 yards while only running 25 slants on the year.

– Andrew Hawkins made the most of his slant opportunities as well, picking up 134 yards on only six receptions and 11 targets.

– Larry Fitzgerald tied for seventh with 14 receptions on slants while his 217 yards ranked second.


Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve


| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

  • Forrest

    This is really interesting stuff. Can’t wait to see how the rest of the route tree turns out.

    I’d also be curious to see who runs the most double-moves.

  • LightsOut85

    I would love to see YAC (average) for the routes, separate out the influence route-type-tendency has on total YAC average. (Going by the Reception Perception breakdowns by Matt Harmon (at BYB), it seems to be the case that route-type (YAC friendly vs not) tendency has a pretty large correlation with total YAC average).

    See which guys get the most YAC (on average) on slants, or crossing-routes, etc.

    • Chris

      I see what you’re meaning. Like guys that run a lot of slants and crosses will have better YAC by default than guys running hitches and ins/outs.

      • LightsOut85

        Exactly. If you look at the by-route breakdown from 2013’s QB in-focus project, there are some routes with just dismal (avg) YAC (including hitches, which (again, looking at that project) have highest throw-rate in the NFL). A guy could be a real “play-maker” but also asked to run such routes, pick up 1st downs (etc), so “traditional stats” wouldn’t reflect that ability.

        • Chris

          You have a link to this project? I don’t remember reading that.

          This also starts getting at the difference between an X and a Z, with Z’s running more of the YAC style routes and the X more of the possession routes.

          • LightsOut85

            Here ya go:


            The %s can be found in “tendencies” (bottom left link), and the YAC-by-route 2 links above that.

          • Chris

            Yes I do remember seeing those. Good looks. Would love to see this worked in.

            Interesting that Outs are thrown on average ~2.5 yards shorter than Ins.

          • LightsOut85

            Maybe I dream too big, but hopefully one day we will see data broken down by routes in the subscription package.

            Right? I like the little details like that. My guess (as to why) would be QBs are trying to get the ball over the head of the LBs in the middle of the field.

          • theowl

            Hadn’t seen that. Thanks.

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  • Malachi

    DT’s slant route is so nasty in the redzone cause corners are so worried about the fade, he plants that foot and gives em a lil okiedoke to the outside shoulder and corners just get stuck like they’re wearing cement shoes, lol

  • Thomas

    Where is the data for 2015 so far?