Route Breakdown: WR Screens

Mike Renner looks at the league's most productive receivers on screen routes.

| 2 years ago

Route Breakdown: WR Screens

routes-screensIn 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 WR screens.

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 Wide Receiver Screen

Bubbles, tunnels, and smokes all fit under the general category of wide receiver screens. The premise is simple, was the receiver the only pass option on that side of the field and was the route breaking at or behind the line of scrimmage. Just because the receiver ran a screen route, though, doesn’t necessarily mean he was targeted on the play as we’ll see later on.


wr screen routes

– Two rookies finish in the Top 5 with Jordan Matthews and Jarvis Landry. This makes sense as screens are an easy way to get the ball into a young playmaker’s hands before they’ve mastered a full route tree.

– De’Anthony Thomas may have barely made the Top 10, but he only ran 106 total routes on the season. That means over a quarter of his total routes were screens, the highest rate in the NFL by 15 percentage points.


wr screen targets

– Golden Tate’s 29 receptions on screen routes were also the best. It’s no secret why the Lions forced so many screens to their new weapon; Tate has led all receivers in broken tackles each of the past two seasons.

– No surprise seeing two Broncos in the top 10. Peyton Manning led the NFL in completions and yards on wide receiver screens.

– One name curiously absent from this list is Jordan Matthews who was second in screen routes run. The Eagles rookie was only targeted on 14 of his 42 screen routes last season.


wr screen yards

– Jarius Wright gained over a third of his yards last season through the screen game. It obviously helps that 87 of those yards came on his game winning screen pass against the Jets in week 14.

– Besides Wright, Taylor Gabriel is the only other player on this list who didn’t eclipse 900 yards last season as he finished with 621. Gabriel’s 112 yards came on just 12 targets.

Yards per Route Run

wr screen yprr

– Brandon LaFell isn’t someone that necessarily comes to mind when I think about ability after the catch, but he held his own last season with 111 of his yards coming on 13 screens.

– While Jarius Wright topped the league in YPRR his teammate Greg Jennings was second to last at .95 He ran 22 screens yet was only targeted on three for 21 yards.

– Harry Douglas really made the most of his targets as his 14.1 yards per target was tops in the league.


 Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_Mike


| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • lightsout85

    Hey, with this one we sort-of get a glimpse at “YAC avg” for the route (still find it odd that wasn’t included in this series, since YAC-avg is so heavily influenced by the types of routes one runs), since *usually* you’re targeted on (& catch) most of the screens you run. (The cases here with a significant number of non-targets screens is intriguing. Odd that there’d be that many failed played or fake-screens).