Signature Stats: YPRR – Tight Ends

PFF's Yards Per Route Run Signature Stat helps sift through the tight end performances of 2012 to show who was doing the most damage in the passing game.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: YPRR – Tight Ends

We looked at drop rates earlier this week, and now we are on to Yards Per Route Run (YPRR, wide receivers were discussed yesterday). In 2011 we saw some incredible performances from the tight end position, as 19 of them had YPRR’s of 1.5 or greater. That number dipped to 13 this season and only one tight end, Jason Witten, gained over 1,000 yards through the air.

Some of this decrease in performance may have been due to injuries to some of the better tight ends around the league. Fred Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Dustin Keller, and Aaron Hernandez were all out for extended periods of time. This makes YPRR even more important this season because those players’ total yards won’t stack up well. So the question we want answered is, were they still producing? Let’s take a look.

Best in the Game

Any remaining questions from 2011 about who the best tight end in football is were pretty much put to rest this season. It’s the Patriots Rob Gronkowski. He was once again our highest graded tight end and managed to do so in only 10 full games. Gronk also led all tight ends with a YPRR of 2.44 (he finished second in 2011 with a YPRR of 2.37) and it wasn’t even close. He was second in the league in yards per target at 10.26 and still finished the season seventh in receiving yards despite his limited playing time. In fact, 11 players were targeted more than Gronkowski yet finished with fewer yards. Although his overall numbers may have made it look like he regressed this season, almost all of his stats were on pace to match or surpass those of 2011.

Super Bowl Comparison

Super Bowl XXVII figures to make heavy use of the tight end position, as both the Ravens and 49ers have done so throughout the season. Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson have combined for 894 yards, 121 targets, and a YPRR of 1.49, while Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker combined for 865 yards, 93 targets, and a YPRR of 1.32 during the regular season.

While it looks like the Ravens have a statistical advantage, that may not be the case. Both Baltimore tight ends have seen higher target percentages than Davis and Walker. Davis is actually the sixth-lowest tight end in terms of target percentage, while Pitta is the seventh-most targeted out of the 52 qualifiers. When looking at their success when targeted there is a vast difference. The yards per target of the 49ers’ tight ends were both over 9, while the Ravens’ tight ends were both slightly over 7. This difference comes from how the two tight end groups are utilized. Walker and Davis averaged a depth of target of 13.08 and 11.97 yards, respectively, while Dickson and Pitta averaged 8.44 and 8.77.

In the postseason, Pitta (YPRR of 1.93), Dickson (YPRR of 2.12), and Davis (YPRR of 2.73) have excelled, while Walker (YPRR of 0.97) has suffered from drops. It will be worth watching whether the 49ers’ tight ends come up with big plays, and if the Ravens’ pair can help Joe Flacco move the sticks on third down.

Top 10 Tight Ends in YPRR:

RankPlayerTeamTargetsRec. YardsSnaps in RouteYPRR
1Rob GronkowskiNE777903242.44
2Fred DavisWAS323251661.96
3Jimmy GrahamNO1319825201.89
4Jacob TammeDEN805552941.89
5Greg OlsenCAR968434621.82
6Heath MillerPIT938164551.79
7Brent CelekPHI836843971.72
8Anthony McCoySEA232911701.71
9Dennis PittaBLT906693971.69
10Brandon MyersOAK1018064791.68


Blocking Tight Ends

Seattle’s Anthony McCoy and Zach Miller both were left in to block greater than 60% of the time, yet both were still viable receiving targets. McCoy led all tight ends with a yards per target of 12.7, while Miller led the league in receptions per target. Another tight end who needs to see more passing downs is Dwayne Allen. Allen had a monster rookie season and finished second in our tight end grading. He was also left in to block 60% of the time, while fellow rookie Coby Fleener stayed in for just 45% of his plays. Allen, however, bested Fleener in YPRR by 0.29 despite being targeted at a slightly lower rate. Allen has every-down talent and likely won’t be leaving the field too much in the coming years.

For the most part, if a tight end is used mainly for blocking there is a reason for it. New Orleans’ Dave Thomas is one of the most obvious examples. Thomas blocks on 67% of his snaps (Jimmy Graham blocks on only 27% of his) because he is an adequate blocker, but also because he is a very limited receiver. Thomas’ depth of target is only 4.3 yards and he is targeted on only 12.4% of his routes. No qualifying tight end was utilized as a blocker at a higher rate than Konrad Reuland. The Jets’ tight end spent 74% of his plays blocking, and had the lowest depth of target among tight ends, at 2.13 yards. The Bottom 10 is littered with blocking or No. 2 tight ends, as only Antonio Gates and Rob Housler ran routes on more than half of their snaps.

Bottom 10 Tight Ends in YPRR:

RankPlayerTeamTargetsRec. YardsSnaps in RouteYPRR
43Luke StockerTB211651511.09
44Rob HouslerARZ654173911.07
45Antonio GatesSD765385231.03
46Anthony FasanoMIA613323880.86
47Jeff KingARZ261291600.81
48Konrad ReulandNYJ16831030.81
49Will HellerDET221501940.77
50Dave ThomasNO16861290.67
51Kellen DavisCHI442293620.63
52John CarlsonMIN14431090.39


Yards Per Route Run is a great stat for tight ends because only a handful will play almost every snap. Because of the significant snap differences it is essential to remove that factor when comparing them. Receiving is still only part of the equation for tight ends, though; 35 of 52 qualifying tight ends blocked more often than they ran routes. If you’re interested to find out how these same guys stack up when blocking, sign up and check out their grades in our Premium section.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner


| 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.

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