Signature Stats: Yards Per Route Run

Mike Renner pauses for a look at receiver production using PFF's Yards Per Route Run Signature Stat to compare the league's pass-catchers.

| 4 years ago

Signature Stats: Yards Per Route Run

2013-WK13-YPRRIn 2012 Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice’s single season receiving record with 1964 yards. While that number had never been seen before, it wasn’t a huge step up on a per-play basis from his 1685 yards the season before. The real difference was that he just had far more opportunities than anyone’s ever had.

Last season the Lions’ receiver ran 770 pass routes, 82 more than any other receiver has in a single season the past five years. Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Michael Crabtree all averaged more yards per route, but none of them played on a team that broke the single-season passing attempts record. This isn’t trying to take away from cumulative stats, or even say that those three guys could have broken Rice’s record had they been on the Lions. It’s just that opportunities differ greatly from team to team and player to player and trying to compare two receivers by how many yards they’ve procured can be meaningless.

For this reason, we have Yards per Route Run (YPRR). Since we track the number of routes all receivers run, we have the unique ability to track yards as a rate instead of as a sum. One of the finest examples of the usefulness of YPRR came in Week 8 this season. That week Marvin Jones had 122 yards on just 13 routes run and eight targets for an astonishing 9.38 YPRR. In the same week Harry Douglas also put up 122 yards. If you saw the numbers scroll across the bottom of your television screen you might not think twice about it, both had great games. The thing is Douglas ran 65 routes that day against Arizona, five times as many as Jones, and it took 18 targets to get the same amount of yardage.

*Note: The numbers presented here are limited to receivers with at least 200 snaps in route.

Top 15

Rk Player Team Targets Rec. Yards Snaps in Route YPRR
1  Calvin Johnson DET 127 1299 455 2.85
2  Julio Jones ATL 57 580 212 2.74
3  DeSean Jackson PHI 85 985 377 2.61
4  Josh Gordon CLV 92 988 411 2.40
5  Andre Johnson HST 116 1002 419 2.39
6  Anquan Boldin SF 78 724 310 2.34
7  Vincent Jackson TB 114 888 385 2.31
8  A.J. Green CIN 117 1020 442 2.31
9  Antonio Brown PIT 119 1103 484 2.28
10  Pierre Garcon WAS 115 919 414 2.22
11  Brandon Marshall CHI 111 945 426 2.22
12  Demaryius Thomas DEN 97 955 445 2.15
13  Doug Baldwin SEA 50 586 276 2.12
14  Keenan Allen SD 68 744 358 2.08
15  T.Y. Hilton IND 89 745 361 2.06

Who Else?

Even averaging seven fewer routes a game and having missed a game and a half, Calvin Johnson is still on pass for 1890 yards this season. His 2.85 YPRR is tops in the league and .3 higher than his 2012 season. If he can clean up his 10% drop rate he could be laying claim to the CJ2K nickname by seasons end.

Still Getting it Done

After a monstrous 13 catches and 208 yards in Week 1, Anquan Boldin has left a lot of fantasy owners frustrated week in and week out with his mild production. If you find yourself in this category, don’t go blaming Boldin, blame Greg Roman. The 49ers have passed a league low 276 times and, in turn, Boldin has averaged a paltry 28 routes a game (Josh Gordon has averaged 46, for comparsion). With the seventh-best YPRR, the veteran receiver has certainly delivered when called upon.

Bottom 15

Rk Player Team Targets Rec. Yards Snaps in Route YPRR
71  Robert Woods BUF 59 349 330 1.06
72  Mohamed Sanu CIN 57 353 364 0.97
73  Mike A. Williams TB 39 216 226 0.96
74  Austin Pettis SL 47 297 310 0.96
75  Marlon Brown BLT 50 320 338 0.95
76  Jason Avant PHI 55 316 335 0.94
77  Vincent Brown SD 50 334 388 0.86
78  Jarius Wright MIN 27 219 254 0.86
79  Davone Bess CLV 71 315 371 0.85
80  Darrius Heyward-Bey IND 51 263 322 0.82
81  T.J. Graham BUF 38 272 343 0.79
82  Greg Little CLV 67 361 488 0.74
83  Miles Austin DAL 33 160 219 0.73
84  Roddy White ATL 35 209 299 0.70
85  Earl Bennett CHI 30 173 264 0.66

Your League Leader

If you were asked Week 1 to list receivers most likely to be leading the league in routes run after 12 weeks, how many would you have listed before you got to the actual leader, Greg Little? While he leads in that category, he’s been near the worst in all others. Receivers with the second- to sixth-most routes all have more than 900 yards on the season while Little has 361. The quarterback situation in Cleveland has certainly contributed to his struggles, but the third-year receiver isn’t exactly helping himself. Little’s 16.22% drop rate is ninth worst in the league.

What Happened to Miles Austin?

I think every Cowboys fan wants an answer to that question. A constant stream of injuries looks to be the culprit, but even that doesn’t explain why he’s been utterly ineffective when he’s healthy. Austin looked like the next big thing in 2009 when he had 1320 yards and was second in the league with a YPRR of 2.73. He never quite recaptured that form and has hit rock bottom this season with the third-worst YPRR in the league.

Other Notables

–  Kenny Britt has been one of the biggest disappointments in football over the last few years. In 2010 he had a 3.06 YPRR in 253 routes. This year he was benched after gaining just 67 yards in 151 routes for a YPRR of .44.

–  Kenny Stills has been an anomaly for New Orleans this season. He leads all receivers in yards per target by far at 14.2, but he is also dead last in target rate, seeing a target on just 10% of his routes.

–  While Danny Amendola has only run about half as many snaps as Wes Welker(205 vs. 405) due to injury, their rate stats have been eerily similar. Amendola actually has a slight edge in YPRR(1.75 vs. 1.68), yards per target(7.16 vs 7.15), and target rate(24.4% vs 23.4%).

–  All the preseason hype in San Diego this season seemed to be centered around one Vincent Brown not Keenan Allen. 11 games later the production gap couldn’t get much bigger between the two. Allen has bested Brown by 1.22 YPRR and is being targeted almost 1.5 times as much.  


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.

  • Matthew Malek

    Yet again just another example of why Calvin is the best receiver in the NFL. If he stops dropping balls he normally catches he would be having a BETTER season than last year. And considering the fact that the Lions need to win out…..I think he is going to still be getting the ball a lot. Go Loins.

    Also, everyone notice that the DETROIT LIONS are the only team that has a Green offense and a Green defense… the entire NFL. Yep you heard that correctly. This team should be 9-3 if not for there epic stupidity at times. If they had a true number 2 WR they would have a DENVER strong offense. And if they had another corner they would would have a really strong D. But dingbat Mayhew just couldn’t draft until this season.

    • Graniterlm

      The statement you just made explains why Johnson is far and above the most physically gifted reciever in the nfl.

  • Blair Hay

    Lions to me are the picture of a team with all the braun and none of the brains. Maybe they’ll put it all together soon, but it will be an embarrassment if they don’t win the division this year.

  • LightsOut85

    It is definitely a head scratch-er as to why Vincent Brown isn’t continuing the promise he showed in previous years. Some say he fit Norv’s system better but I say systems are so non-specific nowadays that as long as he’s running routes that fit his abilities he’s fine. Maybe he’s being matched up against better CBs than he was in the past? Hate to just throw him to the wayside but I’m hoping either Malcolm Floyd or Danario Alexander can come back healthy next year & team up with Kennan Allen for at least a few years. I think that would make the offense more potent than however much VB would progress in 1 season.

    To add on to putting CJ’s “record setting” season into context, if you bring in FO’s adjusted yard totals, there’s been at least 11 seasons (since 1989) with more than his 2012 season.

  • LightsOut85

    General thought on drops: I wonder if it’s just rare to have a very low drop-rate or if the top talents at WR just don’t refine that aspect of their game (because they’re good enough they’re going to see the ball their way again – ie: a second chance). There’s little correlation between drop-rate & measures of success like YPRR or 1D&TDperRR. (As many of the top WRs flirt around the 10% mark every single year). The ability to “get open” & provide a target many times a game is more important ability. (Or you could look at it like, guys who aren’t going to see a ton of opportunities better damn well not drop much because they don’t get many chances). Larry Fitzgerald’s is great – that guy just has insane natural coordination, but no other person who could be considered a top WR really has a very-good drop rate (over a few years) – maybe Percy Harvin, but he isn’t catching much down-field.

    These guys work on route-running (sometimes, lol), so it’s not like they’re ignoring technique aspects of the game. Sure, you can’t always blame a guy for wanting to take off a bit too soon to make a play – they’re confident of their abilities. But you think they could correct this over time (yet for the most part drop-rate stays fairly consistent year to year. A guy may improve a lot but he’s not going to be in the 3-5% range if he was around 9% for a few years).