Signature Stats: Yards Per Route Run

Michael Renner uses PFF's unique Yards Per Route Run data to cut through the traditional stats about yards and touchdowns and reveal the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers.

| 4 years ago

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.


RankNameTeamTargetsYardsSnaps in RouteYPRR
1Andre JohnsonHST15915985313.01
2Brandon MarshallCHI18115105472.76
3Calvin JohnsonDET19919647712.55
4Michael CrabtreeSF11811054332.55
5Demaryius ThomasDEN13814305712.50
6Vincent JacksonTB13713845912.34
7A.J. GreenCIN15813505852.31
8Cecil ShortsJAX1019794262.30
9Randall CobbGB1029544232.26
10Steve L. SmithCAR12711745272.23
11Wes WelkerNE16613546192.19
12Lance MooreNO10010414822.16
13Dez BryantDAL13713836522.12
14Danario AlexanderSD546583142.10
15Roddy WhiteATL13813516482.08


Quarterback Dependency

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.


RankNameTeamTargetsYardsSnaps in RouteYPRR
61Andre RobertsARZ1077595991.27
62Kevin OgletreeDAL554363451.26
63Donnie AveryIND1127846421.22
64Dexter McClusterKC704523711.22
65Darrius Heyward-BeyOAK776065101.19
66Larry FitzgeraldARZ1487986771.18
67Greg LittleCLV876415561.15
68Kevin WalterHST645184581.13
69Donald JonesBUF624434021.10
70Michael JenkinsMIN664494361.03
71Harry DouglasATL563964200.94
72Titus YoungDET533834100.93
73Louis MurphyCAR553363900.86
74T.J. GrahamBUF583224160.77
75Early DoucetARZ512073060.68


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

| 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.

  • Kevin Byrd

    Have you guys at PFF ever considered having Links to the player or even a link to the advanced statistic this article is talking about.. It would make life much easier when I want to see how a player graded throughout the year I could just click his name. Same for the Advanced statistic being used in the articles.

    • PFF_Admin

      Certainly something we’ve thought about but decided against for the people who aren’t PFF Premium subscribers, with them being unable to access the linked material. Something we might re-visit though

      • osoviejo

         That seems like a pretty simple problem to solve, since you know whether or not a page is being served to a logged in premium member.  Just do the premium links for premium members.

  • Nick Bradley

    Why is Brandon Marshall the ‘best’ WR? Why not Andre Johnson? Is it his target/route?

    • Mike Renner

      In that Marshall segment I wasn’t trying to argue that he was the best. I was arguing that he was the most relied upon passing option in all of football. Marshall and Johnson had similar stats but Houston passed more times and for more yards. Chicago had no other options for much of the year besides Marshall.

      • D Jmoore

        Outside of Johnson there isn’t anyone else though…

        • Mike Renner

          Owen Daniels still had over 100 targets and Kevin Walter’s 68 targets were more than anyone else on Bears besides Marshall.

  • Deuce

    Interesting read. Was this only done for the 75 receivers? I ask because I have been interested in seeing how the Texans receivers/tight ends rank in this category since I contend that it seems that they send Johnson and almost no one else.

  • Bautista Amadeo

    Without his monstrous Week 1 performance, Ogletree’s stats would have been even worse!
    (sorry for my english)

  • LightsOut85

    While target % might have some correlation to “ability to get open” I think it’d be interesting to look at target% vs YPRR, to compare WRs who were targeted roughly the same % of the time. To weed out the factor of “Team’s only option & the ball gets forced to him”.  Denario Alexander has a “much” lower Targ% than the other top YPRR-ers….this has me excited as a Charger fan :)

    • Mike Renner

      What you are essentially getting at with target% vs YPRR is yards per target, which Alexander led the league in.

      You have a good reason to be excited.