by Bryan Knowles
Our last big stats project before the 2019 season begins is our now-annual look at DVOA by pass routes. Sports Info Solutions' charting allows us to break down receivers by their routes -- seeing which routes they run most often, and at which they are the most effective. It helps paint a more complete picture of each receiver's skill set and usage patterns. Some of this data appeared throughout Football Outsiders Almanac 2019.
Whenever you're breaking down a subset of a subset, small sample size caveats apply. However, we've been doing these studies for three years now, and we're seeing a fair amount of year-to-year consistency, which makes sense. Different types of receivers will struggle or excel in different kinds of routes; the top of the leaderboards aren't just random noise. Obviously, a receiver's success will depend on the quarterback throwing them the ball and the defense covering him, but we'll look at those in articles over the next week and a half. Today, we're focusing on pass-catchers.
For an example of what this looks like, here's 2018 DYAR leader Tyler Lockett's route chart, sorted by DYAR to show where he had the most and least value:
|Tyler Lockett: 2018 Play Design|
|Hitch & Go||49||134.0%||4||99||66.7%||36.3||2.0|
|Jet Sweep Pass||-17||-77.9%||3||3||100.0%||-3.0||4.0|
Space limitations prevent us from breaking down every player like this, so instead we'll show the leaderboards for the players who had the most targets at the most commonly used routes, sorted by descending DYAR.
This year, we're looking at the 13 routes with at least 400 targets to wide receivers and tight ends -- curl, out, slant, dig, screen, drag, deep cross, go/fly, post, broken play, flat, corner, and fade routes. Readers of previous years' articles will remember us covering comeback and seam routes, but those were significantly less common in 2018 -- comebacks fell from 373 to 251, and seams fell from 428 to 375. For what it's worth, the league still had a 30.0% DVOA on seam routes, so perhaps we'll see a resurgence in 2019.
The curl route remains the NFL's most common play design. It did see a decrease in 2018, going from 2,630 targets two years ago to 2,217 last year, but it still comfortably holds that distinction. The following table looks at the 29 players with at least 15 curl targets last season.
|Curl Route Leaders, 2018|
Julio Jones nearly laps the field here, rising from second place in 2017 to take the curl crown last season. His 53.1% DVOA is the highest we've recorded for a qualifier for the curl table since we started keeping tabs three years ago, and his 124 DYAR ends up just ahead of Michael Thomas' 121 from 2016 to take that record as well. To have an average depth of target over 3 yards deeper than the league average and still rack up an above-average YAC is quite impressive. The NFC South was, in general, the place to be for excellence in the field of curling, from Jones in Atlanta to Mike Evans in Tampa Bay to the duo of Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara in New Orleans.
T.Y. Hilton had a significant bounceback from an awful 2017 season, going from a dead-last -36 DYAR a year ago to a more respectable 44 DYAR -- that'll be the difference between Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett for you. Less easy to explain is Keenan Allen's fall from grace. He led the league with 94 curl DYAR in 2017, but plummeted all the way to the bottom of the table last season. It's not like Allen had a terrible year overall; he fell from third to ninth in DYAR but was still a very effective receiver on the whole. A 50 percent catch rate on curls is almost unthinkable; it's the lowest among anyone with at least 10 targets last season. It is perhaps not all Allen's fault, however; of his 13 incomplete curl targets, three were batted down by defenders, two saw Allen trip, and one was underthrown.
In theory, the curl is a nice, high-percentage pass; it's designed for a solid, dependable pickup rather than a huge gain in and of itself. Only three curl routes broke for 50-plus yards last season, including this Albert Wilson play, turning a four-yard curl into a 75-yard touchdown against Chicago. That was worth 36 DYAR, the most of any curl route from last season.
The out was the second-most common route last season with 1,835 targets. The charting data combines quick outs with deeper breaking routes, but most receivers had their fair share of both; you can use the aDOT data to see which receivers typically cut those out routes off that much shorter. Outs had the lowest YAC of any of the routes we're looking at today, as running towards the sideline gives you less time to cut back upfield. The following table lists the 25 receivers with at least 17 out targets in 2018.
|Out Route Leaders, 2018|
Keenan Allen redeems himself from that poor curl production here, but he couldn't quite defend his top spot on the out table this time around. Instead, sophomore Kenny Golladay, in his first season qualifying for our main receiving tables, ends up taking the crown. Allen had more yards, a higher catch percentage, a deeper depth of target, and more yards after the catch, but Golladay ends up slipping past him thanks to opponent adjustments; racking up catches against Minnesota and Chicago is more impressive than doing the same against Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
Down at the very bottom we find Larry Fitzgerald; when your quarterback has the worst single-season passing DYAR ever recorded, you're not going to give your receivers too much of a chance to succeed. Matt Ryan is slightly better than Josh Rosen, so seeing Mohamed Sanu down near the bottom is more surprising. Sanu dropped from 40 DYAR in 2017 to -29 in 2018, but a significant portion of that is small sample-size theatre. Sanu lost 23 DYAR in just one play, a costly fumble against Cleveland. It was a down year for him for sure, but not quite as bad as his raw numbers made it look.
Jarvis Landry's 42.1 percent completion rate on outs is astounding; he and Davante Adams are the only two receivers with 10 or more incompletions on out routes. This is the second table in a row where Landry has appeared near the bottom, and that isn't just a quarterback thing -- his DVOA on both outs and curls was still well in the negative with Baker Mayfield throwing him the ball, and he racked up far more negative DYAR post-quarterback switch.
You may recall the out route with the most DYAR from a year ago. Out routes generally don't have too much YAC potential because the ball is caught too close to the sideline. That's not a problem when you stiff-arm the defender out of his shoes, as Vance McDonald did against Chris Conte for a 75-yard touchdown and 30 DYAR.
There were 1,186 slant-route targets in the league last year, and perhaps there should have been more -- they had a higher average DVOA than either of the previous two routes, due in part to the fact that they allow a receiver to catch the ball in stride and pick up more yards after the catch. The following table lists the 22 players with at least 13 slant targets.
|Slant Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||52||22.0%||19||192||68.4%||9.3||5.5|
Don't bet against Willie Snead topping this table in 2019. He had seven slant targets each from Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson; Jackson's targets gave him 50 DYAR and a DVOA of 76.7%. As is, he still led the league in slant DVOA, but his relatively low volume meant he couldn't catch Mike Thomas, who has now had three straight years with at least 50 slant DYAR. DeAndre Hopkins joins them in the top three thanks to an insane 31 slant targets, making this the second table in a row where Hopkins appears near the top thanks to sheer volume; he led the league in both out and slant yards.
Last year's champion, Sammy Watkins, is nowhere to be found, as Kansas City had a better weapon for their slants. Tyreek Hill's 11.8 YAC was the third-most for anyone with at least five slant targets, and his 8.2 aDOT was way deeper than anyone else near the top of that YAC leaderboard. Giving Hill a step on a defender with a slant route is basically unfair.
Last year, we noted that the Raiders' duo of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree near the bottom of this table and posited that Derek Carr must be to blame. These results muddle the picture significantly. Yes, Cooper got much better once getting out of the Black Hole, going from 8 DYAR on six targets in Oakland to 35 DYAR on 15 targets in Dallas. But Crabtree put up a negative DYAR once again, and Jordy Nelson had a very impressive 33.3% DVOA on slants last season. Perhaps Carr could have been better, as Cooper can attest, but Crabtree may just not be good on slants -- just compare his numbers to Snead's at the top of the table.
Slants had a lower completion rate than outs or digs, but that doesn't really justify Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, and especially Corey Davis' abysmal completion rates. At least Landry can say that his targets were slightly deeper downfield; Davis will blame the fact that seven of his ten missed connections on slants were either over- or underthrown.
The platonic ideal of the slant is probably Jerry Rice catching a Joe Montana pass in stride and racing towards the end zone, so it is perhaps fitting that it's a 49er, Marquise Goodwin, who ended up with the highest value slant in 2018 -- this 55-yard touchdown, worth 32 DYAR. Give an Olympic track and field player a step over anyone, even Patrick Peterson, and he'll do some damage.
Eight routes had more than 625 targets in 2019. Of them, the dig (1,093 targets) had the highest DVOA, and no route generated more DYAR. Some of that is selection bias due to the fact that digs are the deepest route we've looked at so far -- generally speaking, if the dig route isn't open, quarterbacks will check down or take a sack instead of forcing it downfield -- but this has been the most effective intermediate route in football over the three years we've done this study. The following table lists the 23 players with at least 11 dig targets.
|Dig Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||41||32.9%||12||136||75.0%||10.2||3.8|
This is a nice and topical table, with Josh Gordon being reinstated this past week. There had been injury-related question marks in the New England receiving corps throughout July and August, but adding the top receiver at the league's most successful route should go a long way to smoothing things over there. Gordon's off-field struggles have hampered his career, but when he has been able to play, there have been few better. That 9.6 YAC number is astonishing -- yes, John Brown beats him on this table, but Brown only caught five dig routes. Gordon doubled that total in his abbreviated year in New England.
Hey, yet another route with DeAndre Hopkins near the top? Whodathunkit. Hopkins only missed one dig route all year long, and that was an overthrown interception against Dallas when DeShaun Watson was hit when he was thrown. We've yet to see 2018's DYAR leader on any of these lists, but Hopkins' second-place finish has been well-represented so far.
Golden Tate was the dig king in 2017, but finds himself near the very bottom of last year's table. For the record, he had -26 DYAR in Detroit on 14 digs, and 6 DYAR in Philadelphia. Once again, Tate was near the bottom of the list in terms of average depth of target -- no one runs shorter dig routes than Tate does, year in and year out -- but in 2017, Tate averaged 7.3 YAC. That plummeted to 1.6 YAC last season. The result's a little strange since overall, since Tate wasn't particularly less elusive than usual last season. He's always near the top of the league in broken tackles for wide receivers.
The dig route was not a productive one for Indianapolis, with both Zach Pascal and Eric Ebron finishing in the bottom five, and Ryan Grant (who just missed qualifying for the table) finishing with a negative DVOA as well. Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton were an effective enough duo, but perhaps the Colts should reconsider their dig distribution in 2019.
Technically, the most valuable dig route in 2018 went to the Miami Miracle, but that's obviously not the textbook example of how the dig route is supposed to work. New England also gave up the second-most valuable dig play of the season, Jermaine Kearse's 16-yard touchdown, worth 24 DYAR.
No route causes more gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair than the wide receiver screen. It's basically a guaranteed completion -- just over 90 percent, by far the highest completion rate we're looking at today -- and generates the most YAC, but it has, by far, the lowest DYAR (-969) and DVOA (-25.7%), in large part thanks to the lowest aDOT (-1.9). And yet teams still threw 1,003 receiver screens last season. Aggravating.
For the record, those totals do not include screens from players lined up in the backfield. Running back screens had a DVOA of -3.8% (on 738 attempts), with 375 DYAR; Kareem Hunt led the league with 84 DYAR. The following table lists the 23 players with at least 11 screen targets out wide, in the slot, or as a tight end.
|WR Screen Route Leaders, 2018|
|NFL WR Screens||TOT||-969||-25.7%||1,003||5,757||90.3%||-1.9||8.2|
T.Y. Hilton joins Robert Woods and Vance McDonald as the only players to manage a double-digit positive DVOA on screens with double-digit targets. This is a boom-or-bust play, and three of Hilton's targets boomed for 20 or more yards. Of this list, only Hilton and George Kittle would still have a positive DYAR if you took away their biggest play -- this is really a list of one-hit wonders.
This is the third straight season Antonio Brown has qualified for the leaderboards here, and he now has -36, -34, and -26 DYAR. Todd Haley was blamed for a lot of Pittsburgh's screen-happy ways, but he apparently didn't take his playbook with him when he left the Steelers last season. For the record, no Raiders player had more than nine wide receiver screens, so maybe Brown's days of catching negative-air yard passes are a thing of the past.
Dede Westbrook's numbers are almost obscenely bad. He did generate four first downs in his 17 targets, but he fumbled on one of them, and his most successful play was listed with 5 air yards in what I suspect was more likely a charting error than a successful receiver screen -- and it only gained 15 yards in total, so it wasn't one of those huge boom plays that make the screen enticing. Nelson Agholor was worse. His 11 screens produced just one first down, and that was thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty rather than anything Agholor actually did. The Eagles only threw to him 11 times, or else he surely would have taken the bottom spot on this leaderboard.
You can see that the Packers had two qualified players with negative DYAR in Randall Cobb and Davante Adams, but it doesn't stop there -- the Packers had eight different players targeted with at least one WR screen. All of them had a negative DVOA, and only Marquez Valdes-Scantling emerged with a positive DYAR, with 3. Stop throwing wideout screens!
They won't, of course. We can put up all these numbers every year, but coaches will just remember the few successes, like this 59-yard touchdown scamper from Christian Kirk worth 31 DYAR. That was the only screen all of last season with more than 50 yards after the catch, by the by.
Like many of the shorter routes, drags had a negative DVOA overall, as they often served as hot routes or checkdowns. Unlike receiver screens, however, some players could find consistent success with drag routes, crossing the middle of the field and matching up with safeties and linebackers ready to knock their blocks off. The following table lists the 25 players with at least nine drag targets in 2018.
|Drag Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||-27||-37.9%||14||66||57.1%||2.1||5.9|
Kenny Golladay takes his second route crown, as averaging 9 yards after the catch is a pretty good way to rack up value on those shorter targets. Many of the names at the top of the list are repeats from last year, with Julio Jones and Michael Thomas repeating top-five finishes from a year ago.
Jacksonville had the best drag receiver in football in 2017 in Marqise Lee, but he missed all of 2018 with a knee injury. That didn't bode well, as the Jaguars also had the bottom two drag targets in 2017, and forcing more balls to cellar-dweller Dede Westbrook seemed like a bad idea. Instead, Westbrook rebounded from -33 DYAR to 13 DYAR, albeit still with a negative DVOA -- a little bit of redemption after his placement on the screen table. Keelan Cole repeated his performance at the bottom of the table, but the Jags have generally found at least one guy to hit on these short routes year after year.
DeVante Parker shows up at the bottom, but he's not a good receiver so that is no surprise. Instead, we'll point out Odell Beckham, second from the bottom. Drags were Beckham's second-most common route last season and produced the most negative DYAR for him; it was his only route with at least ten targets that ended up in the negatives. We'll see if the Browns continue to feed Beckham ineffective drags and curls, or if they play to his strengths with deeper targets on slants, digs, and outs.
The most successful drag route of 2018 was this Jamison Crowder 79-yard touchdown, on a day when the Giants decided tackling was too much effort. That was worth 36 DYAR.
New to the tables this year, there were 625 deep crosses attempted in 2018, up from 423 two years ago. In many ways, this is what the most explosive offenses of 2018 were built around -- your leaders in deep cross targets were the Rams, Chiefs, and Saints with over 30 apiece. That's only about two deep shots a game, even from the ones who use it the most, but it's often the backbreaker; the deep shot that everything else has been setting up. With an average depth of target of 17.5 yards, the deep cross is the deepest route we're looking at today that had greater than a 50 percent catch rate, and only deep posts had a higher DVOA when quarterbacks pulled the trigger. The following table lists the 22 players with at least seven deep cross targets.
|Deep Cross Route Leaders, 2018|
|NFL Deep Crosses||TOT||1688||24.0%||625||7,484||53.8%||17.5||5.5|
Hey, nice of Tyler Lockett to finally appear on one of these tables. Yes, the league leader in DVOA and DYAR did so without a significant amount of any of the six most common routes in the league, a byproduct of the fact that Seattle's passing philosophy comes from the Upside Down. Don't knock it if it works, as Lockett did nearly a quarter of his damage on deep crosses. Lockett led the league in DVOA here, but was pipped to the DYAR line by Tyreek Hill thanks to Hill receiving two more targets. The Chiefs loved the deep cross in general, with Hill and Travis Kelce finishing with the second- and third-most deep cross targets in the league, just behind Josh Reynolds. The top five deep cross targets included three of the top five players in total DYAR in Hill, Lockett, and DeAndre Hopkins -- this is a good way to find the best deep threats in the league from 2018.
Jarvis Landry couldn't get on the same page with either of his quarterbacks on the deep cross, though it should be pointed out that he did catch the three that weren't over- or underthrown. There's a reason Landry finished second-to-last in receiving DYAR last season.
The most valuable deep cross went to Tyreek Hill; this 75-yard touchdown against New England earned him 34 DYAR. All eight of Hill's receptions on deep crosses earned him double-digit DYAR.
You want deep balls? This is your route. The simplest route in football -- go long! -- the average go/fly route traveled 32.4 yards through the air, dwarfing anything else we'll look at today. Yes, it only had a 28 percent completion rate, but when it hits, it hits. The following table lists all 24 players with at least eight go/fly targets.
|Go/Fly Route Leaders, 2018|
Tyreek Hill takes home his second deep route crown, taking first place over MIke Evans despite Evans having nearly double the targets. It isn't quite as impressive as Hill's 2017 season, where he had 133 DYAR and a stellar 162.5% DVOA, but Chiefs fans will probably be more than happy with what he produced last year.
Hill is the only member of 2017's top five to repeat; on a route with such a low completion rate, a few over- or underthrown balls can be the difference between a top spot and midtable, where Robby Anderson and Brandin Cooks found themselves. Marvin Jones dropped all the way from first two years ago down to second-to-last in 2018 as he and Matthew Stafford just couldn't get a thing going. Jones did catch two of the three passes that were on target and also drew a DPI, but this is a route that relies on a quarterback accurately throwing the deep ball; Jones didn't have that luck.
It's no surprise that Tampa Bay led the league in go/fly routes, with James Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick bombing it out play after play, but Pittsburgh was right behind them, which should make for an interesting 2019. Antonio Brown was obviously excellent on these routes, while JuJu Smith-Schuster broke big plays when he could connect with Ben Roethlisberger. Then there's James Washington, who finished his rookie season dead last on the table. The Steelers will need more out of him as they replace Brown.
The most value on a go/fly route in 2018 came when Robby Anderson torched Bradley Roby in October. This 76-yard touchdown was the sole reason Anderson had positive value on this route in 2018, as it was worth 35 DYAR.
In years past, deep posts have produced the most DYAR in the league. They didn't quite reach that point again in 2018 as there were only 556 of them, but they resulted in a 30.8% DVOA, the best of any route with at least 200 targets. The following table lists the 26 players with at least six post route targets in 2018.
|Post Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||-8||-29.1%||7||51||16.7%||23.7||3.0|
Yes, I know it says Brandin Cooks led the league, but that's not technically accurate. That title should instead go to T.Y. Hilton, who had 109 receiving DYAR on only five targets. They just all happened to be complete. Michael Thomas also went five-for-five for 64 DYAR. If we included everyone with at least five targets, however, this table would be over 40 players long, so we'll just note that Hilton and Thomas were fantastic, and that anyone who catches all his post routes (see also: Josh Gordon, Keenan Allen, and Rashard Higgins at 4-for-4) is going to rack up a ton of DYAR.
And, conversely, if you can't catch any of your post routes, you're going to be near the bottom, as we finally find a deep route Tyreek Hill struggled at. He only caught one of his 10 post targets, with three more attempts being on target but defensed. Hill has never been known as a crisp route-runner; crosses and go routes are all about speed and don't require a cut like a good post route does. That might explain why he ranks so highly on those first two deep routes, and not so much here.
The Ravens put two players in the bottom three here in John Brown and Michael Crabtree. Their DVOA was better (though still very bad) with Joe Flacco under center, and to be fair, the Ravens' game plan reflected this. Nine of their 12 posts came with Flacco at quarterback; Lamar Jackson's three attempts all fell incomplete.
The most valuable post route of 2018 was one Leonte Caroo's two receptions -- a 74-yard touchdown where the ball went right through Pierre Desir's hands.
Broken plays are sandlot football -- when the play breaks down and receivers are forced to just run around and try to get open anyway they can, play design be damned. Generally speaking, a high amount of targets here is a good way of judging the trust level between a quarterback and his receiver -- who do they look for when everything catches on fire? The following table lists the 29 players with at least five targets on broken plays.
|Broken Play Route Leaders, 2018|
|NFL Broken Plays||TOT||809||7.0%||617||5,120||54.2%||11.8||4.4|
Tampa Bay led the league in broken play DYAR, despite only attempting 24 passes in those situations, well behind the 35-plus by the likes of Kansas City, Seattle, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay. Mike Evans nearly lapped the field in success on broken plays, and Chris Godwin was the only other qualified receiver to break 100% DVOA. It is perhaps not a credit to Tampa Bay's offense that some of their best plays were when the plan broke down, but it is a credit to Evans and Godwin for finding ways to extend the play and keep themselves alive.
We'll talk about this more in the quarterbacks article, but this is very much a QB-driven stat, measuring which passers are the best at avoiding pressure and improvising on the fly. Check out the Steelers and Chiefs, each with three receivers in the top eight! And then, of course, there's DeAndre Hopkins, who is at the top of everything.
Antonio Brown had the most valuable broken play in 2018, with a 78-yard touchdown worth 37 DYAR against Jacksonville on a play so broken neither the announcers nor the cameramen seemed to understand precisely what happened until well after the fact.
Flats are another new route we're looking at this year, and not a particularly effective one. They are, in general, less effective than running back screens (-15.2% DVOA to -3.8% DVOA), but they play a different role -- they're often checkdowns or safety valve routes, looking to make something out of a play the defense has covered downfield. The following table includes the 24 players with at least 10 flat targets.
|Flat Route Leaders, 2018|
This is mostly a running back route, but wideouts and tight ends do run it often enough that it reached that qualifying 400-target mark. Nick O'Leary had 30 flat DYAR to lead tight ends, while Kenny Stills' 25 flat DYAR led wide receivers.
The 49ers already had a fairly solid option in the flats in Kyle Juszczyk, and now they've added Tevin Coleman to the mix as well. Had we run this table in 2017, both Matt Breida and Jerick McKinnon would have appeared near the top of the table that year. Kyle Shanahan has a type.
It's interesting to note that most of the top receiving running backs either do not show up or do not score highly on this table. Of the top ten running backs in receiving DYAR, Kareem Hunt, James White, Austin Ekeler, and Matt Breida do not qualify, while Alvin Kamara, Tarik Cohen, Jalen Richard, and James Conner actually have negative DYAR. The exceptions are Kenyan Drake, who was one play away from having a negative DYAR, and Christian McCaffrey. Most receiving value for running backs either comes on screens, or on actual routes lined up as a receiver.
Forward this one to his agent: the most valuable flat route in 2018 belong to Melvin Gordon, who rumbled 66 yards for a touchdown worth 33 DYAR against Oakland.
Corners are the third and final of the new routes we're looking at this year, and the third-most effective of any qualified route, with a DVOA of 19.8%. Corner routes are, to oversimplify, just posts to the outside, so it makes sense that they'd have similar success rates. They have nigh-identical catch rates at 47 percent and change as well. Corner routes just typically are a little bit shorter through the air and have less room for yards after the catch, as the receiver's momentum is taking him closer to the sideline instead of out into open space. The following table will list the 25 players with at least five corner route targets.
|Corner Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||27||38.8%||6||53||60.0%||13.3||1.0|
This is the most tight end-heavy list we have, and even a fair chunk of the wide receivers are massive (6-foot-4 Mike Williams and Kenny Golladay, 6-foot-3 Josh Reynolds) or at least have insane vertical skills (Odell Beckham). There's room for the shorter receiver here, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Eric Ebron had 103 DYAR on corner routes. He had -35 on all other routes combined, including negative DYAR on every other route with more than three targets. That's a very specific skill set, and it's somewhat new -- he had just 7 DYAR on corner routes in 2017. Five of Ebron's 13 targets were inside the end zone, with another being caught at the 1-yard line; sending Ebron to the corner was one of Indianapolis' go-to plays when in the red zone.
Allen Robinson caught none of his five corner route targets. Stick a pin in that; we'll be back.
This may be a bold claim, but the Giants might miss Odell Beckham in 2019. No, 27 DYAR on corner routes isn't a ton to write home about, but the two Shepards, Russell and Sterling, combined for -24 DYAR by themselves, which is less than ideal. It's a route the Giants like to throw, and it's unclear who will step up to provide any value on those targets this year.
The most valuable corner route in 2018 was this 80-yard touchdown by Donte Moncrief, worth 35 DYAR. If Blake Bortles could have thrown more passes with this kind of touch, he might well still be starting somewhere.
Finally, we get to the fade, the other route likely to get fans tearing their hair out. Just 27 percent of fade routes were caught in 2018, the worst of any of the 13 routes we're covering. It joins screens and flats as the only three routes with negative DYAR on the year. It's not just red zone fades, either; fades from all over the field ended up with negative value. The following table will list the 28 players with at least five fade targets in 2018.
|Fade Route Leaders, 2018|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||NYG||0||-12.3%||10||60||33.3%||17.2||0.3|
Did we mention that the Patriots are happy to have Josh Gordon back? Gordon takes down his second route championship of 2018 with the fade, though it's important to note that that sky-high YAC number is due to one play where Tom Brady beat the young Packers secondary with his eyes, leaving a wide-open Gordon to walk into the end zone. Gordon would have still had a league-leading 38 fade DYAR even if he had fallen down immediately on that play, but it's worth pointing out that his numbers are a tad inflated there.
We'll take that pin out of Allen Robinson now, pointing out that he also was held without a catch on fade routes; his five yards came from a DPI. Going 0-for-5 or more on a route is rare, but not unheard of; Josh Doctson was 0-for-7 on go/fly routes. But Robinson was the only player to go 0-for-5 on two different routes. Fades and corners can both be boom-or-bust sorts of plays, but we're still waiting for a little boom from Robinson there, as he was just not on the same page as Mitch Trubisky on passes to the outside.
Calvin Ridley had the most valuable fade of 2018, on this 75-yard touchdown against a Carolina cover bust; it was worth 35 DYAR.
We began this article looking at the play design for Tyler Lockett, the receiver with the most DYAR in 2018. We'll close with a look at his opposite number: Golden Tate, the receiver with the fewest DYAR last season.
|Golden Tate, 2018 Play Design|
|Out & Up||68||208.5%||5||166||80.0%||27.4||18.3|
|Fade - Back Shoulder||-8||-137.5%||1||0||0.0%||9.0||0.0|
|(No Route Listed)||-18||-109.6%||2||0||0.0%||6.0||0.0|
Enough with the screens! Tate's most frequently targeted route was the one that produced the most negative DYAR; there's a lot of empty calories in those 82 receiving yards. Just removing screens wouldn't have saved his season -- ranking 80th instead of 84th among receivers isn't exactly something to write home about -- but he was not helped by his play design. If the Giants want to get the most out of Tate after he returns from his four-game suspension, they should probably send him on more out routes, and leave the screens and flats to Saquon Barkley.
Stay tuned later this week for our quarterback route study!