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Splits that matter: Receiving performance out of the slot and from out wide

Nov 3, 2019; London, United Kingdom; Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after catching a pass for a first down during the third quarter of the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans during an NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn--USA TODAY Sports

In the inaugural article of our Splits That Matter series, we looked at the predictive power of red-zone performance and found that there are players who tend to produce better or worse in the red-zone compared to the open field. Today, we will continue our studies by comparing the predictive power of performance from the slot compared to performance from out wide.

In the last 15 years, routes run from the slot have become much more prevalent in the NFL.

The number of routes run from out wide is pretty much stable across the last eight years, but the number of routes run from the slot has increased by roughly 15% over the same time frame.

Consequently, today's NFL features more players who line up both in the slot and outside: From 2006 through 2010, we logged 216 receiver seasons with more than 300 routes and a slot usage between 20% and 80%. From 2015 through 2019, we logged 288 such receiver seasons.

With more such players in our dataset, it is a natural question to ask the following questions:

  • When running a route from the slot, is prior performance from the slot more predictive than prior performance from out wide?
  • When running a route from out wide, is prior performance from out wide more predictive than prior performance from the slot?
  • Is one of the two inherently more predictive than the other?

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