It’s late July which means football is nearly here. Training camps have now popped up all over the country and fans are getting their first glimpses of the 2018 iteration of their respective teams. As football draws closer, we continue our look at the top NFL wide receivers on each branch of the route tree from 2017, with an eye towards their possible success in the season to come.
[Editor’s note: Routes in this study are bucketed onto the common PFF route tree featured below, for comparison, attached with their NFL average passer rating when targeting each specific route. For more information on our route trees and signature statistics like WR Rating – passer rating when targeted – check out our Signature Stats Glossary.]
Throughout July, we’ve taken a look at the top five receivers from the 2017 season on each individual route, by their passer rating when targeted – their WR Rating – on each specific branch of the route tree. We’ve already looked at routes targeted at or behind the line of scrimmage, on slants, crossing routes, out routes, in routes, hitch routes, comebacks, post routes, corner routes and today continues our study.
With that, here are the top five receivers on go route concepts from 2017:
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers – 158.3 WR Rating
In his first professional season, the rookie pass-catcher generated a passer rating of 134.0 on his 77 targets, which is the best mark ever recorded by a rookie with at least 50 targets in a season. However, his historically great campaign wouldn’t have been the same without the go route, as it accounted for 336 of his 917 receiving yards and two of his seven touchdowns. Since we started tracking route data, Smith-Schuster is the only receiver with at least 10 targets in a regular season to field a perfect WR Rating on go routes, and he is the only receiver to grade positively on at least 80.0 percent of his go route targets. In addition, the rookie receiver was the first player to tally a catch rate of at least 80.0 percent on go routes while converting 80.0 percent of his go route targets for either a first down or a touchdown. Not bad for a rookie.
2. Marvin Jones Jr, Detroit Lions – 139.7 WR Rating
Last year, the veteran receiver showed why he should never be underestimated, and you can look no further than his performance on go routes as an indicator of just how dangerous he can be. In 2017, Jones led the league with 16 receptions from go routes and he used those to rack up 496 receiving yards, the second most among players at the position. He also led the league’s receivers with seven touchdown receptions on go routes, converting 55.2 percent of his targets for either a first down or a touchdown, which was the league’s second-best mark. More impressively, however, is the fact that 13 of his 29 targets from go routes were contested by a defender at the catch point, yet he still managed to come down with nine of those passes, resulting in a catch rate of 69.2 percent – the best rate among receivers with at least five contested targets on go routes.
3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs – 139.6 WR Rating
The speedy wide receiver ended the season as our third highest-graded receiver on go routes, which is of no huge surprise given how productive he was. Through 17 weeks of the regular season, he hauled in 11-of-20 targets for five touchdowns and a hefty 562 receiving yards, which not only paced the league in 2017, it was the second-most ever recorded by a receiver in a single season. He ended the year with an average of 51.1 yards per reception and 15.5 yards after the catch per reception, which respectively ranked first and second among receivers on go routes. Hill is the only player on this list who has never dropped a catchable pass on the route.
4. Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams (formerly w/ New England) – 132.6 WR Rating
Not surprisingly, Cooks saw more targets from go routes than he did from any other pass pattern last year, ending the campaign with eight catches on 17 targets for 293 yards and two touchdowns. All told, he averaged a very healthy 36.6 yards per reception, which was good enough for seventh among the league’s pass-catchers and like Jones Jr., he excelled in contested-catch situations, tallying a catch rate of 60.0 percent on such passes, the third-best mark among wideouts with at least five contested targets.
5. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals – 126.9 WR Rating
Fitzgerald caught 12-of-24 targets on go routes last year, which included three touchdowns. His 251 receiving yards and catch rate of 50.0 percent on go routes both ranked as the second-best marks that he’s ever recorded in a single season. Since PFF started recording individual route data, Fitzgerald has racked up 41 first down receptions on go routes – which is second only to Brandon Marshall (47) since 2006.