News & Analysis

Top receivers by route in 2018

By Michael Renner
Jan 29, 2019

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Dec 10, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) reacts after drawing a pass interference penalty against the Minnesota Vikings during the fourth quarter at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Here at Pro Football Focus, we keep track of everything that happens on a football field. Thanks to that, we’ve got a tremendous database just loaded with unique data points. We’re going to dive into that database and take a look at which receivers were the most productive last season on individual routes. The metric we’re using to rank these players is WR rating, the passer rating that a quarterback earns when throwing to that receiver.

WR Screen (min. 10 targets)

1. Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals – 136.7

While there weren’t many silver linings for the Cardinals in 2018, Kirk’s play as a rookie would qualify as one. He turned his nine catches from screens into 105 yards and three first downs on the season.

2. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles – 128.8

3. Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams  – 128.6

4. Albert Wilson, Miami Dolphins – 127.7

5. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots – 117.1

Out Route (min. 15 targets)

1. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (128.8)

No one had more touchdowns on out routes this season than Adams’ three. Eleven of his 17 catches on out routes went for either a touchdown or first down this season.

2. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals (127.5)

3. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (126.4)

4. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles 122.7)

5. Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (116.7)

In Route (min. 10 targets)

1. Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions (134.7)

The dig route takes a special kind of receiver to run effectively, as it can lead to some crushing blows from safeties across the middle of the field. Jones was just that guy for the Lions this season, hauling in 10 of his 12 targets on in-breakers, with three of those catches coming from passes that were contested at the catch point.

2. Sterling Shepard, New York Giants (125.3)

3. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (118.8)

4. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (118.8)

5. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (118.3)

Slants (min. 15 targets)

1. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys (151.3)

Watching the Cowboys over the second half of the year, this should be no surprise. Cooper was nearly unguardable with his releases off the line of scrimmage at times. He hauled in 12 of his 15 slant targets with eight going for first downs and three more going for touchdowns.

2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (142.4)

3. Willie Snead IV, Baltimore Ravens (136.7)

4. Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (113.8)

5. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons (112.5)

Comebacks/Hitch (min. 15 targets)

1. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (122.2)

The vertical route tree is Jones’ bread and butter. There’s not a corner in the league who isn’t at least subconsciously afraid of Jones going deep, and the cushions he sees reflects that. So when Jones throttles down on a dime, he’s easy money for QB Matt Ryan. He caught 19-22 targets on comebacks/hitches for 213 yards. 

2. Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings (116.9)

3. Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (112.9)

4. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (112.7)

5. Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (111.9)

Corners/Posts (min. 10 targets)

1. Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams (158.3)

This route category includes the corner, post, post-corner, and corner-post routes. Cooks undoubtedly owned this category in 2018. He led the league in yards (314), first downs (14), and was fourth in touchdowns (3).  

2. Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (154.4)

3. Jordy Nelson, Oakland Raiders (144.4)

4. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (133.5)

5. Robert Woods, Los Angeles Rams (131.1)

Go Routes (min. 10 targets)

1. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks (132.2)

Lockett had a special season efficiency wise in 2018, and his work down the field is a big reason why. Lockett hauled in six go balls for 204 yards and three touchdowns on 13 targets. That’s  15.7 yards per attempt for Russell Wilson when throwing Lockett’s way.

2. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (125.0)

3. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (121.5)

4. John Brown, Baltimore Ravens (115.9)

5. Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys (113.3)

Crossing Route (min. 15 targets)

1. DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (157.5)

Hopkins wasn’t targeted on crossers a ton this season – only 17 all year – but he made the most of his opportunities. He gained 306 yards on 13 crossing route receptions on the season for a ridiculous 23.5 yards per reception.

2. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (151.0)

3. Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (144.7)

4. T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (137.5)

5. Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (134.7)

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