Revisiting Yards Per Route Run

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On the surface, Yards Per Route Run (YPRR) is simple. It is the amount of receiving yards a receiver accumulates divided by the number of routes they have run.  

YPRR folds multiple receiver skills into one metric; it accounts for targets being earned by the receiver and accounts for what the receiver does with each target.  

What Influences Yards Per Route Run 

Publicly available data supports YPRR for receivers but not tight ends and running backs. Although it is a useful stat, Hayden Winks of Underdog Fantasy and Zach Drapkin, now of the Philadelphia Eagles, have shown that YPRR has a bias that needs to be accounted for. 

As shown above, the personnel on the field can dramatically increase or decrease the YPRR of the wide receivers. On a passing play with 5 yards gained and 5 receivers running routes, the receiver that caught the ball would get 5 YPRR while the other four would get 0 YPRR. This averages out to 1 YPRR across the play.  

If there were only 2 receivers on the same play with 5 yards gained, it would average out to 2.5 YPRR for the receivers. This is where the bias comes into play. Offenses that use heavier sets like 12 personnel (1 running back, 2 tight ends) or even 13 personnel (1 running back, 3 tight ends) make it easier for their receivers to have a higher YPRR. Simply put, the more wide receivers there are on the field, the harder it is for any individual receiver to accumulate receiving yards. 

Additionally, down and distance can influence YPRR. 

On a 1st down where the offense chooses to pass, we often see a higher YPRR than in situations like 3rd and medium (4-6 yards to gain) where the defense is more likely to be dedicated to defending the pass.

Taking this into consideration, we can build an expected receiving yards model that considers the offense’s personnel as well as the down and distance to account for interaction effects between the variables. After that, Adjusted Yards Per Route Run can be put together using the below formula. 

Adjusted Yards Per Route Run Formula 

Using this formula can assist us in adjusting YPRR amongst wide receivers in different systems. For example, in 2022, Atlanta Falcon Drake London and Denver Bronco Jerry Jeudy both had roughly the same YPRR at 2.04 and 2.08 respectively. However, Drake London’s offense only used 11 personnel 33% of the time while Jeudy’s offense utilized 11 personnel 58% of the time.  

Because of that, London was expected to have a 1.72 YPRR and Jeudy was expected to have a 1.35 YPRR. While London and Jeudy had a very similar standard YPRR, Jeudy is much higher in Adjusted YPRR because of the personnel his team used compared to London’s.  

  Drake London  Jerry Jeudy 
Yards Per Route Run  2.04  2.08 
Expected Yards Per Route Run  1.72  1.34 
League Average  1.47  1.47 
Calculation  (2.04 – 1.72) + 1.47  (2.08 – 1.34) + 1.50 
Adjusted Yards Per Route Run  1.79  2.22 

Adjusting Receiver Performance 

Building off that proof of concept, we can look at the league as a whole to see each receiver’s standard YPRR as well as their Adjusted YPRR.  

Dolphins’ star receiver Jaylen Waddle stood to benefit the most from the adjustment going from 5th in YPRR to 1st in Adjusted YPRR. We can also circle back to our Jerry Jeudy and Drake London example seeing that they are very close to each other on the “Yards Per Route Run” x-axis (just to the right of 2.0) but much different than each other on the “Adjusted Yards Per Route Run” y-axis.

To get a better sense of how these risers and fallers occurred, we can look at what was expected from each receiver versus what they actually did.  

We can see that based on the number of routes run as well as the influences we touched on earlier, Justin Jefferson and Tyreek Hill were both expected to have around 1,200 receiving yards and ended up with 1,809 and 1,710 respectively. Diontae Johnson was expected to have 943 receiving yards based on his circumstances but due to having multiple quarterbacks, poor variance, and other factors, he ended up with only 882 yards. 

What It Means for the Future

While Adjusted Yards Per Route Run is good to look at during a season to see how receivers are performing relative to situation, it is more of a descriptive metric than it is a predictive metric. However, Expected Yards Per Route Run gives us additional information going into next season. 

YPRR has a year-to-year stability value of 0.51 (on a scale of -1 to 1 where 1 means that the previous data and current data are exactly the same). Expected YPRR has a year-to-year stability of 0.67, showing us that situations receivers are put in often stay stable from season to season. We could expect the build of a team to stay relatively similar over just one offseason.

When a receiver changes teams, however, their Expected YPRR stability is 0.49. This means they are still being put in situations they are used to more often than we might think.  

Adjusted YPRR has captured some of the best receiving performances of the past couple seasons in its leaderboard. Since we have public participation data dating back to 2016, we can look at what the best seasons have been since then.

It is no surprise that Cooper Kupp’s 2021 season had the highest Adjusted YPRR as he led the league in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Julio Jones’ 2016 season, in which the Falcons had the best offense in the NFL, also is on top. One of the most impressive feats is both Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase making the top 10 in their rookie seasons and continuing to rank highly after.  

In fact, since 2016 there has been no receiver in the NFL with a higher Adjusted YPRR than Justin Jefferson. A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Cooper Kupp, and Tyreek Hill all round out the top 5. Tyler Lockett also shows up well and proves to be one of the most underrated receivers of the past few seasons.  

Potential Drawbacks 

As with most metrics, there are potential drawbacks to the method used for adjusting YPRR. A team with a star receiver that allocates a large part of their salary cap to him may call pass plays with more tight ends and running backs on the field. They also could feel more comfortable doing so given the star’s status. It is possible we see Tyreek Hill have a higher Expected YPRR than his teammate Jaylen Waddle due to Hill being used more in scenarios where it is harder to pass. 

However, there are still insights to be seen from the metrics laid out in this article. While YPRR is still a great receiver statistic because of everything that it captures, there are some biases attached to it that open the gate for metrics like Expected YPRR and Adjusted YPRR to have weight in wide receiver discussions. Both metrics laid out here can be helpful for overall receiver evaluation as well as for betting, fantasy football, and more.

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