Sig Stats: Slot ReceiversGordon McGuinness | April 2, 2014ProFootballFocus.comThis week at PFF, we’re continuing to reach out to NFL fans with some of our unique Signature Stat-based articles. These signatures are somewhere between your everyday stats and our PFF grades, provided a greater look at player performance than regular stats can provide.Last week we looked at The PFF Drop Rate for Wide Receivers, Tight Ends and Running Backs. This week we’re casting our eye over how players perform in the slot, starting with wide receivers.A role which had become much more prominent in recent years, slot receivers come in all shapes and sizes, with different teams taking various approaches to get their playmakers in space. How important do some teams value having a strong presence in the slot these days?Well, you only need to look at the two teams who battled in the Super Bowl, where the Denver Broncos went out and got Wes Welker for Peyton Manning, while the eventual champions paid a hefty haul to add Percy Harvin. The move might not have paid off initially, with Harvin struggling to stay on the field, but he played a more prominent role in the Super Bowl, and ran 11 of his 14 routes out of the slot in the big game.So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best, and worst, performers out of the slot in 2013. To qualify, a wide receiver needed to have run at least 200 routes from the slot.Yards Per Route Run After being acquired for just a sixth round pick from the Baltimore Ravens last March, Anquan Boldin followed up his stunning 2012 postseason with the most productive year of any wide receiver from the slot. His importance to the San Francisco offense was increased with fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree missing most of the year through injury but Boldin produced in the way he always has done by going up and winning balls in the air and managing to find space to get open despite not having the speed to blow by defensive backs.The common theme amongst our Top 5 here is size, with T.Y. Hilton the only player smaller than 6-foot-1. The 5-foot-9 player became Andrew Luck’s favorite target for the Indianapolis Colts last year with Reggie Wayne missing most of the year through injury, leading to a whopping 219 yards from the slot in the wild card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs.While some players dominated from the slot, other players failed to make much impact, with Houston’s Keshawn Martin racking up just 127 yards from the slot from 206 routes run. That lead to a league low 0.62 Yards Per Route Run, with Cleveland’s much maligned Davone Bess not fairing much better. Tavon Austin was a player the Rams targeted early in the draft in a bid to add a dynamic playmaker to their offense but, while there were flashes of skill in his rookie campaign, the overall production was lacking.Drop RateIn a year that saw him fifth amongst receivers in terms of YPRR from the slot, Marques Colston also had the safest pair of hands from a wide receiver from the slot, dropping just one of the 44 catchable passes thrown his way in the regular season. Boldin also features again here, with Victor Cruz also showing a safe pair of hands. Rishard Matthews and Doug Baldwin are two players who you might not expect to see here, but both were as reliable as could be for their quarterbacks, dropping just one pass each.It really wasn’t Bess’ year was it? Dropping an incredible 11 of the 38 catchable passes thrown his way, he failed to impress for the Browns throughout his time in Cleveland. Brandon Marshall also features here after we highlighted his strong position in terms of YPRR earlier showing that, as good as he was in 2013, he could have been even better if he’d done a better job of hanging on to the ball.While both of these signature stats give a clearer look at how wide receivers have performed in the slot, nothing quite compares to our PFF grades. The grades take into account how difficult a catch it was to make, with not every drop equally as bad, as well as crediting a receiver for his work after the catch. The good news, is that a PFF membership gives you access to both the grades, and our various signature stats, coming in at just $26.99 for a year’s membership.
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