by Bryan Knowles
Earlier this week, we looked at the most common routes in the 2018 season from a receiver’s perspective — how much production, or lack thereof, the most commonly targeted receivers could produce. That’s only half the story, however. Today, we’ll look at every qualified quarterback from 2018.
We’re still looking at small sample sizes here, of course — even on the most common route in football, the curl, not every qualified quarterback hit 25 attempts — but larger sample sizes help give a clearer picture of both which routes teams and quarterbacks prefer to throw, and how effectively they actually throw them. Only one player was targeted on more than 30 curl routes, for example, but 22 players threw at least 50 curls last season — we can more accurately measure Andrew Luck’s ability throwing the curl route than we can T.Y. Hilton’s ability to catch it. Obviously, there’s a lot of overlap between a quarterback’s success and a receiver’s success, but you can look at the differences between, say, Ryan Fitzaptrick and Jameis Winston to see that the quarterback has a lot of impact on both the frequency and effectiveness of any given route.
It’s worth noting that, due to the way the data is collected, we are looking at receiving DYAR and DVOA, not passing. The big differences here is that sacks aren’t included — obviously, if you’re tackled to the ground, you’re not throwing any particular route — and that interceptions are not penalized more than any other incomplete pass. The number of passes includes defensive pass interference penalties. Each table is sorted by descending DYAR.
The curl route was the league’s most common throw last year, with 2,217 targets.
Two non-qualified players had more curl attempts than Nick Foles: Cody Kessler (4 DYAR, -10.3% DVOA), and Jeff Driskel (-32 DYAR, -31.5% DVOA).
Matt Ryan defends his 2017 curl king crown; Ryan-to-Julio Jones on the curl continues to be one of the most effective routes in football. Jones is responsible for the lion’s share of Ryan’s value here, but every Falcons receiver had positive DYAR on curls except for Tevin Coleman. Jones was typically Ryan’s deep curl target, targeted a full 3 yards further downfield than either Mohamed Sanu or Calvin Ridley, but Ryan had success at all depths.
Two years ago, Mitchell Trubisky finished dead last here, but he improved enough to be just outside the top 10 in 2018. Instead, Philip Rivers ends up trailing the pack here, having dropped from 144 DYAR two years ago to -57 DYAR last year. A huge chunk of that is Keenan Allen’s curl success dropping off, as we noted on Tuesday, but it wasn’t just Allen. Rivers had 24 DYAR on his non-Allen curls in 2018, down from 50 DYAR two years ago. Rivers only had positive DYAR throwing curls to Mike Williams; take him out, and Rivers would have dropped to -110 DYAR! The return of Hunter Henry should help, as he was very successful on curls two years ago, but this was a shockingly poor result on a common route for one of the best passers in the league last season.
You may be surprised to see Joe Flacco in the top 10, nestled between Patrick Mahomes and Drew Brees. Flacco actually had the most DYAR in football on deep curls, curls that travelled more than 15 yards in the air, as he connected quite frequently with John Brown (28 DYAR, 10.9 aDOT). This obviously means nothing for the 2019 Ravens with both Flacco and Brown out of town, but it might be worth Denver pushing someone like Courtland Sutton (7.3 aDOT from noodle-armed Case Keenum) a little deeper on curl routes this season in order to take advantage of Flacco’s arm strength.
Sports Info Solutions charted 1,835 out-route targets in 2018.
Two non-qualified passers had more out attempts than Russell Wilson: C.J. Beathard (7 DYAR, -8.2% DVOA), and Jeff Driskel (-62 DYAR, -55.0% DVOA).
DeShaun Watson had the fifth-highest DVOA in 2017 on relatively limited volume, so it’s not too much of a surprise that he rises to lead the league in out-route DYAR. Thirty of these 68 attempts went to DeAndre Hopkins, because why wouldn’t you throw the ball repeatedly to DeAndre Hopkins, but Watson actually had a higher DVOA and more DYAR throwing to all non-Hopkins players than he did going to DeAndre over and over. Keke Coutee and Will Fuller combined for 72 DYAR on just 11 passes, compared to Hopkins’ 58 on 30. There is value in volume, of course, but it shows that Watson is comfortable throwing this route to anyone, and it isn’t just a case of Hopkins being really good.
This is Matthew Stafford’s third straight top-five season in outs, with Golden Tate’s dropoff being nicely compensated for by Kenny Golladay’s rise. There is a reason why the out was Stafford’s most common route yet again; he is disproportionately good at it. Stafford’s passes had 328 (receiving) DYAR last season; outs were just about 10 percent of his throws but provided nearly 45 percent of his value.
Drew Brees led the league in value on short outs, which is one of the benefits of having Alvin Kamara on your team. Marcus Mariota led the league in value on deep outs, as he averaged at least 10.2 aDOT to all three of his top out targets (Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe; and Taywan Taylor), with a positive DYAR to each — the Titans should really consider giving him more opportunities in 2019.
It is not surprising to see Josh Rosen at the bottom of this table; he will be at or near the bottom of many tables. Aaron Rodgers is a bit more surprising, but he had a down year in general. No, the most surprising name near the bottom is probably Matt Ryan, who threw more out routes than anyone in the league and was fourth from the bottom in DYAR while doing so. Ryan was top-five in out routes last season, and saw an improvement in his targets and value while hooking up with Julio Jones. Instead, it was a collapse of his connection with Mohamed Sanu and Justin Hardy that did him in last season; they combined for 76 DYAR in 2017, but -36 DYAR last year. Austin Hooper and Calvin Ridley also had negative value on out routes, as the short out route did nothing for the Falcons last season.
There were 1,186 slant targets in the league last season.
Five non-qualified quarterbacks threw at least as many slants as Nick Foles last season: Lamar Jackson (77 DYAR, 29.5% DVOA), Jimmy Garoppolo (25 DYAR, 22.5% DVOA), Brock Osweiler (3 DYAR, -8.1% DVOA), Jeff Driskel (-3 DYAR, -17.2% DVOA), and C.J. Beathard (-4 DYAR, -13.9% DVOA). That’s an impressive number for Jackson, who had 25 slant attempts — Jackson to Willie Snead on a quick little slant was a money route over the last half of 2018.
Replacing Todd Downing with Jon Gruden paid dividends for Derek Carr on slant routes, as he rose from 6 DYAR two years ago to a significant lead over the rest of the league last season on a similar number of attempts. Two years ago, Carr had a negative DYAR throwing to both Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper on slants; they were replaced by Jordy Nelson, Jared Cook, and Seth Roberts as Carr’s primary slant targets and off he went. I’m tempted to give credit here to Gruden’s offense, though we don’t have this charting data back from the last time Gruden was a head coach. Slants play such a heavy role in the classic form of the West Coast offense that Gruden still runs, so it’s perhaps not surprising that he’d call them often and effectively.
Andrew Luck wasn’t great at slants three years ago, and Jacoby Brissett was second-to-last in slant DYAR in 2017, so while it’s surprising to see Luck at the bottom of one of these tables, it’s not altogether unexpected that it would be the slant table that gave him trouble. Luck targeted four different players with at least five slants; he had a negative DYAR to each one. It should be noted that Luck threw some very, very short slants in 2018. While you can have success like that (see Cam Newton and Eli Manning for examples), there’s a general correlation between DVOA and depth of target here. Luck only attempted five slants that traveled more than 7 yards downfield. A lot of a slant’s yardage comes from a receiver running in open space, but you can throw it a little deeper than Luck did.
After an off year in 2017, Alex Smith returned to the top of the slant category, with the highest DVOA for anyone with at least a slant pass a game — another Gruden offense! No individual Washington receiver had enough targets to qualify for the slants leaderboard, but they had five different targets with at least 17 slant DYAR last season; whichever quarterback gets under center for the lion’s share of Washington’s season likely will have some success on these routes.
The 1,093 dig targets last season produced more DYAR than any other route — it was the money route for most of 2018.
Nine non-qualified quarterbacks had at least as many dig targets as Nick Foles in 2018: Brock Osweiler (50 DYAR, 47.4% DVOA), Jimmy Garoppolo (31 DYAR, 31.3% DVOA), Jeff Driskel (30 DYAR, 26.5% DVOA), Josh McCown (17 DYAR, 12.3% DVOA), Nathan Peterman (11 DYAR, 3.3% DVOA), C.J. Beathard (10 DYAR, 1.3% DVOA), Lamar Jackson (9 DYAR, -0.2% DVOA), Blaine Gabbert (9 DYAR, 3.1% DVOA), and Sam Bradford (-22 DYAR, -53.9% DVOA). That such a motley collection of players like that could produce such positive results shows the power of the dig.
Tom Brady finished dead last in dig DYAR in 2017; the addition of one Josh Gordon helped him significantly last year. Gordon wasn’t enough to vault Brady to the top of the table, however; Jared Goff vaulted up the table just past him. Goff just had 18 DYAR on dig routes in 2017, with Sammy Watkins as his primary target. Watkins’ departure bumped up Robert Woods and Josh Reynolds in the pecking order, with Brandin Cooks coming in and taking some targets too, and Goff’s DYAR shot up accordingly. Receivers matter — not that Watkins is bad, but dig routes have never been his thing.
Dak Prescott saw his dig attempts drop between 2017 and 2018, which makes sense as he had a negative DVOA on them two years ago. Perhaps they didn’t drop enough, however, as Prescott joined Blake Bortles as the only quarterbacks to put up significant negative DYAR on the route in 2018. If you take out Cole Beasley (say, by letting him go to Buffalo) Prescott drops to -75 DYAR on the route. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten were Prescott’s best two dig targets in 2017, so some dropoff last season probably would have been expected, but eesh.
Sam Darnold’s spot in the middle of the table might not immediately grab your attention, but no player had more DYAR on deep digs than Darnold did last season. It’s a small sample size — basically six passes to Terrelle Pryor and Robby Anderson — but it is worth noting. Darnold’s passes were 30th in receiving DYAR last season, but 14th in dig DYAR. Whenever you see a discrepancy like that, it’s worth pointing out.
And while we’re pointing out discrepancies, Russell Wilson’s passes were fifth in receiving DYAR but 27th in dig DYAR. He’s near the bottom of the table, despite having a double-digit positive DVOA on dig routes; in fact, his 27th-place ranking is the lowest we’ve seen so far on any route for a player with any positive DVOA. The initial suggestion would be to throw the route more, but 23 of Wilson’s 14 DYAR went to Doug Baldwin, so meh. You just can’t have an offseason article without talking about the weird Seahawks passing attack.
We’re combining wide receiver and running back screens for this table, so there are 1,743 pass attempts. For the record, however, Ryan Fitzpatrick led the league in wide receiver screen DYAR. With 20. On 10 attempts, the lowest for any of the qualified quarterbacks. Stop throwing wide receiver screens.
Two non-qualified quarterbacks had more screen attempts than Ryan Fitzpatrick: C.J. Beathard (75 DYAR, 44.1% DVOA) and Jeff Driskel (-37 DYAR, -36.3% DVOA). Beathard actually had most of his DYAR on tight end screens to George Kittle; no other player in the league had more DYAR on tight end screens than Beathard, so there’s your weird little trivia tidbit for the day.
This is mostly a running back stat, so we won’t spend too long talking about it, but boy howdy, did Patrick Mahomes lap the field here. For the record, that’s 84 DYAR to Kareem Hunt, 62 DYAR to Spencer Ware, and 45 DYAR to Damien Williams … and a grand total of -2 DYAR to all players lined up out wide or in the slot, despite seven attempts to the speedy Tyreek Hill (-20 DYAR). Even Hunt had -2 DYAR on screens when lined up wide. The best quarterback in football, on the best screen-throwing team in football, with two of the best playmakers with the ball in their hands of all football, could not get above replacement level when throwing screen passes to players lined up outside of the backfield. Stop. Throwing. Wide. Receiver. Screens.
Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers tied for the most screens to players split out wide with 50 apiece, explaining why Steelers and Packers fans were frequently frustrated with their offense. Roethlisberger managed -11 DYAR, mostly thanks to JuJu Smith-Schuster’s positive screen value nearly erasing Antonio Brown’s negative value. Rodgers hit -99 DYAR, because both Davante Adams and Randall Cobb were terrible.
Mahomes tied Matthew Stafford for the most screens thrown to players lined up in the backfield at 34 apiece. Their difference in DYAR and DVOA mostly goes to show you that Theo Riddick is not as good as Kareem Hunt. This is the sort of award-winning analysis you’ve come to expect from Football Outsiders.
We’re now getting down into the routes which some teams simply did not use. There were 855 drag targets in the league last season, with some teams being more than happy to send their guys short over the middle, and others not using the route more than once a month or so.
Nineteen non-qualified quarterbacks had at least as many drag attempts as Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brock Osweiler led the way with 20 (-33 DYAR, -35.4% DVOA), while Josh Johnson had the most DYAR, albeit on four attempts (31 DYAR, 117.8% DVOA). That’s right, remove Josh Johnson, and the league had 2 receiving DYAR on drag routes in 2018.
Any table with Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, and Patrick Mahomes at the top of it can’t be all bad; the drag route can still provide value if used effectively. That often means scheming those routes open, which in and of itself often means “setting a questionably legal pick,” but hey, don’t knock what you can get away with. A lot of the value here comes from yards after the catch — one or two big plays by Austin Hooper, Cooper Kupp, and Sammy Watkins are the difference between Ryan, Goff, and Mahomes being atop the leaderboards or down in the middle of the pack. It takes precise throws to get receivers open for YAC opportunities, but this feels like more of a receiver’s stat than a quarterback’s — see Andy Dalton (Tyler Boyd) and Dak Prescott (Amari Cooper) being near the top.
Blake Bortles threw more drag routes than anyone in football last season, though he should have been more selective. He had 20 DYAR throwing to James O’Shaughnessy, and -66 throwing to everyone else on the team. Case Keenum didn’t even have an O’Shaughnessy — nine different targets, with none of them above 5 DYAR.
Now we get to the realm of the guys with cannons for arms. There were 625 deep cross targets thrown in 2018, more than half of them thrown more than 15 yards through the air.
Five non-qualified players had at least as many deep cross attempts as Nick Foles: Lamar Jackson (65 DYAR, 51.2% DVOA), Brock Osweiler (12 DYAR, 7.9% DVOA), Josh McCown (9 DYAR, 4.3% DVOA), Blaine Gabbert (9 DYAR, 14.0% DVOA), and Matt Barkley (6 DYAR, 4.8% DVOA).
No surprise to see Patrick Mahomes at the top of this table. He actually attempted more deep crosses to Travis Kelce than Tyreek Hill, but Hill was responsible for 75 percent of his DYAR. The average deep cross to Kelce was “only” 15.6 yards downfield, as well, while Hill averaged 24.9 yards downfield per target. The news that Hill would not be disciplined for his offseason troubles was very good for the Kansas City offense.
When Buffalo selected Josh Allen, they pointed to his arm strength as one of the primary reasons. Allen certainly can chuck the ball — indeed, he might have the strongest arm in the league, just ahead of Mahomes — and he finishes with the highest DVOA in the league on the deep crossing route. Now, it should be noted that 45 of his DYAR came on two targets to Zay Jones, but that shouldn’t take away too much from Allen’s general success on this route. Only three of his 16 pass attempts here were marked as over- or underthrown, so he was significantly, significantly more accurate here than he was on, say, go/fly routes. We’ll get back to that in a second.
The bottom five names on this list are not known for their deep-ball skills, making Jameis Winston the only player with negative DYAR and what you’d normally consider a powerful arm. This comes down to play selection; Winston attempted more than twice as many go routes as deep crossers last season. We’ll get a better picture of arm strength as we travel on to…
The most simple route in football, and the one that should benefit from arm strength the most. There were 633 go/fly-route targets called in football last season. Grip it and rip it.
Among non-qualifiers, Brock Osweiler had the most attempts (eight, for -56 DYAR, -111.1% DVOA), while Kyle Allen had the most DYAR (51 DYAR, 217.0% DVOA). Allen had one completion and drew two DPIs on his three attempts; pretty sweet deal if you can get it.
With Tyreek Hill leading the receivers’ go/fly table, you might have expected Patrick Mahomes to lead the quarterbacks. But Hill was Mahomes’ only deep target with positive value; Drew Brees had seven, led by Michael Thomas. Brees fell off the pace a bit in 2017, but was second in the league in go/fly DYAR back in 2016, so this is a bit of the old man reclaiming his rightful throne. The only player Brees had negative value targeting on these routes was Ted Ginn, whom you’d think would excel at this sort of thing. A 60 percent completion rate on fly routes is incredibly good, and while some of that is due to them being a good 10 yards shorter than the league average, 25-yard passes aren’t exactly dink-and-dunks. Brees’ game (and record-setting completion percentages) may be predicated around short passes, but the old man can still air it out when need be.
I would not have expected the likes of Eli Manning or Case Keenum to top Mahomes on go/fly routes, either. That’s partially due to volume and play selection — Mahomes threw plenty of deep passes that weren’t go/fly routes, so he has fewer attempts than Manning and Keenum here — but it also may have something to do with the element of surprise. Brees, Manning, and Keenum all threw much shorter passes on average than Mahomes did, and went to a multitude of targets when they did try to bust a big play with a go route. It’s actually impressive that Mahomes rates as highly as he does — but it also may have something to do, again, with multiple targets. When Mahomes was throwing a go route, it was either going to Hill or it was a negative play. Brees, Keenum, and Manning spread the ball around a lot more, and while none of their targets were as efficient as Hill was, they were able to generate more total value. Manning is unlikely to repeat with Odell Beckham out of town (72 of his 128 DYAR!). Manning, Keenum, and Brees also threw much shorter passes on average than Mahomes did; their deeper balls were more of a surprise and thus perhaps caught defenses off guard more.
Down at the bottom of the table we have Cam Newton and Josh Allen, neither of whom completed a single go/fly route in 2018. Allen went 0-for-15 (once you exclude DPIs), which is the most incompletions we’ve recorded in go/fly routes in the three years we’ve been doing this study. Allen’s 17 pass attempts ended up with:
- Two DPIs (his two positive plays, worth a combined 22 DYAR)
- One incomplete Hail Mary
- One pass dropped by Robert Foster
- One play where Foster tripped
- One play where Foster lost the ball in the sun
- Three passes defensed (on target, but broken up by the defender)
- Eight overthrows
To put it another way, Newton and Allen had as many go route completions as Nick Mullens. Mullens did not attempt a pass on a go route in 2018.
Posts are the third and final primarily deep target we’re looking at. There were 556 post targets in 2018.
Four non-qualifiers had at least as many attempts as Russell Wilson: Jeff Driskel (73 DYAR, 55.3% DVOA), C.J. Beathard (33 DYAR, 66.2% DVOA), Blaine Gabbert (0 DYAR, -10.5% DVOA), and Brock Osweiler (-14 DYAR, -41.9% DVOA).
Long live L.A., as Jared Goff and Philip Rivers take the top two slots in the post table. This makes back-to-back years for Rivers in the second slot, though the loss of Tyrell Williams will make a threepeat more difficult; Williams gave Rivers 57 of his 127 DYAR. It was a much more one-sided total for Jared Goff, with 107 DYAR coming from Brandin Cooks. Cooks has had at least 48 post DYAR in each of the three seasons we’ve tracked this, so Goff’s jump up the rankings here is perhaps not a surprise.
Ryan Tannehill’s fourth-place ranking is eye-catching. He threw fewer posts than he did the other two deep routes, yet ended up with a much higher DYAR and DVOA. Here’s where we remind you that this is receiving DVOA and does not penalize for interceptions; Tannehill threw two picks on deep posts. That’s not the most in the league, but doing so on just nine targets is worth noting; that would create a significant difference between receiving and passing DVOA.
It’s also worth noting that Patrick Mahomes had three picks on his 20 post routes, tied for the most in the league. It also means his 4 DYAR is also a little overrated, so he might deserve to be a little bit lower than he ended up. A lot of that is the fact that Tyreek Hill was no good at posts, however; Mahomes would have 39 DYAR (and only one interception) if you ignored the 10 Hill targets. Ben Roethlisberger, in dead last, doesn’t have that excuse; he had negative value to Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Justin Hunter.
While posts are generally the third of the deep balls, there are a decent chunk of posts which fall short of the 15-yard depth that separates “short” from “deep” in NFL play by play. The most effective short post connection was probably Matt Ryan to Julio Jones — five passes for 68 yards, 29 DYAR, and a 72.2% DVOA.
When coverage is too good, or your offensive line’s protection breaks down, what do you do? The 617 broken-play targets are sandlot football; everyone scrambling around trying to make a play when the plan has gone to pot. High DYAR and DVOA here indicates a quarterback good at improvising, staying on his feet, and extending a play. A high number of attempts likely means that happens far too often, though it could also indicate an ability to avoid sacks and throwaways.
The non-qualifier with the most broken plays was Lamar Jackson, with 11 (14 DYAR, 6.0% DVOA). The non-qualifier with the most DYAR was Brosk Osweiler (34 DYAR, 154.4% DVOA)
With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin leading the receiving version of this table, you should not be surprised to see Jameis Winston atop this list. Winston was at about replacement level in each of the previous two seasons, but seemingly couldn’t miss last year; only three of his 19 broken-play attempts fell incomplete, and all were at least on target. There’s a bit of luck going on there, as Winston’s not one to extend plays as much as the rest of the top five are, but it worked out well for him. The previous record for DYAR on broken plays was 91, set by Matthew Stafford in 2016.
Aaron Rodgers had more broken plays than anyone else in football, but couldn’t get above 0 DYAR. He also led the league in broken plays back in 2016, and yet he has never been particularly good in these situations. He has -13 DYAR on 111 attempts over the last three season. It’s good that he’s avoiding sacks, but you have to look at the success players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson have year-in and year-out, or how much Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were able to do last year, and wonder why Rodgers can’t produce more in a sandlot situation.
Of the elite quarterbacks, Drew Brees is the most likely to give up on a play, with just 11 pass attempts on broken plays last year. He’s much more likely to just throw the ball out of bounds or take the sack than scramble around trying to keep plays alive. Dude’s 40; those knees aren’t going to last forever.
The running back screen’s lesser cousin, and the king of checkdown routes. There were 1,142 throws to flat routes in 2018; 615 of them produced negative DYAR.
Among non-qualifiers, Brock Osweiler had the most flat throws (23, for -8 DYAR and -15.5% DVOA). Kenny Stills actually had the most DYAR (14 DYAR, 144.6% DVOA), on one Philly Special pass to Ryan Tannehill in Week 17.
Once again, the DYAR leaders here are mostly about which running backs did the most in the passing game. Sixty-five of Patrick Mahomes’ league-leading 67 DYAR went to Kareem Hunt and Damien Williams, even though Travis Kelce was actually his most common target in the flat. Marcus Mariota had Dion Lewis, Cam Newton had Christian McCaffrey, Kirk Cousins had Dalvin Cook, and so on and so forth.
More interesting to note is the correlation between flat routes and failed completions. Not all failed completions are flat routes, and not all flat routes are failed completions, but there’s a 0.74 correlation between the two. The five players with the most failed completions — Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, and Case Keenum — are all in the top seven in flat routes thrown. Derek Carr, who threw the most flat routes, was ninth in failed completions. Of the top ten in failed completions, only Dak Prescott, Andrew Luck, and Deshaun Watson were not in the top ten in flat attempts. These are not great routes, in other words.
Andrew Luck had the most DYAR on flat routes to players not in the backfield, with 42 DYAR on 10 attempts. Thirty-seven of Derek Carr’s league-leading 66 flat attempts were to players not lined up in the backfield (mostly Jared Cook and Seth Roberts); they were worth a grand total of -3 DYAR.
There were 459 throws to corner routes in 2018. Nearly a third of them went to tight ends, making this the most common tight end route of the 13 we’re looking at today.
Among the non-qualifiers, Sam Bradford had both the most attempts (five) and the most DYAR (61, with a 166.3% DVOA)
It seemed like we would not be talking about Philip Rivers-to-Antonio Gates in 2018, but here we are. Rivers targeted Gates on 10 of his league-leading 29 corner routes in 2018, for a not-too-shabby 53 DYAR. That’s less DYAR that Rivers-to-Mike Williams generated on half the attempts, mind you, but not too bad for a connection with a combined age of 75.
This is Blake Bortles’ one time to shine; the only route where he finishes in the top 10 in DYAR, despite only having nine corner attempts on the season. Bortles also had 96 corner DYAR last season on only 10 attempts, as the Jaguars seemed determined to not let Bortles throw his best route. That might be a datapoint that, with better coaching, Bortles’ talent might turn into something useful. There are plenty of other datapoints which contradict that, of course, but at least Sean McVay will have a starting point with his new backup quarterback.
Ben Roethlisberger ends up in dead last on both posts and corners, which is basically just a post but backwards. Posts might be a one-year blip; he was much better on them in 2017 than he was in 2018. Corners have been an ongoing problem, however; he had -21 DYAR in 2017 to go along with his -57 this season. Two years ago, he at least had positive value targeting Martavis Bryant and Antonio Brown; in 2018, he had negative value targeting everybody. That happens when you complete just three of your 15 corner attempts.
There were 431 fade targets in the NFL last season; they produced the lowest DVOA of any of the routes we’re looking at today. It should also be noted that “back-shoulder fades” are a separate category in our database. The back-shoulder fade is notably more effective (2.6% DVOA on 180 targets). These stats are for the more general form of the route.
Among non-qualifiers, Tyrod Taylor had the most fades (six, for -1 DYAR and -15.3% DVOA) while Lamar Jackson had the highest DYAR (23 DYAR and 96.8% DVOA on three targets).
Derek Carr has been near the top of the table in fade attempts in each of the three years we’ve done this; his 17 fades in 2018 represent the fewest he’s had. His most common target, Jordy Nelson, takes up six of those fades, but just 6 DYAR as well. It was Jared Cook, instead, with whom Carr had the best luck hooking up. Nelson and Cook are both gone now, so we’ll have to wait and see who takes the role of Carr’s favorite fader in 2019. If it’s Antonio Brown, buyer beware — he’s responsible for -33 of Ben Roethlisberger’s -44 DYAR.
Two years ago, Dak Prescott threw 17 fades to Dez Bryant, and managed a total of 4 DYAR on the route. With Bryant gone, Prescott never found someone he was comfortable with — Michael Gallup and Amari Cooper combined for 11 fades from Prescott, with only one completion between them. Each player had at least -20 DYAR on the route, but Prescott and the Cowboys kept throwing it. Cut it out, just a little bit, guys.
Baker Mayfield threw the most fades last season, with Jarvis Landry being his top target. The second-most fades went to Eli Manning, who had Odell Beckham as his top target. With Beckham and Landry now both on Cleveland, will there be enough fades to go around? Considering that neither of them could put up a positive DYAR, the answer, we hope, is no.
In our third and final part of this series, coming next week, we’ll look at defenses against these routes.