Our friends at Sports Info Solutions track everything, and one of the key underground metrics they have that I can't find anywhere else is yards per route run versus man coverage. This separates the screen yards and gimme throws versus zone coverage, leaving us with the alpha yards gained.
For the full list of 94 qualifying WRs and 23 qualifying TEs (min. 15 targets), you can go to Sports Info Solutions, but today I'll be highlighting a few standout names, both on the good and bad sides of their YPRR vs. man coverage rankings.
Kupp is simply more athletic now than he was entering the league. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page during underneath option routes, and Kupp has the hands, ball tracking, and underrated speed to win vertically. He very well could be the best receiver in the game and should repeat as a top-10 receiver in this metric in 2022. This wasn't a completely fluke season.
We haven't seen the truly rare season from Brown yet because of injuries, but he has best receiver in the NFL upside if his health cooperates. Brown whoops DBs' asses with strength and has the speed to break my yards after the catch model, a rare combination. With Julio Jones aging quickly and with Brown entering his prime, I'm ranking Brown aggressively as a second round pick and my WR6 overall.
Whenever Joe Burrow saw man coverage or Cover 3 with Chase on the perimeter, he was going the rookie's way. That worked out very well. Chase's physicality and body control make him one of the best intermediate and downfield weapons already, and he has home run speed on underneath routes, too. He'll be in the top-five conversation for years to come.
As a 21-year-old rookie in a largely boring offense, Pitts led the position in yards per route run versus man coverage. That's nuts. Seriously, what?!? A few more touchdowns would've put his rookie season in legendary status, but those will regress and Pitts could very easily take the "best receiving tight end" crown away from Travis Kelce as early as 2022. His rookie campaign matched his generational prospect hype.
It was short lived because of injuries, but Toney looked electric in November. His after the catch speed and elusiveness from Florida translated, and his wirey frame didn't hold him back against NFL press man coverage either. If he can get onto the field and if Brian Daboll can get the most out of Daniel Jones, there is a high ceiling to Toney's profile.
The size/speed specialist has yards per route versus man coverage seasons of 2.7 and 2.5 to start his career. That's pretty damn good given his quarterback play the last two years. Claypool's boom-bust profile is worth betting on at a slight discount heading into 2022 in hopes the Steelers find a quarterback capable of throwing the ball 35 yards downfield.
Kelce has gone from 2.6 to 2.6 to 2.3 in this metric over the last three seasons, so there are some signs of decline from the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Kelce, soon to be 33 years old, remains my TE1 in fantasy rankings but is more of a low-end second rounder than must have player at the Round 1/2 turn.
ARSB was the late-season breakout of 2021. He did so primarily with T.J. Hockenson and D'Andre Swift sidelined and with almost zero receiver competition, so this number is slightly skewed, but St. Brown earned more work throughout the season. He pivoted from a slot-only role in 3-WR sets to being a 2-WR set player as the Lions' version of Robert Woods. While he may not have the standout traits of the true elites, St. Brown looked and measured as a sure-fire starter with underneath prowess and some burst on seam routes. He looks like a player who can be a No. 2 receiver with some No. 1 receiver upside.
Diggs was a negative regression candidate based on his downfield targets, but even the biggest hardo analytics nerd had to be surprised by Diggs' 2021 decline. His yards per route run versus man coverage the previous two seasons were 3.8 (WR2 overall) and 3.2 (WR4 overall). A little regression to the mean could be in order for 2022. I have him ranked as my WR9 for best ball.
It's been three years and I haven't noticed any signs of Hockenson living up to his 8th overall selection. He can play inline and detached, but the rare receiving traits simply aren't there. In this metric, he is sandwiched between young second rounders Cole Kmet (1.2 YPRR) and Patrick Freiermuth (1.1 YPRR), a sign that he just might end up being a Pro Bowler and not an All-Pro level player. I've tempered expectations by making him my TE9 in 2022 fantasy rankings.
As a rookie, Jeudy was the WR76 on 1.2 yards per route run versus man coverage, so this wasn't a one-year issue. The Broncos have treated it as such by opting to slide him into the slot on 74% of his snaps. Hopefully Jeudy can add some strength and clean up some untimely drops so we can see his yards after the catch ability on display more. Getting better quarterback play wouldn't hurt either, though Tim Patrick (2.5 YPRR vs. Man) and Courtland Sutton (1.8) were not nearly as effected by poor quarterback play as Jeudy was.