Yards Per Route Run’s Major Bias

Jul 2nd 2021

Hayden Winks

Yards per route run (YPRR) is helpful in general, but it’s not the end-all stat for WRs. In fact, it’s less predictive for fantasy points year over year than yards per game is. There are plenty of reasons for this, including the one we’re going over here: WRs playing in 2-WR sets have higher YPRR than WRs playing in 3-WR sets.

To reach this conclusion I needed to remove the bias of worse WRs playing in personnel packages with more WRs on the field. Thus, there were 372 WRs since 2016 who met the following criteria according to Sports Info Solutions:

  • Finished top 3 in routes run with 3-WRs on the field among WRs on their own team (read: 3-WR set starter)

  • Ran at least 30 routes with 2-WRs on the field (read: hides small sample issues with teams that barely used 2-WR sets)

Yards Per Route Run By Personnel Group

This is how many yards per route run these 372 WRs had depending on how many WRs were on the field on that particular play:

  • 2 WRs = 2.27 YPPR

  • 3 WRs = 1.63 YPRR

This confirms that there is a major bias in favor of 2-WR set receivers when we use yards per route run. When starting-caliber WRs are in 12- or 21-personnel, they are averaging 0.64 more yards per route run compared to when they’re in 11-personnel with 3 WRs on the field.

Why Is This True?

This makes a lot of sense for football guy reasons. Most obviously, with only 2 WRs on the field, each WR has less competition for a target because there are fewer WRs going out for a route (and oftentimes fewer players going out for a route in general).

Secondly, play-action effectiveness is higher in 2-WR set looks compared to 3-WR set looks. Defenses are expecting a higher run rate when there are only 2 WRs on the field, so the WRs are getting “softer looks” on the backend, particularly coming off play action.

So what does this mean?

Well, when we sort by yards per route run moving forward, we must note that WRs with a higher rate of 2-WR sets will have higher yards per route run in general. A perfect example from my chart below would be Corey Davis. The Titans were 31st in 11-personnel usage, which inflates Davis’ YPRR stat.

And luckily for the fine readers of Underblog, our friends at SIS have yards per route run by personnel. Here it is for all WRs with at least 100 routes on plays with 3 WRs on the field:

Special thanks to a discussion between @JMoyerFB and @MiKeMeUpP for sparking this column.