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Best routes for rookie NFL wide receivers

The success of a rookie NFL receiver rests not only on his overall skill, but also on what he brings in particular to his specific offense. So what will the announced large receiver group from the NFL 2020 draft bring?

We looked at the 16 wideners who were drafted during the first three rounds in April, identifying their best and most productive routes in the past two seasons in college and how these routes fit into their new units. The best route for each catcher has been determined in meters per distance covered in relation to the other catches in the class and the other players in university football. The frequency with which the receiver traveled the route was also taken into account. When the ball is broken, here’s what each Day 1 and Day 2 catcher will do best.

Note: The information on the College’s routes is via Sports Info Solutions, has been grouped in traditional course trees and – unless otherwise indicated – is based on the last two seasons with a qualification of 500 courses over this period. NFL data comes from ESPN’s new route classification model, built with NFL Next Gen Stats player tracking data, and uses more specific road types.

Jump to:
Round 1 WRs | Round 2 WRs
Round 3 WRs

Project / college: No. 12 in the general classification outside of Alabama
Best route: You

Based on his fast speed of 4.27 seconds and his reputation as a 40-meter burner, I would have guessed that the starting route would have been the answer for Ruggs here. But that would have been wrong. Despite his straight line speed, Ruggs has covered fewer go routes in the past two seasons than most of the other receivers drafted in April. But he had slightly better results than his peers on the digging roads, and he also performed more.

Las Vegas quarterback Derek Carr is infamous for his lack of deep passes – the Raiders targeted below-average vertical routes in 2019 – so maybe specializing in something other than greens is good for Ruggs’ current situation. But what struck me in the figures of the Crimson Tide product is that there is no type of route where its production on a basis of yards per route has been exceptional. For the first receiver selected in a stacked class, this is surprising.


Project / college: N ° 15 selected from Alabama
Best route: Go

There has not been a single player more productive on a go route – which encapsulates a bunch of straight vertical routes in this case – than Jeudy in the past two seasons. His 6.2 yards per course beat everyone.

But Jeudy is versatile enough to oscillate between the outward journey and the post. He traveled far fewer post routes, but posted a monstrous 12.2 meters per post race (although this did not go beyond college football as his starting courses). And in his last college game against Michigan, Jeudy caught an 85-yard touchdown on a post.

The Broncos actually hiked vertical routes, like gos and posts, at a rate below the average and targeted them at an average rate last season. But former New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur is now the offensive coordinator in Denver, and the Giants traveled more than 200 more vertical routes than the Broncos last season.


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