The rise of NFL slot receivers and their increasing fantasy football importance

by Kieran Cottrill ·

Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been many offensive trends that have come and gone. In the early days of the NFL, running the football over and over was the focal point of every offense. The emergence of the West Coast offense and highly skilled quarterbacks led to a league-wide offensive overhaul. In today’s pass-heavy NFL, slot receivers are a new trend that offensive coordinators are leveraging more than ever. Pay attention to these small, agile receivers operating in the slot, and you will reap huge fantasy football rewards according to their advanced stats, metrics, and analytics profiles.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams

Under the thumb of Sean McVay, the Los Angeles Rams have been propelled into relevance with their high powered offense spearheaded by Jared Goff. One of the biggest beneficiaries of their success has been rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp. Running out of the slot, Kupp has produced significant fantasy upside in his first season in the NFL.

Kupp has proven to be a stalwart of the Rams’ red zone attack logging eight red zone receptions (No. 6) and a 31.5-percent Red Zone Target Share (No. 4). Furthermore, Kupp has recorded a solid 265 yards after catch this season (No. 13). His 10.83 Agility Score (88th-percentile) indicates that he is extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. His high volume of receptions and young age make him a big asset in PPR leagues and dynasty leagues. Going into the season, Cooper Kupp’s ADP was 203. Do not overlook this blooming under the radar slot receiver.

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings

There is not better example of a prolific breakout player than Adam Thielen. Thielen’s fantasy owners have been jumping for joy this season as he has been producing week in and week out. Despite the fact that he has been thrown to by Case Keenum for the majority of the season, he has continued to have fantasy success.

Adam Thielen Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Thielen is quickly turning into one of the league’s best fantasy slot receivers. In an offense where he has to compete with Stefon Diggs, Thielen has logged 107 targets (No. 4), a 28.9-percent Target Share (No. 6), and 1006 receiving yards (No. 3). This type of a fantasy explosion coming from the slot is unusual but not unparalleled as we have seen similar numbers from Julian Edelman.

Adam Thielen’s fantasy output is only going to increase as he showcases a slew of metrics that are a mark of great receiver. Thus far in 2017, he has 2.77 Yards Per Pass Route (No. 4), a 58.8-percent Contested Catch Rate (No. 9), 303 yards after catch (No. 6), and is averaging 10.9 yards Target Depth Per Reception (No. 11). Thielen is a threat up and down the field coming out of the slot and will be for years to come.

Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles

This time a year ago, Philadelphia Eagles fans were ready to give up on their former first round draft pick: Nelson Agholor. At this point in the 2017 campaign, Agholor has been one of many standouts in the Eagles’ offensive juggernaut. Taking throws from Carson Wentz certainly doesn’t hurt, but a change occurred that facilitated his success. The change was schematic: Agholor moved to the slot.

After a miserable 2016 season, Agholor’s fantasy production has erupted working out of the slot. He has 7 touchdowns (No. 4) and 2.28 Fantasy Points Per Target (No. 6). Moreover, Agholor has been one of the most efficient receivers in all of football this season. He has recorded a +22.1 Production Premium (No. 10), a +26.4 Target premium (No. 10), and an eye-popping 127.7 QB Rating When Targeted (No. 3).

Nelson Agholor Advanced Stats & Metric Profile

Agholor often faces mismatches in the secondary as a result of his positioning in the slot. He also has the ability to promptly separate from defenders utilizing his 4.42 40-yard dash time (89th-percentile) and a 102.3 Speed Score (75th-percentile). Look for Agholor to be a consistent feature producing out of the slot in this potent Eagles offense.

Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins

Last but not least, Jamison Crowder offers a very promising fantasy option out of the slot. At just 24 years of age, Crowder shows loads of potential and is especially valuable in dynasty leagues. Despite not having a workout metric above the 50th-percentile, he averages 2.39 yards of Target Separation. This is an indication that Crowder is an exceptional route runner and can get open with regularity.

Jamison Crowder is just as dangerous after he gets the ball in his hands as he has 291 yards after the catch (No. 7). With a pass-heavy offense run by Kirk Cousins, Crowder’s ceiling is extremely high. Look for Crowder do be a solid fantasy option as a slot receiver in Washington’s offense in the long run. Stash him now in dynasty leagues and his potential will come to fruition sooner rather than later.