Slot receivers are all the rave right now. That is largely in part because NFL teams are exploiting the slot more than ever, which means it is leading to plenty of fantasy points. Did you know that in 2018 wide receivers ran over 20,000 routes from the slot which lead to nearly 6,700 PPR points scored? That is strictly receivers too, not including running backs or tight ends who operate from the slot. Better yet, that nearly 6,700 PPR points are the most points receivers have scored from the slot over the last four years (as far back as the data goes). Slot receivers are no longer just small guys who can't cut it on the outside - in fact, Tyreek Hill led all players last year in yards and touchdowns from the slot - showing you that coaches are using the slot to put some of their best players, and our best fantasy options, in great positions to succeed.
Below you will see the most productive slot receiver on each team, along with the numbers they put up, as well as the 2019 expectations!
1. Arizona Cardinals
2018 Slot Leader: Larry Fitzgerald
Numbers from Slot: 24.5 routes/game, 4.9 targets/game, 2.9 rec/game, 32.9 rec YPG, 3 touchdowns from slot.
2019 Outlook: The Cardinals offense will look very different in 2019, but the slot should look very similar. Larry Fitzgerald ran a total of 392 routes from the slot in 2018, while no other receiver broke 100 (Christian Kirk at 96 was the closest). Fitz scored 117.6 of his 185.7 PPR points last year from the slot. He is not a sexy pick by any stretch, but you can draft him as a WR4 in 12-team leagues, approaching the double-digit rounds.
Christian Kirk in another name to keep an eye on here. A popular breakout pick by many, yours truly included, but Kirk could do a lot of damage if he was used more in the slot this season. Last year he averaged 2.93 PPR fantasy points per reception from the slot in 2018, compared to 2.50 for Fitzgerald. Another hope is that Kliff Kingsbury uses David Johnson more out of the slot this year. In 2018, Johnson ran just 16 routes from the slot and had only six targets. He was effective still, averaging 2.60 PPR fantasy points per reception. In 2016, Johnson ran 75 routes from the slot and averaged 2.98 PPR points per catch, adding nearly 40 more points to his season long total.
2. Atlanta Falcons
2018 Slot Leader: Mohamed Sanu
Numbers from Slot: 25.3 routes/game, 4.3 tgt/game, 2.9 rec/game, 35.6 rec YPG, 3 TD from slot
2019 Outlook: The Falcons are bringing back the same receiving group as 2018, which should lead to once again seeing much of Sanu from the slot. Last year he ran 405 routes from the slot, while Julio Jones ran just 114 and Calvin Ridley ran just 104. The Falcons will have a new OC in Dirk Koetter, but I would expect similar usage with the receiver trio, especially given how Koetter managed the offense in Tampa Bay last year. He did not use Mike Evans or Chris Godwin much in the slot, particularly in the red zone. We have seen teams use their best wideouts in the slot as they near pay dirt, such as the Bengals with A.J. Green, Steelers with Antonio Brown last year and others. But, both Evans and Godwin ran just 22 routes from the slot in the red zone, both seeing fewer than five targets and Godwin catching the only TD the duo put up from the slot in the red zone. Knowing that, Sanu seems like the safe bet once again to do most of the damage from the slot this season.
Austin Hooper will continue to do damage from the slot as well. Last year he ran 252 routes from the slot, and averaged 8.30 yards per target, which just edged out Sanu's 8.26. Hooper will flirt with TE1 numbers once again this season, but there are a lot of mouths to feed in this offense.
3. Baltimore Ravens
2018 Slot Leader: Willie Snead
Numbers from Slot: 21.9 routes/game, 4.9 tgt/game, 3.3 rec/game, 34.4 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook:Willie Snead was the Ravens most consistent slot receiver in 2018. Above are his overall numbers, but with specifically Lamar Jackson he averaged just 14.7 routes per game, 2.9 targets per game, 1.9 receptions and just 23 yards per game. That drop off is because Joe Flacco averaged 13.2 passes per game to the slot, while Jackson averaged just 5.2. Unless that changes, the slot receiver on the Ravens will not be nearly as valuable as on other teams.
Snead is the favorite to be the primary slot option once again for the Ravens, but first round draft pick Marquise Brown could see a lot of time out of the slot. Plus, the Ravens brought in Seth Roberts, who wasn't all that effective for the Raiders, but was used as their primary slot receiver. This is a situation where playing time throughout the preseason will have to be monitored. Mark Andrews has also played well out of the slot and very well may be their main target from it this season.
4. Buffalo Bills
2018 Slot Leader: Zay Jones
Numbers from Slot: 15.5 routes/game, 2.5 tgt/game, 1.6 rec/game, 19.8 rec YPG, 4 TD
2019 Outlook: The Bills went out and revamped their receiving core by bringing in John Brown and Cole Beasley this offseason. Beasley was clearly brought it to be the teams primary slot receiver, as he has ran a total of 157 routes out wide in his last four seasons combined. He ran 410 out of the slot last year alone. However, it is likely that Jones still sees some action out of the slot.
However, being the slot receiver on the Bills if far less valuable than on other teams. Last season, Josh Allen ranked first in the NFL with 11.0 average intended air yards, courtesy of Next Gen Stats, meaning that Allen routinely throws the ball down the field. He only averaged 8.3 pass attempts per game to slot receivers. Both Beasley and Jones, as the Bills top two slot guys, will remain deep league options this season.
5. Carolina Panthers
2018 Slot Leader: Jarius Wright
Numbers from Slot: 20.6 routes/game, 3.0 tgt/game, 2.1 rec/game, 23.6 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook: Wright was the leader in 2018, but that is surely going to change heading into the 2019 season. Both D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel are popular breakout picks, with Moore being projected to see more time in the slot. Last season, Moore ran 126 routes total from the slot, while Samuel ran 67. Both were more effective than Wright, who ran 330. Samuel was good for 2.82 PPR points per reception out of the slot in 2018, compared to 2.66 for Moore and 2.23 for Wright. The expectation is for Moore to see the bulk of time from the slot, but Samuel will get his as well. Both should be drafted with confidence, Moore as a borderline WR2 in 12-team leagues, with Samuel being a WR3 in PPR leagues.
The Panthers will also heavily use the tight end out of the slot. Last year Olsen averaged 13.8 slot routes per game, while Ian Thomas averaged 14.9. Olsen was much more effective, averaging 2.80 PPR points per catch, while Thomas was 1.95. With a healthy Olsen this year he should be expected to once again see a good chunk of time running from the slot. He should be valued as a TE2 this season, due to the health concerns. There will be opportunities, as Cam Newton averaged 9.9 passes per game to the slot in 2018.
6. Chicago Bears
2018 Slot Leader: Anthony Miller
Numbers from Slot: 16.5 routes/game, 2.7 tgt/game, 1.7 rec/game, 23.3 rec YPG, 5 TD
2019 Outlook: Those numbers may not look all that impressive from Miller, but knowing he was a rookie who played through a shoulder injury all season puts it more into context. The Bears also used Allen Robinson at times in the slot. He ran 166 routes and scored two touchdowns from the slot last year. But even the Bears top target was not as efficient as Miller in the slot. Last year, Miller averaged 3.60 PPR points per reception, while Robinson was at 3.06 and Taylor Gabriel was at 2.14. Miller also really improved his game in the second half of the season. In Weeks 10-13 and 16-17 (missed time due to injury) he was good for 4.42 PPR points per catch. He is healthy now and expected to once again be the lead slot receiver for the Bears. You can draft him as a WR5 in 12-team leagues, but you can reach and take him as your WR4 if you want to ensure you land him. Given that Mitch Trubisky threw 9.7 passes per game to the slot, while both he and Miller should be more comfortable in the second year of Matt Nagy's system, and you see that there is plenty of room for him to give you a positive return on that investment.
Trey Burton was effective from the slot averaging 2.81 PPR points per catch, while running 14.1 slot routes per game.
7. Cincinnati Bengals
2018 Slot Leader: Tyler Boyd
Numbers from Slot: 26.0 routes/game, 5.5 tgt/game, 3.6 rec/game, 51.6 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook:Tyler Boyd is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL and should once again be utilized that way. However, Boyd's numbers did take a hit last season without A.J. Green, including his production from the slot. With Green he averaged 28 slot routes per game, 6.2 targets, 4.4 receptions and 11.52 PPR PPG, while averaging 2.59 PPR points per catch from the slot. Without Green those numbers fell to 22.4 routes per game, 4.2 targets, 2.2 receptions, 7.50 PPR PPG, although he did climb to 3.41 PPR points per reception. Still, even with Green expected to miss games early on, Boyd is a very safe WR2 in PPR leagues.
An interesting wrinkle the Bengals incorporated early on in the season was using Green from the slot in the red zone. In the first four weeks, Green had scored four touchdowns from the slot, including two coming inside the opponents red zone. If they elect to use him this way this season he could steal a touchdown or two away from Boyd. Another little caveat, while Green is out, the Bengals could look to use Alex Erickson at times in three receiver sets, which could push Boyd out wide at times.
8. Cleveland Browns
2018 Slot Leader: Jarvis Landry
Numbers from Slot: 24.9 routes/game, 5.9 tgt/game, 3.1 rec/game, 35.7 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook: Landry felt like a disappointment last season, but he still finished as the WR18 in PPR leagues. That was all while having a QB and Head Coaching change during the season, while also being asked to play out wide at times. He averaged 29.1 slot routes per game under Hue Jackson and just 20.6 with Freddie Kitchens. This year, he will be able to slide into the slot with regularity, with Odell Beckham Jr. manning out wide. Baker Mayfield averaged 10.7 passes per game to the slot in 2018 and Landry will be the benefactor of most of those. He will likely finish second in targets this season behind only Beckham. He should be valued as a WR2 in PPR, but can be had for a WR3 price.
9. Dallas Cowboys
2018 Slot Leader: Cole Beasley
Numbers from Slot: 25.6 routes/game, 4.5 tgt/game, 3.4 rec/game, 38.3 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook: Long-time slot receiver Cole Beasley is now calling Buffalo home, leaving plenty of slot work up for grabs in Dallas. Last season, no other receiver averaged more than six slot routes per game. Amari Cooper was the closes at 5.4, while Michael Gallup ran 3.4 per game. That duo will once again primarily man the outside, with former Packer Randall Cobb brought in to be the Beasley replacement. Cobb was signed because he was much cheaper, but he is also a year younger and has a better track record in the NFL. In nine games last year Cobb averaged 32.6 slot routes per game, 6.0 targets, 3.8 catches and 37.8 receiving yards per game, while catching two touchdowns from the slot. Those numbers are similar to Beasley's. As long as he can stay healthy he should be expected to fill in the Beasley role, which is not a tremendous one for fantasy, but can provide bye week or deep league depth. Dak Prescott averaged 9.1 passes per game to the slot in 2018.
10. Denver Broncos
2018 Slot Leader: Emmanuel Sanders
Numbers from Slot: 21.3 routes/game, 4.3 tgt/game, 3.0 rec/game, 34.1 rec YPG, 2 TD
2019 Outlook: You should pay very close attention to the battle for the slot in Denver. As you can see above, Sanders was the Broncos primary slot receiver last season, but once he ruptured his Achilles, DaeSean Hamilton thrived. Heading into the year it looked like Sanders, coming off the severe injury and now 32 years old, would easily be overtaken. But Sanders has looked good at training camp and there has to be concerns if he will man the slot this year over Hamilton. However, there will be lots of fantasy goodness with whoever wins the slot job. In 2018 Joe Flacco averaged 13.2 pass attempts per game to the slot, the fourth most in the NFL. Flacco also has a knack for peppering his top receiver with lots of targets. Both Sanders and Hamilton are going outside the Top-50 receivers right now, meaning that there is a lot of upside with this pick. I'm currently higher on Hamilton, as I still have doubts about Sanders health and ability after the injury, but he can quickly changed that if he looks like himself in preseason. Monitor this slot battle very closely!
11. Detroit Lions
2018 Slot Leader: Golden Tate
Numbers from Slot: 25.0 routes/game, 6.3 tgt/game, 3.6 rec/game, 337 rec YPG, 2 TD
2019 Outlook: Tate was still a fantasy force with the Lions, before being traded halfway through the season to the Eagles. After his departure, the Lions struggled mightily to replace his production. T.J. Jones, Bruce Ellington and Brandon Powell all saw time in the slot, yet all struggled to stick. The Lions brought in Danny Amendola to replace Tate this season. He will likely be third in the pecking order for targets behind Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, perhaps even fourth behind Keryon Johnson. Stafford did attempt 9.3 passes to the slot per game last year, but that number is likely inflated due to Tate's presence. Stafford also attempted 8.8 passes per game to running backs last year, the fourth highest of all starting QBs. Amendola should not be drafted, but if it proves that Stafford is a big fan of the slot regardless of who is playing it, he could be a bye week replacement.
It is also worth mentioning that Golladay averaged 11.2 routes per game from the slot and he should continue to see some time there, likely pushing Amendola off the field at times.
12. Green Bay Packers
2018 Slot Leader: Randall Cobb
Numbers from Slot: 32.6 routes/game, 6.0 tgt/game, 3.8 rec/game, 37.8 rec YPG, 2 TD
2019 Outlook: When Cobb missed time, it was Marquez Valdes-Scantling stepped up as the primary slot option. He averaged 24.4 routes/game, 3.6 targets, 2.4 receptions and 35.1 yards per game. However, reports from Packers camp have indicated that Geronimo Allison will be the primary slot receiver for the Packers this season. Even with his lead slot receiver, Cobb, missing nearly half the games, Aaron Rodgers still averaged 11.8 pass attempts per game to the slot. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged 13.2 pass attempts per game to the slot, the second most in that span. Allison comes with a WR4 price tag, but has the ability to provide a positive return on that investment. Knowing that Rodgers loves his slot receivers, there is a legitimate chance that Allison is second in the target pecking order behind just Davante Adams. He could blossom into a weekly starter in that role.
13. Houston Texans
2018 Slot Leader: Keke Coutee
Numbers from Slot: 17.2 routes/game, 4.5 tgt, 3.5 rec/game, 36.0 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook:Keke Coutee won the slot leader title by default, as he was the primary option when he was healthy. The issue was he was never really healthy in 2019 and the Texans struggled to replace him when he missed time. In total, DeAndre Hopkins led the team with 132 slot routes. He had 32 catches from the slot and scored 97.1 of his 333.5 PPR points from there last season. There is no reason to worry about Hopkins, but he could lose some of this slot production if Coutee is healthy all season.
Coutee missed a bunch of time in 2018, but in the four games where he played at least 40 snaps, he averaged 23 slot routes, six targets, 4.5 catches and 49.8 receiving yards per game. You can see why I was suckered into stashing him all year last season. Now he seems fully healthy and if the hamstring injury is truly behind him, he could be poised for a breakout season. There are a lot of mouths to feed, with Hopkins, Coutee, Will Fuller, and now pass catching specialist Duke Johnson in the mix, amongst others. It is worth mentioning though that Coutee was targeted more than Fuller in the four games that all both were active. He saw 7.5 targets per game in those weeks, while Fuller was at 4.8. Additionally, Watson only attempted 4.4 passes to running backs last season, the second lowest of starting QBs. Coutee is going off the board as a WR4, but easily can put up WR3 numbers as the second target in the Texans offense.
14. Indianapolis Colts
2018 Slot Leader: Chester Rogers
Numbers from Slot: 23.7 routes/game, 4.5 tgt/game, 3.3 rec/game, 30.7 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook: Rogers was not the most fantasy viable receiver in 2018, but do not let that fool you: Andrew Luck loves him some slot receivers. Not only did Rogers put up those numbers above, but Eric Ebron had 417 yards and seven touchdowns from the slot, while T.Y. Hilton had 369 yards and a receiving TD from the slot. Luck averaged 15.9 pass attempts per game to slot receivers in 2018, by far the most in the NFL. Second highest was Ben Roethlisberger, at 14.8, more than a full pass attempt fewer per game than Luck. This season, rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell is expected to man the slot. Campbell has blazing speed, but he excelled out of the slot in college. He is going off the board as a WR5, likely due to volume concerns, as the Colts also have Hilton, Ebron, Devin Funchess, Jack Doyle and Nyheim Hines all vowing for targets. But, if Campbell does play primarily in the slot, there is a lot of upside given his speed and big play ability.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
2018 Slot Leader: Dede Westbrook
Numbers from Slot: 27.6 routes/game, 5.3 tgt/game, 3.4 rec/game, 38.9 rec YPG, 5 TD
2019 Outlook: This is a slot scenario that you should be very excited about in 2019. Not only was Dede Westbrook already one of the most consistent slot receivers in the NFL -- ranking first in slot routes ran, fourth in targets and receptions, sixth in yards, and fourth in PPR points from the slot -- but now he has the perfect QB for his skillset. Nick Foles attempted 71 passes to the slot last season and just 54 to players lined up out wide, according to Next Gen Stats. He's also averaged more slot pass attempts than attempts out wide over the last three years. Yeah, these two are going to be a match made in slot heaven. Still not sold? What if I told you Westbrook also led the Jaguars in end zone targets last year with six, and the only player close to him was Donte Moncrief (5) who is now out of town. The Jaguars passing game won't be sexy this season, but Foles should ensure that Westbrook is a safe WR3 in fantasy football.
16. Kansas City Chiefs
2018 Slot Leader: Tyreek Hill
Numbers from Slot: 15.3 routes/game, 4.1 tgt/game, 3.0 rec/game, 53.6 rec YPG, 9 TD
2019 Outlook: The Chiefs have the most dynamic offense in the league, so would you be surprised to know they were the most productive slot team in the league? But, to get a part of those slot weapons you need to pay an elite price. Tyreek Hill led all players in yards from the slot with 858 and touchdowns with nine. Travis Kelce was second in yards with 854. Chris Conley manned the slot when Hill moved out wide and DeMarcus Robinson is expected to fill that role this season. Conley only had 107 yards from the slot, but did score three touchdowns. Robinson is best left on the waiver wire but keep an eye on him because if he can carve out some consistent targets in this offense, he could be worth a pickup.
However, the more fun possibility is the Chiefs use second round pick Mecole Hardman from the slot when Hill moves out wide. Hardman is a little raw, but he has 4.33 speed and at 5'10, 187 pounds, he has the size, quickness and speed to be a very effective weapon. He will likely not be a high catch receiver, but the big play ability in this offense makes him worthy of a late round flier.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
2018 Slot Leader: Keenan Allen
Numbers from Slot: 16.8 routes/game, 3.9 tgt/game, 2.9 rec/game, 34.6 rec YPG, 0 TD
2019 Outlook:Keenan Allen will once again see big volume from the slot, but he also ran 208 routes out wide last season. Last year, Tyrell Williams had 184 routes from the slot and Antonio Gates saw 151, which means between those two alone there are 335 slot routes up for grabs. Mike Williams, who ran 124 slot routes last year, will likely see some, but many will go to Hunter Henry. Allen should continue to be drafted as a WR1, while Hunter Henry is a Top 5 tight end and Mike Williams is a borderline WR 3/4 for me.
18. Los Angeles Rams
2018 Slot Leader: Robert Woods
Numbers from Slot: 16.9 routes/game, 3.6 tgt/game, 2.4 rec/game, 31.3 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook: : While Woods led the Rams in slot production in 2018, that was only because Kupp missed so much time. In the games that Kupp played, he ran 134 slot routes, compared to 94 for Woods and 83 for Brandin Cooks. All three will see some time from the slot, but Kupp not only ran the most routes but led the team in slot targets, receptions, yards and touchdowns in the 8 games he played. The Rams offense is capable of making all three put up WR3 numbers, although there could be some down weeks for one here and there. Kupp should once again be the lead slot receiver, meaning he should be pretty consistent week-to-week. In the eight games he played last season, he scored fewer than 10 PPR points in just two of them. You can draft all three of these wide outs as a WR2 this season with confidence.
19. Miami Dolphins
2018 Slot Leader: Danny Amendola
Numbers from Slot: 22.1 routes/game, 3.7 tgt/game, 2.8 rec/game, 28.7 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook: The Dolphins will look very different in 2019. First, head coach Adam Gase and his offense that ran the fewest offensive plays in the NFL last year are gone. This year the offense will be run by Chad O'Shea, who made the jump from Patriots wide receiver coach to offensive coordinator. While we do not have a lot of information on O'Shea it is worth mentioning that Tom Brady averaged 9.8 pass attempts to slot receivers, which was middle of the pack. With other teams in his career, Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 8.0 pass attempts to the slot last year, while Josh Rosen averaged 8.4.
With Amendola out of town, the slot position is up for grabs. Kenny Stills did average 10.5 slot routes per game, but he will still likely be used a lot out wide. Albert Wilson only ran 45 slot routes in all of 2018, but he projects as the favorite to lead this team in slot routes. He is a very dangerous receiver and while he can be had currently as a WR7, he flashed his upside last year and it is significantly higher than that. He is a good late rate pick this season.
20. Minnesota Vikings
2018 Slot Leader: Adam Thielen
Numbers from Slot: 22.3 routes/game, 5.5 tgt/game, 4.3 rec/game, 44.9 rec YPG, 7 TD
2019 Outlook:Adam Thielen is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. He proved last season that 2017 was no fluke and should once again be drafted as a WR1 in PPR leagues. He finished first in receptions from the slot (69), fifth in yards (718), tied for second in touchdowns (7) and third in targets (88).
The Vikings will also mix Stefon Diggs in the slot at times. He finished last season with 32 targets, 27 receptions, 269 yards and two touchdowns from the slot. While Kyle Rudolph finished with 261 routes, 37 targets, 28 receptions, 341 yards, and three touchdowns. One caveat here, Chad Beebe is the favorite to win the number three receiver job, according to early reports. Beebe played in a very small sample size in 2018 but ran 27 routes from the slot and only nine out wide. That could push Thielen from the slot at times.
21. New England Patriots
2018 Slot Leaders: Julian Edelman
Numbers from Slot: 24.1 routes/game, 5.6 tgt/game, 4.0 rec/game, 46.4 rec YPG, 4 TD
2019 Outlook: : Edelman is once again going to be running out of the slot for the Patriots, which is a great spot for fantasy value. Brady averaged 9.8 pass attempts per game to the slot in 2018 and Edelman should see even more than the nine targets per game he saw last season. First, with Rob Gronkowski retired and Josh Gordon still in limbo, there are 140 targets up for grabs alone from those two. Additionally, Edelman has thrived in games that Gronk has missed. Since 2013, he has averaged 8.8 targets per game, 65.2 receiving yards and 15.58 PPR PPG in games with Gronk, while those numbers jump to 11.4 targets per game, 80.55 receiving yards and 17.52 PPR PPG without him. Edelman is a borderline WR1 in PPR leagues this season as Brady's lead slot receiver and top target.
Last season, even after Edelman returned, Chris Hogan averaged 12.3 slot routes per game. From Weeks 5 through 17 he put up 286 yards and a touchdown from the slot. That role this season will be operated by either first-round pick N'Keal Harry or veteran slot receiver, Maurice Harris. The expectation is that Harry will take over at some point this season, but reports from training camp have not been kind to him.
22. New Orleans Saints
2018 Slot Leader: Michael Thomas
Numbers from Slot: 10.0 routes/game, 3.4 tgt/game, 2.9 rec/game, 36.1 rec YPG, 3 TD
The Saints did not go out and bring in a proven slot receiver this offseason, meaning that we will likely see similar usage as last season. Thomas will likely see close to 10 routes per game from the slot, while Tre'Quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Ted Ginn and Austin Carr battle out for some action in the slot. The highest upside of the bunch would be Smith, who is a tremendous athlete, but just could not seem to click in his rookie season.
While the Saints did not sign a proven slot receiver, they did bring in tight end Jared Cook who will essentially work primarily out of the slot. Last season he had 39 receptions, 514 yards and four touchdowns from the slot. He is the second receiver to own here behind Thomas.
23. New York Giants
2018 Slot Leader: Sterling Shepard
Numbers from Slot: 22.1 routes/game, 3.6 tgt/game, 2.4 rec/game, 26.8 rec YPG, 4 TD
2019 Outlook: Slot receivers are all the rage, but the Giants didn't get the memo that you still need receivers to line up out wide. Their three top pass catchers (not including Saquon Barkley) are all players who excel in the slot. Shepard was not only the effective slot receiver for the Giants last season, but he ran 354 routes from the slot and only 248 lined up out wide. He also scored 107.5 PPR points and averaged 2.76 PPR points per catch from the slot. Those numbers drop to 69.4 total PPR points and 2.65 PPR points per catch from out wide. Golden Tate has averaged over 25 slot routes per game in his last two seasons with the Lions. In his last two seasons, he has run 693 routes from the slot, while only running 211 routes from out wide in that span. Additionally, Evan Engram ran 156 routes from the slot and just 41 out wide.
This receiving core comes with usage questions. My best guess is that Tate will operate at the primary slot receiver, but both he and Shepard will be used in the slot and out wide at times. Engram likely bounces around from the slot, to out wide, to some more traditional tight end routes, as well. However, Shepard is dealing with a broken thumb, while Tate is looking at a four-game suspension. Due to the question marks, Shepard should be valued more as a low-end WR3 in PPR, while Tate is a WR4, unless the suspension is shortened. Engram is a Top-6 tight end and a legitimate breakout candidate. The usage will need to be monitored closely if/when all three are on the field together.
24. New York Jets
2018 Slot Leader: Jermaine Kearse
Numbers from Slot: 20.3 routes/game, 3.8 tgt/game, 1.9 rec/game, 18.6 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook: : The Jets shuffled between Kearse and Quincy Enunwa in the slot last season with Kearse ultimately running the most routes. However, the Jets went out and signed Jamison Crowder this offseason and he is fully expected to be the primary slot option for the Jets this season. Over the last three seasons, Crowder has averaged 24 slot routes per game, good for nearly 1,000 total slot routes in that time. He's totaled over 1,400 receiving yards from the slot alone in that span and scored 12 touchdowns. Crowder is cheap in fantasy football drafts, but very much so should be on your radar. Last season, Sam Darnold attempted 11.2 pass attempts per game to slot receivers. It may be a new offensive system, but the Jets went out and brought in Crowder after hiring Adam Gase. The Jets are planning on using him as the primary slot receiver, which should lead to plenty of targets from the young QB. He can be had in the late rounds and is worthy of a flier.
25. Oakland Raiders
2018 Slot Leader: Seth Roberts
Numbers from Slot: 19.9 routes/game, 3.2 tgt/game, 2.2 rec/game, 23.7 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook: The Raiders used Seth Roberts and Jordy Nelson last year as their top slot receivers, although Jared Cook was really the slot receiver producing for them. He finished with 39 receptions, 514 yards and four touchdowns on 255 slot routes. This year, the Raiders are without Roberts, Cook, and Nelson, meaning that there is plenty of slot production up for grabs. The favorites to replace last years producers are youngsters Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. Renfrow, who the Raiders drafted in the fifth round, worked primarily as a slot receiver in college and has been getting rave reviews from training camp. He's also already been listed as the lead slot receiver on early depth charts. It's likely we see Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams operate from the slot at times, but when Oakland runs three wide receivers set, Renfrow should be expected in the slot. He is more of a waiver wire guy for now, but he could blossom into a bye week replacement.
Waller comes with upside especially after the season Cook put up last year. He is their TE1 and all reports from camp have stated how unstoppable he has been at practice. He should be drafted as a TE2 with upside.
26. Philadelphia Eagles
2018 Slot Leader: Nelson Agholor
Numbers from Slot: 20.6 routes/game, 3.5 tgt/game, 2.3 rec/game, 28.2 rec YPG, 2 TD
2019 Outlook: Agholor's numbers took a hit once he had to split slot time with Golden Tate. While Agholor still had more receiving yards from the slot with Tate in the picture, Tate edged him out in terms of targets and receptions. He should start the season once again running as the primary slot option, with Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson running out wide. Rookie receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside will be in the picture this year as well.
Agholor is currently going outside the Top 80 wide receivers, meaning that he is likely to go undrafted in most leagues. However, he could blossom into a nice waiver wire pickup as Carson Wentz threw 12.8 passes per game to the slot in 2018, the sixth highest in the NFL. Additionally, Nick Foles actually threw more slot passes (71) than he did out wide (54) in 2018, showing that the Eagles prioritize the slot in their system.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers
2018 Slot Leader: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Numbers from Slot: 25.7 routes/game, 5.9 tgt/game, 3.7 rec/game, 49.3 rec YPG, 4 TD
2019 Outlook: Smith-Schuster ran about two-thirds of his routes from the slot last season. He ended up scoring 163.1 PPR points from the slot and 124.2 from out wide. While he is going to be asked to shoulder more of the load with Antonio Brown now (maybe?) playing in Oakland, but he should continue to see time from the slot as well. The likelihood is that Donte Moncrief sees some time from the slot, but not nearly as much as Smith-Schuster. Last season, Antonio Brown ran 8.7 slot routes per game and added 306 yards and five touchdowns from there.
The primary suspect to step into the slot when JuJu is out wide is Ryan Switzer. Last season Switzer ran 165 routes from the slot and finished with 24 receptions and 199 yards. He will not be drafted, but he could carve out a role in the Steelers high volume offense.
Tight End Vance McDonald will also do damage from the slot. Last year he ran 134 routes and had 136 of his yards from the slot. He will be a larger part of the offense this year and could be used as a big slot receiver, similar to how they used JuJu last season.
28. San Francisco 49ers
2018 Slot Leader: Trent Taylor
Numbers from Slot: 11.8 routes/game, 2.1 tgt/game, 1.1 rec/game, 8.8 rec YPG, 1 TD
2019 Outlook:Trent Taylor was making some noise in training camp but suffered a fracture in his foot and now his start of the season is in question. With Taylor out, you can expect rookie Jalen Hurd, Richie James, and Jordan Matthews to compete for slot targets. Of those three, Hurd has the highest upside. He is a 6'4 former running back who actually started over Alvin Kamara in college, before making the jump to receiver. He could be used as a Swiss army knife of sorts for this Niners offense.
There is also the possibility that Dante Pettis sees some time in the slot. Last year he ran 10.3 slot routes per game and added 12 catches for 234 yards and two touchdowns to his end of season numbers. Marquise Goodwin should continue to be used out wide and rookie Deebo Samuel remains a wild card as he could be used both out wide or in the slot. The slot receiver will hold value with Jimmy Garoppolo at the helm, as he averaged 9.3 pass attempts to the slot in 2018. Additionally, Nick Mullens averaged 11.4 and C.J. Beathard at 9.2, showing that the slot plays a large part in this offense.
Of course, you can't discuss the Niners offense without talking Kittle. He actually ran more slot routes last year than any receiver on this team. He ran 231 routes (14.4 per game) good for 34 receptions, 508 yards, and two scores. He will continue to be the best part of this offense this season.
29. Seattle Seahawks
2018 Slot Leader: Tyler Lockett
Numbers from Slot: 14.2 routes/game, 1.8 tgt/game, 1.6 rec/game, 18.2 rec YPG, 5 TD
2019 Outlook: While Lockett led the Seahawks in routes, yards, and touchdowns from the slot, he split duty there with Doug Baldwin. Baldwin ran 214 slot routes last year and finished with 27 catches for 285 yards and four touchdowns. There was really no other threat to take slot looks away from Lockett last season. Not only that, but he was super effective in the slot, posting a 158.3 passer rating when targeted. While I know this is a slot article, there are plenty of reasons to like Lockett this season. Not only will he run more from the slot with Baldwin gone, but he should continue to see time on the right side of the field, where he caught 27 of 33 targets, scored five touchdowns and once again had a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeted. Rookie DK Metcalf did most of his damage in college on the left side and can slide in and be a new Lockett of sorts -- a low catch, but high yards per reception and touchdown option. Lockett should be a lock to see 100 targets, no pun intended. Why is that so important? Because the only player to see 100+ targets from Russell Wilson in the past is Doug Baldwin -- who never finished lower than WR13 in PPR in any year he had 100+ targets. Lockett is going to play very well in the slot this season and should be a safe bet to finish as a Top-20 WR in PPR.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2018 Slot Leader: Adam Humphries
Numbers from Slot: 26.5 routes/game, 5.1 tgt/game, 3.7 rec/game, 41.6 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook: Humphries is now gone, leaving a huge gaping hole in the Bucs slot production. It was a very small sample size, but in the Bucs first preseason game, Chris Godwin ran in the slot every time they went to three-wide receiver sets with the starters in. That is with Mike Evans and Breshad Perriman manning the outside. Godwin was used sparingly in the slot last year, running 7.3 routes per game, and totaling 15 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown. He averaged 2.61 PPR points per reception, which is actually more than Humphries averaged, at 2.43. Godwin is a fantasy industry favorite and should continue to be drafted as a WR2 with upside.
A deep sleeper here is Justin Watson, who ran from the slot with the second-team offense in the preseason and if Perriman struggles out wide or Godwin struggles in the slot, he could be promoted to a larger role.
Of course, the tight ends are also going to do work from the slot this year. Last year both averaged 14.3 slot routes per game, with O.J. Howard averaging a super-efficient 3.89 PPR points per catch. Brate scored 2.84 PPR points per catch in 2018. Howard is a popular breakout and for good reason -- he should continue to be drafted as a Top 5 tight end, while Brate provides depth in deeper leagues.
31. Tennessee Titans
2018 Slot Leader: Corey Davis
Numbers from Slot: 9.0 routes/game, 2.5 tgt/game, 1.7 rec/game, 18.8 rec YPG, 3 TD
2019 Outlook: The Titans were searching for slot production throughout the 2018 season. While Core Davis led them in every stat, he actually ran the second most slot routes on the team, behind Tajae Sharpe, who ran 152. That is a very low number of routes to lead a team. However, things should be very different in 2019. First, the Titans went out and signed Adam Humphries to a four-year deal. He should be the primary slot option this season, as he averaged 26.5 slot routes per game with the Bucs last year, totaling 59 catches for 666 yards and three scores. The Titans also went out and drafted A.J. Brown, who drew comps to JuJu Smith-Schuster around the NFL Draft, due to the fact that he excelled as a big slot receiver in college. Lastly, the Titans will also have Delanie Walker healthy, who was their lead slot receiver in 2017. He finished that season with 13.1 slot routes per game, good for 36 catches, 365 yards, and a touchdown. After struggling to find a consistent slot performer in 2018, the Titans may have too many options in 2019 that they will take away from one another. Knowing the different options they have, plus the fact that Marcus Mariota has never topped 3,500 pass yards and it becomes hard to get excited to draft any of the Titans receivers. Walker could be trusted as a TE2 with the upside to finish as a backend TE1.
32. Washington Redskins
2018 Slot Leader: Jamison Crowder
Numbers from Slot: 21.6 routes/game, 3.7 tgt/game, 2.1 rec/game, 30.7 rec YPG, 2 TD
2019 Outlook: After years of Crowder manning the slot in Washington, he has now moved onto New York, while his replacement at times last season, Maurice Harris is also out the door, now playing in New England. That leaves the slot duty to second-year pro, Trey Quinn. Quinn was used limitedly in 2018, but he did catch seven of his eight slot targets, for 65 yards and a touchdown. Head Coach Jay Gruden has already stated that the sure-handed Quinn has locked down the slot job in Washington. That is vital because the QB will either be Case Keenum, who showed us the past two years with Adam Thielen and Emmanuel Sanders/DaeSean Hamilton that he loves to throw to the slot, rookie Dwayne Haskins who will likely rely on Quinn as a safety blanket all year, or the worst-case scenario, Colt McCoy, who very well may rely on Quinn as a safety blanket himself. Either way, there are a lot of targets up for grabs in Washington and Quinn very well could lead this team in targets. He costs nothing more than a late-round pick right now but has the ability to become a weekly starter in PPR leagues.
Jordan Reed also ran 14.1 slot routes per game in 2018, while racking up 33 catches for 317 yards and two scores. Outside of Quinn, he is the only other option that should see consistent time in the slot. Health issues have driven down his ADP to nothing more than a backend TE2, which means you can now take a shot on his upside without having to pay for any of the downside risk. He is a solid pick late in drafts.