Should Roy Williams Play the Slot for the Cowboys?
By Jonathan Bales
In yesterday’s Mailbag, I stated that Roy Williams’ skill set was not suited for the slot. Slot receivers are generally very quick in small areas–something Williams is obviously not.
Williams is very talented on “in-breaking” routes, however–slants, posts, ins, and so on. Because of this, I’ve heard some fans and media alike clamor that Williams should be moved to the slot. After all, he appears to be a better wide receiver when catching balls in the middle of the field.
I dug into our statistics, and they do seem to support this notion. Take a look at the chart to the left. Notice the tremendous disparity between Williams’ production in the middle of the field as compared to the sides, both in yards-per-attempt and completion percentage.
Slot receivers generally haul in a lot of balls in the middle of the field, so Williams must be well-suited to kick inside, right?
Wrong. In assuming so, you’d be suffering from a logical error known as “confirming the consequent.” In effect, the argument could be broken down as follows:
1. If a player is a slot receiver, he will perform best in the middle of the field.
2. Roy Williams performs best in the middle of the field.
3. Therefore, Roy Williams is (or should be) a slot receiver.
The argument might look sound, but the conclusion (3) does not follow from the premises. It is equivalent to saying:
1. If it rained last night, the street will be wet.
2. The street is wet.
3. Therefore, it rained last night.
There are a multitude of reasons the street could be wet, however, without it having rained. Similarly, there are a plethora of reasons Roy Williams could perform well over the middle of the field without being well-suited to play in the slot.
One such reason is the nature of the routes he runs and on which he excels. As I said, Williams flourishes on “in-breaking” routes. On many of these routes, he does not catch the ball until he is inside the hash-marks .
Sure, Williams might feel more comfortable when making receptions in the middle of the field, but that is no reason to believe he can dominate as a slot receiver. There would be little room for him to run slants, posts (other than skinny posts), and so on in the slot–they would take him right into the linebackers.
Thus, don’t expect to see Roy Williams in the slot any more than you did in 2009.