The last two off-seasons, I have been charting rookie wide receiver data and trying to determine whether we should continue to invest in our young wide receivers. For the latest article regarding this and a history of the methodology, you should check out Assessing The 2021 WR Class After Their Debut Seasons from last January.
Essentially, this method is a way for us to cut out all outside factors (injury, suspension, contract disputes) and create a threshold that we expect rookies to hit if they will have successful careers. Of course, this can never be a perfect system as players have different career trajectories. But the success rate of this method has been highly accurate.
With Week 9 now behind us, we are past the halfway point of the 2022 season. So let’s look at how these rookie wide receivers are doing so far and what work may need to be done still to hit the rookie threshold.
History of the Threshold
For a little background, let’s talk about the success rate of this wide receiver threshold that I originally established. The threshold asks that a rookie wide receiver average five points per week (in 0.5 PPR) during their rookie season. This is not five points per game. They need to total 85 points or more (previously 80 or more until the 17th regular season game was added in 2021) for their rookie season.
If a player is injured, suspended, in a contract dispute, or any other outside factors, it does not change the scale for them. This guideline asks, “did the rookie wide receiver average five points per week in their rookie season?”
I have been charting this back to the 2015 rookie class. As I mentioned in the intro, the method is not 100% perfect. But it is quite accurate. Since 2015, there have only been a handful of wide receivers that didn’t hit the five points per week threshold their rookie season that went on to average more than 100 points per year in their seasons after their rookie campaign.
Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, Curtis Samuel, Corey Davis, and Michael Pittman.
That’s it. From 2015 to 2020, five wide receivers that did not reach 5 points per week during their rookie year averaged more than 100 points from their second year on. Fifty-one other wide receivers continued their career under 100 points per season on average who did not hit the threshold. This is an 89% success rate.
Again, this system is not perfect, but there is a decent success rate in predicting career based on rookie wide receiver success.
2021 Rookie Receivers
Before we get into this year’s rookie class, let’s see how the threshold looks for those wide receivers in the 2021 rookie class. We had five wide receivers that got over the threshold their rookie season: Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Amon-Ra St. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Elijah Moore. The rest failed to reach 85 points in 0.5 PPR.
Here is a chart showing their rookie totals along with what they have tallied in 2022:
For reference, Rondale Moore and Rashod Bateman were within five points of hitting the threshold last season. Moore is on pace to barely crack the 100-point mark this season, and Bateman is on pace to fall under 100 points. They currently rank as WR54 and WR62 on the year.
On the other end, Elijah Moore easily broke the threshold, but is on pace to be well below 100 points on the season and sits at WR88.
We will have to watch in the second half to see if these numbers stay consistent, but if they do, Moore feels like the only real exception to this threshold. All others have continued along the same trajectory we saw in their rookie seasons.
2022 Rookie Receivers
That brings us to this year’s rookie wide receivers. None of this is set in stone by any means. We have seen many wide receivers turn it on in the second half of their rookie year to hit the rookie threshold. For example, just last year, Amon-Ra St. Brown had 56.7 points in his first 11 games, barely breaking 5 points per week. He scored 125.6 points in his final six weeks, nearly 21 points per week.
But let’s see what the pace looks like for our rookies:
If the season ended today, seven receivers would make the cut for hitting five points per week in their rookie season: Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Romeo Doubs, Alec Pierce, George Pickens, and Jahan Dotson. Meanwhile, highly drafted players like Treylon Burks and Jameson Williams have not made the mark. Williams has not seen any game action as he still recovers from an ACL tear he suffered in the National Championship Game a year ago. Burks has missed the last four Titans games with turf toe, though he averaged 4.775 points per week before that.
The divide is clear in this year’s data set thus far. Seven rookie receivers have started their careers with very good success. Meanwhile, those rostering first st round ADP wide receivers like Burks, Christian Watson, and Skyy Moore may want to keep a close eye on how the rest of this season plays out.
What Does This All Mean?
Does this mean an owner needs to panic and get out from their players now? No, not necessarily. As I mentioned in the last two years, this isn’t a perfect system. And there is still a lot of season left. But it is something to keep an eye on. Every bad game lowers the value of a player.
Sometimes we reach the point when we have a chance to get out and don’t. We regret not selling a guy when he still had value. We could re-coup some of our investment. But then again, sometimes we hold, and it all pays off. The breakout just takes a little longer for some players.
At season’s end, I will have a full breakdown of the 2022 rookie wide receivers. Will we see many changes to this data come January? Or is the halfway point already showing us the career trajectory of many of these players? We will have to wait and see.