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Performing Against Expectation – Young WRs

@thedynastyrobot is here to discuss player performance against expectation for young WRs

For every pass, rush, or target a player receives, there is an expected fantasy value based on the game scenario at the time of the play. When all this is quantified, one can see how many fantasy points a player should have obtained on average. A comparison of this to actual results will show who is consistently over or underperforming their expectation. Fantasy football is about opportunity, first and foremost. It will be much better to have a player underperforming but with a lead role. However, those who continue to outperform expectations will continue to see opportunity, while those who underperform may see their roles cut back.

Leveraging the data from Tan Ho and Joe Sydlowski, I have quantified the prior year’s fantasy points against expectations on a per-game basis. I have also calculated the same value but for yardage only to remove scoring variance. Mostly, this data should line up, but a few outliers may greatly under or overperform their expected touchdown numbers. Since touchdowns can vary greatly from year to year, it’s important to factor this into consideration.

With this data, we can see which players may be breakout or regression candidates.   There may be players that did not see significant playing time but outperformed their expectations.  This could lead to more opportunities in the future.  Conversely, a player may have put up decent fantasy numbers but was well under expectation.  Their role may diminish as they move forward.

There are a couple of things to note about these variations. A single-season value may be an outlier, so it’s best to see a few years of data. This also helps to see trends, such as when a veteran player may begin falling in efficiency, which could lead to a fall in value. It can also be used for rookies with limited data, albeit at less of a weighting. Data may be skewed if a player only played a few weeks of the year. With that said, let’s jump into the data by position.

2022 Wide Receivers (Young WRs)

Note: Data is sorted by 2022 fantasy points per game.  A minimum of 3 games in 2022 qualifies a player.

PAE – Fantasy points above or below expectation (left side of the chart)

YAE – Fantasy points above or below expectations for yardage elements only (right side of the chart)

Top Young Players

After a monster rookie season, we saw a massive drop-off from Ja’Marr Chase in both YAE and PAE. However, he remained in positive territory and won’t be lacking in volume, so he remains a top WR. Jefferson saw a similar drop in his sophomore campaign and a bounce back in year 3, so it’s likely nothing to be concerned with.

Amon-Ra remained steady in YAE but fell in PAE, surprising in the high-scoring Detroit offense.

Waddle saw one of the bigger increases, jumping from neutral to +1.47 in YAE and increasing his PAE from +1.04 to +2.63.

DeVonta also took a big leap from -.12 to +.59 in YAE and up from -.78 to +1.22 in PAE. The addition of A.J. Brown doesn’t seem to keep his production down, and he can form a similar duo as Chase/Higgins or Waddle/Hill in their high-powered offense.

In his rookie season, Olave netted a slightly positive YAE and PAE. With Carr at the helm, we will see if he can build on those numbers in 2023.

Garrett Wilson, who was likely the second wide receiver off the board in rookie drafts, has also shot up the rankings. His +.31 YAE supports his efficiency and stands above Olave. However, his numbers were pulled down by the Jets offense, posting a -.83 PAE. With Rodgers in town, the quarterback upgrade should only enhance his numbers in 2023.

London was the first wide receiver off most rookie draft boards. His rookie season was hampered by poor quarterback play and a dreadful offense. He fell short in YAE at -.32 and was pummeled in PAE, landing at -1.44. With Bijan in Atlanta to balance the run game and Ridder under the helm, the offense is moving to the future, but only time will tell if that helps London in 2023.

Mid-Tier Young Players

Watson was around the WR7 off rookie draft boards but outperformed all the other top rookies on a limited sample. His YAE of +.69 and PAE of +2.00 put him directly on the success track. While there will most certainly be touchdown regression (he scored 7 receiving touchdowns on 31 receptions beginning Week 10), he can make up for that with a volume increase. With Rodgers leaving, Jordan Love has some large shoes to fill.

Dotson performed similarly to Watson, posting a YAE of +.50 and PAE of +2.44. He also benefited from touchdown luck, scoring 7 receiving touchdowns on 35 receptions. HOWEVER, his PAE is more likely to regress because he was on the field more.

Pickens put up a solid +.67 YAE and +1.44 PAE in a very weak Steelers’ offense. His numbers were stronger than Dionte’s, which could lead to him taking some targets from him as he develops.

Burks has fallen from his WR3 rookie drafts after battling injuries for most of his rookie season. The Titans run-heavy offense did him no favors, either. However, he still put up a YAE of +.56 and was neutral in PAE. His PPG was very low compared to his draft mates. He will need to further build out a role on the offense or fall further down the rankings.

Skyy Moore has also fallen after not being involved much in the offense until his Superbowl catch. The Chiefs used him as a gadget player and only allowed him a max of 46% of snaps in 2022. On the very limited sample, he posted a YAE of -.36 and PAE of -.99. With JuJu gone; the slot is now open for him to be Mahomes’ third option. We will need to wait and see if any of his draft hype will come to fruition.

Bateman battled injuries in his first year, posting a neutral YAE and negative PAE. However, in 2022, he turned it around a bit, moving up to a +.57 YAE and +.40 PAE. These positive strides are critical as he will see more competition from fellow first-round draft pick Zay Flowers. The Ravens’ new offensive coordinator is pass-friendly, so there is a possibility of increased volume to go with his newfound efficiency.

Rondale Moore continues to battle injuries. His numbers in years one and two remain consistent and neutral, with a 2022 YAE of +.08 and PAE of -.36. With issues at quarterback for at least the start of the season, he may have a tough start to 2023.

Other Notables

Hodgins came onto the scene late in 2022 but posted some solid numbers—his YAE of +.54 and PAE of +2.17 rival some of the stronger receivers. We could see his value jump if he can up his volume and maintain this efficiency. The Giants are deep with mediocre talent, so the door remains open for him to earn more targets.

Dortch filled in for Rondale very nicely and posted another set of strong efficiency marks. He fell from +1.04 to +.62 in YAE and remained consistent with +1.00 in PAE. He will also struggle to get targets this year, but the efficiency supports getting them.

With the addition of Quentin Johnston, Palmer finds himself again outside the top 3 options for the Chargers. While his fantasy numbers were solid, his efficiency was poor. He fell in year two from -.17 down to -.36 in YAE and from +.19 to -1.00 in PAE. Barring an injury, he is likely off the fantasy landscape for 2023 and likely into the future.

Doubs was gaining some hype after breaking out before Watson in Green Bay. However, his efficiency was inferior, with a YAE of -.83 and PAE of -.94 in his rookie season. With his limited draft capital and the position readdressed in 2022, he likely finds himself in a much less desirable spot in 2023.

Rashid Shaheed posted some truly outrageous numbers in 2022. Granted, this is on a very limited sample. However, his YAE of +2.10 and PAE of +4.00 at least open the door for a flyer at a minimal cost.

Kadarius Toney bumped up his YAE from +.35 to +.65 in his move to Kansas City. More importantly, the higher-scoring offense led to a massive jump in PAE from -.85 to +1.03. The efficiency and likely volume should be available to him next year. His PPG was pretty high for only seeing a max of 44% snaps and missing multiple weeks due to injuries for his second season in a row. If he can stay on the field, this could be a big year for him.

Many wrote Terrace Marshall off as a bust until Carolina sent everyone packing. He now stands as the presumptive WR1 for them. He rebounded from his dismal first-year performance, jumping from -.66 to +1.06 in YAE and from -1.38 to +.39 in PAE. There may be hope of a turnaround for him at not too high a cost. He still only managed mid-single-digit scoring in 2022. To gain relevancy, he needs an increase in targets in 2023.

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