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Profiling 2021 Rookie Wide Receivers Using Past Finishes

How does this rookie wide receiver class stack up to past successes of similar profiles? @FFJohnnyBGoode looks at wide receivers selected within the first 2 rounds and compares them to top 24 finishes over the last 10 years

This is the time of year when dynasty fantasy football managers are scouring over the new batch of rookies. We are trying to determine who will be the most likely to find success in the NFL and likely bust. For wide receivers, the three most common metrics used by those into analytics are breakout age, dominator rating, and draft capital. Breakout age is the age at which a wide receiver achieves a 20% dominator rating in college. Dominator rating is the percentage of yards and touchdowns the wide receiver accounts for in their offense. These two metrics, with draft capital, can be valuable in profiling wide receivers that have a better chance at being a bust or having a top 24 fantasy season at the position. I will use these metrics, along with past finishes, and compare the success of those profiles to those in the 2021 draft class.

The Model

The model used in this article includes all drafted NFL wide receivers since 2010. Dominator rating and breakout age were procured from Playerprofiler.com. The following cut-offs were used for each of the metrics:

 Dominator Rating: 30%
Breakout Age: >50th percentile

Wide receivers must meet both of these cut-offs, and have a top 24 fantasy season at the position, to be considered a “predicted hit.”

Any wide receiver who met only one or none of these cut-offs and never had a top 24 fantasy season is considered a “predicted bust.”

Wide receivers who had a top 24 fantasy season, but did not meet both of these cut-offs, are considered to be an outlier.

What the data shows:

Credit: Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Wide receivers drafted in the first round of the NFL draft

Total 1st round pick wide receivers to have a top 24 fantasy season: 50%
Predicted Hit Accuracy of the Model: 64%
Predicted Miss Accuracy of the Model: 82%

Wide receivers drafted in the second round of the NFL draft

Total percent of second round pick wide receivers to have a top 24 fantasy season: 40%
Predicted Hit Accuracy of the Model: 48%
Predicted Miss Accuracy of the Model: 70%

Wide receivers drafted in the third round of the NFL draft

Total percent of 3rd round pick wide receivers to have a top 24 fantasy season: 27%
Predicted Hit Accuracy of the Model: 40%
Predicted Miss Accuracy of the Model: 84%

Players drafted in rounds 4-7 do not present with statistically relevant enough information to add to the discussion

Using past profile success in this model, it’s reasonable to say that you can increase the chance of drafting a rookie wide receiver who will have a top 24 fantasy season by:

Round 1: 14% (64% vs 50%)
Round 2: 8% (48% vs 40%)
Round 3: 13% (40% vs 27%)

For some that may not seem like much, but what is even more useful with this information is that by drafting someone who does not meet the cut-offs for breakout age and dominator rating, you vastly increase your chances at drafting a bust. For example: drafting a wide receiver selected in the first round of the NFL Draft would give you a 50% chance at drafting a wide receiver who will have a top 24 season. If you draft someone who does not meet the breakout age and dominator rating thresholds, you increase your chances of drafting a bust to 82%.

Using past profile hits and misses, we can compare them to the profiles of the 2021 rookie wide receiver class:

PlayerProfile Hit PercentageProfile Miss Percentage
Ja’Marr Chase61%39%
Jaylen Waddle18%82%
Devonta Smith22%*82%
Kadarius Toney18%82%
Rashod Bateman61%39%
All of the Wide Receivers Selected Round 2 of the NFL Draft**46%54%
*Devonta Smith has a dominator rating that meets the threshold, but not breakout age. That type of profile has had a slightly higher hit rate than profiles that miss on both metrics. ** All of the wide receivers drafted in round 2 of the NFL Draft share the same analytical profile in this model

What does the model tell us?

Credit: Matt Stamey

Looking at these numbers, the profile of Chase and Bateman has had the most past success of profiles in this class. Waddle, Smith, and Toney have profiles that have not been very favorable at having a top 24 fantasy season. A point could be made for Waddle and Smith that the talent ahead of them during the last 2-4 years was detrimental to their profiles. This is where you have to manage your risk and do your due diligence to research these players further.

This model is not meant to be used as the be-all-end-all for your rookie wide receiver evaluations. There are always outliers to these types of models. In this example, players who meet the threshold for dominator rating, but miss on breakout age, have hit more than those who missed on both. The situation a player is drafted into should also be taken into consideration. Using this in combination with other tools at your disposal, such as the Dynasty Nerds Film Room, will help you maximize your potential to draft a hit and avoid a bust.

Make sure you subscribe to the #NerdHerd, where you get exclusive content, dynasty/rookie/devy rankings, buy/sell tool, and a bonus podcast too. Dynasty Nerds also recently launched the #DynastyGM tool, which is a complete game-changer in the fantasy industry. Click here for a free trial. We truly are your one-stop-shop for all your fantasy football needs!

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