You can probably file this post in the “you’re overthinking it, dude,” category. Nonetheless, this is our thing at RotoViz, a site that’s published 300+ articles before the NFL draft. I got an idea after looking through Brian Burke’s new Bayesian draft model over at his Advanced Football Analytics site. The model gives you pick-by-pick probabilities for where each prospect will be drafted. Now, the model is new and the inputs are limited, but it gave me some data to use in conjunction with my receiver opportunity scores to calculate a probabilistic estimate of how much production opportunity each top rookie wide receiver will have this year.
2015 Team Opportunity Score
As a refresher, here are the receiver opportunity scores as of right now. Remember, these scores show how undervalued a team’s current wide receivers ADPs are versus its quarterback’s. I’m using that undervaluation as a proxy for the opportunity that a rookie WR will have in year one, i.e. poor pre-draft receiving options should make it easier for a rookie to come in and immediately be productive.
I decided to use these team opportunity scores with Burke’s Bayesian draft model to calculate a weighted opportunity score for each top rookie WR prospect. To give you an idea of what Burke’s model produces, here is a screen shot of the pick-by-pick selection probabilities for DeVante Parker.
The 2015 Weighted Opportunity Scores
Before I start analyzing the results, I fully acknowledge that the draft selection probabilities, and therefore the weighted opportunity scores, are only based on a current snapshot of mock drafts, which will change as we get closer to the draft, and do not account for draft pick trades. Unpredictable trades will cause the team and opportunity score for a pick to change, thereby altering the weighted scores for each rookie. Remember, this is a thought experiment where I can only use available or predictable data.
The weighted scores ended up being a bit different than I thought going into the exercise. I figured Breshad Perriman, Jaelen Strong, and Dorial Green-Beckham would look good because of a higher chance of going to the destination with the most opportunity, Baltimore, at the end of the first round, pick 27. When you dig into the Bayesian draft model you see that prospects forecasted to be drafted in the late-first round have much lower probabilities of going to any particular team. As you get further into the draft, the number of destinations where a particular prospect can land grows and dilutes the individual pick probabilities.
Amari Cooper, in particular, is viewed unfavorably in this analysis. This is primarily because the Bayesian draft model gives Cooper a 34 percent chance of going to either Jacksonville, New York (Jets), or Chicago, teams that rank in the bottom four in terms of opportunity score. I know Chicago might seem like a good landing spot for a rookie receiver, but the ADPs for Alshon Jeffery (WR9), Martellus Bennett (TE5), and the other Chicago receivers are collectively high compared with Jay Cutler’s. Either Cutler is massively undervalued at QB18, or Cooper could struggle to see the targets necessary to put up big numbers in year one.
Kevin White, on the other hand, only has a 22 percent chance of going to those same unfavorable destinations. His weighed score is also boosted by the 54 percent probability he lands in opportunity-laden Atlanta, New York (Giants), or St. Louis. I know going to the Rams seems bad, but think of what Brian Quick was able to do early last year when he had little target competition. White would be the de-facto number-one WR in St. Louis starting the moment his name is called, and he’d be given every opportunity to lead the team in receiving his rookie year.
Place Your Bets on DeVante Parker
DeVante Parker is the big winner here. His highest draft probabilities are in the middle of the first round, with a 66 percent chance of going to either Minnesota, Cleveland, or New Orleans. Minnesota has a somewhat negative opportunity score, but New Orleans and Cleveland have two of the highest. While others will groan at Parker going to Cleveland, I believe it could provide a great opportunity to buy Parker cheap in redraft this year if his ADP suffers as a consequence. I have trouble imagining a scenario, barring injury, in Cleveland where Parker doesn’t get at least 100 targets as the team’s top receiving weapon.