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Further to the Impact of Age on Rookie WRs
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White was a 24 year old rookie in 2005, while Fitz was a 21 year old rookie in 2004. Image via Football Schedule/Flickr

In my earlier post I took a quick, back of the napkin look at the issue of age and rookie wide receivers.  I noted that rookie WRs older than 23 tended to perform a little worse than the younger rookies.  But it probably wasn’t a very well designed look at the issue, so I did a little more work and have some additional results to report.

First, draft position probably has some effect on the performance of rookie WRs.  Draft position explains about 13% of the variance in rookie receiving yards.  That’s probably not a very good indicator for teams that spend a good amount of money every year  evaluating college prospects, but that’s a discussion for another day.  Here’s a graph in which I show receiving yards/game on the Y axis and draft pick on the X axis.

Rplot27

Then, I also took a look at whether age has any effect on draft position and it looks like it probably does factor into team thinking a little.  It’s tough to know exactly how this relationship works given that college prospects have an option on turning pro.  They can essentially do it when they feel that their chances of getting drafted are greatest.  So the youngest prospects are probably taking advantage of what they see as being the optimal time.  But here is a graph which shows draft picks and age.

Rplot28

So then what happens if we try to look at whether WRs over or underperformed their draft spot based on how old they were?  We get this graph:

Rplot25

To translate it, the 23 year old rookies performed the best vs. their expectation given their draft slot.  The 22 year old rookies were average as a group.  The 21 year old rookies were slightly below expectation although you can’t really hold that against them as they have the most room to grow.  But the performance of the 24 year old rookies, the worst among the age groups, is troubling I think.  They should be the most polished, and they should be ready to play right away.  But they were the worst performing group.

This is valuable information as I look to incorporate age into the WR model that I use to project pro success.  More to come.

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