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Eli Manning and the young Giants
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Image via Wikimedia Commons

If he didn’t have better things to do–like manage the New York Giants–I would guess that GM Jerry Reese could be a RotoViz reader.  Recently we’ve been getting into the effect of age on quarterback, running back, and wide receiver prospects and how that might impact their real life and fantasy football value.  In considering this, I present a real life example of an organization that seems to considers age and trajectory in their evaluation process: the New York Giants.

Life in the NFL is a Darwinian existence.  Hands too small?  Tough luck, kid.  Stayed in college an extra year to get your degree and enjoy college life?  Stupid decision, you spent another year developing bad habits.  It’s harsh but it’s true.  When evaluating prospects you want to see players getting better EVERY year, indicating that they haven’t hit their ceiling before encountering their best competition.  Put another way, if a player improves every season while in college, chances are good they can still improve in the NFL with better coaching, full time dedication, etc etc.  What’s even better is if they have improved every year and are YOUNG.  In a “perfect scenario” I’m talking about guys who spent the minimum amount of three years in college before declaring for the draft.  The New York Giants seem to be keen on surrounding Eli Manning with these type of players.  Consider the youngest offensive skills players that the G-men have drafted since 2007 when Jerry Reese became GM.

Player Pos Round Week 1 age stars
David Wilson RB 1 21.2 5
Rueben Randle WR 2 21.3 5
Ahmad Bradshaw RB 7 21.5 3
Hakeem Nicks WR 1 21.6 4
Jerrel Jernigan WR 3 22.2 3
Mario Manningham WR 3 22.3 4
Steve  Smith WR 2 22.3 4

This batch of draftees all played their final college season at age 20 or 21; compare this with a recent draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys, and you begin to realize how critical EVERY year of a football player’s life is.  Of the above list, almost every player was a “hit” with the exception of Jerrel Jernigan, but more on that later.  For these guys, not only were they good, but they were young and good.  To further this point, I included their “star” rank from which paints the picture of  high-end high school players who were put on the fast track to football stardom early.  Given the shelf life of a receiver or running back’s legs in the NFL, the sooner you can get to them, the better.

Now, focusing on the wide receivers, let’s take a look at their career trajectories using this awesome RotoViz tool.  Notice how everyone (except Jernigan) is trending upward over at least their last two seasons and in some cases three seasons.

*Note that we have incomplete performance data on Ramses Barden, so he has been omitted from this exercise.  For what it’s worth, he turned 24 at the end of his rookie season; a bad sign for a “project” receiver.

Market Share of Yards
Market Share of Yards
Market Share of Touchdowns
Market Share of Touchdowns
% Touchdowns on RZ targets
% Touchdowns on RZ targets

*Note that RZ rates tend to spike in year one due to success on limited targets.  What’s important is how they rebound (see Nicks and Randle) after they’re fully integrated in the offense.

Not only do the New York Giants draft young players, but they also draft guys whose career trajectories are still trending upward.  They’re young, they’re improving, and then they get selected to play for one of the best organizations in football and POOF! they succeed.  The only bust on this list is Jernigan, who might go down as Jerry Reese’s worst draft pick.  He was brought in for special teams help after the disasterous 2010 season, but even still has only managed to accumulate 13 career touches.

In closing, I hope this article has presented a real life of example of the “pie in the sky” stuff we’re accused of talking about at RotoViz.  You may think we’re being neurotic when we talk about DeAndre Hopkins young age or his career trajectory, but you’d be missing the point.  It seems like the NFL is paying attention to this stuff.  If that’s the case, why wouldn’t you pay attention too?  Stay tuned as my next article will examine an organization on the wrong side of this equation.

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