A little over a year ago, I developed the Dominator Rating and Height-adjusted Speed Score for Money in the Banana Stand. The DR is essentially a shorthand method for describing a receiver’s ability to dominate the receiving market share on his college team. The HaSS is a quick and easy way to demonstrate whether a player has the type of size/speed profile that will allow him to impose his will on NFL defensive backs.
Last year the top three players on my breakout list were Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas. Jones was a mild disappointment, and skeptics will suggest the ascensions of Bryant and Thomas were already priced in. We receive a fair amount of criticism at RotoViz for recommending only “value” players, but it’s not strictly true. We want you to get the right players at good values, but that doesn’t mean we’ve sworn off superstars. Bryant and Thomas may have been expensive, but they were still cheap relative to their final values.
This year’s crop of players is perhaps not as exciting, but that just makes them easier to acquire. Getting a WR2 at the price of a WR4 is almost as valuable as getting a WR1 at the cost of a WR2. These rankings are based in part on what the metrics tell us about ultimate upside and in part on how much value each player would appear to have over his current ADP.
1. Michael Floyd – HaSS 113, DR 0.39
Floyd’s Height-adjusted Speed Score trails that of Julio Jones by almost 15 points, and his Dominator Rating lags behind Dez Bryant’s freakish numbers by a whopping 0.23. But if you look at it from the opposite direction, he’s a better size/speed specimen than Bryant and was a more productive college receiver than Jones.
Don’t get me wrong, Floyd probably will never reach the level of those players. He posted paltry yards per target numbers in college and only mediocre red zone touchdown rates. He still represents an excellent case for a breakout. Moreover, his possible ascension to WR2 status isn’t priced into his ADP (at least in part because all non-WR1 candidates are devalued this season due to unprecedented depth and strategic groupthink).
2. Rueben Randle – HaSS 101, DR 0.41
Randle’s market share numbers were better than his raw totals. He flew under the radar as a result but is now lighting the world on fire in Giants camp. With Hakeem Nicks seemingly always injured, Randle becomes an intriguing breakout candidate. There are very few situations in which it ever makes sense to handcuff a WR, but Randle’s possible emergence as a WR1 argues in favor of this strategy for the Nicks/Randle combo. Even costing you two roster spots, they probably represent a discount to expected points.
3. Stephen Hill – HaSS 125, DR 0.45
To put Hill’s HaSS in context, only Calvin Johnson, Vincent Jackson, Julio Jones, and Darrius Heyward-Bey have recorded a superior number. The Jets’ eventual No. 1 receiver would have been the top guy on this list if not for playing in Georgia Tech’s unusual offense (thus probably skewing his market share numbers). This may be a year early for Hill – the similarly raw but explosively talented Vincent Jackson didn’t truly emerge until Year 4 – but he’s going off the board at insane discounts in dynasty leagues. The move from Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith is going to juice the numbers for all the New York receivers.
4. Chris Givens – HaSS 99, DR 0.41
Many pundits misunderstand size/speed profiles. They see all smallish/fastish receivers in the same light. Height-adjusted Speed Score doesn’t make this mistake. There’s a huge difference between Givens’ 99 and Tavon Austin’s 89. After falling to the 4th round because of character concerns, Givens showed impressively down the stretch in 2013. I’ve argued that he’s poised for a big season. With the rest of the Rams’ receiving corps failing to impress, he looks like a bargain at his current ADP.
5. Alshon Jeffery – HaSS 103, DR 0.37
Jeffery lacks the profile of a true star and is buried behind my No. 1 rated WR Brandon Marshall. Like Justin Blackmon, Jeffery saw a big drop in his statistics during his final collegiate season, a factor RotoViz college WR guru Jon Moore has identified as a red flag. It’s still interesting to see drafters pricing in very little chance of a 2013 breakout. And as Coleman Kelly persuasively argues, a wide range of metrics suggests otherwise. It’s worth remembering how the former Gamecock, and not superstars like A.J. Green or Julio Jones, was the SEC’s best receiver in 2010.
6. A.J. Jenkins – HaSS 99, DR 0.55
Jenkins was very slow to develop in college. After seeing only 40 targets in his first two seasons, he exploded as a senior, leading the nation in target percentage on the way to 144 balls thrown in his direction. His Dominator Rating occupies the rarified air of players like Calvin Johnson and Hakeem Nicks. Jenkins also possesses identical timed speed to T.Y. Hilton at a slightly bigger size.
I’m not unaware of his pro struggles through one season and two weeks of training camp. Everybody misses occasionally, but the 49ers’ personnel department is one of the best in the NFL. There are obvious reasons they selected Jenkins, and it’s still a little early to declare him a complete bust. In fantasy his cost to acquire has gotten so cheap that he represents potentially significant reward at basically zero cost. If he trails camp body Marlon Moore into the regular season, you can cut him for the inevitable Week 1 waiver wire gem.
7. Mohamed Sanu – HaSS 91, DR 0.46
Sanu’s 4.67 forty torpedoes his HaSS, but the Bengals’ second year player was the premier possession receiver in all of college football for the 2011 season. As I described in my Breakout WR article, Sanu could be a rare combination of Wes Welker and Keyshawn Johnson. If you’re a PFF Draft Guide owner, you know Sanu features prominently in another breakout category as well.
It’s important to keep in mind that HaSS and DR are best at projecting receivers to the No. 1 and No. 2 receiver roles and less useful in projecting them to the slot, possession, or hybrid roles that are suddenly in vogue. (It’s equally valuable to remember that scouting methods have not been successful at projecting players into those positions.)
In Part 2: The Red Flags, discover five guys to avoid and find out why I’m the only person selling on T.Y. Hilton.
The heat maps provided can be found using the College WR Career Graph App. It’s a must-have tool for any serious fantasy researcher.