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Five Explosive Receivers to Watch Out for in the 2014 Draft

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Last year the player that probably became most associated with RotoViz draft content was Grand Valley State WR Charles Johnson. Jon Moore’s piece illuminating Johnson’s ridiculous pro day is still one of the most widely read pieces on RotoViz to this day. After a disappointing year impacted by injury – but perhaps illustrating Johnson’s freak athleticism given that the Green Bay front office kept him on their practice squad because they didn’t even realize Johnson had a torn ACL – things don’t look that great for the RotoViz favorite. His future is uncertain because undrafted players coming off ACL surgery probably have long odds.

I think that a natural tendency that some might have would be to shy away from so-called workout warriors for that reason. That’s ridiculous. Maybe the greatest opportunity afforded to fantasy footballers willing to employ logic is to go against the lazy pattern matching crowd. The lazy pattern matching crowd will do things like avoid Iowa linemen after Robert Gallery busts. Or avoid really athletic tight ends after Jared Cook busts. Or speculate that Greg Little is comparable to Hakeem Nicks because they both went to North Carolina. Or speculate that because Trent Richardson had a low YPC as a rookie and then busted in his 2nd season, that Le’veon Bell might do the same thing. Any of those things could happen, but the small sample nature of pattern matching means that even if the shared trait has some predictive power, the relevant sample to be considered is much larger than one. This is what I have called the “cat on a hot stove” problem.

So while Charles Johnson didn’t pan out last year I won’t be shying away from explosive receivers in the 2014 draft. The receiver I’m most likely to own of the physical freaks is Donte Moncrief. Of the receivers in my table of five explosive guys below, Moncrief is the one that has the best resume given his SEC pedigree and decent age adjusted production.

*Explosion is simply the average z-score for 40 time, vertical leap and broad jump.

NAME SEAS WT FORTY Vert Broad EXPL (avg Z-Score)
DONTE MONCRIEF 2014 221 4.4 39.5 132 1.52
MARTAVIS BRYANT 2014 211 4.42 39 124 0.92
JEFF JANIS 2014 219 4.42 37.5 123 0.70
ALBERT WILSON 2014 202 4.43 37.5 123 0.66
ALLEN ROBINSON 2014 220 4.6 39 127 0.53

Moncrief is also the receiver closest to Charles Johnson on the athletic measures. I like some of the other receivers on the list, but I don’t know that I love the rest of the list. Martavis Bryant has underwhelming production given his size. Jeff Janis and Albert Wilson haven’t faced top flight competition. And in the case of Allen Robinson there are a few red flags that I’m worried about including his lack of red zone dominance (especially at 220 pounds), his slow 40 time, and the nagging thought in the back of my mind that his Big 10 production should be discounted.

Moncrief on the other hand is a can’t go wrong prospect in my mind. That’s not so say that he’s a sure to hit prospect. It’s just that NFL teams could do a lot worse than drafting a 220 pound player that at a minimum can take the top off the defense. The dowside for a team to draft him is that they get a deep threat. The potential upside is that he morphs into a real #1 WR, which I think he has the potential to do. Or, if I were doing my best Mike Mayock impression I would say “You put the tape on and you see a guy that defensive backs can’t keep up with.” Sidenote – I wonder if Mayock follows the “Be Kind, Rewind” practice when it comes to his tapes. Follow up to the sidenote: Do people under the age of 30 have any idea what “Be Kind, Rewind” is?

But I digress.

Lots of explosive receivers come out of college each year and not every one becomes an NFL #1 WR. But at the same time, the very top tier of WRs does seem to have shared explosion traits. Here’s a cherry picked list of WRs along with their explosion numbers:

NAME WT Forty Vert Broad Expl (avg z-score)
CALVIN JOHNSON 239.0 4.35 42.50 139 2.43
JULIO JONES 220.0 4.34 38.50 135 1.78
ANDRE JOHNSON 230.0 4.40 39.00 132 1.47
VINCENT JACKSON 241.0 4.46 39.00 129 1.09
DEZ BRYANT 225.0 4.52 38.00 133 1.03
Average 231.0 4.41 39.40 134 1.56

It’s worth pointing out that those receivers averaged 134 in the broad jump. To give you a sense of how crazy that is, 134 is about a top 1% score in that drill and these players have that as their average.

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