So far I’ve taken a look at the second year prospects for receivers drafted in the first round, second round, and third round. Consider this the half time show. Herein, I’ll take a look at some of the general themes, and an unexpected result.
Let’s get this started with something straightforward. We’ve written about the importance of age
a bazillion times a lot at RotoViz. See here, to visualize the concept. See here to see why age is the skeleton key. See here and here to see how age impacts WRs. For 2014 focused content, bang it here, or here. This chart really does a nice job I think, of making things really clear.
So here’s what the chart shows. For all WRs drafted since 2000, the average age for all WRs drafted in a given round (except for the second) is higher than the average age of the “Hits” (the top 20% of career fantasy point/game producers). Won’t you join us, as we enter a brave new world of valuing a prospect’s age?
Another thing that might be inferred from this chart is that the NFL values age, too. Notice the average age for all WRs increases steadily by round? Real teams seem to be preferring younger players early, too. The interesting thing is in the later rounds, where the bulk of drafted WRs are relatively old, but the eventual Hits never exceed 23 years of age. One theory might be that NFL teams are scooping up players with “solid production” later in the draft, while they should be focusing more on younger players.
Things Get Better with Time
Here you’ll see that, as a group, WRs drafted in any round improve their FPG performance from their first year to the rest of their career. Makes sense, nothing unexpected. What’s interesting though, is that a given round’s overall cohort never catches up to that round’s Hit cohort. Let’s look at first round WRs. As a group, their average FPG improves from just over 6 FPG in their rookie season, to just over 8 for the rest of their careers. But the eventual Hits start with more FPG as rookies than the overall cohort achieves throughout their careers. In other words, even though “all” WRs improve from year one to the rest of their career, the “hits” (as a group), start out better, too.
It’s also worth noting that, starting with the third round, the rookie to rest of career improvement for each round’s overall cohort doesn’t improve by enough to really make them fantasy viable. So in those rounds, your WR outcomes are really binary: get a Hit, they’re fantasy useful. Get “just a guy”, and they’re not.
You can see this in the table above, but this chart cuts to the quick.
What does this mean? This is the average percentage increase in FPG from a “Hit’s” rookie season to the rest of their career. So a hit drafted in the first round will, on average, improve their rookie season FPG performance by 40% over the course of their career. Although they’ll score fewer FPG, in aggregate, than the early round hits do, 7th round hits have a rest-of-career FPG more than 50% higher than their rookie season.
The takeaway is twofold: if a league mate has soured on the rookie WR they acquired last season, and you think that player can become a Hit- acquire at a discount, and reap the rewards. Conversely, if you own one of last year’s rookie WRs, think carefully before jettisoning them, as you could miss out on significant long term upside.
The Favorite Child
This is the most interesting thing I’ve discovered in this series, so far. Since 2000, there have been 70 occasions when a team drafted two or more WRs in the same draft. So these teams basically had two or more “kids” that they were breaking in at the same time. In 57 (81%) of those cases, the player who had the better FPG as a rookie also had the better FPG for their career.
But that inclues WRs drafted in the first round, where the hit rate and opportunity to succeed are higher than in the rest of the draft. So excluding first round WRs, there were 48 occasions when a team drafted two or more WRs in the same draft. In 35 cases (73%), the player with the better rookie FPG also had the better career FPG, even if that player was drafted lower. It’s a smaller sample, only 103 total WRs involved. But I think that’s an interesting result nevertheless.
What does it mean? Maybe not much, but let’s look at the 2013 draft. Three teams (Bills, Rams, Jaguars) drafted two WRs. In Buffalo, Robert Woods out produced Marquise Goodwin. In St. Louis, Tavon Austin outproduced Stedman Bailey. And in Jacksonville, Ace Sanders out produced Denard Robinson. Leaving aside Denard Robinson (is he a WR? RB? OW?), I’d consider this to be another strike against the future prospects of Goodwin or Bailey. In Goodwin’s case, there probably wasn’t ever much there to begin with. St. Louis also drafted two WRs in 2012; so far the lower-drafted Givens has outproduced the higher-drafted Brian Quick. Stedman Bailey certainly seemed to have a lot of promise, and maybe he still does. So don’t overreact to this tidbit, but as the lesser performing of the Rams’ two rookies, his future outlook seems just a bit dimmer.