Suppose you’re the GM of an NFL team. Last year your team only scored 18 points per game and suffered it’s first losing season in nine years. You’ve just lost one of your starting receivers in free agency and you know that your quarterback needs help. Hearing that the 2014 NFL Draft is one of the deepest in years, you decide to use your first round pick on a receiver. The only question is, who do you take?
Being the loyal RotoViz reader that you are, you probably already know what I’m going to say, which is “draft big receivers“. However, as obvious as this must seem to you, several NFL teams screwed this up last night. Here’s where they went wrong.
If the goal of an NFL team is to win games, then we can also conclude that their goal is to score more points than the other team. As this pertains to the NFL Draft, we can probably think of this in two ways:
- Select players who are uniquely qualified to help you score points
- Select players who are uniquely qualified to help you prevent the opponent from scoring points
Applied to the NFL Draft, the order in which players are selected is effectively the market of NFL decision makers declaring their belief of who is most able to contribute in one of these two capacities. By taking him #1 overall, the Texans said that Jadeveon Clowney was most uniquely qualified to help prevent others from scoring. With the #2 pick, the Rams signaled that they think Greg Robinson is most able to help them score points, and on it goes.
Keeping this framework in mind, and remembering that you wanted to draft a wide receiver, you would probably want to select the receiver best suited to help you score points.
Here’s what point-scoring NFL receivers look like, which was generated by looking at 190+pt fantasy receivers from the last two years. Obviously fantasy scoring isn’t the same as real NFL scoring, but I think about fantasy points as a way to get total contributions to one number.
|WR||Ht||Wt||NFL Car Y/G||NFL Car TD/G|
Almost all of these guys are bigger than 6’2 210lbs and score touchdowns at a fantastic rate of about one touchdown per two games. It seems that if an NFL team wanted to find someone uniquely qualified to help them score points, they would pick someone who fit this mold. Granted, there is one small guy in there–Antonio Brown–but he definitely looks like the exception. By and large, the players most likely to contribute points are bigger players.
Keeping this in mind, if you’re the New York Giants and your goal for the draft is to select a player who will help you score more points, why would you select 6′ 198lb receiver Odell Beckham with the 12th overall pick? For reference, Beckham was RotoViz’s 8th ranked receiver…and he went 12th overall. For him to become a high-scoring NFL receiver, he would have to be an exception, like Antonio Brown. The rule is that bigger players score more touchdowns. Oh, and just as a reminder, Brown was a sixth-round pick; Beckham went 12th overall. Here is a list of every 1st round receiver since 2006, who weighs less than 205lbs, and their contributions to the NFL.
|WR||Ht||Wt||F Age||Pick||NFL Car Y/G||NFL Car TD/G|
|Odell Beckham Jr||71||198||21.2||12|
Did you notice that even the best of the Beckham-like receivers (Harvin & Maclin) would still be near the bottom of the point-scoring list? And while those two guys are fantastic players, they’ve struggled throughout their NFL career with health issues, which may or may not be related to the damage inflicted on their smaller frames. Then there’s the downside possibility that Beckham follows in the path of Kendall Wright, which might be helpful for gaining yards, but probably won’t help you score more points or win more games. After all, yard gainers are more replaceable than touchdown scorers.
Revisiting the title of this article, some of you may be instantly familiar with it as a juxtaposition to Chip Kelly’s famous sideline rant from 2013:
To the extent that teams are drafting players to help them overcome divisional foes (more on that in a future article), you have to wonder if the Giants didn’t just suffer a self-inflicted wound in the NFC East arms race. Chip Kelly is committed to scoring points with the incredible Nick Foles under center1. For the New York Giants to retake the NFC East, they’re going to need to score more points than the Philadelphia Eagles, and, after the first round of the 2014 Draft, I’m not sure they’re any closer to doing that with Odell Beckham on their roster.
- Perhaps you might object to say that the Eagles scored a lot of points with the very small DeSean Jackson. But it’s also worth noting that they considered Jackson so important to their point scoring that they outright cut him in the offseason (back)