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The RotoViz Guide to Deep Receivers from the 2014 NFL Draft
image credit to 247sports
image credit to 247sports

My first big article of the 2014 offseason looked at the very different profiles for wide receivers who become capable starters in the NFL and those who wash out. I expected there to be differences in weight, age, and collegiate market share (Dominator Rating) between the hits and the misses but I honestly thought the gaps would be smaller. The piece is mostly useful for its portrayal of this interplay in Rounds 1 through 3, but we shouldn’t ignore what it might tell us about late round picks.

Televised NFL Draft coverage bombards us with examples of late round steals and for good reason. The idea that late rounders can make an impact is both good theater and great human interest. That most late rounders fail only enhances the romantic aspect of the success stories. Strategically, however, we want to make sure we’re approaching rookie drafts the right way.

The Right Way?

I recently finished the PFF dynasty rookie draft, and, by trading for an absurd 13 picks, I was able to employ a Zero RB approach early. After selecting four receivers in the first two rounds – and unfortunately passing on the runner who may be 2014’s top rookie – I moved over to running backs and selected a Profile 1 star I’ve whimsically comped to Adrian Peterson, an under the radar Agility Score superstar with ridiculous comparables, two of the four backs I found to be undervalued based upon on-field explosiveness, and three of my five Next Priest Holmes candidates.

The decision to eschew the mid-round possession receivers wasn’t mine alone. As a general trend, priority UDFA running backs were going off the board before some big names at wide receiver, including players Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had labeled as steals. Given the way fantasy leagues are starting to mirror the NFL in prioritizing the receiving positions, can this possibly make any sense?

What Do Successes and Failures Look Like?

The Fantasy Douche has written at length about the value of accumulating a large number of mid-round picks and then benefiting from the randomness inherent in these selections. This is a strategy the Seahawks employed on the way to a Super Bowl title. Another way to maximize the value of mid-round picks would be to ignore players who have virtually no chance of contributing at the NFL level. For example, it never makes any sense to waste a pick on old and unproductive wide receivers.

RD 4-7 Weight Age 40 Vert DR % of Players
Hits 205 22.3 4.54 34 33.4 13
Misses 202 23.5 4.48 35.2 28 87

The really surprising thing here is that the hits were less athletic than the misses. One of the narratives we often hear in relationship to professional athletes is that you can’t teach size or speed or ridiculous leaping ability. As someone who is 6’0”, slow, and gravity bound, I can vouch for the veracity of these claims. However, it’s equally true that if a player has reached the age of 23 and can’t play wide receiver, well, you can’t teach that either.

The following table shows how each receiver scored on the “holy grail” metrics along with a summary recap and then provides my guess at their likely fantasy values.

RDNoPlayerR AgeDRWeight40CommentFantasy Value
4104Jalen Saunders22.3311634.44Jalen Saunders is more of a gadget player than a true wide receiver. Especially considering their decision/plan to draft more receivers later, it’s somewhat baffling that they opted for Saunders over someone like De’Anthony Thomas.None
4106Bruce Ellington23.4251974.45Bruce Ellington was drafted for a very niche role in the 49ers offense and doesn’t sport a draftable profile. He finished below UDFA Albert Wilson in the RotoViz Composite Rankings.None
4115Shaq Evans23.8292134.51Struggled to excel against younger players in college.None
4118Martavis Bryant23192114.42Another “you can’t teach” prospect who still needs to be taught everything else.Trap
4123Kevin Norwood25.3221984.48Kris Durham 2.0. Perhaps they knew the guys they really wanted would be available later.None
5142Ryan Grant24451994.64Broke out as a redshirt junior. Lacks the size or speed to be more than a Wes Welker type, but perhaps fits the Welker template more than most.Deep PPR
5146Devin Street23.8371984.55Slow and small, but productive once he was the oldest guy on the field.Deep sleeper
5176Jared Abbrederis24371954.5Similar to Street, but with a superior ‘games dominated’ projection.Deep PPR
6185Robert Herron291934.48This seems like something of a throwaway pick, but check out the positive take from Rich Hribar.Deep PPR
6189T. J. Jones22.5331884.48Jones sports a deceptively good profile and could be the next Antonio Brown.PPR
6190Matt Hazel301984.5Featured in Matthew Freedman's 30 Deep Receivers article, this is a bizarre pick with Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews, and Jarvis Landry already on the roster.None
6196Walt Powell23431894.63With two size/speed freaks still on the board, it’s frustrating to see Arizona select a possession threat.None
6*209Quincy Enunwa22.6392254.45The next Brandon Marshall or Terrell Owens?Lottery ticket
7218Michael Campanaro23.9471924.46Age is a concern, but this is the type of guy you pick if you’re serious about finding a Wes Welker.Deep PPR
7236Jeff Janis23.62194.42Davis Mattek’s love affair with Janis only slightly overstates what a great pick this is.Lottery ticket
7239James Wright7I really feel like the Bengals accidentally transposed some numbers when they were calling Alex Neutz and then felt bad about it so they went ahead and selected Wright.None
7240Tevin Reese24281634.46It’s hard not to imagine Reese as part of the Baylor juggernaut and see this as kind of a fun, if pointless, pick.None
7244Jeremy Gallon24.9431854.49The way the Pats use receivers, there’s always a little intrigue here, but Gallon is five days older than Alshon Jeffery and a couple months younger than T.Y. Hilton and Kendall Wright.Deep PPR


There’s an excellent comment by lifesyourcup relating to Jalen Saunders on the new message boards. Log in and join the conversation on these players.

If you liked this article, you’ll probably enjoy Who Will Be 2014’s Keenan Allen?

Shawn Siegele is the creator of the contrarian sports website Money in the Banana Stand and Lead Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Second overall in career earnings in the National Fantasy Football Championships, he recently won the 2013 NFFC Primetime Championship.

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