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Kendall Wright, Antonio Brown, and Using Regression to Win Fantasy Leagues

kendallwright

Kendall Wright seems like one of the least exciting options in all of fantasy football. He is currently being drafted as WR27 in PPR, just a year after finishing as WR20. Of course, he only scored 2 touchdowns last year which caused him to finish as WR31 in standard scoring formats. That kind of difference is very rare. He also has a nebulous, unappealing QB situation. That may seem like a terrible situation, but I believe that it makes Kendall Wright a perfect storm of value.

I want to start by comparing Wright to Antonio Brown. Last year, Brown was drafted as WR22 in PPR, after finishing as WR32 in 2012. That’s already a pretty huge contrast; Wright is being drafted in a way that suggests he’ll be significantly worse this year, whereas Brown was drafted like he would significantly improve. There’s a clear explanation for Brown’s jump: Mike Wallace went to Miami, freeing up significant volume for Brown, which ultimately resulted in him finishing as WR3 in 2013. The explanation for Wright’s decline is not as clear however, which is strange, because Wright and Brown are incredibly similar players. Here are their College Career Graphs:

wrightbrown

The biggest difference is probably that Brown declared for the NFL Draft a year earlier in his college career than Wright. Other than that, Wright broke out at 18 years-old, whereas Brown did not break out until his age 21 season. It also appears that Wright was better at scoring TDs. Basically, they seem to be a lot alike, but Wright seems a little better.

Let’s examine their more general athletic profiles:1

WR Drafted Height Weight 40 Vertical Broad 3 Cone 20 Yard Shuttle
Wright 20 70 196 4.61 38.5 121 6.93 4.18
Brown 195 70 186 4.56 33.5 105 6.98 4.18

Again, they seem to be very similar players. Brown is a little faster while Wright is a little more agile. Wright is significantly more explosive and weighs more. Again, very similar, but the edge goes to Wright.

Brown was 25 when he took the NFL by storm in 2013. Wright will be 25 next year. Let’s examine their NFL production prior to their age 25 seasons:

WR Games Receptions Yards Touchdowns Y/R Y/G
Wright 31 158 1,705 6 10.8 55
Brown 38 151 2,062 7 13.7 54.26

Their yards per game are almost identical. Wright has 7 more receptions, despite playing in 7 less games. Wright scored 1 less TD on 7 more receptions, and has produced fewer yards per reception. Overall, they are pretty similar once again, but this time you would probably give the edge to Brown. It bears mentioning that Brown has primarily played with Ben Roethlisberger while Wright has played with a combination of Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Once you mentally adjust for that, the gap shrinks. 

What did you think about Antonio Brown prior to last year? Probably something along the lines of, “He’s a good, but small, WR who does not really score TDs. I know he is going to have a lot of receptions because they do not really have many other choices.” Would you not agree that is also an apt description of Kendall Wright? Even if Justin Hunter emerges, it seems unlikely that he would eat into Wright’s reception totals, and it would likely boost his efficiency. Given that Brown and Wright are similar players, and that Wright has already performed his current average draft position, does it not make sense that he could also well surpass his expectations in 2014? Do not get me wrong, I do not think he will be able to end the year as the number 3 WR overall in PPR; The difference in their respective QB situations is huge. However, I believe he could easily finish as a low-end WR1 or high-end WR2. Meanwhile, the certainty of his high reception total probably puts his floor close enough to his ADP to make him essentially risk-free.

Recently, I wrote an article titled “Antonio Brown: Death, Taxes, Regression.” You are forgiven if that title leads you to believe that I think regression is a bad thing. Truthfully, I just recognize it is a fact of life. Using the Pro Football Reference Season Finder, I decided to see how many players ever had 90 or more receptions in a single season, while also having 2 or less TDs. Kendall Wright is one of only five players to “accomplish” that feat. If you bump the TD total up to 4, you find only 15 seasons. Increase it to 5 and you get 29 seasons, 6 and you get 46 seasons. You get the picture.

Think about it: In 2013, Brown completely surpassed our expectations by scoring 8 TDs. We should expect that total to regress, which in his case would make it smaller. Everything we know about Wright suggests that he is actually better at scoring TDs than Brown, and his TD total last year was an outlier historically. You should avoid Brown this year for the same reason you should be targeting Wright: Regression. Regression is not inherently bad, it is not the enemy. It is a tool good owners use. Avoid the players that should be hurt by regression, and you will avoid overdrafting. Target the players who will be aided by regression, and you will consistently find values. If you can consistently accomplish those two things, you can win forever.

  1. I could not find some of Brown’s data at his official combine page, likely because it’s older. I’m pulling the rest of the data from here.  (back)

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