For several years now, Team RotoViz has been working to make sense of the intersection of age and production in prospect evaluation. If you read the 2015 edition of this article, I go into much more detail about the matter. The bottom line appears to be this: players who are good at a young age in college tend to be good in the NFL too.
While this article is going to focus specifically on 2016 receiver prospects, there will be plenty more to come for the other positions. Also, if you want to compare notes on how Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Sammy Watkins, or DeAndre Hopkins looked in this measure, be sure to check out last year’s article.
A few things you should know before we get started:
- The plots you are about to see use “market share of team receiving yards” on the Y-axis and “age” on the X-axis.
- Breakout age is defined as the first season in which a player accounts for at least 20 percent of his team’s receiving yards. This calculation applies only to games in which that player played. If he missed a game or two, that doesn’t count against him. I’m using 20 percent because it allows us to include more players.
- The Y-axis starts doesn’t start at zero. This was done to saves space and allows us to zoom in on the plot to see things more clearly. If you’re having trouble seeing, you should be able to zoom in1. Also, there is a table at the end of this article with everything in numerical form.
- All ages are pulled from the RotoViz Prospect Age Database, which is a fantastic resource to check out after you’re done reading this.
Projected as Draftable Receivers
Tyler Boyd, Pitt – You probably won’t hear this from many people, but I think Boyd could end up being my top ranked receiver for this draft class. He was dominant at an early age, he’s contributed in every way possible, and metrically,he was very similar to Amari Cooper in his age-20 season. I think he’ll be a great value for his NFL team and his dynasty owner.
Tajae Sharpe, UMass – I’ve written a lot about Tajae Sharpe over the past three years and you can see the latest piece here. His stock might have taken a hit recently when he measured in with 8-inch2 hands at the Senior Bowl, but he’s been so good for so long, I’m still thinking he could sneak into the top 100 picks of the draft. Rocksteady thinks Sharpe is a discount Tyler Boyd.
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina – While I haven’t penned my Pharoh Cooper love letter yet, you can be sure it’s coming. Cooper was athletic enough to play some defensive back as a true freshman, before blowing up in his first full year as a receiver in 2014. In 2015, the Gamecocks tumbled, but Cooper did literally everything for them. He’s a small, but well-built, player who could be a discount Corey Coleman.
Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia – I feel like Georgia cycles through so many hyped, then injured, recruits that sometimes I lose track of who’s who. Maybe it was a long time ago, but Mitchell was really good in his age 19 campaign, before getting injured and then climbing all the way back to being a top market-share performer in 2015. Once a two-way player at Georgia, he looks to have plenty of athleticism and I think he’s tremendously overlooked at this point.
Michael Thomas, Ohio State – I’m not 100% sure on Michael Thomas’ age – and his date of birth often gets mixed up with THIS Michael Thomas’ – but I don’t think we’re going to like it when it gets confirmed. Before Ohio State’s title run in 2015, I called Thomas “Cody Latimer-esque” and I haven’t moved off that assessment. He’s big and he’s good enough, but he’s kind of a late bloomer and I would be surprised if he ends up being elite in the NFL.
Josh Doctson, TCU – Fantasy Douche recently covered Doctson, saying, “Josh Doctson is 23 years old and I’m not sure I care“. To be clear, Doctson was spectacular in 2015, but he’s on the older side and on the leaner side, so I think the jury is still out.
Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma – I think it’s easy for people to look at an undersized receiver from the Big 12 who they want to like and jump to the conclusion that “this guy is the next Tyler Lockett“. I’m not entirely sure that is the case for a couple reasons. Shepard is solid, but it’s terrifying to me that he’s the No. 4 receiver in the latest RotoViz Scouting Index.
Projected UDFA Receivers
Marquez North, Tennessee – In 2013, North was the No. 2 receiver recruit in America and had offers from almost every name brand school. As a freshman that fall, he led a lousy Vols with 496 receiving yards, while also finding the end zone once. Listed at 6 foot, 3 inches and 229 pounds, North has the pedigree you look for, even if his production took a nose dive for his last season-and-a-half after a 2014 injury. He’s an intriguing, raw prospect who seems forgotten now, but could really climb if he proves to be a plus athlete.
J.D. McKissic, Arkansas State – Listed at 5 foot, 11 inches and 193 pounds, what McKissic lacks in size he more than makes up for in production. For his career, he has 2,838 receiving yards, 379 rush yards, 1,603 return yards, and even a passing touchdown. I have no idea how he’ll test, but the mega-production and the outstanding special teams contributions make him a potential sleeper, akin to, maybe, Jamison Crowder from last year.
Carlos Harris, North Texas – Harris is essentially “McKissic light” in that he has the all-around production going for him, but to a lesser degree, and is slightly smaller. At the end of the day, though, he has two seasons over 37 percent of his team’s receiving yards, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Hunter Sharp, Utah State – A JUCO transfer to Utah State, Sharp has been rock solid for two years. Christopher Gerrish is about to publish something on Sharp, so I don’t want to steal his thunder, but keep an eye out for that.
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech – I’ve written a lot about Grant throughout the year in my Market Share Reports, and Matt Freedman covered him for this site recently, calling him 2016’s John Brown prospect, but he’s not without his flaws. To be clear, Grant has everything going for that a small receiver needs, but he’s really undersized and took a while to become relevant, so I’m unsure about his ability to make a successful transition.
Dom Williams, Washington State – Notice that the first chart and the second chart don’t look exactly the same? That’s because Dom Williams took so long to break through that we had to adjust the axis to accommodate him. His numbers are fine, but I feel like we’ve seen lots of guys like him come from Mike Leach’s offense before, only to amount to nothing at the next level. Again, Freedman’s got the drop.
Duke Williams, Auburn – Full disclosure: I’m not 100% sure on Duke’s3 age, but I think I’ve got it right, unlike WikiPedia. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before, Kevin White. Williams was one of the most hyped recruits coming out of high school and one of the most coveted JUCO transfers before he landed at Auburn in 2014. The thing is, not only is he a late-bloomer, he also got kicked off Auburn’s team for being a knucklehead. He’s got potential, but his résumé also has plenty of flaws.
|WR||Breakout % above 20% MSyds||Breakout age|
|Michael Thomas OSU||21.6||21.8|
|Michael Thomas SoMiss||32||21.4|